The ‘Invisible Hand’ in American Media

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

Mainstream national news media have been reduced to pandering to roughly one-quarter of Americans who are predisposed to agree with them. Everyone else has tuned them out and/or, at least, distrusts them – with good reason.

The legacy media regarded him as unthinkable, so his election and, especially, President Donald Trump’s successes violate every political “norm” endorsed by mainstream media, including their presumptuous, self-assumed “responsibility” to shape opinion. Upsetting norms commonly provokes fear and/or anger, so, bowing to human nature, media are lashing out at things they don’t understand and cannot accept, such as the failure of their monolithic 2016 support for Hillary Clinton.

Frequent, hysterical, over-the-top media elites’ characterizations of the president and his voters as racist or Nazis are both brainless and inflammatory. MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch said Trump supporters are “bad guys,” “Nazis” by association. CNN contributor Michaela Angela Davis said, on-air, “All Trump supporters are racist.” Multiple mainstream media figures have compared public Trump events to “KKK rallies.” Media provided a platform for Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters to openly call for public harassment of administration officials.

Media’s hyperbolic animosity is irresponsibly stoking division among Americans and encouraging violence. It’s gotten so ugly that the influential Crime Prevention Research Center urged administration officials to acquire concealed carry permits to protect themselves and their families in public.  

Nonetheless, national media have become laughingstocks. It’s sardonically amusing to witness a choleric, confrontational, non-introspective media display precisely the same qualities they claim to despise about Donald Trump.

In his book “The Wealth of Nations,” Eighteenth Century economist Adam Smith introduced the concept of the “invisible hand“ — an unobservable market force allowing free market demand and supply of goods and services to reach equilibrium based on all participants’ best interests.

Smith posited that, if people are allowed to trade freely, the invisible hand of competition and self-interest would balance markets.

America has a broadly-defined “media” market consisting of print, broadcast/cable and internet outlets, all of which are shaped by content, competition and by consumers’ and media’s self-interests. In their fury, national media have subordinated their own self-interests to overt partisanship.

Media measure circulation, viewers/listeners and page views, but, if they truly understood markets, they would set aside their self-regard and liberal agenda in favor of responsible reporting rather than attempting to influence markets shaped by far more than and frequently repulsed by media bias.

Consumers harbor no sympathy for market illiterates. Media’s inability or unwillingness to address their failures are marketing blunders. Accordingly, media’s manic overreaction to Donald Trump’s presidency has transformed Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” into a metaphorical fist aimed right at the industry’s nose.

Legacy media’s emotional breakdown isn’t really about Trump, though. It’s about them. An increasingly-desperate left-wing media finally grasp that they’re losing — have lost — the ability to shape the perceptions of the larger, non-liberal public which no longer trusts, believes or buys what media’s selling.

A self-inflicted “invisible hand” destabilized media markets. A pivot to honest, objective reporting could revive them — maybe.