The Media and Relevance: A Slow Fade-Out
There was something deeply satisfying about watching Sunday’s Academy Awards show end in unmitigated disaster. It was the perfect capper to a very bad year for our beloved Hollywood elites. Trump’s victory, Hillary’s defeat, Obama’s farewell, the GOP claiming both houses of Congress and an unprecedented number of state legislatures and governorships, and a solid conservative nominated for the Supreme Court instead of the transgendered lesbian Marxist biracial Yucatec clan mother Hillary would surely have chosen for the job.
A bad year indeed. And now, on what was supposed to be Hollywood’s biggest night, what happened? The Academy’s ransom paid to #OscarsSoWhite BLM activists was completely overshadowed by a clumsy, stupid on-air blunder. An aging left-wing icon froze on stage upon finding he’d been given the wrong envelope. He punted it to his former costar so she could take the blame (leftist chivalry!), and the resulting catastrophe totally eclipsed and sullied the Oscar win of a “gay black drug dealers in love” film that even most social justice warriors haven’t actually had the patience to sit through.
This was supposed to be liberal Hollywood’s magical moment to slam Trump and give gold statues to black people, but instead it will forever be remembered as a mess, a failure that ended with a bunch of pampered leftist d-bags running around on stage like chickens with their heads cut off. Hollywood wanted to use Oscar night to show America (and the world) that it’s still relevant, that the opinions of the people who told you not to vote for Trump still matter. And even though the climactic flub was just a stupid mistake, wholly inconsequential in the big scheme of things, it does have import, because it made our tuxedo-clad self-proclaimed betters look inept and ridiculous. Anyone still open to the idea that celebrities should be listened to on matters of national or global importance certainly would not have watched the 89th Annual Academy Awards and thought, “Yep, these are the folks I trust to pick our political leaders.”
And while Hollywood was furthering its irrelevance Sunday night, President Trump was doing his bit to marginalize the equally insignificant other arm of the entertainment industry, the “mainstream” news media. Trump’s announcement that he’ll be skipping the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a beautiful nad-kick to the self-appointed truth czars of the press. For someone like me, who has, over the decades, had his own nads dented a time or two by deceitful TV and print news-jerks, Trump’s dismissal and trolling of the press is a joy to watch, a thing of beauty. I can truly say that the man is “my president,” because these days I find myself living vicariously through him regarding his treatment of mainstream journalists. Barely a day goes by in which the leader of the free world doesn’t fire off at least one tweet to remind the members of the news media that he doesn’t give a damn about anything they have to say. Intellectually, I understand that there are many decent, conscientious journalists working in the MSM. But emotionally, I can’t forget that day in 1994 when CBS sleaze merchant Don Hewitt, after admitting to me that 60 Minutes had deceitfully edited video to make me look like a Holocaust denier, told me, “You don’t have the money to sue us, so we get to do to you whatever we want.”
Memories like that make me look at Trump’s Twitter feed and yell, “Go get ’em, boy.”
Speaking of tweets, the “respectable” European press is super-pissed that anti-Islamist Dutch politician (and current front-runner in the upcoming national election) Geert Wilders communicates with the filthy commoners via Twitter. According to Der Spiegel:
Other parties in Holland have been presenting policy platforms hundreds of pages long, their leading candidates appear on talks shows, give one interview after the other and distribute flyers on town squares. But Wilders refuses most requests for interviews and doesn’t to [sic] participate in debates. He makes nary a public appearance, but why would he even need to given the power of his smartphone?
In the above piece, Lykle de Jong, a doctoral student in cultural studies at the University of Amsterdam, laments, “These channels make it possible to skip the mainstream media and still be able to disseminate messages to millions of people.” Needless to say, the mainstream media hates that kind of thing. But who’s to blame? “Respectable” journos place the blame squarely on Trump, or Wilders, or any of the other (predominantly right-leaning) politicians who, these days, opt for social media over CNN. These “populists,” we’re told, are cutting out the MSM because they’re afraid of tough journalists who ask “real” questions.
Don’t flatter yourself, Jimmy Olsen.
Modern politicians choose the social-media route because the MSM, with its biased reporting, ceaselessly left-wing editorializing, and blatant hostility to a sizable portion of its audience (straight white males), has let its numbers drop. It’s just basic math. High-profile politicians can reach more people via Twitter than through a newspaper. Donald Trump has over 25 million Twitter followers. CNN is lucky to get a million viewers per night (on a slow news night, the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands). My hometown paper, the L.A. Times, has a daily hard-copy circulation of about 650,000. Regarding digital subscriptions, the Times has just a couple hundred thousand.
From the perspective of market penetration and reach, it just makes good sense for a politician to choose something like Twitter over the “legit” press.
