“Elections By the Numbers” By Larry Johnson


How are people getting their news? A fair question. Let me lay some hard numbers on you:

Total USA Population as of 2016: 324 million

How many people are watching national news on ABC, CBS and NBC?

(Data from 2014):

Network news viewers are declining in unprecedented rates, from an average of 48 million nightly network news viewers in 1985 to 24.5 million in 2013, according to Pew Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Young people aged 18-29 are the least likely to watch network news regularly (only 11 percent did so in 2012), and 49 percent of people in this age group say they never watch the news.

How Many People Watch FOX NEWS, MSNBC and CNN on Average?

Overall, Fox News averaged 2 million total viewers and 347,000 in the demo during primetime, winning both categories. MSNBC averaged 1.13 million total viewers, while CNN trailed with 844,000 total viewers.

How Many People Listen to Rush Limbaugh? 13.25 million

How about newspapers and news magazines? Tough to get good numbers on this but we do know that the number of newspapers has declined significantly. Even worse news for magazines like Time, Newsweek and US News and World Report. The biggest tell is to count the number of reporters who have lost their jobs and are working in other fields. It has been a bloodbath on that front.

There has been an explosion on the digital front but that is truly chaotic and is far more fragmented. The fragmentation aspect is the key. 25 years ago there was a core of news publications that provided cultural unity of sorts and helped create a public consensus. That’s no longer the case. The rapid spread of social media has created the equivalent of electronic lynchings. There is no consensus and their is no control. I suppose this is both good and bad.

My broader point is that the model for judging and predicting Presidential elections has changed significantly. And it is very apparent in this year’s contest, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted:

Of the two candidate, Mr. Trump has the largest following on social media — with 10.3 million Twitter followers and 9.9 million Facebook likes, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s 7.78 million followers and 4.8 likes.

Mr. Trump also routinely is mentioned more on social media, though that isn’t always a good thing.

“His supporters absolutely love him and his opponents absolutely dislike him,” said Kellan Terry, political analyst at Brandwatch, a social media data company.

Mr. Trump’s account shows his personality more so than more so than Mrs. Clinton’s shows hers, as he tweets, or dictates to someone else, a majority of the tweets. On Tuesday, a few minutes before former President Bill Clinton took the stage at the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Trump tweeted, “No matter what Bill Clinton says and no matter how well he says it, the phony media will exclaim it to be incredible. Highly overrated!”

We are dealing with some unknowns here and Trump appears to have a better handle on that unknown than does Hillary.

When you reflect on how much information is delivered by the much maligned “Lame” Stream Media you should be shocked at its demise. It is not the behemoth it was in the 70s and thru the mid-80s. In 1985 roughly 25% of all Americans watched the evening news on CBS, ABC and NBC.

In 2016 only 8% of all Americans get their evening news from CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and FOX. That helps explain the ignorance of the American public. Think of this fact–if you are watching a traditional news cast on TV you are a dinosaur.

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74 Responses to “Elections By the Numbers” By Larry Johnson

  1. Laura says:

    I am a dinosaur who watches local ABC, world NBC, News Hour and Maddow. Also, check Huffington, McClatchy, and read the LA Times. Does that make me a “junkie” dinosaur?

  2. David Lentini says:

    In 2016 only 8% of all Americans get their evening news from CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and FOX. That helps explain the ignorance of the American public.
    That only makes sense if these networks actually provide reliable information. After 9/11, Iraq, and the financial crash, that’s a very debatable proposition. The huge influence of corporate control over the major news outlets suggests that Americans are that stupid after all and are looking for some sort of trustworthy information.

  3. Mark Gaughan says:

    It’s hard to teach a dinosaur a new trick.

