And maybe we should have kept AT&T broken up in the first place, but … I digress. As Donald Trump prepared to meet Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the royal family of the United Kingdom, the president had other things on his mind. Taking to Twitter, Trump suggested a boycott of AT&T to force editorial changes at CNN, his media nemesis:
Politico notes, “A CNN spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.” Don’t expect one down the road either. This is just presidential throat-clearing, not a strategy. Besides, if CNN’s ratings are “dying,” then what’s the point of a boycott?
That’s a good question, regardless of the ratings. All three major cable news outlets target niches these days rather than general audiences. They all offer some programming of broad interest, but their bread-and-butter programming aims at slices of the markets. MSNBC has the progressives and other anti-Trumpers; Fox News has the conservatives and other pro-Trumpers. CNN mainly aims for the pro-CNN niche, which is getting smaller over time, but they supplement it with Trump antagonistes who are put off by MSNBC’s stridency.
Boycotts are bad ideas even in the most clear of circumstances because they rarely work and rarely sustain themselves over time. They end up making boycott activists look impotent most of the time instead. But in the cable-TV news business, it’s even more pointless because the boycotts are already under way. Try finding a conservative to admit watching MSNBC for anything beyond irony, for instance, or a progressive who watches Fox for anything more than oppo research. That’s why Democratic presidential candidates have to apologize for doing town halls on the network watched by most Americans.
Maybe that’s why Trump aimed the boycott at AT&T, but that’s going nowhere, too. Most people don’t connect AT&T with CNN, but even if they do, most people don’t live and breathe politics in that manner. All they want is good signal coverage on their cell phone at a competitive price.
If boycotts are a bad idea, it’s not the worst one Trump had today. Calling out the mayor of the capital of your closest ally while landing in the city is also not a very good idea:
Ah, diplomacy. Maybe Trump should be more focused on that than a mayor shooting his mouth off, too. For a more pleasant moment this morning, here’s the moment that Trump met the queen. No punches were thrown, although the day is still young: