Friday, August 19, 2016

After Destroying the GOP in November, Will Donald Trump Go After Fox News Next?

by Nomad

TrumpHere's probably the best explanation for Donald Trump's strange presidential run. As crazy as it seems, in a Trumpish way, it makes perfect sense.  

Like Poe's purloined letter, sometimes the obvious explanation is hidden right under your nose.
Nothing has been quite as inexplicable as this election cycle. It's hard to get a grip on the insanity of it. Most of it is coming from the Right and Donald Trump. Without resorting to a psychological ailment, coming up with an explanation for Trump's decisions and behavior isn't easy.

The Hiring of Ailes and Bannon 

The June's issue of Vanity Fair, however, offers one theory that makes pretty good sense. The writer postulated that Trump's run for president was nothing less than an ingenious form of self-promotion. Not an earthshaking observation, I understand. 
According to insiders, Trump was never interested in being president. And, no, he hasn't even been making a big fat joke (my pet theory)
Actually, his entire campaign has been a promotion of his next business project, the creation of his media empire, a la NewsCorp's Rupert Murdoch. 
Fox News but without the decency and intelligence.

According to several people briefed on the discussions, the presumptive Republican nominee is examining the opportunity presented by the “audience” currently supporting him. He has also discussed the possibility of launching a “mini-media conglomerate” outside of his existing TV-production business, Trump Productions LLC. He has, according to one of these people, enlisted the consultation of his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who owns the The New York Observer.
In this light, the bizarre events in this election cycle suddenly begin to make sense.
Trump’s rationale, according to this person, is that, “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.” For his part, Kushner was heard at a New York dinner party saying that “the people here don’t understand what I’m seeing. You go to these arenas and people go crazy for him.”
When Trump hired the scandalized the former Fox News CEO Roger "Grabass" Ailes as a debate consultant, many analysts thought it showed extraordinarily poor judgment.  Or, on the more positive side, a very forgiving nature.
Trump has talked about outreach when it came to minorities and women. Ailes' idea of "outreach" to women could easily be made into a dirty joke.

Right wing conspiracy-monger and all-around rotten character, Stephen K. Bannon was another case in point. Before becoming Trump's campaign manager on Wednesday, Bannon was the chairman of the Breitbart News website, a site famous for its  exclusive  reported of high-quality news like the Anthony Weiner's wiener scandal, the resignation of Shirley Sherrod, and the bogus ACORN 2009 undercover videos

Given the source, that's quite a character reference.

Back in February, Beck predicted that Bannon had technicolor dreams of becoming Trump's Joseph Goebbels- Hitler's head of Nazi propaganda ministry. At least, Beck guessed accurately on that score.

For a serious campaign, those Ailes-Bannon choices make no sense. Both would be considered as untouchable as a pocketful of warm plutonium. Let's face it, when women try to imagine the office sexual harasser, a face very similar to Roger Ailes probably comes to mind.
And Bannon brings nothing to the Trump campaign but more mean-spiritedness, political incorrectness, and a general sense of unshaven, puffy faced, red-eyed yuckiness.
Both of them are, you could say, politically-unwashed.

And yet, if Trump's true mission was - not to be the next US president- but to be the CEO of his own right-wing news network, those two choices make perfect sense.

The Apprentice Gambit

The Vanity Fair article offers more support for its hypothesis.
This is not the first time that Trump has toyed with the notion of merging his political and media identities. When he was considering a run for president, in 2011, he had a conversation with Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, who was interested in green-lighting a new season of The Apprentice. Trump could pursue one option or the other, it seemed, but not both.
Filmmaker Michael Moore has recently suggested that the Trump campaign was not at all what it seemed. Trump, Moore stated citing unnamed sources, 'never actually wanted to be president.'
Trump decided to run for president not because he thought he would win, but because he was “unhappy with his deal as host and star of his NBC show The Apprentice.” The plan went horribly wrong, however, when NBC instead cut ties over Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants. By the time Trump realized he would actually become the nominee, running for president no longer looked so appealing to him.
Another problem is, of course, that a man like Trump could never win any election. His critics both on the left and right have pointed out that the man is unsuitable in almost every way to be the leader of the nation. In a comparative study, Hillary Clinton - whatever her faults- seems to be the only choice for rational voters.

Clearly, Trump will not simply vanish after the election. No party will accept him as their candidate, we can assume.
So Quo Vadis, Donald Trump?
The answer to that? True to his nature, Trump will have moved on to his next project.

One way to mitigate the heartache and shame of a landslide loss to Hillary Clinton is for Donald Trump to  announce the launch of his very own TV news network, Trump News Network (TNN).  It's like Silvio Berlusconi who started out as a media tycoon and then turned corrupt politician and finally turned into a national embarrassment. 
With Trump, the process would be in reverse.

Here's what the New Republic has to say about this idea:
In fact, by cementing ties with Breitbart and seeking advice from disgraced former Fox News head Roger Ailes, Trump has sent his strongest signal yet that long-held suspicions about his media-mogul aspirations are true. He’s using the election to develop an intensely loyal audience that occupies a special niche: those who think Fox News is too mainstream. Who better to help him cash in on such an effort than Bannon and Ailes.
As ludicrous as it might sound, this is Trump we are talking about:
Running an entire presidential campaign as an advertising stunt to launch a “mini-media conglomerate” might seem like a strange act, but it’s the logical culmination of the fusion between entertainment and politics within the Republican Party since at least the 1980s.
WWE Trump

The fusion has turned politics into something resembling the World Wrestling Entertainment Event. Silly and artificial and yet taking itself very seriously.

