With the prospect of a Trump GOP candidacy, and even more improbably, a Trump presidency, the 'who created The Donald' round of accusation and self-flagellation has begun.
At the forefront of this self-flagellation is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who recently wrote the almost Opus Dei-worthy "My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump". In the piece, Kristof notes that:
we in the news media gave Trump $1.9 billion in free publicity in this presidential cycle. That's 190 times as much as he paid for in advertising, and it's far more than any other candidate received.
Mea Culpa indeed.
And Kristof is hardly alone in this.
Media Matters for America posted a long video excoriating the American media business for it's endless coverage of Donald Trump, giving him far more air time than any other candidate, or perhaps all other candidates added up.
And last week, even Obama blamed the media for the rise and rise of Donald Trump.
"It's worth asking ourselves what each of us -- as politicians, as journalists, but most of all as citizens -- may have done,"
This is all pretty funny, actually.
Television news is not a sacred mission from God. It's a business.
Television news, like any other for-profit concern, is in the business of providing their consumers (that would be all of us) with the product that they, the consumer, wants... not needs.
In an unguarded and perhaps too honest moment, CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves encapsulated it all when he said:
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS,"
Of course it is good for CBS. And for NBC. And for the New York Times... and everyone else int he media business. Donald Trump is a god-send. He is a ratings machine. People can't get enough of him. And Trump, the consummate salesman and Reality TV Star understands how all this works perfectly. He is great television. And he knows it.
What the media air or publish is not about what we 'have to know' to be an 'informed public,' it's about giving us what we already want to see or read about. That's the foundation of the business.
If it were the other way around, then PBS would have the highest ratings, which they don't.
Does McDonald's sell the McBroccoli Sandwich?
I don't think so.
Even if they are in the 'food' business and the McBroccoli is good for you.
If you want to know what we like to consume in the food world, look to our restaurants: McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell. Not a green item among them.
If you want to know what we like to consume in our media diet, just turn on the TV. The Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, Dancing With The Stars.... (plug in your own favorite if you don't like these. I can almost guarantee that Face The Nation will not be there).
This is who we are. This is what we naturally gravitate towards. So let's be honest with ourselves. Donald Trump is us.
It's not the 'fault of the media' who 'inflicted' this on us.
We asked for it.
And we got it.
They only give us what we want.
If you don't like what you see, then the problem does not lay with 'them', it lays with us.
All of us.
Originally published in TheVJ.com