It should also be noted that the “respectable” media has, for decades, bombarded us with ideologically skewed polls in which very small numbers of people are sampled yet the results are treated as though they’re representative of the entire nation. Just a few days ago, The Washington Post found one hundred (yes, a mere one hundred) Iowans who voted for Trump but now “regret” having done so. One hundred. Population of Iowa? 3.1 million. Yet the Post promoted that “100 Iowans” story like it’s the scoop of the year. The members of the press have no one to blame but themselves for their waning significance, now that social media allows anyone to do their own “important” sampling in equal or greater numbers. It took me five minutes on Facebook to find 200 Iowans who are still Trump fans. Hey, lookit me: I’m an old-timey newsman! Where’s my “press” hat?
I’m hardly the first one to write about the growing obsolescence of the old news media, but I’d like to make a broader point. The same numbers game that’s leading more and more politicians to rely on social media at the expense of the establishment press is also one of the reasons that Hollywood’s influence is declining. I’ll use one specific example to make my point. Sarah Silverman—oh, she of the “phantom pavement swastikas” hysteria—really, really loves being a big shot on Twitter. She has 10.1 million followers, and she enjoys nothing more than kvetching to them about all the nasty, cruel, terrible ol’ Nazis and anti-Semites who mock and bedevil her online. Tag Silverman in an “I’m gonna put your Jew ass in an oven, kike” tweet, and it’ll be a matter of minutes before she moans about it to her followers.
Ten years ago, Silverman had her own half-hour show on Comedy Central titled The Sarah Silverman Program. The sitcom showcased her “daring” and “edgy” humor. There was a season 3 episode called “Wowschwitz,” in which Silverman’s character (she basically played an exaggerated version of herself) creates a purposely offensive Holocaust “remembrance” exhibit that includes a clown, a dunk tank, a llama, and—as its centerpiece—a giant sculpture of a Jewish hooked nose dripping with snot (“It’s what Jews are best known for,” quips Silverman). The episode ends as cast members sing the Sesame Street “mahna mahna” song, replacing the chorus with “the Holocaust.”
The jokes in the episode are not typical “setup/punchline” gags. They’re offensive for the sake of being offensive, and the desired response is either (from fans) “Dayum, I can’t believe they went there; that is harsh!” or (from squares) “This is hateful, disgusting filth, and Comedy Central should be ashamed of itself.” For Silverman, either response is fine; if she can’t get laughs, she’s content to just push buttons.
Well, here’s the thing—the trolls who torment her with anti-Jewish tweets are looking for the exact same responses. Either they want to be cheered for their outrageousness or condemned for their insensitivity. But guess what? The trolls who elicit a response from Silverman in full view of her 10.1 million Twitter followers are reaching a larger audience than Silverman did with her “Wowschwitz” episode (by season 3, Sarah Silverman Program episodes were pulling in well under a million viewers each week). Trolls are essentially doing Sarah Silverman’s routine to Sarah Silverman, in the presence of more viewers than she had on Comedy Central.
Through social media, you can be a sitcom star in your own living room. The Sarah Silvermans of the world lose relevance when anyone can do the same shtick on their mobile phone, and get exposure to an audience that dwarfs that of a typical basic-cable program. Plus, there’s additional fun in the fact that it’s real life. You’re not writing a sitcom; you’re in the sitcom. In her show, Silverman played a character who annoyed her friends by pushing the envelope of offensive humor, and now you have the opportunity to annoy Silverman in the same manner, in the real-life TV show that social media allows us to star in every day.
Hollywood celebrities have only their own inflated egos to blame. They want to have tens of millions of social-media followers? They want to elevate every slight from every troll into a mini-Holocaust? Fine. But in doing so, they’ve turned themselves into comic foils…straight men for exactly the kind of people who, in times past, would have had to live vicariously through purposely offensive envelope-pushers like Silverman. Now those formerly passive viewers are the active “stars” of the show—and the Sarah Silvermans and Patton Oswalts have become the stodgy neighbors and humorless coworkers…Mr. Wilson to Dennis the Menace, Charles Emerson Winchester to Hawkeye and B.J., Carl Winslow to Urkel.
We no longer need the “legit press” to know what the president thinks; he tweets his thoughts daily (hell, sometimes hourly). And we no longer need overpaid, self-serious “comedians” to entertain us; we’re now able to entertain ourselves, at their expense.
It’s a brave new world, in which formerly mighty news media giants are left standing out in the cold during presidential press conferences, unworthy of even a chair in the room, and Hollywood celebrities, shorn of influence, are reduced to bitchy, whiny, stuttering pricks who play straight man to Twitter trolls. I must confess, I like this new era. Long may it last!