The media can influence elections. Howard Dean felt their wrath when they played a relentless loop of his excited, but awkward ‘woo!’ at a campaign rally. Do you remember how they ignored Ron Paul even after he won the majority of the straw polls in the Republican primary? For those who followed these politicians, the media narrative is clear: your candidate sucks. You start wondering why the media, who should stand for the truth, seem to bend the narrative towards their candidate.
Once you see a little bias, every news story seems tainted. Not just normal bias, but election-twisting, career-smashing narratives that tend to favor a certain few politicians. When a ten-year-old video of Donald Trump being a terrible person, this should’ve been enough to sink his presidential hopes. After a single apology, he seemed to move on while the media tripped over themselves when the expected campaign collapse didn’t occur.
It’s no secret that you have to be shameless to be a high-level politician, but it was a secret that you could ignore corporate media and still succeed. Instead of appealing to the media and hoping they’d give him fair coverage, Donald Trump discovered a vein of viewers who didn’t trust the narrative and leaned in. The claims of ‘fake news’ horrified many people. There were comparisons to Hitler and his similar claims. But what if some of the news is actually fake? Are we ‘literally Hitler’ if we don’t trust MSNBC?
Turns out: No, we are not Hitler. Maybe it’s because of our increased access to primary sources, a rise in independent journalism, and the growing division between right and left, but wide swaths of people (who are not Hitler) learned to distrust the media. This leaves an appetite for candidates who make a sport of denouncing the narratives we learned to be false.
Enter real shamelessness. Enter unhinged attacks coupled with media savvy. Donald Trump did not just run a campaign, but folded the media’s narrative back on itself. I still revel in the media’s dismay as they try and comprehend how Trump won. It was hilarious and beautiful. Elitists believed Trump voters were a bunch of bumpkins who don’t know enough to vote for their own good, but, as it turns out, it was the arrogance of the elites that paved the way to Trump’s success.
There are those who still uncritically believe CNN's narrative, but those numbers are shrinking and their parent corporations will continue to search for ways to control the news. It still works: most Americans uncritically support the $40 billion outlay to support a proxy war against Russia. It seems like yesterday that we closed the book on the last remnants of our twenty-year highly-criticized police actions against various actors in the Middle East. Yet, the wildly dominant media narrative is that this is Putin’s personal war against the handsome Zelensky. There is no true discourse as to why America and NATO should be involved. It’s just a given: give bombs to Ukraine.
The media also seem content to let sleeping dogs lie: If NPR thinks the Biden laptop story isn’t news, there will be very little reporting on it, until after the elections. One poll showed that 16% of Biden voters would have changed their vote had they known of the laptop. This bias has consequences and as more people wonder why NPR would actively dismiss the story, rather than just remain cautiously silent, they are primed to vote against the media’s narrative.
America seems divided now, and most people think it’s Republicans versus Democrats. That might be the case, but even people who skew left are starting to report on our problems with the media. Every instance of media bias that’s revealed produces another cynic. Certainly, some of those cynics go too far out into the conspiratorial ether, but that’s because there are no trustworthy media safeguards to prevent it. And so, because the media pushes narratives rather than unabiased truth, and people are beginning to see it, savvy actors will be able to wield that mistrust against their corporate-sponsored opponents.