The Post-Trump Media Slump
Since media is mostly bad news, a terrible President was very good for business. Since he’s been gone “Most major publishers have suffered audience declines from 2020” (WSJ). The WSJ is down nearly 10% and the Washington Post is down nearly 30%. Purely political sites like Politico have been cut in half. Even minor publishers like, well, me are down as well.
I did 25,000 views in Oct/Nov this year compared to 400,000 last year. An even steeper decline. Without the clown there’s no media circus. Almost makes you miss the fellow.
Trump was the second media native President. Ever since The Selling Of The President (1968) consultants have been using media to, well, sell the President, but Trump was the first proper media salesman since Reagan. Whereas Reagan was a film actor, Trump played a successful businessman on TV. He also used Twitter himself, making him the first digital native President as well. Americans could get it straight from the horse’s mouth, or ass as it might be.
Twitter is, in itself, not a very popular form of social media, but it is extremely popular among journalists. It’s where news starts, and Trump was a real firestarter. Journalists could do what they were doing anyways (hanging out on Twitter) and fat, juicy, lurid stories just came to them. What the fuck did he just say?
Trump was also a TV native, a reality TV star, who understood how the medium worked. He had not only been on The Apprentice, pretending to be good at business, he had also been on the WWE, pretending to fight. Pretending to be a politician was an easy transition for him, and he was excellent at it. It made for must-watch-TV, and everybody benefited.
What Trump expressed was the cavernous, yearning id of America, a cruel, vulgar country that had always been wrapped in hypocritical pride. Trump just ripped off the wrapping and to the mob—chafing under liberal bullshit through endless financial crashes and wars—this was a delight. As Hannah Arendt said (about pre-totalitarian states, which should terrify you):
“The temporary alliance…