The title of this post is the punchline to an old, old story about the limits of advertising; a story which may or may not be based on fact. The story goes that a big food-manufacturing conglomerate came up with a brand new formulation for dog food, and advertised it with a huge, costly campaign: print ads, TV commercials, product placement in movies, TV shows, county fairs, giveaways and sponsorships; the whole ball of wax … and the product cratered. The CEO of the company is irate and demands answers from anyone who can give him a reason why. Didn’t they do everything possible to make their dog food brand the market leader? Image everyone at that meeting looking nervously at each other at this point – because they have done everything possible … except for one small thing. Finally, someone gets up sufficient nerve to answer. “But the dogs don’t like it.”

This is the point that I believe has been reached with regard to the establishment news and entertainment media with regard to a major segment of the American public: the final consumer is pushing the plate away and saying, essentially, “I don’t like it.” This is not going down well with the major purveyors of the news dog-food. Witness CNN’s Jim Acosta, getting all bent out of shape at being heckled, harassed, and having uncomplimentary signs held up in back of him as he tries to do a live stand-up. It’s not enough for the manufacturers of media dog-food to have been biased on the progressive side since the days of Kennedy and Nixon, to have carried water for Bill Clinton and John Kerry, worshipped adoringly at the feet of Obama and all but carried the juggernaut of his candidacy over the finishing line twice, then to have attempted the same with Hilary, only to have Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chautauqua fumble an election that was already almost in the bag for her. The last two years have seen the establishment news hounds (and their fellow-travelers in government, entertainment and academia) go completely bug-nuts with fury. How dare those – those – those deplorables in Flyoverlandia, those ignorant, racist hicks vote for that – that – reality TV star!?

They were so certain that the arrow of history was only ever going to fly one way – their way, the correct way. They were so certain of this … but then to find out that a good half of the country didn’t agree send them into a spiral of angry, baffled, unthinking rage. You would have thought that the good progressive, socially conscientious producers of news, entertainment, education and government rules should have known better, even if only out of self-interest. You’d have assumed they would realize at the start that pouring vituperative contempt on potential customers, clients, and consumers would only end in tears. As it happens, they didn’t – and the contempt flowed as freely as Sarah Jeong’s twitter feed. That apparently unbalanced young person may or may not get to keep a cushy job at the New York Times, the so-called paper of record, given a demonstrated tendency to vent a reservoir of spleen the size of Lake Michigan. A reasonable person might ask why she should, given that Roseanne Barr got the sack from her television show for far less insulting materiel.

Uncomfortable things happen to establishments like the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, the NFL, Evergreen College and cities like San Francisco when the dogs don’t like it. Are we now at the point where the dogs take their eyeballs, their subscriptions, their entertainment and educational budgets and go elsewhere … and those places and more start feeling the bite? Which hurts … and they have no one but themselves to blame for not pleasing the dogs. Discuss, if you are so inclined.

35 Comments

  1. John F. MacMichael

    The steady downward spiral of the prestige and power of the major media illustrates a truth I first encountered as a boy. In one of Robert A. Heinlein’s YA novels “Citizen of the Galaxy” (1957) the young hero is given some advice by his foster father. He tells the boy to beware of lying because “…once a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb because men will no more listen to him than they will listen to the wind.” (I quote from memory so that is not exact).

    For the MSM we can see this truth in action. Too many people have caught them too many times; whether getting key facts wrong, slanting stories, ignoring news that would embarrass the people or causes they support or just plain flat out lying (Rathergate anyone?). More and more people are tuning them out.

    They will, no doubt, continue preaching to the choir but an awful lot of people who used to be sitting in the pews have gotten up and walked out.

    • Sgt. Mom

      Indeed – they have shot their credibility in the foot over the last two years, and now are getting pissy because people are calling them on it. Or tuning out entirely, which if you are in the media business, is a death spiral.

      • John F. MacMichael

        “…they have shot their credibility in the foot over the last two years,”

        I will certainly agree that the media have cranked up their efforts in this line to Level Eleven but I think it goes back a long way before that.