  4. Valissa says:

    Yes, where do people get their news? And how much credibility does it have? very important questions.
    Great post with lots of informative statistics, but the last paragraph is a bit contorted. The fact that “only 8% of all Americans get their evening news from CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and FOX” does NOT explain the ignorance of the American public, IMO. I stopped watching TV to get my news years ago. First of all, it’s inefficient when I get the same info online in a fraction of the time (plus I have access to more reliable news sources) and second of all there is so much propaganda/spin/opinionating that it’s not worth watching.
    MSM television is mostly propaganda and gossip, I don’t even think of it as news any more for the most part. Therefore I do not agree that people not watching the TV news “helps explain the ignorance of the American public.” The people that I know that get their news from TV are not well informed of the reality of foreign affairs or economics, but they are well informed of certain cultural and political viewpoints and beliefs that are highly tribal and emotionally oriented. This brings up the question of what it means to be “informed” in today’s world.
    I think this paragraph makes the key point:
    “There has been an explosion on the digital front but that is truly chaotic and is far more fragmented. The fragmentation aspect is the key. 25 years ago there was a core of news publications that provided cultural unity of sorts and helped create a public consensus. That’s no longer the case. The rapid spread of social media has created the equivalent of electronic lynchings. There is no consensus and their is no control. I suppose this is both good and bad.”
    I have attempted to point out to friends and family that there are many alternative news sources out there, but they don’t seem to be interested. Many are frustrated with the MSM, but are reluctant to look elsewhere even though the info is there. I have offered links, but have not been taken up on it. I sense a bit of fear. Possibly they are afraid of modifying their worldview, or overwhelmed by trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not as that would take a lot of time and energy (and then force them to adjust their worldview) when their lives are already overfull. The ones who still believe what the MSM is saying…. well, I don’t see the point in even discussing news with them other than nodding my head when asked if I’ve seen a certain headline.
    My observation is that the direction of the US will not change unless enough people modify their worldviews. Are we on the cusp of a collective rethink of reality such as happened with the Age of Enlightenment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment ?
    In the meantime, it appears that we are in the “Age of Unenlightenment” or perhaps the “Age of Chaos.”

  5. I’m obviously a dinosaur. I don’t have cable, so I can’t watch FOX, MSNBC or CNN. For that matter, I don’t own a smartphone and seldom carry a cellphone. I usually watch the half hour of national news on ABC after the local ABC news. I’d watch the PBS News Hour if the signal was reliable. I do read my local newspaper every morning, the print edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Besides SST, I review the Google News headlines fairly regularly. I only read and research further those stories that peak my interest at the time. I avoid all talk radio like the plague, except for “Car Talk.”
    I do read several several boat building/nautical blogs and I think all those how-to videos on YouTube are reason enough to keep the internet around. I thoroughly enjoy those times I am cut off from all outside news a week at a time up in NY. At night I listen to an Albany AM station with an eclectic oldies format. A little Sinatra now and then is good for the soul. Most hours this station broadcasts a three minute CBS news update. That’s enough for me. I heartedly recommend an occasional retreat from electronic news and entertainment (except for the Sinatra) to all members of this committee of correspondence.

  6. Robert says:

    Hi Larry,
    This piece is the most concise explanation I have seen in years on what is happening with how Americans get their news. I work in Web services and advise clients all day long on where the technology is going. Every time I hear someone complain about traditional media outlets and Left/Right bias, I tell them they are focused a dead technology. By next year(due to hardware advances) Augmented reality will explode into our society. News reports will immerse you in live events in ways that will quickly make traditional media pointless. This clip illustrates what AR is like in your living room –
    Imagine an event like the Nice attack, and being able to view the entire scene, with multiple POV’s, Holograms stitching data from Drone overheads, google maps and crowdsourced video.

  7. Allen Thomson says:

    Out of curiosity, how many SSTers watch TV — at all? (Except in hotel breakfast rooms, maybe.)

  8. ked says:

    ” Trump appears to have a better handle on that unknown than does Hillary.”
    Kinda a non sequiter, doncha think? I’ll grant he’s a known asshole, so that may be the source of gas he ignites.
    It is kinda depressing how much of our polity seems to enjoy his atmosphere. I don’t think the shift in media tech is as big a deal as many believe.
    More like the democratization of mediocre education.

  9. Tigermoth says:

    “That helps explain the ignorance of the American public”
    Was it Mark Twain that said: “if you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them you are misinformed.”
    IMO the lack of a viewing audience of something pedaling “misinformation” could mean the exact opposite. I haven’t watched the news in a decade, as I found it pretty useless, I research on the internet, and filter it myself. I found it better to listen to the Hezbollah leadership (etc) directly and make my own decision on what they have said, rather than getting a sound bite form some paid talking head on any MSM news channel. You want to know what Putin thinks? Go to YouTube and listen to one of his 3 hour Q&A sessions, then you will will have a better idea and can base your opinion on what he said not what someone tells you he said.

  10. gowithit says:

    That pertains to the “general population”, but that is not who traditionally votes in the USA. Be interesting to see where registered voters get their “news”.

  11. jsn says:

    I think the ignorance of Americans is better explained by past practices with regard to broadcast “new” than by current and evolving habits.

