It would be amusing if it weren’t so serious.
Seemingly incapable of letting pass even the most trivial challenges, like the media’s invidious comparison between the size of the inaugural crowd and the numbers assembled for the so-called Women’s March on Washington, President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE responds with a claim that not only can’t be corroborated but is plainly false. He responds similarly to the tiresome and sophomoric criticism of him by Meryl Streep, with the claim that Ms. Streep is an “over-rated” actress.
And he suggests, as an explanation for why he lost the popular vote, that it was because 3 million people voted illegally, rather than the much better explanation that he didn’t even bother to campaign in states like New York and California, where he knew he couldn’t win the electoral vote, and where, as with California’s strange election laws, there wasn’t even a Republican on the ballot for the open Senate seat.
But for all the president’s foibles, it’s the post-election breakdown of the media and entertainment industries that is the most revealing and the most disturbing.
The beginning of wisdom in understanding why this is of such importance is in knowing that the vast majority of Americans are not ideologues or political activists. On the contrary, only a very small number of Americans fit this description.
The rest are busy with their daily lives, raising their children, working to make ends meet, and retiring to their television sets and streaming services as boredom beaters, where many of them, as with the ancient lure of bread and circuses, become “fans” of the characters they see on the screen.
So for most Americans politics is seriously entertained only at election time, and then mostly just courtesy of the offerings of the news media. But this year people are seeing something quite different, namely, the degree to which the news media and the entertainment industry share a political mindset, and the fanatical (not to say self-defeating) way that both industries behave when they are challenged by a political phenomenon that is outside their comfort zone.
This should not come as a surprise considering the degree to which the TV news networks operate under corporate umbrellas that these days often include Hollywood studios, a relationship that many people warned at the time of their merging would have a damaging effect on the news media.
This said, one suspects that it is a surprise to a lot of folks who, watching pro sports or some comedy or dramatic series, never realized until now that the people who produce, direct, and act in these productions, like the people who are in the same roles in the recorded music industry, are allied with the news media in a narrow-minded but powerful political bloc that systematically and fervently favors progressive politics.
From the Golden Globes to the Tony Awards, and from late-night comedy shows to game shows like The Match Game, Trump has been pilloried, cursed, and mocked like no president in history. Indeed, in a list compiled in July of last year, newsbusters.org cited over 20 TV shows that had attacked Trump even before the election.
Typical of the over-the-top reaction is the statement of one Michael Shannon, a Hollywood actor who, overcome by his liberal and sensitive nature, said that he hoped all elderly citizens who voted for Trump would die. Quoth the great man, in a piece published by Gateway Pundit: “No offense to the seniors out there. My mom’s a senior. But if you’re voting for Trump, it’s time for the urn.”
It’s not clear how the stars of TV and the news media think (if they think) that their continued displays of contempt for those Americans who voted for Trump will influence people politically, or benefit themselves, going forward.
But in the midst of the mayhem that is consuming us all, it’s possible to find some bits of wisdom here and there, a good example of which is the recent piece by David Zurawik, the media columnist for the Baltimore Sun. Under a headline titled “Amid storm of Trump developments, a call for calmer, more centrist media,” Zurawik, who is no admirer of Trump, says the following:
"Too many in the mainstream press are responding to the big, bold, in-your-face actions of the White House with over-the-top rhetoric, historical ignorance, an utter lack of proportion and, in some cases, just plain bias...
"As a society, we are in a moment of frenzied change driven by an incredibly polarizing chief executive, and overheated coverage isn’t helping anyone. It isn’t helping the credibility of the press, which has approval ratings and trust issues as bad as or worse than Trump’s, and more importantly it isn’t helping citizens trying to make sense of life after one of the most shocking election upsets in history."
Sad to say, arguments like Zurawik’s won’t have any impact on the political sensibilities of the current captains of the media-entertainment complex, but with statements like this Zurawik and a few others are keeping hope alive that not all is lost.
Patrick Maines is president of The Media Institute. The opinions expressed are his alone and not those of The Media Institute, its board, advisory councils, or contributors.
The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill