More than three weeks after Democrats got stomped at every level in the 2016 elections, Barack Obama still bitterly clings to Fox News as the reason for his undoing. In an interview with Rolling Stone published Jann Wenner, Obama said that media fragmentation has undermined national consensus. Having Fox News playing “in every bar and restaurant” made it more difficult for Democrats to connect to voters:
In this election, [they] turned out in huge numbers for Trump. And I think that part of it has to do with our inability, our failure, to reach those voters effectively. Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country, but part of it is also Democrats not working at a grassroots level, being in there, showing up, making arguments. That part of the critique of the Democratic Party is accurate. We spend a lot of time focused on international policy and national policy and less time being on the ground. And when we’re on the ground, we do well. This is why I won Iowa.
That’s, er, demonstrably untrue. Democrats were certainly “on the ground” in Senate, House, gubernatorial, and state legislative races, and wound up losing on all four levels despite having the natural turnout advantages of a presidential cycle. That’s particularly obvious in the Senate races, where Democrats went in with a 24-10 advantage over the GOP in seats defended, and could only score two pickups and remained in the minority.
Fox News, bars and restaurants, and a supposed Democratic focus on international policy aren’t the problems on the Left … but Fox News certainly enjoys the shout-out:
Pres Obama blames 'Fox News being in every bar and restaurant' as to why Democrats lost the election pic.twitter.com/eaquFLdkP5
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) November 30, 2016
It’s funny — Barack Obama managed to win two national elections in a world where Fox News dominated cable ratings, and yet he’s never stopped whining about them. He began his presidency with an ill-considered war on Fox, and he’s wrapping it up the same way. Fox may never get this level of promotion again, so it’s no wonder they’re lapping it up as much as possible now.
Speaking of presidential promotion, Wenner’s doing as much as he can while he has the time, too. He doesn’t bother to remind Obama of any of these inconvenient facts or challenge Obama’s whining, but instead rolls over for a very strange bellyrub while asking for government subsidies. Obama obliges — on the bellyrub, anyway. Obama tells Wenner that they’re doing a heckuva job at the Stone, Brownie:
Maybe the news business and the newspaper industry, which is being destroyed by Facebook, needs a subsidy so we can maintain a free press?
The challenge is, the technology is moving so fast that it’s less an issue of traditional media losing money. The New York Times is still making money. NPR is doing well. Yeah, it’s a nonprofit, but it has a growing audience. The problem is segmentation. We were talking about the issue of a divided country. Good journalism continues to this day. There’s great work done in Rolling Stone. The challenge is people are getting a hundred different visions of the world from a hundred different outlets or a thousand different outlets, and that is ramping up divisions. It’s making people exaggerate or say what’s most controversial or peddling in the most vicious of insults or lies, because that attracts eyeballs. And if we are gonna solve that, it’s not going to be simply an issue of subsidizing or propping up traditional media; it’s going to be figuring out how do we organize in a virtual world the same way we organize in the physical world. We have to come up with new models.
“There’s great work done at the Rolling Stone,” eh? That’s not what a jury just found in a defamation case that rocked the magazine industry. They socked Rolling Stone, Wenner, and Sabrina Rubin Erdely for $3 million in damages for their malicious fabulism regarding the University of Virginia and a rape hoax that Rolling Stone used to stoke a social panic. Ironically, Obama complains about media fragmentation and siloing of news while demonstrating a complete ignorance about the print journalism industry’s most prominent scandal of the past two years. Didn’t anyone tell Obama about that, or does he only watch MSNBC in prime time?
That’s not the end of the irony, either. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers gives Obama credit for raising the issue of media fragmentation, but scorches him for not acknowledging his role in it:
Obama framed Democrats’ “inability” to reach white, working-class voters in terms of what the party can control and what it can’t. What it can control, Obama suggested, is grass-roots outreach; what it can’t control is the content of Fox News. That’s not entirely true. By granting more interviews to Fox News, Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats would ensure that their voices reach the voters supposedly so hard to reach. …
Instead, Obama often does the very thing for which he criticizes news consumers: He occupies his own sphere. The interview with Rolling Stone is a perfect example. …
So Obama turned to Rolling Stone, whose readers are part of his base, to talk about how Democrats have a hard time reaching white, working-class voters who watch Fox News. It makes zero sense.
Obama’s not interested in outreach. He’s only interested in whining, and in meeting with softball sycophants who will let him do it unchallenged.
Update: I only mentioned this in passing in the original post, but Wenner’s plea for subsidies in the middle of an interview really deserves more scrutiny. Wenner, a publisher who just got socked with a $3 million judgment for maliciously publishing a false story, is asking Obama for subsidies to counter the effects of supposed “fake news” from Facebook. It’s rare to see this much irony and cluelessness in the open, and it’s even rarer to see such a naked plea for cronyism while supposedly speaking truth to power. It’s both shameless and shameful.