  12. turcopolier says:

    As some of you know I was a hired consultant for several shows/networks after 9/11. I found both the producers and “the talent” (on screen people) to be mere technicians of communications and remarkably ignorant of the world. They are simply instruments of their corporate owners, sponsors and the government that intimidates them through access denial. What you see on TV news is the expression of the self interest of the “journalists” in applying the editorial policy given to the every day. When the monyed interests behind this process decided I was “dangerous” to their goals, I was eliminated. pl

  13. different clue says:

    I was going to have said the same thing. People getting their news from the listed MSM outlets and from Limbaugh may well be actively disinformed. That is rather worse than being ignorant.
    And the arrival of Augmented Reality means that people getting their AugReal input feeds from the same old sources will be even more deeply and effectively disinformed.
    So a separate question also arises . . . how many people are getting their news inputs from SST, Naked Capitalism, etc. ( and the links which readers bring to all such places)?

  14. ked says:

    I’d say you were redirected to a better place. Perhaps an even more effective one.
    They are defending their own old order by cheapening it, hoping to get out before the music’s over.
    Then, turn out the lights.

  15. scott s. says:

    And even “registered voter” is somewhat dubious. Here they are constantly tweaking the law to make it easier to register, and currently propose mandatory registration. Then they lament that actual votes cast as a percentage is going down. For some reason they never consider that forced registration citizens probably aren’t highly motivated to actually vote. But then the proposed solution is 100% mail-in balloting.

  16. Charles Michael says:

    Thanks for a these figure,very informative and for and old hand in media planning and research they are answering a lot.
    Does watching TV informs you or make you stupid ? does the power of image block all capacity to undestand the full history of a situation, specially the multi faceted sides of a complex one? does political education and civic sense can be transmitted by news channel ?
    For a news freak like me, TV is good in some spectacular events and useless about non-biased informations and long term investigations.
    I was a news papers reader up to when they started being lead by the Tv news and repeat the same propaganda and that means liars.
    So I got my information from various webb sites, selected and followed and cross checked. SST is one of my favorite, thanks a lot .

  17. The Porkchop Express says:

    I don’t think it’s so much a question of from where do Americans get their news but what the content of of that news is that Americans get. Beyond substandard education in the humanities, civics, and history in the US (result of poor schooling, financial choices, and institutional weaknesses–not news outlets), in order to get a better idea of an actual news story these days one has to, almost by necessity, read multiple sources of the same account to get a ‘truer’ sense of what actually happened. And that’s all provided you have the time and wish to put in the effort to do so.
    I’m not sure why but I would guess that has a lot to do with the profit model based news. Not that it was much different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, but most news organizations have almost entirely given up on at least a modicum of pretense toward the public good model of reporting and moved with lightning efficiency towards the almighty $. That and many of the main stream outlets have also become brazen propaganda outlets for a particular candidate, ideology, hobby horse, [fill in the blank].
    “Public consensus” & “cultural unity” that may be true, but the idea that forging a consensus and creating unity through the dissemination of information–particularly by organizations that expect to gain financially from what they are presenting–is a scary thought.

  18. Allen Thomson says:

    FWIW, my question about any TV at all aligns with Valissa’s post a couple upstream. Traditional media have, at best, become only one stream in a whole chaotic flow. Picking and choosing in a river of chaos isn’t easy.
    Me, I kind of like it.

  19. VietnamVet says:

    I still watch NBC Nightly News and NewsHour every day. When I first moved to the National Capitol Region in 1974 I marveled at the depth and clarity of the Washington Post compared to the Portland or Seattle newspapers. Today, anything on corporate media concerning the wars, economics, politics, or globalism is pure agitprop. Anyone who had served in the quarter century war, have unpayble student loans, are homeless, or have gig jobs know something isn’t right. Perhaps 10% of the population in the West are members of the “Ancien Régime” who are doing quite well. Another 20 to 30% of the population like me are dependent on the government pensions, Social Security or other safety nets to live. Mitt Romney said 47% are leeches. The old structures will survive as long as the majority wants it. But, the World War and Disaster Capitalism are spreading chaos across Europe. It is sure to jump the Atlantic Ocean and ignite North America.

  20. Fred says:

    One of the issues with the flashy technology is that it simply speeds up the process of identifying and guaranteeing niche markets. Once that’s done one can provide a tailored message to the recipients. For example here’s court approved scanning of emails so as to “target” appropriate advertising. As if selective pushing of the news feed were not also going on:
    Here are some additional examples:
    Then there is the outright use of government power like the IRS scandal that is no longer reported on:
    Finally a news item from the dinosaur media:
    Looks like South of the equator the Pleistocene era constitution of Brazil worked, or at least impeachment worked.

