The Big Issue : Edition 512
THEBIGISSUE20MAY–2JUN2016 43 delicious donut that you know has no nutritional value, opinion columns are comfort food, telling you, “Yes, you’re right to think the way you do!” It’s not hard to work out why this is happening so much. In a shrinking media market editors are desperate to hang onto their readers. Digital media has also made it easier for people to avoid opinions they don’t like, which has meant opinion writers have less room to move. Once writers could say whatever they thought and if the readers didn’t like it they’d probably be back next week anyway. Now, one off-putting column can be enough to send readers off permanently to find someone else to tell them what they already know. The result is a vicious cycle that explains (in part) the rise of identity politics. If you’re writing about yourself, then how you identify – your OPINION PIECES ARE the empty calories of the media. That’s just my opinion, of course, but unlike a lot of opinion pieces it’s not really one you could have predicted ahead of time. That’s the big problem with most of that kind of writing: the opinions being served up are predictably dictated by the publication they’re appearing in. Whatever your background, be it impoverished striver or silver-spoon trust-fund kid, if you’re writing an opinion piece for The Guardian, then you’ll be writing the kind of opinion Guardian readers want to read. The same goes for the various Fairfax and News Corp publications, not to mention any other media organisation with a brand to maintain. The job of the opinion writer today isn’t to challenge or inform, but to figure out what their readers are thinking and then feed it back to them. Like the race, gender, class and your beliefs – are going to be the things that attract people to your writing. And as they’re the main things you have to offer as a writer, you’re going to try to make them seem as important as possible, which is fine with your readers because that’s why they’re reading you – and so it goes. The real driver of all this though, is money. Opinion writing can be done by just about anyone willing to talk about themselves, which makes it (compared to just about any other kind of way to fill space online) cheap. Like McDonald’s, instant mac-and-cheese or a whole packet of Cheezels, opinion columns feel good while you’re consuming them. Just don’t think about what they’re doing to you inside. by Anthony Morris (@morrbeat) comments, Trump has completely dominated coverage. A report compiled by media monitoring site Tyndall in December 2015 found that Trump received more than twice the television coverage of Hillary Clinton, and more than 20 times Bernie Sanders’ coverage. This allowed Trump to spend less than an eighth of the amount Jeb Bush spent on advertising, and less than half of what Ted Cruz shelled out, to secure victory in the primaries. The media just can’t stop talking about him, and it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad coverage. In his 1987 book titled Trump: The Art of the Deal, Trump himself said that “bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy sells.” Ridicule and negativity doesn’t bother Trump. Like the very best reality TV star, he has watched with glee as his fellow contestants are successively voted A NEW MEDIA sensation has gripped the United States. The first season of the new reality TV show Who Wants to Be Ruler of the Free World? has resonated across the country, alternately inspiring euphoria, outrage or deep sadness in viewers. Starring presidential hopeful Donald Trump, the #TrumpTrain has rolled like a juggernaut through the nation’s media landscape, destroying careers and popularising ideas of xenophobia, paranoia and the merits of taco bowls. Since the inception of Trump’s show over a year ago, the media circus has followed it with glee. Spurred on by record ratings, they have abdicated their important role as the fourth estate, and have instead helped to fuel the popularity of the program, with democracy and political debate the biggest losers. With his calculated incendiary remarks, public spats and outrageous MEDIA TELEVISION WHEEL OF FORTUNE OPINION COLUMNS EMPTY CALORIES out of the arena. Adept at spotting weakness and poking and prodding until his opponents implode, Trump has seen off “Low-Energy Jeb”, a Rubio who was “too sweaty to be president” and “Lyin’ Ted”. These victories were played out across the national stage – a daily highlight reel broadcast direct to the homes of his fanatical supporters and those so horrified they couldn’t look away. The #TrumpTrain is now charging full steam ahead, cleaving the Republican Party in two. Like any good reality TV show, the success of this one is based on pandering to racist, populist sentiment. When it’s time for the American public to cast their votes in November, let’s hope they have become sick of the antics of Trump’s show and change the channel – before it’s too late. by Cambell Klose (@camklose) PHOTOGRAPHSBYiSTOCK MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST TURN OFF THE TV. CONSUMPTION WARNING: YOU WILL FEEL SICK.