        The earliest example that came to my attention was back in 1984 (appropriately enough). There was an article in Commentary (December 1984) “The War Against “Star Wars”” by Robert Jastrow. Jastrow painstakingly documented how the mainstream reporting on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative was riddled with errors. And, strangely enough, all these errors seemed to slant the same way: they all made the idea of defending against ICBMs look impossible and strategically ridiculous. Why, it was as if there was a hidden agenda driving this reporting!

        I mentioned Rathergate above. That was in 2004. That same year there was a scandal here in Oregon that illustrated the problem how unreliable the media is on a local level. That was the year that it was revealed that Neil Goldschmidt, then a highly respected elder statesman of the Democratic Party here in Oregon (Mayor of Portland 1973-1979, U.S. Secretary of Transportation 1979-1981 (under Carter), Governor of Oregon 1987-1991) was also a sex criminal. That is to say, back when he was Mayor of Portland he had a long running sexual relationship with an underaged girl. How underaged you ask? Well, according to Goldschmidt she was a very mature 14 years old when they began. By the girl’s account, she was 13 years old at the time.

        Now the thing that shocked me about this was not so much that a respected politician was shown to be a sexual predator (I lived through the Clinton years after all) but that this was proved to be something our local newspaper of record, The Oregonian, had carefully averted its eyes from. The story was broken by a local weekly freebie paper Willamette Week. And it turned out to be (like the Harvey Weinstein scandal) something a lot of people knew about long before it was reported anywhere. When The Oregonian was confronted by demands to know why they had not reported on this years ago their editors response was a lot of rhetorical mumbling and foot shuffling to the effect that gee, they had heard rumors but there had not been anything they thought they could, you know, investigate. And in hindsight (which is always 20/20) that might, possibly, have been a mistake (maybe). And they would never make this mistake again. Except they did (see the story of Mayor Sam Adams and the hot young intern (male this time for variety).

        There are only so many times you can be lied to before you just stop listening.

        • 1993: The Dateline GM truck “explosions”.
          That’s one of the first I remember.
          1998: Operation Tailwind “expose” by CNN
          Another one that sticks in my memory.

          Oh, and since I brought up Vietnam….
          1968: Cronkite saying we’re “mired” in Vietnam and making the Tet Offensive out to be a huge loss when we won just about every battlefield encounter.

          So, yeah, a LOT longer than “two years”.

          • Clean Willie

            Agree totally. We have no idea how much manipulation of news went on before the modern era of talk radio, cable news, and the internet created an alternative flow of information that makes it more difficult to “manage” the news, but I suspect it was substantial.

        • Sgt. Mom

          Ahh – I believe that the local San Diego paper did the same with their former mayor, “Filthy” Filner, who also turned out to be a serial sexual predictor. An open secret – “everyone knew” but he was of the “D” party, and so … omerta..

      • rosignol

        Two years?

        More like ten.

        They spent 8 years covering for Obama, and then two relentlessly attacking his successor.

        Hard to miss that kind of thing.

    • Finished re-reading ‘Citizen…’ last night (yeah, really). ‘For people do not listen to the wind.’ and you are right. The distortions and story control used by the MSM is appalling; their denial of their biases is worse.

    • NateWhilk

      Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true—except for the rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge.
      —Knoll’s Law of Media Accuracy (Erwin Knoll, editor, “The Progressive”)

      “Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’.”
      –George Orwell, “Looking Back on the Spanish War” (1943)

      “It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits, than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.”
      –Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Norvell (June 11, 1807)

  2. Curmudgeon

    It’s been substantially more than a decade since I quit watching local or national news and more than a quarter century since I subscribed to general newsmagazine. Yet I believe I am substantially better informed now than I ever was when I relied on the crutch of the mass media.

    Over a long working career, I’ve personally experienced news stories that were misleading or sometimes utterly wrong. I believe many of these were the result of poorly-educated reporters who knew nothing of history, geography or science and who apparently lacked skills in fact-gathering, analysis, or preparation of an accurate and unbiased narrative. But, I think that in recent years, I’m observing more and more built-in bias which consciously or unconsciously filters out any data which doesn’t support the desired narrative.