  21. Emad says:

    The demise in viewership and readership is not merely because people have moved from one set of news sources to another. There are two other trends at play:
    People may have lost interest in what passes as news. For decades the media has put people on a steady diet of entertainment masqueraded as news, and now that people, especially the youth, can readily access “free” entertainment (MMOGs, Pokemon Go, porn, cat videos and the like), they see no reason to stick with drab talking heads barking at each other.
    A more interesting trend is that people’s coginitive abilities may have degenerated to a point where they simply can’t stomach information. They may say they want to “know”, but they’re in no position to actually face the reality surrounding them. So they follow this guy and that gal on snippetopia (Twitter), irrelevantopia (Facebook) and cuteopia (Instagram). This way they can maintain the self-charade of interested citizens while relinquishing the burden of actually getting to know things.

  22. Kooshy says:

    Unfortunately not enough, most of young under thirty are hooked to SMS and social media on sharing thier own interests and subjects Amou g small narrow circles, mostly non political groups. I have come to understand that’s the Borg’ preference to that of getting them youngs involved to any form of domestic or forign to get my political affairs.

  23. JJackson says:

    Like many of the rest of you I read here, and at other online forums, because the MSM don’t provide what I need. The internet, as the post points out, has the information but not enough people are willing to invest the time to learn how to find the sites that have accurate information and then invest the time needed to keep up-to-date. Every area of interest has its ‘good’ sites and it really is not difficult to find them if you suddenly need to know about an area that had not previously caught your interest. Not having a TV and therefore not being in the habit of sitting down and watching whatever is on creates an enormous amount of time. I regularly check the MSM news websites and read the odd article in full more to find out what the sheeple are being told than because I expect to learn anything, the wonder of the internet means this includes all the major foreign outlets so I can compare US, EU, Russian, Chinese and everyone else’s propaganda to try and find out what others are likely to think.
    There is one point the post did not cover and is critical to the discussion. It is funding of the media. Murrow warned of all this in his ‘wires in a box’ speech and now we have, what were the global media gatherers, cutting all their foreign correspondents and using wire sources. When a big story breaks in Lima or Nairobi there is no ‘our Kenya correspondent’ story by someone who has been in country for a while and knows who’s who and has sources they can talk to. What we get now is their foreign correspondent who arrived by plane from Europe this morning and recites a script to camera for a 30 second spot and leaves. The internet killed the print media and with it its advertising revenue and they have not yet found a new mechanism for generating revenue for news content. Until they do they there is only what they are spoon fed by governments and others who have a vested interest in controlling a story. Citizen journalists do an excellent job in collating and filtering information from a very wide range of source – as here – but do not have the time or access an accredited member of the press has which leaves a gaping hole at the news gathering point of the process.
    Personally my main gripe is with the editorial decisions as to what constitute ‘World News’ and the fact they assume, probably correctly, the audience is ignorant of the background to any story so you get several ‘cut’n’paste’ paragraphs which preface every story on any given subject followed by two lines of new information. There is so many important events occurring all over the world on any given day several of which may have the potential to precipitate a real crisis and yet ‘Lost dog finds its way home after 300 mile journey’ and its ilk still find their way on to the World News front page.[EndGripe]

  24. Castellio says:

    Jahiliyyah, perhaps?

  25. Nancy K says:

    My husband and I stopped cable TV years ago. We listen to the radio, read sites like SST, read the BBC and foreign newspapers on line and subscribe to Foreign Affairs and The Atlantic Monthly. We listen to no talk shows radio or computer. We are definitely dinosaurs, the only cell phone we have is a cheapie that we buy minutes for when we travel. Our children laugh at us, even my mother who is 91, has 2 TV’s with cable and an IPhone which she regularly uses. However we do vote and are somewhat involved in politics. When we travel we rarely stay in hotels that have TV’s but if we do we are always shocked at how bad cable is. I hate all of the commercials.

  26. Nancy K says:

    Col Lang, we loved watching you on the News Hours. We haven’t watched it in years but it was definitely going down hill after you left. The segment that featured the 3 colonels was our favorite. I can’t even remember what year that was.

  27. Paul Escobar says:

    Mr. Lang,
    I remember some footage from back then. I was struck by how effective you were, vocally.
    IIRC, I was approaching my 20’s back then. All I had seen of dissent was lament or hysteria. It was a time of heightened anxiety & emotions.
    Yet your tone & delivery was a throwback to (what, at my relatively young age, I imagine to be…) “the good old days” of articulate & calm men discussing weighty issues. In my naive & ignorant state, it was absolutely revolutionary to observe.
    Obviously, you said the “wrong” things. But I suspect what made you more of a threat was that you said them in an effective & convincing manner.

  28. DWhite says:

    But all that tech will not explain why something happened.

  29. Ramojus says:

    I believe that all media news being disseminated today is “data driven”; i.e. clicks and tweets from social media that are “mapped, reduced and analyzed”. Whatever comes out at the top becomes today’s top story(s) w/o accuracy checks or due diligence. Unfortunately, it’s not news but entertainment with a left or right bias depending on the media source.
    I would be most interested in the point of view from a member of this committee; Larry Kart, a professional print journalist.
    Mr. Kart…?

