Understanding the Media’s Agendas During Presidential Election Cycles


There’s a naive notion that has been fading over recent years that the news media is designed to report the news. Most are waking up to the fact that there’s no such thing as “fair and balanced” in American media whether mainstream or alternative. All of it is biased. All of it is driven by agendas.

With that acknowledged, the agendas that drive a Presidential election season are very different from most others. Even in off-cycle election years, the national media is less interested because they have limited control. The local media still has the primary influence over congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections because only so much airtime can be given to them nationally. With Presidential elections, the power shifts.

Before we get into the discussion, it’s important to debunk a common myth. Many, perhaps most believe that the driving force for the agendas is money. More page views online, more viewers on television – the standard profit-generating components of the news are not part of the agenda despite what some will tell you. It’s the other way around. The agenda is the driving force while the revenue generated from it all is a bonus. For example, when GQ posted a racy and insulting headline about Ben Carson, they knew they were going to get a ton of hits. However, the additional dollars they made as a result were not the reason for the article. They truly wanted to hurt the candidacy of someone on the rise.

Donald Trump discussed how he drove ratings through the roof and he was correct. He then said he made CNN and Fox a ton of money, which in the whole scheme of things he did not. Ad time is sold in advance and while CNN did make extra money by running the debate longer and getting more ads in while high levels of viewers were watching, the extra cash was microscopic as a blip on their balance sheet. They love the attention and the ability to shift the mindset of people towards their agenda.

Before you dismiss this, read on.

Estate Run Media

Eric Schmidt

Many countries suffer from the evils of state run media. They don’t get to see what’s really happening in their own country and they only get to see what their government wants them to see in the outside world. Iran, China, and North Korea are the well-known examples but there are dozens.

In America, we don’t have state run media (well, there’s more to it than that, but we’ll discuss that later). We have estate run media. The various media barons control the vast majority of the media we take in on a regular basis. It’s not just Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. Corporations such as General Electric, Verizon, and Time Warner are able to maneuver the news cycles and entertainment feeds that encompass our informational lives. Throw in the “minor” players like Yahoo and CBS and you can see how easy it is to manipulate the news.

Then, there’s Google. Too much could be written about them, but it would be easier to follow everything the NSA does than to try to decode Google’s massive network of influence.

One tie-in with Google is Alphabet’s (Google’s new parent company) Chairman of the Board Eric Schmidt. One of his startups, The Groundwork, is a high-level technology gun for hire that would be well outside of the league for any political campaign to hire, but one did. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is the only political client for the company and they charged $ 177k so far. While it’s a lot in the world of political IT, it’s practically charitable work for a company of this pedigree, funding, and skills. Of course, with a backer that is worth $ 9 billion, there’s no need to make money on the endeavor. It’s all about the agenda.

If you want to see what the symbol for the company is, just look at their website. Creepy.

Legislating from the Computer

Legislating from the Computer

Some will rightfully point out that there’s no way for these various estates to be able to control every word that is spoken, printed, or posted by the individual journalists and they would be absolutely correct. Journalists are a very independent group (my first career was as an old newspaper guy) and they are in the business of swaying, not being swayed.

The part that few realize is that from top to bottom, the political agendas are vetted through hiring, promoting, firing, and demoting. For a common view that most would understand, compare the hosts on Fox News versus MSNBC. I don’t think I need to point out the agendas at work. Rupert Murdoch isn’t feeding them talk tracks into their ear pieces directly, but the News Corp team selected the right people at every level of production. The same is true across the pond at MSNBC. The funny part is that television isn’t event he most stark example of editorial control for the sake of agendas.

Other than legislating from the bench, the worst type of political agenda control is legislating from the computer. This is the practice of swaying the opinions of readers, watchers, and listeners by properly positioning the right stories with the right spin in the right direction at the right time. The Arab Spring was a beautiful example of this in action as the majority of American media portrayed the uprisings as good versus evil when in reality the evil was driving the revolts against oppressive but stable governments. If you were to poll Egyptians about whether or not they would rather have the current situation or the one they had six years ago, the results would be stunning.

By empowering the right people and burying the wrong ones, the powers that be have given license to those tell the stories to do so with their particular spin. I’m not suggesting that the journalists are coerced. Instead, they’re trained. If the GQ editors were presented with a different story titled “F— Hillary Clinton” or “F— Bernie Sanders,” for example, would the story have run? No. The journalist didn’t need coaxing, though. He clearly doesn’t like Ben Carson and he knew that his editors would allow his vitriol on their pages.

Policy might be signed by politicians, but much of it is crafted by journalists.

Progressive versus Conservative Media

Progressive versus Conservative Media

Briefly, there’s a distinct difference between progressive media and conservative media. Progressives take what they’re given. They follow the winds of change very adeptly and can turn on a dime. This was clearly demonstrated in 2008 when their darling, Hillary Clinton, started showing signs of weakness while their new champion emerged. They turned on her so quickly it was blinding.

Conservative media is different. Some would say it’s slower and more splintered. Others attribute this to being more principled. Regardless of the reasons why, the bitter battles last longer and the holdouts stay to the bitter end.

This is an advantage for the Democrats because their media backers, which account for an incredibly higher percentage of mainstream media outlets, are fast to unify behind their winner regardless of who it is.

There’s another big difference in they way they attack their opponents. The left is sneakier, perhaps even smarter in their attacks. They don’t go for the kill. Their goal is balance. Their goal is to prolong the primaries for as long as possible. They want the Republicans to fight each other, which means they will attack the most likely candidates to win with the most ferocity.

Currently, those candidates are Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Carly Fiorina is mostly off their radar as they don’t see her sticking around throughout. Jeb Bush is weakened, which means they’re backing off attacks on him until he’s able to mount a comeback. Then, there’s Donald Trump. He will only get token attacks. The big guns are being held until the impossible dream of the Democrats comes true. They don’t think he can win the nomination, but if he somehow can, they know they can destroy him. This is why they haven’t marched out dozens of women denouncing him as a misogynist. It’s why they haven’t brought up dozens of examples that would paint him as a racist. It’s why they’ve taken it easy on him, using only editorial rhetoric that can galvanize his base rather than full blown attacks to make his supporters doubt him.

They have so much ammunition stored up to use against him if he gets the nomination that they’re actually hoping he’s the nominee. It will be a an ongoing media bloodbath for the months leading up to the election if he gets the nomination. That’s why they don’t take the types of shots at him that they take on Carson, Cruz, and Rubio. Of the four, Trump is by far the easiest for them to destroy regardless of who is nominated by the Democrats.

Keep in mind that I like much of what Trump is saying. This isn’t an attack against him or his positions. It’s an understanding that no matter what 70% of the Republicans say about a willingness to back him if he’s nominated, the rest of the country will be pushed by mainstream media to completely despise him. I’m not against Trump. I simply realize that he would have less of a chance of winning the general election than any other GOP candidate other than maybe Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki. Yes, Bobby Jindal would even have a better chance of winning the general election than Trump.

The Need to Fight

Steve Deace Fight

As conservatives, we have plenty of weapons in our arsenal to guide public opinion. The problem is that the progressives have quite a few more as well as better organization. If we are to win the White House in 2016, we have to consolidate our efforts. The sooner we can rally behind a single candidate, the better.

The agendas are real and they’re powerful. The only chance Republicans and America have of protecting and advancing our future is to recognize what we’re up against and to act accordingly. This is a fight to the end.