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For nearly 75 years after 1945, reporters were one thing and politicians another. Journalists were imagined to be objective in their reporting on politicians, no different from E.O. Wilson’s relationship to ants.
If you needed any more proof that the older paradigm was dead you had it Wednesday night when former president Donald J. Trump debated, sort of, Kaitlan Collins, during a CNN Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire.
We say “sort of” because it wasn’t officially a debate nor structured like a debate nor as fair or as entertaining as a debate. It was more like a Trump fan fest occasionally interrupted by a media fact-checker.
But what made the event remarkable was the pure obliviousness of CNN. Did they really think Collins would be able to stand up to Trump? Time and again he just steamrolled the 31-year-old Collins to the approval of the audience.
More important was what it revealed about how progressives think about the world, about human nature, and about Trump. Progressives, and never-Trumpers, still act as though the attraction of Republicans to Trump stems from their ignorance of his lies. If only there were a fact checker always on hand! media elites appear to believe. Then people would stop falling for Trump’s lies!
A focus group with Republican voters who had just attended the CNN Townhall showed this was far from the case. None defended Trump’s denial of the election results nor that he had a history of grabbing women. And yet several if not most appeared inclined to support him. Why?
Trump’s appeal remains the same: he connects strongly with core Republican values including those around crime, abortion, and the economy. On question after question, Trump made clear that he would hold firm against progressive attacks, including in the guise of “fact checking,” which Republicans often view, rightly, as biased propaganda.
Reporters are no longer one thing and politicians another. CNN is a network of the Democratic Party, no matter how many Republican Town Halls it will hold, and Republican Donald Trump is the owner of a social media company, Truth Social. Nobody anymore mistakes journalists for objective scientists.
They Can’t Tuck Him Away
But despite the cascade of mind-numbingly boring rebukes from corporate pundits, the idea that the most-watched TV host in America would be so easily run off is for the birds.
This week, Carlson announced his return: A new show on Twitter. “The news you consume is a lie,” he told viewers in a new video (26 million views and counting), by way of advertisement, on what he dubbed “the only” remaining major free-speech platform.
No special deal, according to Elon Musk, who noted the host will be subject to the same rules and rewards as everyone else, including subscriptions and a new advertising share model. (Carlson is technically still under contract with Fox, and the legality of bringing his show to a new platform is uncertain).
NBC said the quiet part out loud: “Will anybody be able to police what Carlson says, or is this the point? It’s just a free-for-all?” Meanwhile, Alex Jones gushed, it’s “the death of cable media.”
AOC’s retort, warning that the ex-Fox host will scare off advertisers, was brutally ratio’d on Twitter, where she and other Musk detractors remain, despite some dabbling on velvet-rope competitor BlueSky.
In a volatile media landscape littered with carcasses — Vice, Buzzfeed News, MTV News, CNN+ — the question now is whether Fox will join them. After its firing of Tucker Carlson. Viewers of Carlson’s old 8 pm ET spot crashed 50 percent. But the worst of it is that the network's audience among 25- to 54-year-olds shrank by a whopping two-thirds.
Liberal Hollywood Elite vs Liberal Hollywood Elite
What’s gotten into the liberals?
Susan Sarandon generated national news last year when she retweeted a video of homeless encampments in California. Woody Harrelson set off a Twitter tizzy when he denounced Covid lockdowns on Saturday Night Live earlier this year. And now actor Richard Dreyfuss, the quintessential Hollywood soft seventies guy, has come out swinging against wokeness.
Dreyfuss’ comments came during a wide-ranging interview on PBS, no less. Dreyfuss said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new “diversity and inclusion” standards “make me vomit.”
He went on: “It’s an art. No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that.”
Naturally, NBC clutched its pearls. “Richard Dreyfuss defends actors appearing in blackface” its headline screamed. In fact, he was defending Laurence Olivier’s 1965 performance in Shakespeare’s “Othello.”
In truth, it’s about time. Today’s uptight woke in Hollywood are the anathema of the 1970s live-and-let-live, chill out, man ethos.
“You have to let life be life,” said Dreyfuss. “I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”