Home media Media Bias What the Media Really Wants
Home media Media Bias What the Media Really Wants

What the Media Really Wants

President Trump’s end year remarks to the New York Times acerbically summed up his relationship with the media. “I’m going to win another four years… because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there.” The answering outburst of rage and contempt from the media burned all the hotter because the statement was not only intentionally provocative; it was also true.

The media has never been able to quit Trump. Its conviction that it can destroy him through coverage has repeatedly proven false. But that hasn’t stopped the media from throwing more coverage at him. And its motive for the non-stop coverage has always been the selfish pursuit of ratings, clicks and sales.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN are all busy playing Trump-slayers when what they really want is four more years of rising subscriptions, ad sales and profits. Few politicians understand that conflict of interest better than Trump who has spent most of his adult life playing the media.

These days the media needs Trump more than ever. Its old purpose, reporting the news, is as dead as the telegraph. Reporting is expensive. It requires infrastructure and personnel. And it isn’t very profitable. In the age of the internet, few people will sit around and watch the pointless reporting from the scene of an event that was once the staple of local news and cable news.

And repurposing viral videos and stories can only fill so much of that hole. But the media doesn’t really report news either. Mostly it repurposes it to create narratives that it can then milk for days or months. Whether it’s a missing airliner, #MeToo or Russian collusion, the best narratives are part mystery, scandal and thriller. The news isn’t just fake: It’s metafictional. It turns real life into fodder for fiction.

The media has crossed the mirror’s edge where reality television, recreations of crimes and movies based on true stories once lived. It lives and dies by turning the news into a fictional narrative. And narratives are cheap. Every news network can run video of Mueller slowly walking down a hallway while a panel of experts discusses what the latest leak really means for President Trump. For the cost of a green room, a limo and a little promotion, CNN can have its very own House of Cards drama.

Trump is the media’s star. Without him, CNN would have to go back to chasing missing airliners. And he has an innate understanding of the media’s business model from the days when he was playing New York City tabloids against each other. The tabloidization of the national media is a development that has left the GOP’s Beltway establishment bewildered and confused. But Trump has always understood the media as a tabloid operation that specialized in the same heroes and heels as professional wrestling.

And he knows that he doesn’t have to beat the media. He just has to let it beat itself.

The combination of political anger and personal greed that drives the media is destroying its credibility. The media was most effective when it was playing the detached narrator and the impartial referee. Trump’s greatest trick was forcing it to get in the ring with him. That’s always been his trick for defeating his opponents. And the media has eagerly cast away its restraints and given in to its worst instincts.

It can’t defeat Trump by getting in the ring with him. But it’s a lot more fun. And it’s profitable.

Trump’s remarks to the New York Times taunt it with the truth about its obsession with him. Behind the ideology is greed. And the greed is stronger than the ideology. The media hates and needs him. It’s become addicted to both. The need intensifies its hatred. And the hatred intensifies the need.

The media spent eight years declining into irrelevance under Obama. Even before Trump, Obama had bypassed the media for social media. The big stories were fed to the press by Obama Inc. cronies like Ben Rhodes or hidden hand political smear shops like Fusion GPS. Even its core mission of cheerleading the left had become meaningless as younger lefties no longer bothered reading, watching or even clicking on mainstream media sites. The media was running out of customers, money and relevance.

Trump revived the media. The young lefties helping monetize the media again are coming for him. And every time he attacks the media, he makes it more relevant. The ritually insincere public wails about the unique threat to the free press posed by snarky tweets from the White House mask the private celebrations in every newsroom that Trump is making them into the center of attention once again.

The media is no longer just reprinting photos of Obama’s latest viral stunt from his house photog or running its stories by Hillary’s people to see how much more flattering they can be; it’s getting out there and leading the #Resistance while cashing in on all the publicity.

And it owes it all to Trump.

President Trump is confident that he can get the media to do what he wants because he understands that it only pretends to be driven by progressive virtue, but is actually motivated by classic vice. The core hypocrisy of the left is its belief that it can have virtue in the public sphere and vice in the private one.

Media stars can grope their female subordinates in private as long as they tout Planned Parenthood and Linda Sarsour in public. It’s okay to fly private jets as long as they push for plastic bag bans. Getting rich is great if they do it while dedicating their careers to opposing the idea of other people getting rich. If you tweet #BlackLivesMatter, you can make racist jokes with your friends. That’s the hypocritical left.

And the media pretends that it can bring down President Trump by getting rich covering him. Trump rode that hypocrisy to the White House. He’s telling the media that he’ll ride it to a second term. And that the media would rather see him in the White House than stop playing into his hands.

Trump beat the media by playing on its private motivations rather than its public ones. And now he’s mocking its hypocrisy in the pages of its top paper while it responds exactly as he wants it to.

President Trump needs the media to hate him. And the media needs him to hate. Trump benefits politically from that relationship, but the media only benefits financially from it. The media’s Trump rage ended Hillary’s career, put a Republican in the White House, pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords, brought in the Muslim travel ban, recognized Jerusalem and did all the other things the media wails about every second of the day. And the media helped make them happen.

