Yet it’s also about what they’re selling, and I’m not just talking about the advertisements. Remember, these are for-profit enterprises, not political entities; and they’re media companies, which means their product is a narrative, a story they’re telling their audience, which is hopefully buying into it and tuning in for more.
In the old days, when there were just the networks, the studied centrism that permeated news and opinion shows was the result of a lack of competition: there was only so much space on the airwaves, and it was ladled out jealously and reluctantly by federal overseers in Washington. Those were the days when, say, CBS’s Daniel Schorr could smear a presidential candidate beyond redemption and cost him plenty in the polls. Yet like all monopolies, this one was fated to go the way of the dinosaurs.
The advent of cable television destroyed the networks’ monopoly, and the media mandarins were forced to adapt to the new technology – while still maintaining a modicum of control over the national discourse. The old narrative of “left” and “right” – mediated by a “sensible” centrism – was in danger of losing its hegemony
: suddenly there was room for a whole panoply of viewpoints, including those that challenged the old ideological assumptions and premises of this left/right-blue state/red state narrative.
The solution was to divvy up the media landscape, with Fox News leading the way and staking its claim to the “red state” franchise, and NBC following up with the marketing of MSNBC as the Anti-Fox “blue state” network. This arrangement kept the old “left-right” paradigm intact, while allowing for two competing variations on the same narrative to emerge.
In the era of network domination the left-right narrative was strictly enforced, especially when it came to foreign policy. Conservatives were interventionists, liberals were less inclined to go to war, and that was the end of it. This stereotype was inherited by the new media moguls and persisted until the wheel of technology turned once again.The rise of the Internet as the primary means of information consumption posed a new challenge to the left-right paradigm by giving voice to ideas that didn’t fit in neatly with the intellectual package deals we were used to. It’s no accident that Paul’s campaign is Internet-driven: his supporters, who make up a good proportion (although not the majority) of our audience, are used to getting their information off the net, rather than having it filtered by self-appointed gatekeepers.
there is more