Issue 45: Why everyone hates the mainstream media

Source: Policy for Pandemics

“The feature of media that actually draws viewer interest is how media stories either raise or lower particular individuals in status… The status ranking of individuals implied by a particular media source is never the same as yours, and often not even close.” — Tyler Cowen

The first time I read Cowen’s statement, in the original blog post from which it is quoted here, I thought it shallow, or at least facile. But the context the source writer gives it makes the observation come alive.

I can see now how status — the social pecking order — and especially in-group/out-group psychology dominate the behavior of newspaper readers and writers.

In fact, the psychology of social status might explain a particular oddity I have noticed in letters to the editor. That oddity is the occasional letter that reads just like a TV or radio commercial sounds. As if the letter writer had internalized Madison Avenue logic to the point of mistaking advertising persuasion for formal argument.

The psychology of social status might also explain how online commenting systems seem to predictably de-evolve into forums dominated by personal confrontations and vendettas.

But I think that even if social status is a prime mover of journalism, a root cause, we should still expect more from journalists and from ourselves. The craft of writing and communication is more than 4,000 years old, and there are far better examples of it that we see commonly in today’s media.

9 thoughts on “Issue 45: Why everyone hates the mainstream media

  1. It is critical to disparage the media for Republicans to gain and keep power. So this campaign in all its subtleties and more obvious ways has been going on since Bush called critics of the invasion unpatriotic.

    Of course, every error, every perceived slight, every critique, every headline that might not speak glowingly of conservatives however justified or borne by indisputable facts will be attacked. Nothing new.

    And it fits with Trump’s agenda of confusing the citizens since they “won’t know who to believe”, a bragging point.

    Now it may be some pop psychological musing that the media is this and that, playing to social status, funded by Soros and the Jewish Banking Cabal located somewhere. (I added that for effect…)

    By and large, there are good folks on both sides of the media spectrum and often just a little judicious searching will out the phonies and reaffirm the real ones.

    What we are not so used to, even after 4 or more years, is the manipulation by Trump of the media to keep him in the news, good or bad, so he can bask in the limelight 24/7. Unfortunately, because he is president, he cannot be ignored, so his sometimes inane words and tweets and retweets are reported, fact checked, criticized or praised. But they are printed.

    For example. I think the shameful (my opinion) march to the church to pose with a Bible should have been ignored, but because of the gas attacks and the fact that he is president, it was hard to to that.

    “But the mainstream media has lost a lot of its power and authority, as readers have taken full advantage of the enormous choice on offer.”

    There is merit to that statement. Still, it takes boots on the ground, experience, contacts, lots of financial power and time to do solid reporting, investigative particularly. With that in mind, there are not as many options as the author seems to indicate.

    The media is not perfect by any stretch. Never was and never will be. It is much cleaner and with vigorous fact checking now than just a few decades back. Primarily because it is so easy, and cheap, to read a story in several different venues with a few clicks.

    It is also very important to remember that the 1st Amendment was not designed to ensure accuracy or quality. Just to insure that anyone with a pen can voice criticism to power, political and economic, without government persecution. It is up to the citizen to do some homework if he truly cherishes his nation.

    Finally, the impact of media pales in comparison to the bully pulpit of the president. And Trump knows this. And this has nothing to do with social status, but all to do with manipulation of the electorate using the media as a messenger. Sometimes he succeeds, but usually only with the supporters. But that is all he worries about.


    Liked by 1 person

      1. So here is the tidbit (after a fat finger accident)

        Apparently the campaign is so upset by the numbers from this poll, they have hired the lowest ranked (by fivethrityeight) pollster to attempt to discredit it. Being discredited by the most discredited pollster on the books has to be some kind of badge of honor for SSRS and CNN.

        In Trump POTUS World, numbers DO lie. Kind of like before he came done his gold plated escalator.

        CNN’s response, in a nutshell, “Pack sand!”


        1. Polls this far out are not necessarily a good predictor.

          But is it important to recall that a poll aggregator like 538 was pretty much spot on in 2016, as were many others.

          As the election loomed closer, the polls showed Hillary by a few points. Nate Silver even said it was very close.

          Bottom line, the predictions were wrong by many, but the polls were not. Hillary won the popular vote by 2.5 million.

          A tiny shift of 77K votes in three formerly Democratic strongholds was not even on the radar.

          I think this election is going to be a stern test for the administration. In 2016 Trump was full of promises and bluster that appealed to many voters as a stick in the eye for the status quo.

          Well, now Trump is the status quo. He has not drained any swamp. Most of the jobs after the trillion dollar tax cut were still low pay. And after the first quarter of 2018, the GDP never reach even Obama heights.
          Manufacturing was slowing down at the end of 2019.

          His virus response was slow. His administration, even after 3 years, had neglected any organizational and preparedness abilities until well into the infection rates.

          The DOW’s performance solidified that concept that there are the investors and there are the working men and women on Main Street. And never the twain shall meet.

          Trump needs to pay less attention to excoriating polls he doesn’t like and start to gather together a campaign that appeals to all Americans, not just the minority percentage that support him.

          And that is an uphill battle considering how he spent 3 1/2 years insulting and threatening them.

          But there is the October surprise phenomenon. It killed Hillary.


          Liked by 1 person

          1. …”October surprise phenomenon.”

            Barr or Wray won’t do to Donald what Comey did to Hillary.

            I have a candidate for that. South China Sea. Keep an eye on that one. We just moved two carriers into that region (And ROOSEVELT ain’t one of them) to counter Chinese moves in that region.

            China is one of Trump’s go-to boogeymen. Don’t be surprised if the Trump Whisperer, Steven Miller, advises him to take some sort of military action to show his “strength”. We may then find out if uniformed leadership is willing to advise against it.


  2. I should be shocked, I suppose, but I’m not. The source and my commentary introducing it describe a legitimate technical observation in social science. But the response here in the Forum is to bash president Trump and Republicans in general.

    A better example of changing the subject or missing the target or, frankly, compulsive/obsessive delusion cannot be imagined.


    1. It seems you miss the point that manipulation of the media is done all of the time by BOTH sides.

      It is up to the people to vet any information they get before making a decision. Tis easy to do these days. However, you appear to only look for material that backs your side of the discussion wihtout giving any thought to the other side.


    2. Don’t be a martyr please.

      The premise was bashing the media. And in the current atmosphere of the “badger in chief”, Mr. Fake News, is a big part of that effort.

      Trump has fine tuned the excoriation of the media at the same time as he benefits greatly from both the publicity and the attacks on the “enemy”. He paints them as elites who don’t understand class and social status, but he does.

      “ But I think that even if social status is a prime mover of journalism, a root cause, we should still expect more from journalists and from ourselves.”

      Expecting more what? There are dozens of major outlets across the spectrum of media. Hundreds of smaller ones. Social media adds to the mix in a variety of ways. And we have the most media savvy president in history. Leaving aside that there is no day when a Trump is not praised or criticized.

      You may think that the subject has changed, but the biggest manipulator is sitting in the Oval Office today. Excusing or overlooking that by a treatise on pop psychology blaming media is the subject for rebuttal.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Trump can do no wrong in Mr. Roberts’ eyes. If he walked into a cabinet meeting and shot SECDEF Esper, the excuse would be he had it coming because he wasn’t loyal enough to the man (not the office).


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