The Atlantic is a publication for those who wish to avoid reality and escape into arrogant Left-leaning sophistry that is devoid of facts or reason. I sometimes wonder if it actually written by angsty high school children who were raised in obnoxious white privilege, and hence, were doomed to meddle and patronizingly lecture the populace with their childish theories of life as they manage to alienate anyone who has a clue. It is bad, very bad poetry on a moody teenager’s blog, and one who is writing it simply because someone felt pity, and told him that he had something resembling talent for a writer. As a journalist, you need a talent of finding facts more than a flair for writing.
For those of us who (a) live in reality, and (b) like facts, it is an offensive magazine. It is simplistic, and seems to be some sort of a propagandist’s journal on trying to figure out how to force every single citizen in America to be happy with limousine liberalism, even if it will cost them their shirt. Case in point: What Facebook Did to American Democracy: And why it was so hard to see it coming by Alexis C. Madrigal.
A far better title for it would have been “Who can the press blame for not getting their own way, and why everyone who had half a brain cell saw it coming except for journalists,” but that would imply that journalists finally clued in to why they have lost their relevance in 2017. Reading this article reminds me of Saturday Night Live’s The Girl You Wish You Never Started a Conversation With on Weekend Update. This is a vintage piece of someone trying to sound smart and analytical, but has no idea where to begin, and no effortless hack or bloated language is going to provide that magical shortcut for them. At least the diatribe is in typical journalese, so let’s have a look at why journalists are really clueless about the world they live in and are paid to chronicle.
To people not in the journalism business, they do not understand the absolute shock and trauma November 2016 brought to the profession (my upcoming book When Journalism was a Thing discusses this in detail), but we now have a generation of reporters who suffered the most profound professional disturbance one can imagine, save to discover you thought you were helping orphans escape from war to safety only to find out you handed them over to a group of pimp pedophiles who had full immunity.
As someone who covered the business of journalism, I knew exactly what was coming, but journalists who were so dense and oblivious to the obvious, did not. They did not see a Trump victory coming. Journalists thought all they had to do was be dismissive and rude to Trump, shame his supporters into not voting, fawn all over Hillary Clinton as they lectured people that it was now a “woman’s turn” to be president, and everyone would just play along. Ta da!
Of course, it didn’t happen because there were many ignored factors at play. Journalists are still in the denial stage, and it has been almost one full year of their horrific public failure. Every article since then has been written in meltdown mode, and this story is a prime example of it.
The first bit of manipulation happens fairly soon, with the writer trying to deflect criticism by making a false claim:
Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet.
To pretend that reporters were looking past anything but their own egos means journalists do not even want to face the heart of their problem. It is off the table, meaning they do not wish to change themselves, but are still trying to manipulate everyone else to go back to a time where they could build or destroy lives the way they wished. Reporters do not seem to comprehend that they alienated people with this very behavior.
This knee-slapper of a comment does not align with the reality of the time: that reporters decided Hillary Clinton was the obvious winner and treated her political rival as an amusing political comic relief who could not possibly beat her, while ignoring that his strategy was cunning, cagey, and effective, showing that he, unlike Clinton, actually understood how to play the political game, even though he was a complete newbie to it and she was the veteran who spent most of her adult life in that gladiatorial arena.
An underestimated Trump understood that it wasn’t just about getting votes to the point of fighting for redundant ones. It is not, contrary to popular belief, a popularity contest, but an elegant campaign of strategy and math. He understood the concept of the electoral college. Clinton, for whatever reason, chose to play the role of oblivious and arrogant slacker, and she snatched defeat from the jaws of victory all by herself. She still doesn’t see she is her own worst enemy, and I doubt she has what it takes to ever be able to see it.
But journalists should have seen it, but didn’t and they are behaving like Clinton, looking for some big baddie to blame for their own moral and intellectual lapses.