  30. BabelFish says:

    My wife and I have four children in their early 30s. How they get news is instructive. They seem to rely on Internet sites that reflect their already formed beliefs and then share that on social media. They all understand that HuffPost does not trade in news.
    They do not watch tv news and the social media sharing and YouTube seem to be the drivers of consensus building.

  31. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    I watch selectively. Science Channel, history wherever available, NatGeo, NatGeo Wild, A&E (particularly The First 48), spotty viewership on other channels. For me, if I could ditch the cable and get what I want online, I think that I would do it. This seems to be becoming increasingly feasible as time goes on.
    I avoid TV news like the plague, as indeed I consider it to be functionally akin to spreading blankets from small-pox victims to Indians; something executed with malice aforethought in order to spread thought contagions felicitous to the Borg, or to enforce GoodThink in selected segments of the citizenry at minimum.
    Online, it is quite another story for me. I regularly visit some selected sites such as SST, Naked Capitalism, Moon of Alabama, cryptogon.com, and more recently Unz Review for the bracing contrast it often provides. Other sites with somewhat less regularity: Dmitri Orlov’s site; Fort Russ; Smoothie 12’s Reminiscence of the Future. I do follow lots of links from sites that aggregate news, and that further broadens my exposure to alternative sites as well.
    Me? I am 63 and not afraid of stuff that – initially at least – rubs my fur the wrong way, and most definitely not afraid of stuff that rubs the Borg’s fur the wrong way. Work as a staffer in a university law library (not a librarian, just a hod carrier; second career after small business entrepreneurship specializing in printed music sales), in of all places, Camden, New Jersey. Classical musician, play oboe, English horn, oboe d’amore at a pretty proficient level in orchestral or chamber music settings.
    BTW, as a confirmed book/library guy here is a link to WorldCat:
    Provides a way of searching for particular books, dvds, cds, articles in the catalogs of (as the name implies) world libraries who are members of the consortium. You can also perform genre searches, and set up your own free account to create lists, bibliographies, etc. When you execute a search, your IP address serves as a geographical anchor point, and then the libraries who have the materials in their holdings are broken out for you from nearer to farther. If you are a member of any library, this serves as a great start point for getting materials not in the holdings of that institution via inter-library loan. Otherwise, the cataloging will equip you to track down materials for purchase, and not necessarily through Amazon, creature of Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, chief megaphone of the Borg. Avert!
    More than your question inquired after, but maybe some further value added thereby.
    My best to all of you Committee members,

  32. Valissa says:

    “Picking and choosing in a river of chaos isn’t easy. Me, I kind of like it.”
    Agreed… and I like it too 🙂

  33. fredko says:

    The reason I follow this blog is because of what you said on tv after 9/11.

  34. Fred says:

    We won’t be treated to any of this in real time. We will be treated to fake rape stories like the one Rolling Stone gave us about UVA or a now jailed local prosecutor provided about the Duke lacrosse team. It will ramp up the emotions of the viewers and we will be pushed by the narrative to make public policy accordingly.

  35. steve g says:

    Ignorance is bliss. Therefore don’t we live in a blissful society?

  36. gowithit says:

    The mail in voting has worked out very well in states doing such. Public is pleased with it and has a cost savings to local govts.
    “Making it easier…” has been actually “making it more difficult to vote” via Republican state legislatures with the false flag of vote corruption.

  37. Fred says:

    The reliance on social media echo chamber is sadly very common. Guess they don’t trust (the ways of) people over thirty!

  38. turcopolier says:

    Thanks. I would have continued if allowed to do so. pl

  39. ambrit says:

    We cut the cable connection before hurricane Katrina, for financial reasons at first. Over the air reception where we lived was terrible. We never went back, more for cultural reasons.
    One problem is finding exposure to reliable sites on the Web. Being decentralized, the web encourages, as much as a system can be given agency, the dissemination of tribally aligned ‘news.’ Building any sort of consensus is now an uphill slog. Maybe that’s a good thing?

  40. steve g says:

    JJ Jackson
    Agree with your sentiments but there are
    a few exceptions. Seth Doan our man in
    Asia ,CBS, until recently. Holly Williams
    Debra Patta Mark Phillips all CBS Europe
    and Middle East. Rick Engel from NBC.
    I don’t watch ABC. As you say, not all hard
    news and many stories have the government
    propaganda perspective.

