The Populist Assault on Journalism

Since he first descended his golden escalator to announce his run for the White House, people have continually under-estimated Donald Trump, much to their regret.

In his new book, Overload: Finding The Truth in Today’s Deluge of News, CBS newsman and former host of Face The Nation, Bob Schieffer has a very clear understanding of why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. She failed to connect with the vast majority of Americans who felt they were ignored or left out. Despite the fact that Donald Trump was a billionaire New York real estate developer, that was something he was able to do.

Deftly wielding the cudgel of the ‘forgotten man or woman’, Trump unleashed and rode to victory on a wave of populism that both mainstream Republicans and Democrats had completely ignored. Doing so, Trump steamrollered over both his Republican adversaries and then the extremely well funded DNC.

Now, he turns his fire and ire on the Mainstream Media and the networks, and, as with the Republicans and the Democrats, they are also, like deer caught in the headlights, completely unaware of what is happening to them, or how to respond.

And it is not as though the media were not warned. As early as January of this year, Steve Bannon was quite candid in saying that “The media is Trump enemy number one.” (Despite the fact he should have said ‘are media’), he was completely transparent in their targets and goals, but no one listened. No one is listening now.

Reading Schieffer’s book focused my attention.

Scheffer makes a deft analysis of why the Democrats lost in 2016. Trump was able to paint Hillary and the Democrats as elitist, arrogant and alien to the vast majority of Americans and their concerns.

The ‘mainstream media’, (much as I hate that term) are also as distant, dislocated and alien to the vast majority of Americans as are Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and the Washington Establishment (or Swamp, depending on your perspective). These were the easy targets that allowed Trump to pigeonhole everyone from John McCain to Hillary Clinton and take the White House.

And now it is the turn of the media, and unless they pay attention and start to make some radical changes, they are going to suffer the same fate as Hillary.

When Trump tweets that NBC should have their license revoked or his constant litany of Fake News, the ruling class in this country goes nuts. “He does not understand the First Amendment”. Fine. He is not speaking to the ruling elites, he is speaking to the vast majority of Americans who are perpetually ignored by the networks and the New York Times et al, and feel ignored.

Oh, NBC may send a reporter to West Virginia to report on ‘coal country’ and they get their 1:20 on Thursday night. They may assemble a group of ‘average Americans’ in Kentucky to talk about The Opoid Crisis. But that is about it. The elite journalists fly in from NY or DC and spend a day or two and then they are gone. Arrogant. Distant. Deadly.

Now, there are about 2 million people in West Virginia and about 4.5 million people in Kentucky (just to use this as an example). I am willing to bet that most of them have smart phones. And all of those smart phones shoot video (among other things). I am also willing to bet that a lot of those people have or could shoot video (or ‘report’) on what their lives are like. Themselves. They do plenty of posting on Facebook and Twitter without the need for a ‘journalist’ to tell their story. Yet how many of those people’s voices are ever heard on CBS or NBC? (And I am not talking about a bit of interview and a bit of b-roll). How many of THOSE voices have you ever read or heard from?

Would none be a good answer?

I think so.

I think they are effectively ignored, or paid scant lip service or belittled or treated with a kind of arrogant contempt. Your voice does not count. Your voice is not good enough. You are not an employee of NBC News. We KNOW best - We ‘report’ on you.

You see the problem.

You see where this is headed.

More importantly, you see where Trump and Bannon are taking this.

As I said in the beginning, do not make the mistake of under-estimating Donald Trump.

He knows exactly what he is doing.

He is going to do to NBC, CBS, The New York Times and everyone else what he did to the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

The media in this country are under attack. How they respond will very much determine the kind of nation we are in the future. If they continue to be perceived as distant and arrogant - ‘we report, you watch what we have to say’, they are dead.

And God only knows what will come in their place.

as previously published in