No, Facebook did not help Trump win. Russia did not help Trump win. Trump won because he understood enough of the bottom line to win the game. He made promises to get critical swing voters on his side, and had a definitive vision with a specific agenda.
Democrats did not embrace him, but neither did Republicans. Jeb Bush was heir apparent and had an enviable war chest along with a family dynasty and extensive political experience on his side…and he was no match for Trump.
The Clinton campaign should have known then in what deep waters they were wading. Clinton had no vision or specifics to her campaign, which she absolutely needed to stay viable. She merely assumed vote-shaming people into putting a woman in the White House just because it was long overdue was a good enough strategy. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for Hillary Clinton is not actually an inspiring war cry. She fought not to lose, and her rival fought to win.
As someone who is neither affiliated with the Left nor Right (call me an anarchist, political atheist, or radical centrist, I don’t care: I just will not be boxed in by static and arbitrary following games based on hypothetical constructs by any side who wishes to manipulate by tyrannical sink or swim logic), I knew Trump would win, and could do so even without the popular vote. He is an outsider who is willing to take risks: it was the way he conducted his business affairs and managed to make it as far as he did in a volatile industry.
Clinton was never presidential material, and she had eight years observing life right inside the White House, yet not a single lesson was she capable of learning. She never learns. She never learned when the far more charismatic and alert Barak Obama decimated her previous presidential ambition with the devastating Don’t tell my mama that I am voting for Obama grassroots jingle. He understood the future clearly, and rightly knew she was a curious relic of a bygone era.
Bernie Sanders understood it, but Clinton was always yesterday’s woman and in the Past she is serving a life sentence. She is a self-entitled lightweight and annoyance, and had the Democrats an ounce of common sense, vision, and gravitas, they would have kicked her to the curb twenty years ago, and gotten an angry and swaggering feminist in her place, launching her bid at a woman’s shelter. The Democrats needed a warrior, not a wonk – and certainly not a woman who rode on the coattails of the philandering man she continues to stand by – but then it would have meant admitting that the last eight years was not all limousine liberal paradise for every citizen in their own country. Heaven forbid a party admit they were wrong or needed to improve in some way. That party played it safe, and not only failed to win the White House, but also Congress, the Senate, and two thirds of the governorships as well.
But the Democrats weren’t the only oblivious institution muddling through life: journalists were also clueless to reality. I had conversations with those in the journalism business, stating my contention that Clinton could not win this game. They all dismissed me as being silly.
People needed jobs that got them food, shelter, utilities, and enough disposable income at the end of the month to do the things that make life more than a mere existence. We have multibillionaires run businesses where they have people working for free – or working a wage where they are still homeless, despite having a graduate degree. Trump merely pointed out the obvious, and for pointing out that obvious, he won an election. He knew his audience, and they repaid him for being able to see them despite all the white noise.
For all the outraged babbling that fake news tilted the election, journalists still fail to grasp the obvious: Trump won because he understood the game. Propaganda has always been with us: in the newspaper pages, in movies, and even in textbooks. Fake news is nothing new, and mainstream news outlets have been spewing fake news for decades. Stories about Enron and WorldComm’s success was nothing more than fake news. Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair presented fake news in The New Republic and The New York Times. (Don’t Believe It!: How lies become news chronicles all this mess).
What is bothering journalists to the point of irrational panic is that they told the little people how to vote…and they were ignored. People were ignoring news stories and flocking to Facebook and Twitter where they could express their own feelings, bypassing the gate-keeper the way Trump bypassed them. Journalists lost clout, and then lost face when their predictions turned out to be wrong: so instead of the necessary soul-searching, they chose to lash out like bigots against Russians, and like elitists against Facebook and the poor who voted for Trump hoping to find a way to claw their way out of poverty.
Make no mistake: this was a deathblow to the profession. They did not see reality. They could not make a realistic prediction: ergo, what are they good for if they treat reality as the enemy?
Journalists depend too much on narrative, meaning they can never comprehend reality or truths. Clinton provided them with a simple narrative with no facts and they bought it up without question and without thinking two steps ahead of what would it mean to the profession if her narrative did not align with reality. The problem was they could not convince every single American of that narrative.
Had they troubled themselves with facts and foregone narratives, they would have seen a very different picture emerge. Facebook is not the enemy as there were plenty of vitriolic anti-Trump propaganda and rhetoric on those same newsfeeds (meaning the entire hypothesis of The Atlantic article suffers from a devastating confirmation bias, making it useless), yet those who voted for Trump were not deterred by it.
But The Atlantic is still stuck in a vortex of good guy-bad guy narrative of a paranoid conspiracy theorist:
Facebook’s enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of “viral” hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.
It could not possibly be that journalists have completely lost sight of their own mandates: it had to be some villain who wrecked their fantasy that whatever they decreed would be taken in as the gospel truth. The Russians did not have to lift a finger: people know whether or not they can pay their own bills, and when they cannot, they will reject the Establishment candidate, especially one who lies with a straight face that the reigning Establishment has been a boon to every citizen.
Here is Clinton – a candidate who was closely associated with predators such as the now-exposed Harvey Weinstein – and she still continues to behave as if she and her political party of choice gave a damn about women?
Journalists didn’t give a damn about women, either as they drooled and fawned over a misogynistic boor Hollywood player in their countless news stories over the years – and now they think Facebook had something to do with their diminishing clout?
Clinton was never a feminist, but an opportunist who dutifully followed a script as she wore a mask and dressed the part, yet nothing about her was even remotely genuine.
Had the news media been remotely genuine themselves, they would have called her out and wondered just how out of touch the Democrats had become with the rest of the populace. The Democrats have no vision; they merely preach and moralize as they shame anyone who does not completely allow themselves to be indoctrinated into their self-serving dogma, gleefully vilifying anyone who dares question their dictates.
That’s not politics: that’s religion.
Just as politicians have completely forgotten what politics is all about, journalists have also developed professional amnesia. They confuse opinion, sophistry, spin, narrative, and even propaganda with facts, The Atlantic article proved:
The real problem—for all political stripes—is understanding the set of conditions that led to Trump’s victory. The informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained precisely how.
Not at all. The problem is journalists still do not understand that Facebook has nothing to do with their downfall. They are responsible for their own miserable and well-earned collapse. The New York Times was not just home to Jayson Blair; they also employed Judith Miller, who assured the American people that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and scores of innocent people died as a result of that newspaper’s gung-ho propaganda. They introduced the world to Trump in 1976 in this fawning way:
He is tall, lean and blond, with dazzling white teeth, and he looks ever so much like Robert Redford. He rides around town in a chauffeured silver Cadillac with his initials, DJT, on the plates. He dates slinky fashion models, belongs to the most elegant clubs and, at only 30 years of age, estimates that he is worth "more than $200 million."
The media has repeatedly spread misinformation, lies, and propaganda recklessly for decades, and because they had been the only game in town, could do whatever they wished without consequence, knowing people had no alternative avenue to express themselves.
Then came the Internet that liberated people from those gate-keepers who, until that point, could deify and demonize people with no consequences. Trump became a monster to the press for one reason only: he knew their tricks as he had decades worth of experience – and then outclassed them to win an improbable contest.
Facebook became their scapegoat: how dare regular citizens have a right to choose what they choose to believe? They are supposed to swallow whatever story journalists tell them without question…and now that the media’s grip has weakened, they don’t know who to blame – they will certainly never blame themselves.
The rambling piece takes shaky study after shaky study to make a nonexistent point, but the truth is simple: a forced choice is no choice, and when there is the option to actually have your own choice, you will forego the limited options and go where you truly desire.
When Facebook came along, people could finally have a platform to themselves, even if it was showing the pathetic banalities of unflattering selfies or memorializing a greasy overpriced hamburger that starving feral animals would turn up their noses.
