In 1974, President Richard Nixon, winner of two electoral landslides and the standard bearer of the Republican Party for the most of the post-war era, was brought down by America’s major media, led by The Washington Post.
Whatever his knowledge of the Watergate break-in at the time and his subsequent cover-up efforts, which seem tame these days, the Beltway media had it out for Nixon and were able to marshal public opinion against him.
Popular discontent with Vietnam was directed not against the whole establishment, but at the man elected to end it, and the counter-culture was wielded deftly in the unseating of the President, an act of payback for decades of antagonism between Nixon and the elite media.
In those days, approval of the media was in the high seventies, while today they sits in the low tens.
The big papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, now the loss leading public relations wings of larger corporate conglomerates, have lost their magic. They serve as the vanity accessories and playthings of a rotating stable of billionaires interested in influencing public policy.
Despite devoting dozens of reporters to bringing down Trump, they have been unable to do so. If he wins, rest assured that the White House press pool will undergo an extreme make-over, and one long over do.
If Hillary wins, it will be a pyrrhic victory for the establishment media, and after they breathe a sigh of relief, they’ll have to come to terms with the much damaged product they’ve purchased through a campaign of fourteen months of unethical collusion and biased reporting.
Worse than their inability to destroy the man they considered to be public enemy number one to the ruling class, the big newspapers find themselves unable or unwilling to properly cover Hillary Clinton, who they and their owners want to see signing laws.
On both fronts, then, our major newspapers lack major influence, and more and more resemble the Pravda of the terminal-stage Soviet Union, in both behavior and suitability as the butt of jokes.
They are tightly controlled and curated, while the English-language Russia Today allows a wild west of discontented opinion, all of it to the benefit of Moscow.
Even as the establishment media run with the leaks made possible by technologically adept maverick journalists like Julian Assange, they attack the mavericks and permit cavalier talk about their being droned or jailed.
What they’re really attacking in Assange and WikiLeaks is the messenger of a technological revolution that has made cyber-intrusion, anonymous leaking and extreme transparency possible. It is no one individual’s fault. It is in the nature of technological development that the privacy/transparency quotient has shifted. If not Assange, some other cypher-punk would have sufficed to bring that reality home.
As the printing press came into wide use, the court-historian, serving the old power structure, was displaced by the print journalists of the new technology, who believed they had the right to speak and print freely. Thus the fourth estate was born.
With the election of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the fourth estate will have died and been displaced by the slew of alternative media, and the leakers and hackers of the new technological estate.
NYT and WaPo (Bezos’ and Slim’s blogs) are the court historians and publicists of the modern ruling court. Technology has upended their top-down control of information and compromised their credibility.
When they attack Trump, they are really attacking – lashing out at – the millions who detest them and no longer buy what they’re selling. Support for Trump is the default position of those who reject the elite media engineering of public opinion on behalf of establishment interests. If not Trump, some other political entrepreneur would have rode that wave.
What the establishment now lacks, or soon will, is any engine of consensus-formation. Coupled with the unwieldy system of American constitutional checks and balances, you have a recipe for long term gridlock, peppered with hysteria about the national debt and monetary policy and set in a world of changing trade relationships and declining American influence.
Major triage is needed for our decaying physical infrastructure and collapsing social capital in the underclass across all ethnic groups, and there is presently no will, no way and no reliable press to show the way.
Cozying up to Hillary and abandoning neutrality may have felt good at the time, but it has sounded the death knell for the establishment media and made half or more of the country immune to anything they say.
You can fact check your own fact checks ad infinitum unto oblivion, but to no avail. Trust is gone, and is not coming back.