  41. LeaNder says:

    Laura, I once got what felt an invited and thus a surprising attention on the Web in the US post 9/11 universe: With some type of meditation/babbling on US media.
    It felt McCatchy may have been one of the few that did quite well on an “objectivity” rate.
    Why do Clinton (husband) and/or Trump get more attention in reports:

  42. Robert says:

    True, but its not like it is explained now, or even in the last 15 years. 9/11 and the rise of the Internet itself permanently changed the reasons for reporting, monetizing, and even what constitutes “news”. We live in bubbles, information-wise, and it is getting worse.

  43. BabelFish says:

    Hah! A picture of a late sixties bumper sticker just flashed through my foggy mind.

  44. Edward Amame says:

    Col Lang
    Coverage of the the 90’s era Clinton scandals and buildup of the war in Iraq completely changed my news-gathering methods. Your appearances on the PBS NewsHour were what led me to this site way back when. I am familiar with Mr Johnson too, from his fact checking/exposure of the media’s pro war hysteria during the Iraq war buildup.

  45. Babak Makkinejad says:

    different clue: Are you paying attention to the pernicious and destructive effects of drugs on those who cannot “hold it”?
    As my colleague said:
    “We are going to be smoking our dope to greatness by delivering pizzas to one another; each costing $ 20,000.”

  46. LG says:

    I’m surprised at the responses. I thought I was alone in not watching TV. Among my friends and outside my immediate family, TV viewing is near universal and I’m seen as something of a freak. I posses a television set but watch it only during the soccer world cups.

  47. Larry Kart says:

    Well, I used to be a professional print journalist but retired in 2004 before the click/tweet era was (or so I recall) fully evident and/or in flower. What I was around for was the print media’s more or less willful trashing of its fourth estate claims of authority — the conclusion that was reached at the highest editorial levels in the early 1980s (and I heard this articulated more or less industry-wide at the time, though not for mass consumption) was that the reason for falling subscription numbers, etc. was that younger readers found such explicit or implicit claims to authority on the part of the press to be arrogant and repellent. Thus, the era of so-called “focus groups” — the idea being that actual small groups of readers would be assembled and paid to tell us (under the guidance of Frank Luntz-like interlocutors) what they already liked and thought; and then our jobs in the media would be to feed that stuff back to our readers. How absurd this was on its face seemed obvious to me and to many colleagues — if we’re telling the readers little more than “What you already like and think is just terrific,” then why do you need us to tell you that?
    The results of the willed irrelevance of the virtually media-wide “focus group” approach soon became evident, which eventually led to Stage Two, especially on the part of the NY Times. But first, a key footnote: Once the media’s pretense to fatherly or grandfatherly authority, in both tone of voice and content, had been given away (BTW, at the Chicago Tribune IIRC that renunciation was indeed proclaimed to the public) it was (probably quite rightly) understood that no retracing of steps there was possible; once the media’s claim to authority was proclaimed in public and by the media to itself to be offensive and reprehensible, it was a claim that could never could be made again, or at least not in the former manner. I should add that — a la Col. Lang, there remained many media figures whose experience, intelligence, and general knowledge were such that what they thought and could have said about many important matters would indeed have been authoritative. They just couldn’t, in the new journalistic climate described above, speak in that way anymore in print; and a good many of them eventually left, or were told to leave, the profession.
    Back to the NYT circa 1990 IIRC. What the great minds there saw was that the media’s birthright (if you will) of authority having been given away in an attempt to solve the problem of ebbing readership, some sort of nouveau stance of authority had to be devised to replace it, one that would in fact be more or less false or mock and/or just invented but that would pass both as new and as solid gold because it was new. That was the stance of snark and edge and spin, a la Maureen Dowd, Howell Raines, and Co., the news as a forever unspooling quasi-novelistic “we are the cool kids” narrative — the implication being that if one thinks in the ways that the “cool kids” are thinking, then one has a good chance to be cool, too, and what could be more important than that? And this in effect, with offshoots of many sorts, is where we are today.
    Dowd and friends we still have, whether their novelistic b.s. comes in the form of bylined columns or would-be news stories (and of course such behavior is now pretty much media-wide). What is virtually forgotten though are all the major NYT exposes and series that sprang from that c. 1990 shift to snark and edge and spin and that proved in so many cases to be eventually wholly false — from the whole Win Ho Lee spying affair to our old friend Judith Miller and WMD. There’s much more that could be said along these lines, many more twists and turns to be explored, but I’m out of breath right now.

  48. Laura says:

    fredko, I also follow this blog because of what Col. Lang said on tv after 9/11. Clear, authoritative, and conversational.

