The rise of talk radio, 24-hour cable news, and blogs are a positive development for those of us who lamented the mainstream media filter, but, as David Foster Wallace observed, they also create “a kind of epistemic free-for-all in which ‘the truth’ is wholly a matter of perspective and agenda.” When we only had three TV channels, there was a consensus and a shared culture. Today, we have traded that in for individualism, atomization, and anomie.
The most recent development in this decades-long trend is that the media has now become so small-d democratic that chances are you can find an outlet that will never challenge your thinking, as if it was tailored just for you and your biases. Fox News isn’t conservative enough for you? Then check out Breitbart. Is Mother Jones too moderate for your tastes? Try Jacobin. If there’s an audience, there’s now a media organization that caters to it—either online or on TV. And if all else fails, you can just curate a Facebook or Twitter feed to provide you with all the news and opinions you’re willing to hear.
In the old days, media gatekeepers were respected and they could have snuffed out a candidate like Trump. Just a few years ago, it’d be impossible to imagine him or any Republican candidate surviving the spat he had with Fox News this cycle. And forget about the mainstream media stopping Trump’s rise, seeing how it is now hated by much of the country.