    It seems that the purpose of journalism now is not to observe and describe the news, but to create it.

  3. Curmudgeon is spot on. Most reporters are not very bright, or they wouldnt keep working for peanuts in dead end jobs with zero raises, in a dying industry where the subscribers are dying of old age, and nobody could figure ouy how to get young people to read newspapers. A good plumber now makes twice or more than a reporter, and is a lot happier.

  4. MarkInKansas

    My contempt for CNN didn’t begin with Acosta. It began with Susan Roesgen who was a news reporter during the days of Tea Party rallies, and rather than doing objective reporting, tried to paint the rally attendees as ignorant racists. I will never forget. Acosta does his best to continue and build upon Roesgen’s earlier work.

  5. My spouse took a degree in journalism before biology before medicine and was astonished at how poorly educated and uncurious the journalism students were.

  6. wrangler5

    Seen occasionally on other sites:

    The function of journalism is to cover the important stories – with a pillow, until they stop moving.

    • Nancy P.

      Wrangler5, that would be Iowahawk on Twitter who coined this phrase…

  7. Christopher Morton

    The media are like the cop who stomped the barmaid. “How dare you believe your own eyes instead of my insane lies???!!!” they bellow in a white hot rage.

    It’s simple: Not only are we not that stupid, nobody that dumb could survive to adulthood.

    We don’t actually listen to the homeless guy arguing with the lamp post. We don’t listen to Jim Acosta for the same reason.

  8. Chappaqua, not Chautauqua.

    • Sgt. Mom

      I know … I blame auto-cucumber, and a need to finish this and post in time to hustle over to the Sleep Lab…

    • Chappaqua, Chautauqua, what difference does it make?

  9. I commend to your attention Timothy Crouse’s “The Boys On The Bus”, considered a classic in J School circles, about the press coverage of the 1972 election. About halfway through the author contrasts ‘old style’ reporters, who only report the news accurately and completely; and “modern” reportage, where it is the reporter’s job to ‘interpret’ the news for those rubes in flyover country so they think the correct things about the story. The latter hold the former in contempt because honest, unbiased reportage gave us President Nixon instead of President McGovern.

  10. New York Times reporter Walter Duranty’s coverup of Stalin’s Ukrainian genocide began in the 1930’s.

    https://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/europe/item/8407-ukrainian-genocide-ny-times-still-covering-up

  11. Bill Rudersdorf

    Gell-Mann Theory of Selective Amnesia

    Which brings us back to the Gell-Mann Theory of Selective Amnesia (as described by the much missed Michael Crichton). We are reading the paper and come across an article on a topic about which we know a great deal. The article is dead wrong. We snort, saying to ourselves, “What do they know about it?” Then we turn the page and take the next article seriously.

    • Part of that is that because a painfully ignorant article on something we know about is…oh… 5% wrong. It’s quite rare for something to get a full half of all the details offered incorrect.
      (I can think of only one example with 50% of the details either false or hidden, an article from one of the feeds about gold buying in World of Warcraft. It opened with talking about owning castles in the game…an option which was in some games, but not WoW.)

      If you don’t know anything at all on a topic, though, having nine out of ten details right is not that bad.

      The issue is that you’ve got to remember that it is basically hearsay. Don’t trust what it tells you unless you get independent verification. And make sure it really is independent, not a re-write of the same article. (can’t even go by the byline, the gold buying article I mentioned had a different name on every example I found)

      • buddhaha

        Sorry, but my personal experience (I know, I know, anecdote is not evidence) with 4 repoted stories that I was intimately involved with tells me that the accuracy “rate” is closer to 50%. IOW, flip a coin on any real fact and you’d be as good as the reportage.

        In two of those cases, words with quotation marks around them were attributed to me. One of those was nothing like what I actually said, although correct in the gist. The second was not only not accurate, but changed the meaning to almost exactly opposite of my intent. A letter to the editor correcting ths was not only not published, but no correction was made. Private correspondence with editor basically was “Go away son, you’re bothering me.”

