The media system based on soliciting the audience’s support manufactures anger and outrage.
Journalists have always been a parasite class, the kind of people who peep through blinds for a living or find someone at the worst moment of their lives and stick a microphone in their face—"Your whole family has been murdered, how do you feel?"—and if you look into the run-ups to both WWI and WW2 you can find the most reckless cheerleading for bloodshed, committed of course by cowards who hid behind their desks while other men were massacred in droves.
I know we all have our pet peeves about the zeitgeist, especially those of us raised in 20th-century America still in shock over what's happened to the 4th estate, those supposed defenders of our sacred Democracy: journalists willing to lie with a straight face to protect the Narrative du jour ("no one teaches CRT, bigot!"), engage in the most scurrilous ad hominens against any dissenters ("must be on Putin's payroll!), brazenly lie about their political opponents (Don't Say Gay), attack other journalists for committing actual journalism, denounce half their fellow citizens as irredeemable bigots, and (maybe the worst crime of all): become vicious narrative-enforcement agents who attacked anyone who even quibbled with the Covid narrative ("our toddlers must be masked if it even saves one life, grandma killer!") while denouncing anyone as racist (!) who attempted to look into the origins of the virus.
(Really, it needs to be said again: imagine any other journalist or thinker from any other time in recorded history and tell them that there was a global pandemic but that EVERY establishment journalist in the country deemed investigating it a hate crime. IT BOGGLES THE MIND!)
But for me the grossest part of all this is the unwavering sanctimony these people have, how they imagine themselves moral avatars as if they're reincarnations of Mother Teresa, never not patting themselves on the back about how much they love the Marginalized and how much more virtuous they are than us benighted peasants.
An entire generation whose greatest moral conundrum is whether to swipe left or right imagines themselves a cross bw the French Resistance and the marchers on Selma because they don't hate black people and because they put pronouns in their bios!
Will no one rid us of these meddlesome priests!?
I always get the warm and fuzzies when I see something from Brad that's orthogonal to something I'm writing.........
The media's playbook consists of hatred and division. Advertising-as-revenue is a dead business plan, and it should be. Much better to be "beholden" to the readers -- who can drop your service at any time if they feel its not worth the money.
NYT as notary..good one.
Excellent article, and IMO a shame we've moved from the journalistic ethos of the 20th century. Your article meshes pretty well with the Munk debate on the trustworthiness of MSM, which I believe was pretty handily won by Taibbi and Murray.
But your article also intrigued me to consider Substack, a media supported only by readers. Do you think this influences the writers on Substack to also add to polarization? I've followed Taibbi for years and he was my introduction to the Substack space. I believe he (and you) follow objective reporting methodology, but I've also seen commentary responses that reflect a polarized audience.
Thanks for what you do. I'm on the verge of moving from unpaid to paid reader.
Great piece. Journalists used to proclaim a social responsibility to try to appeal to the largest market, primarily the middle. Now the business model is divisiveness, fear, resentment, and the old days aren’t coming back.
Thanks. Please see Glenn's today interview of Jeffrey Sachs:
May 24 – Ep. 88 -- Dems’ New Star—Manhattan Billionaire Heir Dan Goldman—Fiercely Defends Security State. Plus: Jeffrey Sachs’ Break w/ the Establishment on Ukraine, COVID, & More
'Man "bites" polarization"
The "top-dogs" know this, so they create "dog-eat-dog" cage matches, because it satiates wannabe top-dogs spectating in the stands.
Hadn't thought of the situation in these terms exactly- interesting. I would argue, however, it started well prior to the internet upsetting the revenue stream. Look no further than the instant popularity of Fox News. I distinctly remember one of my middle school teachers complaining about the treatment of conservatism during the Carter era (imagine hearing that in a public school now)
Look at Watergate, the "holy grail" of investigative journalism. The story was fed to them....by a Fed. Meanwhile, Ben Bradley knew all about the malfeasance in the JFK and LBJ administrations. To this day, much of it goes unreported. Nixon inherited Vietnam. We hear plenty about the withdrawal, and very little about the impetus
I believe today's polarization started with McCarthy. After a unified nation won the war, the hunt for communists gave the left the first bite of moral superiority, the foundation upon which "the good guys" built. Without defending Mccarthy, it's interesting that the ideology he attacked formed the basis for leftist platform today
MSM long festered over Fox, the first overtly biased network. Fox's success exposed their bias, something they still will not admit. Aside from TYT type shows, left leaning networks hold onto the journalism moniker. Fox's admission makes them look silly. Their credibility problem comes from delivering essentially state media through the prism of objectivity. People now see it
No matter how we arrived here, a free press is the only thing standing between us and one party rule. We need more opposition to statism, not less. If they want to call it polarization, so be it
What role do you think Fox News, Breitbart or Drudge played in this? These were started partially I believe in opposition to the hidden left bias in other main stream media (Fox News even called other networks the Main Stream media even though they were arguably more popular) and were more openly partisan and seemingly commercially successful, proving that one doesn't have to pretend to be neutral.
Matt Taibbi wrote a book on this: *Hate, Inc.*
It is interesting to compare American journalism and media to Canadian. As you suggest, the American discourse is polarized; I would suggest the Canadian one is so lop-sided to be single-sided. Granted, I, and many other Canadians I assume, do not consume mainstream media any more, so I can't really say for sure what it's like.
An excellent article. And I don’t disagree. Yet there seems to be a glaring omission…the capture/corruption of the media by big, powerful corporate entities such as pharmaceutical companies, etc. which now provide a large percentage of revenue to MSM. It has been painfully obvious that many ‘news’ articles are nothing more than advertisements, and serving as a mouthpiece for stories fed to the media by these corporations. Why was this not included?