You can’t please everyone.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders walking in the Independence Day parade with supporters in Ames, Iowa. July 4, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

A news company in the very lucrative business of telling people what they want to hear ought to be very good at knowing what people want to hear.

There are a couple of problems with this business model, of course, but make no mistake; network news is big business.

In the 24-hour news cycle, in the age of click-bait and advertisers locked in mortal combat with a public increasingly averse to advertising, there is more money to be made in confirmation bias than thoughtful, factual challenges to long held beliefs.

No; to maintain relevance in a buyer’s market, the network news program that can make its consumers feel most at peace with the world and their moral superiority in it is inevitably going to come out ahead of any mere purveyor of facts with no ulterior motive but the public’s education on current events.

But that isn’t entirely right, is it?

These days, it is less about the news networks that make people feel most at peace with themselves and their worldview. News networks have had a brainwave: Invoking outrage gets more clicks.

And as news networks are comprised of people, most of whom make decisions emotionally and then justify them logically, this development too seems preordained and inevitable.

Viewers like feeling good about themselves, yes; but they like feeling bad even better. Call it that contrarian human condition in which we will do more to avoid losing $100 than we will to make $100.

Specifically, voters like feeling bad about their philosophical “other”, their counter-balance in the universe, their moral opposition.

Of which- and this is the thing that all tyrants and would be tyrants who want power, whatever their reason, know- there is always someone.

Some tyrants in places like Iran and North Korea have so successfully quelled dissent and homogenized thought within their own borders that they must manufacture boogeymen from outside; the U.S. and the influences of Western culture must, by necessity, become the great satan.

Here in the U.S. there are so many different types of people, philosophies, religions, schools of thought; no one seeking to drum up support from the faith militant need look too far for an antithesis.

Hence the success of news networks like MSNBC for the left and Fox News for the right. People like being right. This should surprise no one, least of all journalists.

The surprise, which is really one of the big flaws in the “telling people what they want to hear” business model, for MSNBC is that you can’t tell everyone what they want to hear.

In a scene reminiscent of President Donald Trump’s recent falling out with the pro-conservative Fox News, progressives in the Democratic Party have turned suddenly and inexplicably on the pro-liberal media network MSNBC.

MSNBC has run afoul of the progressive militant wing of the Democratic Party, the one that cancels and boycotts, for its lackadaisical coverage of the Sen. Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang campaigns.

Trending on Twitter and endorsed by outspoken celebrity activists like John Cusack, the movement to chastise MSNBC for its failure to give proper credibility to the Sanders and Yang campaigns is picking up.

On an unbiased graphic representation of average media news bias across the political spectrum, in as far as there can be any such thing, MSNBC has routinely, even proudly leaned left since long before Donald Trump took office. That same source puts Reuters as most neutral and considers sites like RedState and MotherJones fringe.

Because MSNBC has long been an outfit friendly to the left, the news that members of the Democratic Party are boycotting MSNBC was greeted with stunned surprise on the right, and more than a bit of mystification on the left.

Hard-line progressives and hardline conservatives sometimes find themselves voting simpatico over some contentious bill or other: For one, they won’t vote for the measure because it goes too far; for the other, they won’t vote for it because it doesn’t go far enough.

That is one of the beautiful things about Democracy; taken together, the full spectrum of the American viewpoint is more than adequate to the task of administering the tax revenues of a largely peaceful and prosperous nation.

But in the name of ratings, and for the sake of ad revenues, media outlets like MSNBC and Fox News are deepening the political divides in this country; casting the opposition as “evil” as “other”; as inhuman.

Do they really think that one side really knows whats the best? Or is the motivation purely mercenary?

In any case, networks like MSNBC have created an insatiable appetite for confirmation bias. One which no network, no matter how left or right, can ever satisfy.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store