The Golden Age of journalism is dead. There are no more Edward R. Murrows, William F. Buckleys, or Walter Cronkites. Don’t look for them. They don’t exist. Those days when the news was the news and a journalist made his bones by digging for the facts and breaking the big stories are now the stuff of faded legend. While the advent of the internet has given us a few inspiring bloggers and investigative wonders (R.I.P Andrew Breitbart), you find that you spend more time sifting through the ramblings of tinfoil hatted-bedlamites, in search of a grain of authenticity than you do reading factual, supported news.
Trust used to be a core principle of the journalism game, as well. Walter Cronkite was once called the most trusted man in America. People wanted to believe that when they invited those familiar faces into their homes each night that they were being told the truth, with no shading or variances, in any way. These days, you can’t be sure if what you’re hearing is factually based, distorted to suit the political ideology of the reporter, or if their reports are rooted in backroom deals and payoffs.
All that brings me to my point: We have reached a tragic period in our nation’s history, where the media seeks to influence the news, rather than simply report it. The danger in that is that they seek further treasure than just ratings. I don’t even care about CNN, MSNBC, or any of the other alphabet soup networks, who, over the years, have proven to be reliably left-biased. Conservatives assumed they had one network that didn’t seem to be overrun with leftist radicals, and that was FOX. There are also a litany of supposed rightwing talk radio hosts. Millions of conservatives tune in to Fox News, each day. Just as many tune in to hear Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, or Sean Hannity on any given day, in hopes of hearing well-researched and principled discussion on the state of the nation.
At this very critical juncture in our history, while our nation and our liberties have been ravaged by the Obama years, and life as we know it in this nation hangs precariously by a thread, Fox News, Limbaugh, Levin, and Hannity have gambled with our future, knowing we have no collateral to back up the game. For months, these fair weather friends of conservatism have heaped slovenly, starry-eyed adoration on Donald Trump. Trump – that gilded toad, who’s conservative history began at about the time he decided to run as a Republican has been shoved in our faces from the day he announced, garnering twice as much attention as any actual, proven conservative candidate by Fox News. In fact, Fox flooded the airwaves with appearances by Trump more than double any other candidate, according to a Business Insider article from December 2015, and that’s not taking into account the time dedicated to marveling over his every word and deed. In spite of the supposed lingering feud between Trump and Fox, they have been a boon for him. Their 24/7 coverage of all-things-Trump have made this arrogant buffoon seem like a legitimate candidate, rather than a bad Saturday Night Live skit. He already had name recognition, due to his reality TV show, but what Fox has done borders on journalistic malpractice. At the expense of other candidates, with actual conservative credentials to fall back on, not to mention experience and policy knowledge, they have led the public to believe that it is the job of other candidates to answer for Trump. There was no programming with Fox where Trump wasn’t mentioned, and if another candidate got air time, that time was spent fielding questions about Trump. The idea of letting those candidates give their pitch for their campaigns was something that came only in passing, and usually the Fox personalities found a way to direct it back to a Trump question. For those of us who actually want to hear from candidates who’ve been conservative for more than a year, it has been a disgusting debacle to witness.
Then there’s “conservative” talk radio. For any who thought turning off the TV and switching to radio would offer some respite from Trump fatigue, no such luck. I was once an avid listener of Levin, Limbaugh, and Hannity, but no more. For months after Trump’s ridiculously garish announcement, these talking heads would gush, ad nauseam, about his boldness, how he was turning the establishment on their heads, he was shaking things up, he was saying what nobody else would say, etc… If Trump wore a blue tie on a Thursday, Sean Hannity would spend 2 hours of his 3 hour show dissecting the significance, and outright brilliance of that tie choice. The other hour would be spent asking callers to tell how much they loved Trump’s tie. I’ve seen brown-nosing and toadie groveling, in my day, but Hannity’s obsession with Donald Trump borders on the psychotic. No one will be surprised when Hannity is busted outside of Trump’s penthouse apartment building, holding a boombox over his head, while Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” cuts through the night air.
Mark Levin’s fans are voicing feeble defenses of the man these days, pointing out how harsh he’s being with Trump. GEE… Welcome to the party, Mark! For months, Levin couldn’t stop talking of Trump’s brilliant strategy, how he was tapping into conservative angst. He wasn’t PC and the so-called establishment couldn’t stand it! Oddly enough, in 2011, Levin said of Trump, “Trump is NOT the real deal. He will get Obama re-elected. This is not a game. This is not a circus. He is not a conservative… We should not encourage this,” But a mere 4 years later, Levin was one more clown under the Big Top. His recent return to his senses is too little, too late.
Rush Limbaugh is a particularly heinous breed of sycophant. Supposedly, Trump is a golfing pal of Limbaugh’s. If he would just say he was going to stump for his friend, those of us who know Trump is a dangerous, narcissistic, tyrant-in-waiting, would at least know why, but el Rushbo plays it off, while pretending to be impartial. He’s anything but that. He likes to tout his “talent on loan from God.” Maybe he should return the talent and ask for some integrity. He has sold us out. He has sold himself out. Any vestige of being a courageous voice for the right is gone. He’s a voice for the highest bidder, well-being of our nation be damned.
The thing is, I get how Trump appeals to the public’s anger. Republicans turned out and gave their party the majority in the House and Senate, only to see them promptly become the right arm of Obama. People are angry, but at some point, you stop venting and you start looking at the best way to fix what has gone wrong. Unbridled anger may be temporarily satisfying, but it won’t lead to the solutions we so desperately require. That is where media becomes important. Done responsibly and with honor, it is a valuable tool for vetting our choices, but here we are. The media are playing a game, attempting to shape the race, rather than do their jobs and give the public a full and accurate picture of our choices. What’s more, they’ve worked overtime to give undue publicity to a man no more qualified to be president than an 8 year old is qualified to be a surgeon.
The reason for it all is ratings. This vile man’s antics bring ratings from a populace that too often would rather be entertained than informed, and the media is exploiting that fully. Trump, the grand self-promoter, guarantees the Honey Boo-Boo crowd will flock to him like flies to horse dung and Fox News, along with the right wing punditry are doing the shoveling. Who cares that a Trump nomination will likely give us a minimum of 4 years of Hillary? If he gets the nomination and somehow wins the general, even if the nation goes swirling, he’s likely to say something outrageous to some foreign dignitary or insult an ally so flagrantly, that the ratings will go through the roof! I guess it’s a matter of priorities, and the priorities of the media are corrupt.
I’m glad that there are still some conservative stalwarts out there, who refuse to play this game and are rightly sounding the alarm against Trumpism. Governor Rick Perry called it early, but I watched with disgust, as Fox News personalities treated him like an enemy of the state, in interview after interview. Voices like Erick Erickson, Glenn Beck, Brent Bozell, Mona Charen, Dana Loesch, and Bill Kristol have joined to try and speak uncompromising reason, where the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Levins have wallowed in their acquiescence to this reality TV candidacy.
Michael Reagan, in a recent interview with OpportunityLives.com may have given the most wise and insightful word on what we’re seeing in media today:
“We’ve given too much power to talk radio. The Republican Party has allowed talk radio to define us. The Republican Party needs to itself, not rely upon talk radio to define it. They might find out talk radio isn’t always their friend” (Emphasis mine).
I can only pray that the damage of Fox News, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others, who’ve acted as Donald Trump’s personal PR team for months now is not lasting and sanity takes hold before this primary season is over. Maybe if we all started switching off and doing our own research, rather than feed on a steady diet of self-serving media, we’ll once again find ourselves in a place where We the people choose our candidates, based on merit, not the Cult of Personality that drives news coverage, these days.