But the same holds true in elections: you don’t have a real choice: a few elites pick a couple of mediocre candidates, and then people have to hold their nose and vote. If people could bypass politicians to either make their own decrees – or at least choose a candidate they want in office without a leadership contest – no current politician could ever expect to be elected.
What we have in a political sphere is pseudo-democracy: we have very little say over the candidate running for political office: we must choose from a limited range of options. That is one step better than a dictatorship, but not as much as we’d like to believe. Worse, they are confined by their party’s stifling ideology.
Journalists never bothered to ask hard questions about the inherent weaknesses of the model of democracy we have settled on. They merely exploited it: overhyping elections to make them seem more exciting and life-altering than they are. They will cover debates and fight who will serve as their moderator; not wonder if winning a debate has any relevance to running a public office. They get on the campaign buses covering canned events such as photo ops, instead of skipping the fake events and looking for information relevant to what people really need to know.
Why are you covering a speech? It is nothing more than political advertising that someone other than the candidate wrote (and how many journalists wrote those speeches?). What are the specific plans a potential leader has for the country? How will they be implemented? Who will be on this leader’s team to carry out those promises? What are their backgrounds? What are their qualifications? What does this person stand for?
Instead, reporters and pundits are obsessed with image. They speculate and indulge in hypotheticals. They do not talk to people, but at them. They have no idea about what the homeless are thinking. They have no idea what women in shelters are looking for in a leader. They look at Twitter and Facebook and think you can actually know what people are thinking. They do not actually sit down and get to know their audience, who have become complete strangers to them.
Journalists want to sound learned, but they are not. They cite bad studies and useless polls, and then are floored when they cannot predict a very predictable reality. They have no feel for their surroundings, and no legitimate journalist can be numb to their environment.
If I want to know someone’s personal truth, the last place I would look is their Twitter feed. That is do-it-yourself advertising that shills your amateur book, album, podcast, comic book, or art/media project. I also would completely skip their Facebook feed because that is a form of personal public relations. That is the equivalent to the year-end letter people stuff in their Christmas cards telling you little Billy is going off to a prestigious college.
Journalists want to know about the world? They should put down the smart phone, tablet, or laptop. You have to sit with people in their natural setting, and listen to them. You have to look at their rundown homes with the knob and tube wiring and collection notices as they first try to put a sunny spin before they screw up the courage to speak the truth.
It is not “the Facebook” that caused Clinton to lose: it was her willful tone deafness to anyone who did not conform to her own privileged narrative. The press willingly enabled her delusions of competency, but the rest of the nation did not. The end.
Journalists are not supposed to rig elections by presenting skewed coverage; belittling or insulting anyone who is not impressed with their poorly thought-out subjective presentations. They need to work with humility more than anything else. Not everyone has the same hopes, dreams, life requirements, beliefs, or values. It does not make them lesser people.
Journalists also need to stop telling people what to think. They have become reactionary nags and judgmental gossips who are forever scheming on how to force people to abandon their own wants and needs to fit in with their flawed interpretations of reality.
Facebook is hardly perfect. It has big problems, but allowing people to resist someone else’s marching orders is not one of them.
So, to The Atlantic, here is the memo: it did not matter if people’s feeds were filled with real news, fake news, or news about adopted cats: people who were repulsed by the unrealistic ambitions of Clinton – a woman who stood for nothing, had no defining platform, and went in with the assumption that everyone was prosperous under the current regime and wished to go on with the status quo – were not going to vote for her. Ever. A vote for Trump was a protest vote, and protest votes do not magically appear after viewing a few canards on a social media feed: they come from years of institutionalized neglect and abuse, creating a lot of bad blood that boils and then explodes on election day.
The problem is that journalists never saw those raw years coming, and that shocking and disturbing oversight explains exactly why journalists have lost their relevance and credibility with millions of disenfranchised citizens. The Atlantic has always been one of the most clueless of offenders, and in their own warped bubble they continue to find false shelter as the world spins on without them.