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  • Writer's pictureMats Paulsen

The power of polarizing media (and presidents)

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

Trump wrote more than 19,000 tweets during his time as president. Many with false claims, according to the New York Times (NYT).

On January 6 Trump gave a speech and sent a few more tweets. It reached his 88 million followers. The effect came directly with protests and shootings on Capitol Hill. Fox News commentator

Tucker Carlsson defended the occupiers' motives.

In the other corner is NYT, which, according to their own search engine, wrote over 60,000 articles about Donald Trump during the time he was in office.

What a fight it has been

What a fight it has been. During the four years, NYT increased its digital reach from 1.6 to seven million subscribers. Their shareholders' wealth grew from two to eight billion dollars. Share dividends not counted. The digital turning point came in November 2020. Just as Trump waved kicks and punches in the final sprint of the election campaign. At that moment NYT's digital revenue surpassed the newspaper's traditional revenue, $ 300 million in a quarter. Traditional media is back. Thanks to four years of political chaos. With growing concern and polarization in many countries. I don’t think NYT will continue to grow without the Troll-in-chief in office. I feel that I am not attracted to the news site as often anymore.

NYT needs a fierce antagonist to expand further. And they will find someone or something. Traditional media is big business again. They do not want to lose that grip.

Revenge has a price

But revenge has a price. Traditional media are now rabbit holes, like the many filter bubbles on internet, where like-minded people are sucked down as their opinions and concerns are confirmed. I sense that traditional media has strengthened their position as elitist defenders of an establishment where only some are welcome. Others are called idiots. NYT - as well as European cousins like Dagens Nyheter, Süddeutsche Zeitung and The Guardian - will continue to do so in order to retain and attract subscribers. Like all forms of media, they are dependent on conservatives against liberals, nationalists against globalists, language police against internet trolls, we against them. They are stuck in the polarized trap of personal conflict and drama in order to attract subscribers.

Peak polarization is here – or not

Not everyone agrees with this description. Martin Borgs, communications manager for the Swedish Moderates’, said in a webinar after the US election that we have reached "peak polarization". Post-Trump politicians will take responsibility for dampening the tone and reducing personal attacks. People are also tired of fuss and half-truths.

I fear Martin Borgs is wrong. Politicians have seen how Trump has built his own channels. They see that attack rhetoric works to attract followers fast. Politicized media, old and new, will follow and contribute to the mutually beneficial dance. It's a shame for readers and voters. Some even say it’s a threat to democracy. And it’s simply not true. Almost nothing is just black or white, red or blue, elitism or anti-establishment. But the poles are pulled apart. The middle is so thin that it can break, as it did in the United States. Welcome, to the brave new media world

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