  49. The Beaver says:

    @ steve g
    Holly Williams? Meh ( apologies for this exclamation)
    Check how her reporting has changed since the coup (subdued)and how easily she had accessed crossing the border between Syria and Turkey. IIRC she has never interviewed a Sy Govt representative. Her so-called video “exclusives” were easily accessible on-line before making it to the CBS studios.
    Clarissa Ward was the same and now that she is at CNN, looks like she “works” for Foggy Bottom .
    Rick Engel was respected until NYT reported on his “actual” kidnapping . Yep, someone who learned Arabic here and there in the ME capitals could actually differentiate the “Syrian accen”t of the Shabiha from that of his FSA/rebels “liberators” .

  50. steve g says:

    Do you believe there could be a recreational
    component to drug use or does the usage
    always lead to perdition?

  51. Shawn says:

    I don’t watch TV (less Rugby and MotiGP) and read Lewrockwell.com, Unz.com, mises.com, antiwar.com every day. SST is my final stop. Much enjoy the comments and no BS the site takes.
    i am decidedly a little “a” American.
    Keep up the good work and thanks.

  52. Allen Thomson says:

    > I posses a television set but watch it only during the soccer world cups.
    We have a TV too, but use it, admittedly infrequently, only for watching movies on DVD. Never had cable/dish. Falls into the category of “Why would you want to do that to yourself?”

  53. charly says:

    Worked? She was kicked out for cheating on the election year budget. Swiss politicians see it as a coup because of personal reason (even they cheat on election year budgets).

  54. Tyler says:

    Borg Grandma as the choice of an educated person. lmbo great satire 10/10

  55. Tyler says:

    Carlos Slim bailed out the NYT. Jeff Bezos owns the WaPo.
    Billionaires and their globalist agenda are the name of the day when it comes to the MSM. Its why the NYT, WaPo, and so many others spend so much time delivering broadsides against Trump and taking what he says out of context. Or with the rapefugees and covering up their crimes because of muh social justice.
    Trump’s immigration speech yesterday was a masterpiece, his meeting with the Mexican President a total coup. The “will he/won’t he” of his immigration position ‘softening’ was a brilliant bit where the media covered him with the expectation that he was going to go all Rubio, and then BAM its all Wall and Deportation Force, baby.
    People are being asked “Who you gonna trust, me or your lying eyes?” and answering appropriately.

  56. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Like several other commenters on this thread I, too, first encountered you in your appearances on the PBS News Hour program in the early naughts. I don’t recall for sure how I found your blog after you were ‘eliminated,’ as you put it, but it may have been via a link on the late Col. David Hackworth’s blog “Soldiers for the Truth” which I was avidly following in those days. SFTT, via their then anonymous source ‘Deep Throat’ was, IIRC, the first to expose that the DOD was stove piping selective intelligence to Bush, Cheney, LLC, in support of the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. I’ve been SST almost every day ever since. Thank you for all you do.

  57. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Some people could handle recreational drug use, most cannot.
    That is why I suggested creating a new territory called Freedonia where the druggies could enjoy their passion to its fullest.
    As I explained before, in Freedonia, every one has to be, absolutely and without exception, has to be a drug user; Judges, Policemen, Lawyers, Sheriffs, Wardens, Jailers, Truck Drivers, Teachers, Nurses, Dentists, Cardiologists, Optometrist, Bus Drivers, Train Conductors, Tradesmen, Engineers, Architects, Programmers, Housewives, Husbands, assorted Gender-Fluids, Pharmacists, Surgeons, Barbers, Newspapermen – everyone.
    Drug age will be set at puberty – and vending machines will be installed everywhere, including high-schools, waiting areas, etc. to make it easy for people to indulge in their habits.
    Freedonia will have an international charter, it would be like th UN compound in New York City – and any and all users from anywhere in the world are welcome to come and stay.
    Freedonia, however, cannot export the drugs that it imports – and will have to pay for them through their honest labor; perhaps growing cabbages, or making ceramics, or weaving baskets – since they would be unable to function as an industrialized economy or even an appendage to it.

  58. Fred says:

    Why the hell should anyone in Brazil give a damn about the opinions of Swiss politicians? Excluding those with secret accounts in Swiss banks excluded, of course. Those might contain some of that missing Petrobras money she wasn’t impeached over.

  59. Tyler says:

    Indeed, people metabolize drugs in different ways. I’ve met more than a few “dopey” stoners who thought swinging fists was an excellent idea.
    The last thing America needs is another distraction.

  60. Tyler says:

    Look at the media coverage of the Trump trip to Mexico and his speech in Phoenix.
    The people are being asked “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?” and picking accordingly.
    The papers have become the mouthpieces of their billionaire, globalist owners. And then they wonder why they’re losing money.

  61. Amir says:

    Higher socio-economical segments of the population will be able to use drugs recreationally with somewhat of negative effects to their professional and personal life. If you are poor, you don’t have reserves or fall back positions. One slip and you will be devestated.