The media could have covered President Trump fairly, objectively and dispassionately. But that wouldn’t have been nearly as popular. It was much more lucrative to run 24/7 hysteria, to convince its own audience that the world was about to end and to stay tuned for the latest Trump revelation. Each time it did that, it boosted his image as a revolutionary anti-establishment politician bringing real change.

Media icons may ridicule Trump’s remarks in public, but they know the truth of them in private.

President Trump makes their jobs, raises and bonuses possible. He’s the reason why media outlets have started expanding, instead of contracting, their investigative resources. Sinking newspapers and networks have suddenly become profitable. CNN can spend three hours on a single Trump tweet. All it has to do is bring in four ‘experts’ to stir up the outrage and then sell commercials in between.

It’s not journalism. But it sure makes money.

The media could stop any time. All it would have to do is put principles over profit. Even the totalitarian political principles of the left. But it’s too greedy to stop. Trump has hooked the media on himself.

President Trump beat the media by using its worst impulses against it. And he’s taunting the media with the truth about its motivations and exposing the lie that it tells itself. He’s reminding media elites that behind their posturing, they will hypocritically betray their leftist ideals and win him another election.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

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Thank you for reading.


  1. Anonymous17/1/18

    Wow > extremely well written and well done!
    Great insight.
    Thank you, Daniel.
    Les in WA

  2. Anonymous17/1/18

    That's why we love him. He is a real man, confident and cool, with a view of the path down the road that the liberal mind cannot see. A true blessing that drives the enemies of the republic insane with hate.

  3. Will the same moronic #resistance force that makes money for the fake media, be sufficient stir enough 'democratic' communists to the polls to lose the congress in November?

  4. ontoiran18/1/18

    love your stuff daniel. i never looked at it that way. i learn something every time i read your column

  5. He called their bluff. That's what he does. And, wouldn't ya' know it, they were bluffing all along. The lesson is - call the left's bluff, always, everywhere, just like Trump.

  6. Soap and tampons ...

  7. Anonymous18/1/18

    Pithy and funny.

  8. I've always said that anyone who takes President Trump on will lose.(There's a picture joke going around that Trump bet Putin 5.00 he could make CNN say s--thole over 100 times in a day.) Hollywood careers are going south. George Clooney is back on television because his movies lose so much money because he couldn't keep out of politics and doesn't practice what he preaches. They are all phony, and President Trump exposes all of it. The news is a joke. There is no news. And your article really explains it in a way everyone can understand.

  9. Anonymous18/1/18

    This is one good essay. Congratulations. You know the Guardian here in GB. All it can do now is rage against the President and it is getting worse. Very funny to watch it slowly sink into gibbering insanity but the paper is broke so you are right.
    It is also sorting out the progressive bodysnatched from the rest of us.
    Dave S

  10. "the lie that tells itself". That's a golden nugget, right there. Thanks for all you do.

  11. Anonymous22/1/18

    Mr G
    I like the article and wonder if anyone besides me has begun to recognize that we may be approaching (within a year or two) the demise of the 24/7, in-your-face, endless looping, mainstream media. This government shut down, one in which Trump and the cowardly republicans actually stood their ground and have just now shown to be victorious, has the democrats terrified. There is no doubt! Why? because they know that people will quickly figure out that we don't need the constant domination of our news and lives by politics, politicians, political whores and government. We can get along without them except for what we hired them to do, and consequently we don't need the constant domineering talking heads of the media to constantly cram their stupid socialist message down our throats.

    The relationship between socialists and media has been an unholy alliance since their initial victory in the early 70's with the Nixon thing and the Vietnam War. Stupidly fascinated Americans allowed it to happen....then there were only three major networks to watch and they had built up a relationship of trust with their viewers. When CNN came along, Turner had such a great opportunity to provide us so much information, knowledge and enlightenment, however he had an agenda from the beginning. I feel if the US hadn't been such an economically strong and independent bunch, we would have lost the nation long ago....due to RINO's and Libs alike.

    With the onset of Donald Trump, Americans are slowly realizing that we can live our lives and be successful with the constant influence of government in our lives and news in our face all day. They are realizing that we are a great and unique nation and that our presence has lifted the world over the years. They are experiencing a huge boom, one that will prove to be gigantic over the year....people will become prosperous who once only had a choice for welfare. They are going to begin understanding what it is to pay taxes, to pay a mortgage and to have an investment account that they can use to retire as wealthy people and they can do it without committing crime. In a word, they will begin to buy in to this culture.....this is a scary prospect for libs who need a dependent and stupid base of voters to keep their sorry butts in power.

    I feel this small victory in which Republicans have strapped on their little olives and actually stood up to the libs with Trump backing them is actually a huge thing. Rush Limbaugh has stated several times and I agree, that if Republicans will just get on board with Trump solidly for three months.....the mid terms this year will be no less than a blood bath for the democrat party.....they will go down. The Washington establishment will take a serious hit, RINO's will take notice and begin getting it together.....

    ...and please God, Americans will finally stand up as a people and make serious moves to get this government under control and get this nation back....only with God's help.


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