Trump is President of the United States of America.
As the headlines came pouring in from around the nation and the world, Facebook lit up with self-soothing posts like a national tragedy just occurred. And for many, that’s exactly what happened. Pundits, strategists and Anderson Cooper struggled to find a narrative for what was unfolding, while still appearing as though they were “experts” on the subject of politics.
They were all wrong. How could this be? Blame the polls. Blame the hate. Blame Wolf Blitzer and his damn beard. Blame something. But much like the banks of the 2008 crash, media began drinking the same Kool-aid it was serving viewers, affirmation over information, neglecting to highlight what might unfold if Republicans happened to win opposed to what brought in ratings, Trump’s reality TV antics.
The trend in chasing ratings isn’t new. Face it, without ratings, there are no advertisers and without advertisers there would be no pay for writers, producers and all the high-tech gadgets to play with during election night. But millennial media is different. It’s made a name for itself feeding a generation of sensitive, independent online fans a narrative of entertainment over information creating a breeding ground for voracious self-expression and marginalized independence.
It’s easy to find your crowd. It’s easy to find your voice. It’s not easy to keep an open mind. Between Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms and suggested articles, readers are fed a constant supply of what they want, when they want it. Millennial media understands this new paradigm, focused on outlandish, over-the-top social media content necessary for gaining more shares while striking a nerve with their readership base, opposed to helping it see the world more transparently.
“Donald Trump just compared himself to a slave on Twitter and everyone is freaking out.”
This was the headline from Mic.com, whose media kit claims it’s the most popular millennial site second to Buzzfeed and Vice. Congratulations. The headline was in regards to a tweet by Donald Trump after the Republican base had abandoned him for the sexual assault allegations, so he tweeted “It’s so nice that the shackles have been taken off of me and I can now fight for America.” Mic was having none of it.
The “news” outlet for millennials immediately began lambasting the presidential candidate for his slave reference. Damn you Donald! Culture appropriation. Not only was Mic freaking out about it, but according to the headline, “everyone is freaking out” about it. EVERYONE! The writer of the piece even lamented Donald Trump had “compared his own perilous political situation to someone being freed from bondage.” Freed from bondage?
What was a simple expression was now being tossed around like the Republican front-runner just popped up on Kink.com in a dungeon scene with black leather whips and ball gags. Was this really worth crying wolf over? Especially when you’re a leading source of news for millennials?
Not at all.
The trend in millennial media’s incessant drive to provide content lambasting tiny character aberrations of the candidate created an insular narrative where actual, important criticism fell on deaf ears simply regarded as yet another fuck Trump article to like on Facebook.
Important critiques of Trump and the ramifications of his policies went unnoticed both with readers and the journalists themselves as they fell into a haze of rising ratings and untamed power. Build up a tolerance toward a drug and the only way to snap the habit is with a life changing, cataclysmic moment. President Trump is that moment.
Millennial media, and all media for that matter, need to look into the mirror and assess what they stand for. Media in any country brings transparency to the table. When that shifts, so do the politicians. Trump isn’t random. He’s the byproduct of a long and arduous decline in the way people absorb media. Facebook created the playing field, and media companies gladly accepted the invitation to play without questioning the rules. Writers who wrote a piece with more shares, got more clicks, resulting in more pay, which fed the reinforcing loop. Why write about Trump’s economic policy when his reference to bondage was juicier and sexier?
No one ever thought playing by Facebook’s rules would come at such a high price.