  62. Amir says:

    Can you publish the link. I started following this blog because of it’s content after I was redirected here by Friday’s Lunch Club (alas the latter http://friday-lunch-club.blogspot.com/?m=1 stopped). I would love to see the interview.

  63. johnf says:

    Larry, please regain your breath and tell us more.

  64. Tyler says:

    Yes, why would people turn away from incisive news like this?

  65. TV says:

    “The biggest tell is to count the number of reporters who have lost their jobs and are working in other fields. It has been a bloodbath on that front.”
    That’s just awful…or whatever.
    Presumably all or most of these “journalists” signed on with various Democrat candidate campaigns, as they generally have no marketable skills.

  66. TV says:

    Maybe a dinosaur, maybe not.
    But, for sure, a lefty who only wants left wing news.

  67. Fred says:

    The visual images are also telling. Last night the News Hour (the broadcast of choice for discerning dinosaurs) had brief interviews from those watching the candidates speeches before the Amreican Legion. The fair and balanced news hour showed comments from two veterans supporting Trump. Veteran #1 was wearing green hat sporting the confederate battle flag. Both were white males who served in Vietnam. The veteran for Hilary was an African American veteran who was the “among the first women sailors to serve aboard the USS Nimitz.” She represented the “millenial” veterans. The visual image chosen is telling of the conscious biases of the news hour team and reinforces what Mr. Johnson states above. A well run information operations campaign. I doubt anyone would think to find out that Women have served aboard ships since the mid 1970s and aboard carriers since the early 1990’s, three decades ago.

  68. Larry Kart says:

    OK — speaking of the NYT’s continuing ‘the news as a forever unspooling quasi-novelistic narrative,” did you see what the Times yesterday did with Trump’s Phoenix speech? It was delivered close to deadline, but reporter Patrick Healey and his editors (directly or by osmosis) relieved that pressure (among other things) by deciding what the story would be about before Trump began to speak — that is, the speech would be evidence of a continuing pivot by Trump toward moderation on immigration matters. But that is not how the actual speech went, in tone and content, even though Healey’s novelistically interpretive story said that it had. The contrast between that initial story and what Trump said was so great, though, that over the course of the next few hours the on-line version of the story was desperately, drastically rewritten (without, though, any acknowledgment that this was taking place or had taken place). By contrast, the initial Washington Post story on Trump’s Phoenix speech was a fairly old-fashioned straightforward news account of what Trump actually said there. The contrast between that story and Healey’s NYT story was striking to say the least. I will provide a link in another post ASAP to an account or two of this madness.

  69. Larry Kart says:

    The links I promised:


    BTW, as you might expect, I disagree totally with Josh Marshall’s claim, in the third link above, that the initial NYT story about Trump’s Phoenix speech was the result “mainly … of laziness and sloppiness.” No, it was the result of longstanding corrupt journalistic habits and arrogance, plus a whole lot more. My initial post on this thread talks about the roots of some of this.

  70. different clue says:

    Babak Makkinejad,
    You appear confused about the nature and effects of any one particular drug as compared with any other particular drug. You appear resolutely proud of your confusion.
    The only “illegal drug” I have discussed at any length is cannabis, because that is the only “illegal drug” I have used enough to learn about.
    I myself know better than to pretend to a deep knowledge of the effect of all those drugs which I have never used. How about you?
    I trust what I read about the effects of heroin, fentanyl, meth, etc. I see no need to try those. Meth reads dangerous enough in particular that if it could be stamped out for real, that would be a good thing.

  71. different clue says:

    Edward Amame,
    Here’s the roundabout way I found my way here. I used to read Salon Magazine fairly regularly. One of their bloggers was Vanity Fair contributor James Wolcott. One of his posts was a reposting of a Guest Post on Larry Summer’s blog by Guest Author Colonel Pat Lang. Reading that guest post and backtracking to the No Quarter blog from which it was re-posted allowed me to find SST.

  72. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Well, in my opinion, cannabis was the first line of defense that has been destroyed. To be followed by later conquests until such time as there are drug vending machines as ubiquitously positioned as a soft drink.
    The same strategy has been pursued by the Gender Bender Crowd; whom I find rather personally amusing. You will soon be in a position to see for yourself multiple marriages and group marriages and assorted other social experiments.
    In both cases and with no doubt whatsoever in my mind, people such as myself – who live on the straight and narrow path – would be obliged to clean up the mess; including the human refuse and carnage.
    Things will get ugly….

  73. Oddlots says:

    I share your unease. Well said.
    Slightly OT but I found the article below a great distillation:

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