        This does not even include things that I have knowlege about, but I was not directly involved, which are legion in ANY technical subject.

  12. New York Times reporter Walter Duranty’s coverup of Stalin’s Ukrainian genocide began in the 1930’s.

  13. TANSTAAFL

    “TIME magazine probably publishes many facts… but since it’s founding in the early 20s I have been on the spot eight or nine times when something that wound up as a news story in TIME happened. Not once—not once—did the TIME magazine story match what I saw and heard.”

    -Robert A. Heinlein

    July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988

  14. Brian P.T. Blake

    “Journalists” or anyone else who have the idea that they can tell me what to think, what to say, or what to write are sadly mistaken.

  15. RebeccaH

    As an aside, it’s Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, not Chatauqua. Different areas completely. But the rest of the article was spot on.

  16. JackWayne

    The downward spiral began with Viet Nam and spilled over into the 1968 Olympics. It wasn’t just the glorification of the black power salutes. It was also the beginning of the weepy personal stories of the athletes. Since then, politics has invaded every sphere of our lives. The one-sided slant is bad enough but the constant in our face barrage of personal stories has contributed in large part to my distrust and disgust of the media.

  17. Ray Van Dune

    What did it for me was when I saw Teddy Kennedy on the cover of LIFE, standing in a swimming pool during some kind of therapy, wearing a neck brace. This was after the had drowned MJ Kopekne. The gist of the accompanying article was that his chances of becoming President had “tragically” ended. My mother had several other women friends over and they were lamenting Teddy’s bad luck.

    Right then I remember thinking to myself that life for me was going to involve a lot of alienation from popular culture, and a loathing of adored celebrities. I have been proven correct.

  18. To further the metaphor:
    A dog would rather eat it’s own vomit than another’s s%*t.

    And that is why I voted against Hillary. It seems as if my own vomit, boorish and bombastic as it is, is the nutrient this nation needs to correct the course set buy Obama and his media enablers. To mix metaphors, virtue signal off a cliff, or wallow in swill while we find a stable foundation again.

  19. Big Brother is not just losing its audience, it’s turning off what little remains:

    http://thefederalist.com/2018/08/03/spygate-turning-democrats-like-party/

    “Memo to the left: Know why Trump’s poll numbers have been steady or rising slightly in spite of the invective you’ve been pouring on him every minute of every day? It’s because the economy is booming, and also because most Americans are fair-minded and think that even a flawed sinner like Trump doesn’t deserve to be figuratively kicked every day in a manner that’s often dishonest, exaggerated or out-of-context.”

  20. Back in 1977 I was 18 years old and worked in a factory making army cots. It was announced that we were all being replaced by Vietnamese refugees. It was possible some of us would be asked to stay longer to train the new workers. Channel 8 from Dallas (WFAA) was coming out to interview us and if we said anything negative we would be fired afterwards. Now these were the Carter years and jobs were very hard to come by. We discussed it at break-time and it was decided, we were losing our jobs anyway, we would tell the truth. The government was paying the factory the bulk of the Vietnamese salaries so management was all for it. We thought that if we told the news crew that we were NOT happy to be losing our jobs, for some of the people there it meant homelessness, very hard times. Public sentiment would force management to change their minds. So we did, we all told them the truth. I was so excited to see the news that night. When it came on, the interviews were all very positive, full of giving these people a chance at American life, etc. None of the people interviewed even worked at our factory. I guess they were actors. I have never trusted the media since, they can slant any story the way they want.

    • Sgt. Mom

      Not surprised ,,, well, surprised they would tape interviews with people who didn’t work at the factory. But not surprised that WFAA had already decided on the angle of their story, and selected the interviews to back it up. That’s pretty much what I did, doing a radio news segment back in the day, Write the story, go through the interview materiel and pick those few golden inserts to adorn the story.

  21. daveclay

    We’re taking notes (and names.)