By the way, in case you were not aware, Donald is a known World Wrestling Entertainment fan and friend of WWE owner Vince McMahon. He has hosted two WrestleMania events in the Trump Plaza and has been an active participant in several of the shows. 
Now he is running for president and the Republicans wonder why things have become such a farce. 


If that prediction holds true, then Trump will walk away from politics, leaving the Grand Old Party as a complete wreck. By elbowing other -perhaps- more suitable candidates out of the race, Trump has been an important factor in assisting Hillary Clinton to become the next president. Not only that, Trump's run for president has threatened the Republican control of Congress and the very real possibility of losing all conservative representation on the SCOTUS.
By any definition, a total rout.

According to the TNN idea, it will not, however, be a disaster for Trump. He has used individual campaign contributors, the Republican Party to finance what would essentially be a wildly successful publicity stunt, promoting his future media venture.

If you think that's clever, there's more. He has even utilized the already established Fox News propaganda machine to advertise his own brand. Using your future competitor to help launch your own business, well, that's brilliant.

Of course, it is only a theory. 
One thing that's not a theory, however, is what Trump has already accomplished. Trump - whether he intended to or not- has exposed the abject decline of the Republican party, exposed its inherent racism and intolerance and stupidity.
The Republican Party has been forced to look in the mirror and see -warts and all- the true face of their angry core support.

No Shortage of Potential Partners

A workable theory needs more conclusive evidence and setting up a media empire requires more than fervent ambition. You got to have cash and a network of investors. So far there's no sign of that in Trump's case.

The Vanity Fair piece notes:
In order to start anything remotely resembling a conglomerate, even a miniature one, Trump would need a partner to pay for it, and he would likely have to purchase a cable channel from an existing player.
Logically, that would be Fox News. Doubters would say that seems unlikely since Rupert Murdoch has his sons of his own, ever-hungry mouths to feed. It's a hereditary kind of kingdom. 
So what are the other options for Trump?
Therefore, it's not out of the question that Trump could find some sort of arrangement with a foreign partner- the Russians or Saudi Arabians, for example. 

Bah-humbug! Conspiracy theory, I hear you say. 
True, but it wouldn't be the first time a foreign investor has taken a liking to the US news media. A Saudi prince was, in fact, the largest single stockholder in NewsCorp-the parent corporation of Fox News. Coincidentally, his investment firm, Kingdom Holdings announced that the Saudi billionaire, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, was selling a substantial stake in Murdoch's media corporation five months before Trump announced his candidacy. 
One look at Kingdom Holdings portfolio reveals how much the superficially-Islamaphobic Trump has in common with the prince.

Despite those anti-Muslim views, Trump seems to have a very different philosophy when it comes to business. According to Associated Press, the financial records Trump filed with the Federal Election Commission appear to include information on a new business enterprise set up to operate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 
(The financial disclosure provides much less detail than a tax return would and Trump's the first presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns since 1976. He must have his reasons which would clearly be more important to him than winning the election.)

The main point is with all of this publicity from the election, with breaking a sweat, Donald Trump could find any number of backers to a proposed media empire. No brand in the world has reached a wider audience than Trump's.

Fox News vs Trump

The Coming Clash

In many ways, any media venture by Trump would owe a lot to Fox News. As the New Republic article points out, it was Fox News that kicked things off, by demonstrating how profitable it could be to manufacture narratives that appealed to the Republican base.
With the rise of Fox in 2000s, there emerged an entire cohort of politicians whose presidential campaigns seemed to exist merely to get them an audience for their speeches, TV appearances, and books. In the past, has-been politicians had to become lobbyists or find a sinecure in a think tank.
With the help of Fox News, people like Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin all showed that losing an election could be a much more lucrative path, with far less scrutiny or real work. Trump is "the logical culmination of this trend."

It all this speculation is true, then there will be an inevitable clash. After all, any possible TNN project necessitates a competition with Murdoch's Fox News. 

Although Fox News reportedly has the highest ratings of all televised news media, you have to consider the wider view. Fox News has had a relatively unchallenged monopoly on “conservative news” on television. 
The target audience for right-wing news is, by all accounts, dwindling every year. "Dwindling" in this case is a euphemism for dropping dead. The median age of Fox News audience members is 65+ and that's just the average age. Moreover, the average age of Bill O'Reilly's audience is a shocking 72.1 years old.

The market share would look very different in Trump were able to challenge Fox. As hard as it is to imagine, a more hysterical version of Fox News is technically possible and it would drastically reduce the total number of viewers for Fox.
Amusingly, Trump could possibly paint Fox as too mainstream to be trusted.

In fact, as we have reported in the past, the cable news on whole is in decline and the most successful media corporation are trying to find a way out- not in. Because of the limited spectrum available, the declining advertising rates, and the immense start-up costs and resources required. 

Starting up a cable news corporation at this time is either exceedingly bold or foolish. On the other hand, whoever but a foolish and/or bold person would ever think of intentionally losing a presidential campaign as the first step to creating a media empire.