AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
Though we are living through an era of revolutions in American politics, one in particular has gone largely unnoticed: the dismantling of what was until recently the most powerful force in American politics—the news media.
For decades, the media wielded incredible power to set and control the nation’s political narratives. In ways that few appreciated, the media was not simply covering American politics; they were the driving force behind American politics.
But Donald Trump, the Russia collusion hoax, the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots, COVID, and a whole host of other national panics have exposed this reality to millions of Americans for the first time. Today, not only the vast majority of Republicans—but increasingly millions of swing voters and even some Democrats—are aware of the media’s manipulations and contrivances.
As a result, the American people could very well look back on the 2022 midterm cycle as the first truly “post-media” election.
With less than two months to go before Election Day, mainstream media narratives appear to have far less influence and potency than in years past. For instance, Joe Biden’s approval ratings continue to languish, while Donald Trump continues to maintain his leadership of the Republican Party and gain traction in a hypothetical 2024 head-to-head matchup against Biden. All of this comes despite embarrassing and even indecent media efforts to boost Biden and in spite of an endless campaign of hyperventilating vilification of Trump.
In short, it appears the media’s decisive influence in driving our elections may be in terminal decline.
The most striking example of the media’s diminished ability to set political realities is the remarkable extent to which the FBI’s August raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was taken seriously neither by voters nor by elected officials. Predictably, most liberal media pundits almost immediately celebrated news of the raid as a watershed moment that would lead to the end of the MAGA movement and Trump’s political career. Talk show host Stephen Colbert, for instance, rejoiced that the news was “the present we wanted.” A deluge of headlines and opinion pieces insisted the raid would cause a “bad” week for Trump that could take him out of the running for 2024.
Despite the media’s best efforts, however, large portions of the public saw right through the narrative manipulations. Media reports that the raid was conducted to retrieve ostensibly sensitive nuclear information were almost universally regarded as overblown if not outright false. Perhaps even more tellingly, despite widespread speculation that the raid would imperil Trump’s political fortunes, the former president enjoyed a 10-point boost in support in 2024 GOP primary polling in the days following the raid—further demonstrating the extent to which Republican voters saw straight through the media’s relentless narrative about the raid without so much as missing a beat.
But the weakening political influence of the American press goes far beyond the Mar-a-Lago raid. Despite the media’s persistent efforts to convince voters that the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act”—widely projected by economists to aggravate inflation and increase consumer prices—would ease Americans’ financial burdens and boost Biden’s faltering approval ratings, voters did not take the bait. Even with headlines claiming the legislation was a “big win” that could “reshape [Biden’s] political fortunes” for the better, that Biden is “on a roll that any president would relish,” and that the legislation was “a crucial achievement for President Biden and his party,” polling released shortly after the passage of the bill indicates that a majority of voters think the legislation will, in fact, make inflation even worse than it currently is—ultimately demonstrating that the media spin was unsuccessful.
Likewise, the media has also failed to sell Democrats’ efforts to gaslight the public into believing that the economy is doing well. To be sure, with gas prices soaring to more than $4.50 per gallon and inflation at 40-year highs, convincing anyone that the financial pain they are experiencing isn’t real was always a tall task. But the media’s obvious and deliberate efforts both to shift blame from Democrat policies to “Republican obstructionism” and to distract the public with other issues have largely fallen flat.
Another big media failure this year was the handling of the over-dramatized January 6 hearings, which the left billed as must-watch TV almost certain to bring about Donald Trump’s political demise. But notwithstanding the media’s best efforts—including handing over valuable hours of broadcast network television to a partisan one-sided House Committee—a clear majority of Americans did not even tune in to the hearings, which were found to have had no effect on public opinion on Trump.
For Democrats, a media that can’t alter the political landscape could have disastrous implications not only for this November’s midterm elections but also for the left’s long-term grip on American culture. Left-wing frustration with the media’s growing ineffectiveness in pushing Democrats’ narratives has already boiled over in several instances throughout Biden’s presidency—including one incident in October of last year when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scolded the media for not doing a good enough job of “selling” Biden’s doomed $3.5 trillion spending plan.
Should this trend continue, the role of the media may once again be relegated to a secondary place in politics. If so, the decline and fall of the American news media will be a collapse that was both hard-earned and richly deserved.
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