It’s far too early to know who will come out on top in the unfolding Republican presidential primary, but if recent events are any indication, the corporate media will be its biggest loser.
Technological stutters notwithstanding, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential announcement in a live Twitter spaces event with Elon Musk and David Sacks on Wednesday night offered one glimpse of how candidates can reach audiences in a post-cable world. Without the gatekeeping of media activists, DeSantis had the chance to tell Americans his unfiltered opinions about issues such as the border crisis, woke corporatism, the threat of cancellation (financial or otherwise) to conservatives, digital currencies, and bureaucratic overreach.
He didn’t have to go through a partisan hack at The New York Times or Politico, who would inevitably ask an unsubstantive, bad-faith question like, “How much does your wife resemble Lady Macbeth?” Anyone who wanted to hear what he had to say didn’t have to rely on unserious headlines like “Ron DeSantis continues his quest to make Floridians ignorant” to convey substantive news values like DeSantis’ signing of a bill that blocks taxpayer-funded “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs at state universities.
While parts of DeSantis’ livestream interview Wednesday could be justly critiqued as boring — his script certainly lacked the chaotic charisma of 2016 Trump’s best moments, though the same might be said for 2023 Trump — it was more substantive than anything the propaganda press has produced about the GOP primary or its growing cast of candidates. The subject matter was, as others have noted, far better than the questions CNN threw at Trump in the network’s recent town hall.
Moreover, the fact that a serious discussion of relevant issues could verge on the uninteresting reflects most poorly on the deeply unserious media environment we have come to expect. Cable news and social media reward soundbites; DeSantis’ Twitter space sounded more like what a candidate interview might have been a few decades ago. We have yet to see if voters think that’s a good thing, but either way, the conversation was damning for the media outlets it will rightly be compared to. With the corrupt press on the sidelines in the GOP primary, voters can expect to hear a different perspective than the narrative promoted by the corporate media cabal — which is a very bad thing for media gatekeepers and a very good thing for candidates and voters.
It’s also worth acknowledging that DeSantis’ smart decision to circumvent traditional media might never have happened if Donald Trump had never run for president in 2016. As The Federalist’s Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway noted this week, “Everything seemed to change [after] the Trump administration in terms of what Republican voters now realize is possible to demand or expect from any Republican president.” That’s true not just about executive agenda-setting but also about Trump’s fight with the media. No Republican in 2016 earned the ire of the corporate press the way Trump did — and no one had ever been as effective at calling their partisan schtick as he saw it.
In 2016, Trump was correctly calling the legacy media the “opposition party,” and in 2017, he again noted that newsroom propagandists were the “enemy of the American people.” (For all the predictable media meltdown over that comment, the majority of Americans agreed.)
In like form, DeSantis has accurately taken to calling them the “corporate media,” rejecting the false notion that the legacy press still represents what “mainstream” Americans think.
Two recent developments make the shifting media landscape, and the Republican primary’s implications for it, even more fascinating.
First, Tucker Carlson — whom a Gallup poll just crowned the most influential public figure in the country — was dismissed from Fox News, the one legacy media outlet that has traditionally been expected to represent right-leaning voters. Carlson looms large in the upcoming presidential race, and by announcing the launch of a new show hosted on Twitter, he’s committed to a new format where he’s racking up a massive audience. (I’d love to see him moderate a GOP primary debate this cycle, but we’ll see.) Meanwhile, his former employer is hemorrhaging viewership in the wake of his departure.
Second, a Harvard/Harris poll earlier this week revealed that majorities of Americans understand the Trump-Russia collusion narrative was a hoax, Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” was never Russian disinformation, and Joe Biden is implicated with his son in an “illegal influence peddling scheme” — three stories the media have refused to cover with either honesty or curiosity. So-called journalists helped intelligence agencies concoct a hoax about Trump being a Russian asset in the 2016 campaign, they sabotaged a bombshell story about Hunter Biden’s shady foreign entanglements right before the 2020 election, and they continue to bury evidence of the senior Biden’s involvement in the family business.
Trump and DeSantis are both wise to run their campaigns on their own terms, not the corporate media’s. Whichever Republican ends up facing Joe Biden in 2024, he will need to be adept at cutting through dishonest media framing and flat-out lies if he hopes to reach voters who aren’t on Twitter or Truth Social. That both men who currently lead the pack are already rejecting the media’s traditional monopoly on political conversations is a good sign.