In today's "less than surprising data point" category, the clear winner is Gallup's analysis of people's ever increasing distrust in the mass media. From 46% in 1998, the percentage of people who indicate they have "not very much/none at all" trust in mass media has grown to a stunning 57% currently. This is an all time record, as the general public perception toward the MSM has flipped over the past decade. Is it becoming increasingly more difficult to lie to the average American? In this time of unprecedented economic upheaval, where the political regime depends on just how far any given administration's lies can penetrate amongst the broader population, this may well become the most critical factor in determining policy for the future. And with ever increasing alternatives of non-traditional media, could the legacy ad-supported media model, which by definition is one which espouses the status quo, be doomed precisely by the slow but steady education of the average American, who intuitively realizes that nearly every "fact" appearing in the media, especially that supported by any given political party, is a lie?
From Gallup's study on media distrust:
For the fourth straight year, the majority of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. The 57% who now say this is a record high by one percentage point.
The 43% of Americans who, in Gallup's annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 13-16, 2010, express a great deal or fair amount of trust ties the record low, and is far worse than three prior Gallup readings on this measure from the 1970s.
Trust in the media is now slightly higher than the record-low trust in the legislative branch but lower than trust in the executive and judicial branches of government, even though trust in all three branches is down sharply this year. These findings also further confirm a separate Gallup poll that found little confidence in newspapers and television specifically.
Gallup's annual update on trust in the mass media finds Americans' views entrenched -- with a record-high 57% expressing little to no trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly, and 63% perceiving bias in one direction or the other. At the same time, the steady nature of these views stands in contrast to Americans' views of the three branches of government, which are all down sharply this year. Thus, in an environment in which few institutions elicit high levels of trust, it appears the media are neither gaining nor losing significant ground -- but are just managing to hold steady.
Which brings us to CNBC. If the above study is indeed correct, one would correctly guess that the viewership of the station once known for fair and objective analysis and breaking news reporting, and has now devolved to nothing more than the butt of jokes on financial media propaganda, should have plunged, even as the market remains as volatile as ever, with the VIX currently trading at levels not seen since the March highs. As the chart below shows, using data compiled from Nielsen, focusing on the ad revenue-critical target demo, this is in fact the case.
For sampling purposes we have picked three key segments: the Business Day section, Closing Bell, and, of course, Mad Money. As is self-evident, since the market crash, broad CNBC viewership has plunged by more than half, while shows like that anchored by Jim Cramer, whose only purpose is to get as many naive, "dumb money" viewers invested in the market at any given moment to facilitate the offloading of stock by hedge funds and other asset managers, have lost over two thirds of their historical viewership. Of course another explanation is that with the ever declining interest in the broader public in all matters financial, CNBC is meterly a byproduct of an audience that is increasingly aware it is being taken for the proverbial ride, and just refuses to "tune in." And since it is now CNBC's sworn role to protect the status quo and to lie daily that none of the all too obviously horrendous things in the economy are taking place, the cable station's very survival is now in question. It appears the only hope the administration, and its propaganda tentacles such as NBC Universal/CNBC have of regaining viewership, is the ceaseless dumbing down of America, or the return of credibility of the Mainstream Media itself. Alas, as the Gallup data has demonstrated, this is not only happening, but precisely the inverse is transpiring.
Which brings us to a third point: the alterantive media world, which includes blogs, has never had such a unique opportunity to strike out at the legacy regime. Yet unfortunately, being populated by egos larger than life, who would rather engage in pissing contests among each other than focusing on the one true enemy, and lauding fair market capitalism everywhere, except when it affects their own business model, the blogosphere has demonstrated a level of amateur naivete which will forever prevent its ascent over legacy media forms.
Which is truly unfortunate, because it is only a matter of time before the virus of awareness, that will soon wipe out such propaganda anachronisms as CNBC, goes airborne and eliminates even the non-traditional media outlets. And instead of responding with the required cohesion at this most critical time, various alternative media will instead revel in their own pompous insecurity and stand on the sidelines as this once in a lifetime historic opportunity passes them by, and one by one (at least the worthy ones) are subsumed by precisely the very same old model that they pretend to rebel against, the recent acquisition of TechCrunch by AOL being just the first of many examples.