In Howard Stern's movie "Private Parts" there is a line that illustrates how this works. The station manager is reading the latest A.C. Nielsen ratings and says:
"50% of listeners LOVE Howard Stern and listen for an average of 1.5 hours. Reason given? They want to hear what he'll say next!"
"50% of listeners HATE Howard Stern and listen for an average of 2.5 hours. Reason given? They want to hear what he'll say next!"
Whether this survey was actually true, it illustrates the twisted genius of Stern and other "shock jock" and talk show hosts, as well as television programmers. Their goal is to get you to listen or watch, so they can sell you, like a pimp sells a whore, to advertisers.
The format of "news shows" is not designed to inform but instead to keep you watching. There is a huge filter in what is decided that you get to see, and what is not deemed important. And what they decide you want to see is what is good for ratings - compelling videos and controversial stories.
"Legitimate" news shows caused riots across the country when they reported - often recklessly - that an "unarmed teen" or "unarmed black man" was killed by Police. Now there are situations where Police have used deadly force in a capricious manner. But most of the stories reported were cases where deadly force was justified. The entire "Ferguson" thing, which spawned "Black Lives Matter" was based on an incident that the President of the United States (who is half-black himself) said was the justifiable use of deadly force. A "strong-arm" robber runs from the police and then leaps into a squad car to wrest the pistol from the Policeman trapped inside. It is a pretty clear-cut case of justifiable homicide. But the news reports it as controversy as controversy sells.
If you want to find the "perp" who is responsible for the assassination of Police Officers across the country, look no further than your local newsroom - who puts dollars ahead of policemen's lives.
And this goes back decades or even centuries. Remember WeeGee and his staged crime scene photos? Sensationalism sold newspapers, even back then. Especially back then.
And the mainstream media "went there" because they knew their competitors would, and they wanted ratings or to sell newspapers.
This is nothing new, of course. Tabloid journalism, yellow journalism - it is all the same thing. You can draw a straight and direct line between Steve Bannon and William Randolph Hearst.
It has gotten to the point where many young people today find that satirical news sites are more reliable sources of information than legitimate ones. The Daily Show or The Onion at least are up-front about their fakeness. And you can read more into a story based on how it is mocked than with "straight" reporting.
I recently subscribed to The New York Times as they offered a good promotional deal for daily delivery (for three months only - they use a negative option subscription package!). What alarmed me about the "Grey Lady" wasn't that it had become more left-wing over the years (which it has) as well as its pathetic attempts to be trendy and relevant, but that it pandered to its readers by offering "red meat" on a daily basis.
Every day, my inbox is now crowded with articles from the NYT about Trump - and three days a week, papers in my driveway with alarmist Trump stories. Yes, there is plenty to be alarmed about with Donald Trump. The articles vary from "can you believe he nominated.....?" to "Maybe it won't be so bad after all!"
But the main point is, they know that their readers have a lot of angst and will click on or read articles about Trump. It is the same "red meat" that the fake news sites sell, only instead of just made-up crap, it is "news" by dint of speculation and conjecture.
Same shit, different day.
My only regret is that I didn't think of this first. Rather than decrying fake news, I should have been profiting from it, right?
Stay tuned - did you know Hillary was actually a space alien? I have pix to prove it!