Saturday, August 20, 2016

Is a TBNN about TBA?

What are Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, and Steve Bannon really up to? asks John Cassidy at the New Yorker. The answer might surprise you. Then maybe not if you are willing to grant what Donald Trump is really good at. Trump is a crappy politician who seems hell bent on self-destruction and losing the election. But you have to admit that the guy has made a lot of money. So suppose that he's already (mentally) thrown in the towel on the election and is instead planning his next money-making venture. I'll let Cassidy take it from here.

What better way to mark the news that the head of Breitbart.com, the alt-right news site, is now running Donald Trump’s campaign than with a conspiracy theory? And, unlike some of the conspiracy theories that appear on Breitbart, this one might actually be true.

The theory making the rounds is that Trump’s latest campaign reshuffle isn’t really about trying to win the election. In bringing in Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, and recruiting Roger Ailes, the disgraced former head of Fox News, as an adviser, Trump is making a business play: he’s laying the groundwork for a new conservative media empire to challenge Fox.

Back in June, Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison reported that Trump was “considering creating his own media business, built on the audience that has supported him thus far in his bid to become the next president of the United States.” A person briefed on Trump’s thinking told Ellison that it went like this: “Win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.” One of Ellison’s sources also reported that Trump resents the fact that he has helped raise the ratings of certain news organizations, such as CNN, without getting a cut of the additional revenues. Trump has “gotten the bug,” the source said, “so now he wants to figure out if he can monetize it.”

Remember that this is Cassidy's conspiracy theory. It does seem a bit like Breitbart's David vs. Fox News' Goliath.

But what if Trump and Breitbart could team up, raise some money from outside investors, and bring aboard some of the television executives who built Fox News? As part of his lucrative severance package from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, Ailes almost certainly signed a noncompete agreement. But how long does it last? And does it preclude him from providing some informal advice to an old friend?

already has some ideas of his own. He believes that Fox News is drifting away from its core conservative viewers, and that, with Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, increasingly calling some of the shots at Fox’s parent company, this process is likely to continue. “The Murdoch sons, aka the Minor Murdochs, think Fox is too conservative, too Roger Ailes-like, too Middle American,” Bannon wrote in his column. “And they have a plan to fix that.”

We can be assured that a TBN (Trump Breitbart News) Network wouldn’t shy away from the conservative, or even the “alt-conservative,” label. It would be nationalistic, xenophobic, and conspiratorial. If it featured regular appearances by Trump, and if it managed to poach some of the Fox News stars who are friendly toward him, such as Sean Hannity, it might even make money. And that, we all know, is something Trump has always been interested in. But, as I said up top, it’s only a conspiracy theory.

Remember the millions who voted for Trump in the primaries and will vote for Trump in the general. These folks are the real story of the 2016 election - as I've said repeatedly before. They idolize Trump and Bannon via Breitbart.com provides the insane "news" that keeps them fired up. Fox, by contrast, is boringly mainstream. Trump's profits aside, this media venture would continue to give voice to Trump supporters for the foreseeable future thus continuing Trump's impact on our electoral politics.

We should consider the possibility that a Trump Breitbart News Network is about To Be Announced.

I'm guessing November 9.

UPDATE: Trump is a bad politician. He's a really terrible politician. Whatever got him through the primaries is what is his undoing in the general. If you have any doubt about Trump's political skills, check out Brian Beutler's critique in the New Republic.

I would like to propose an alternate hypothesis: Donald Trump is bad at politics. He won the Republican primary because he is a bad politician, he is losing today because he is a bad politician, and part of what makes him a bad politician is only doing the kinds of things his supporters love, which can appear to be good politics to incurious journalists, but is actually not.

It may be bad political practice, but it will be good for business when he creates TBNN. He will have managed a roll-out with millions of subscribers on Day One. Fox News launched in 1996 with 17 million cable subscribers. Trump should do at least that well; he racked up 13.3 million votes in the primaries.

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