“On ’s Eve we look back and reflect on the major events of the past year, we look forward with a sense of hope, and we celebrate the people and things we value most,” Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said in a statement. “This year, we’re celebrating the free press and journalism and those who work to protect, preserve and practice it.”
Ten years ago, there were exactly zero jobs available with the title of “crypto-currency trader,” “ride-share driver,” “social media manager,” or “influencer.” The only drone operators existed in various militaries, a “data scientist” was likely working in the basement of a lab in a university versus in a Brooklyn-based political headquarters, and “app developer” was what hackers did in their parents’ basement.
The inflection point ten years ago was the movement of high-powered computing from the desktop and the laptop to the handheld smartphone. Just about all of the jobs (with the exception of Bitcoin mining) that make for good careers or side hustles today flowed from that waterfall of technological disruption.
In , the inflection point was not technological, but social. It was not worked out by millions (billions, worldwide) of people suddenly thrust into 24/7 media overload and social connection with the whole world, but rather by the amplification of collective political will into a political upheaval resulting in the current era of politics as entertainment, and entertainment as a social moral force.
In 2016, we expected the political fire for what the old order considered the least likely presidential candidate to win, to either spectacularly explode and die, or to simply dwindle and snuff out. It did not happen.
We expected, in 2017, the stock market to respond to Trump’s win in unison and with severe disapproval. It did not. We expected either clear evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia, or of the “deep state’s” effort to unseat Trump, to emerge. Neither has happened.
In 2018, we expected that some of these story lines left hanging since 2016 would begin to resolve, and over time, we’ve seen the fruit of that disruption. In many cases, that fruit is destruction.
The trends that drove politics going in to 2016 still exist, but the disruption that brought them has morphed into an inflection point where the lines between politics, entertainment, mob action, and punditry have faded into a swampy miasma. For example, there no longer needs to be a revolving door between the media and the White House as there was in the Obama administration, because Fox & Friends has become the braintrust of the Trump White House.
Twitter has replaced the entire White House communications office, though the latter exists as a mere appendage–a vestigial organ with no useful purpose–in the daily ebb and flow of political and entertainment dialogue.
Trump’s tweets are as entertaining as they are responsive or leading in the political sense. And the media’s response to them, and to the clown show of White House press conferences, has become both hilarious and mordant at the same time. The result is a sad public show of destruction of the old ways without replacing them with trustworthy structures.
These trends have not come upon us unaware. In , I cited Matthew Ingram, who wrote in 2013, [New York Times columnist Frank Bruni] “admits some may see the decline of the journalistic sector as a good thing, given the level of mistrust many have in the media — which he blames on “our cynicism, superficiality… and tendency to see all politics in terms of the contest rather than the content.”
The media has become, for one side or the other, an activist organism rather than a fact-reporting organ. That the Fourth Estate should be worried about its relevance post disruption is appropriate, but their blaming of Trump himself for their fate is misplaced and blind.
So we have the rather this New Year’s of the Time Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment naming the Committee to Protect Journalists as the honoree for the 2019 ball drop festivities.
The titular reason for this move is the savage murder of Washington Post columnist James Khashoggi by the Saudi royal family inside their embassy in Istanbul. They act as if Donald Trump assented to the killing, though his reaction to it could scarcely have been poorer.
What they really don’t like is that Trump uses the media as his foil, because that’s what Trump has done as a private businessman for the last 40 years. He calls them the “enemy of the people,” and accuses them of “fake news” and they bristle at the terms as if they deserve better.
In fact, the media is not suffering as much from Trump’s tweets or words, or from some nefarious physical assault on the press (Cuba, Iran, Russia or China pose a serious threat to journalists; the United States does not), as it is from its own irrelevance to the social movements of the day.
People get their facts from the mainstream media, as well as from Facebook, from the water cooler at work, from Twitter, from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, from NPR, and some get theirs from Mother Jones, the SPLC, or Prison Planet.
The left-leaning mainstream media is with the “danger” of right-wing activist media and organizations (with the Washington Post even accusing the NRA of ““), than they are with their own bias, and failure to properly and transparently police their own retractions, repeated leaks and spoon-fed blockbusters that turned out to be wholly fabricated by “unnamed sources.”
Their need for relevance is driving their reaction to Trump’s baiting and trolling. Instead of proving they are not the “enemy of the people” (which they aren’t), they get angry at not being treated with the proper respect they feel they are due.
This is the biggest destruction of the past two years. The mainstream media’s relevance as a dominant newsmaker and source of social activism has been effectively destroyed. They are like Bruce Willis’s character in “The Sixth Sense,” walking around like they are living but not yet aware of their coming awakening to reality.
I said all of that to say this. Trump has not destroyed the presidency. He has damaged it, but not more than Richard Nixon, or Bill Clinton, and certainly not beyond repair. Trump rode the wave of disruption in 2016 that was coming no matter who ended up in the White House. His win simply accelerated the pace of disruption, and the destruction in its wake.
However, my main point is in the form of a prediction. In 2007, DOS-based software developer positions still existed. Today they do not (in any reasonable sense at least). In 2016, people like Robby Mook thought they were the future of politics. In 2018, Robby Mook, now at CNN, is the equivalent of a DOS-based software developer.
In 10 years, we will have many jobs that don’t exist today (don’t ask me what they are; I don’t know). But I’m confident that the job of political campaign manager will no longer exist in the context we have today. I think we’ll see it more in the form of a celebrity business manager, or an agent, or a personal representative.
The traditional media buyers and data modelers who have preyed upon parties and candidates will be swept away and consolidated into the Googles, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world. This data will be available to anyone and sold dispassionately by firms to whoever has green money.
Meanwhile, the media and social footprint of the real social giants like Planned Parenthood, teachers unions, and liberal billionaires funding activist organizations on the left, and the right’s own billionaires, televangelists, and corporate cronies will rule the space where campaigns once thrived.
Candidates will become figureheads of celebrity and fame, which will be the true measure of popularity. Don’t act like this never happened before, because it has. In 1960, Richard Nixon sweated on camera and appeared shadowed and disheveled versus John F. Kennedy’s suave telegenic youthfulness in the first televised presidential debate.
Don’t try to tell me that Kennedy won because of his policies. Politics has always been at least 50% show. Now it’s closer to 90% show. Disruption happens, and death of old industries and orders of part of the package. In 2018, the mainstream media had its fate sealed.
It doesn’t matter whether Trump wins or loses in 2020. The mainstream media and old political order has already been dealt its card: it reads “destruction.”