On Sunday, Megyn Kelly and NBC aired an exclusive interview between the former Fox host and controversial conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Kelly went after Jones and his insane theories that 9/11 was an inside job and that the Sandy Hook massacre was a government conspiracy.
As soon as the planned interview was announced, it was immediately attacked by the parents of those killed at Sandy Hook, as well as many others who, frankly, know better than to give the raving lunatic mainstream airtime.
The result was NBC and Kelly trying to play it like she was doing real, hard-hitting journalism, exposing Jones as the conspiracy nut he was. But, that wasn’t good enough. It was a bad idea that no one should have given a green light at any point.
On Monday, the ratings from the show came in… and it was bad.
Embattled former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s fortunes continue to plummet at her new gig at NBC. Her latest attempt to juice up her ratings by interviewing controversial conspiracy theorist Alex Jones resulted in less than desirable viewership numbers.
According to Nielsen ratings, the Jones interview fell behind the U.S. Open golf championships, and also behind a rerun of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” for the key demographic composed of 18-49 viewers. Last week, Kelly’s interview with sportscaster Erin Andrews came second in viewers to a rerun of “60 Minutes.”
That’s right. Alex Jones couldn’t pull in ratings. His presence pulled in less viewership than a re-run of America’s Funniest Home Videos. That’s not just bad. It’s pathetic.
Should this be a surprise, though? Jones is, at best, an Internet celebrity. His Internet audience, his Wikipedia page brags, is at times bigger than Rush Limbaugh’s and Glenn Beck’s… but, the emphasis there is “Internet.” Jones doesn’t really have much of a traditional media audience.
Now, say what you want about “traditional media.” About how it might be out of touch, losing audience, etc. That’s cool and all, but you cannot deny that there are still millions upon millions of people who consume their news through these media.
I am with my colleague, Jay, in being absolutely glad that the ratings were an flop. But, I want to take it a step further: It should be a wake-up call to the media at large.
Ever since the Trump nomination, the media has been looking to fringe elements and elevating them as a means of trying to make them the thought leaders of the mainstream. It hasn’t worked yet, and it will continue to fail so long as the media makes the same mistake over and over again.
That mistake is thinking now that social media is the absolute go-to place for the sum of America’s political beliefs.
Jones is no more a thought leader to a wide American public than Richard Spencer, yet both are getting more and more attention from folks in the media because they represent some chunk of Trump’s apparent constituency. Yet, the white nationalists, the alt-right, the neo-Nazis, or whatever else you want to call them are ultimately so insignificant in the world around them that their “leaders” don’t draw any real attention.
Sure, Richard Spencer getting punched in the face makes for great traffic on the Internet. Alex Jones getting into trouble for his stupid conspiracies is hilarious to watch. But they no more mean anything to the world around them than Deray McKesson and Shaun King, two Internet race baiters on the Left who get paid to incite the same kind of rebellion that Jones and Spencer do.
They are absolutely on the fringe, but the media is trying desperately to have these become the thought leaders of their respective movements.
Trump’s constituency is not white nationalists and neo-Nazis. His constituency was largely Republicans (who are way more diverse than they get credit for), and blue collar workers who felt like they were cheated out of their way of life by the previous Democratic administration. Trump spoke to them in ways that gave them hope. They believed the country could move away from this intellectual “save the earth, spread the wealth” mentality that had destroyed many of their jobs.
That is the average Trump supporter. Alex Jones is nothing. The rest of these fringe Internet celebrities do not represent near the number of Americans journalists who spend too much time on social media think they do.
But, when you’re trapped not just in an elite, coastal, metropolitan bubble, but in a social media bubble as well, you lose focus of who the real Americans are. And that is why ratings for shows like this will continue to flop.
Hopefully, someone learns that real soon.