I was in the gym a few days ago when I saw it: National Enquirer publisher in league with Trump.
Ordinarily I would’ve just rolled my eyes and refocused my attention elsewhere. First, it’s a Trump story. Second, it’s the National Enquirer. I’m no Woodward or Bernstein admittedly, but I still rate myself slightly higher than the journalists who populate the tabloid grubbies you find next to off brand gum, disposable lighters and those cheap mini sewing kits.
But this story caught my eye. David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher and chief executive for AMI, admitted to taking a $150,000 in hush-money to work with the Trump campaign. The story went on to suggest that Pecker had actually helped Trump win the 2016 election by burying stories of his romps with prostitutes et al, and escalating nonsense conspiracy stories about Hillary Clinton.
Arrrgh! Sometimes being a member of the media can be so annoying. I still remember that time two years ago. It was like a never-ending reel of a crack up on the highway that I just couldn’t not look at. And I never look when there’s an accident. I routinely curse out the pervs who back up traffic gawking at other people’s misfortune. But as Hillary took that media battering around election time, I couldn’t take my eyes away; I knew all that foolishness was going to negatively impact the election.
It’s galling to think that the Enquirer had the power to influence who became president, but it did. It’s even more galling to have to align myself even in the most general way with publications like the National Enquirer. It literally makes my skin itch. But technically, we’re a part of the same – very general – group. Eww. I don’t even feel right using the word publication. It gives the Enquirer a bit too much gravitas, if you know what I mean, and none of that deserved.
And don’t even come at me with the whole, “no one reads the Enquirer, and the people who do are idiots” racket either. Even if that was true – it’s subscription and readership has been falling steadily since the 70s, but I don’t feel right about calling all of the people who consume it idiots given my consistent love of cheesy pop culture – according to a piece I read in The Atlantic, it’s not about actually reading the Enquirer. It’s about unintentional but unavoidable exposure to it.
They don’t put it in the grocery store checkout line for nothing. Its placement is 100 percent strategic. We all have to buy food. We all have to pay for that food, which means, we see the Enquirer whether we want to or not. And because we know how to read, most of us can’t help but suck up a little of its particular brand of media coverage.
According to The Atlantic article, “quantifying the impact of tabloids is probably impossible…since so much of the impact comes through inadvertent, subconscious exposure, it’s effectively unmeasurable.”
So, how do you like them apples? I’d say it’s like taking a big ole’ bite hoping to ward off a doctor visit and sinking your teeth into a thick, fat, slimy worm.
But one thing the Pecker reveal confirmed: Media is powerful. Further, anyone has the power to use it to influence others. The internet is fair game for all. Of course, not everyone has the same level of influence as the Enquirer, obviously, but think about it. Anyone can – and does – go viral.
Because you have the ability to use words and images to influence the public on a large scale, you should bear some responsibility for what you put out there. Pecker, however, probably didn’t violate any actual laws. The Atlantic quoted Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center who said the law “grants an exemption for outlets working within their “legitimate press function,” which would include even the National Enquirer’s trademark hogwash. Publishing attack stories on Clinton doesn’t withhold useful facts from the public. Besides, news outlets coordinate with campaigns all the time, either with the offer (implicit or explicit) of a friendly interview or to accept opposition research that turns into good stories.”
I tried hard to pick the bones out of that, but I couldn’t. It’s all true. Gross, but true.
I wonder, is it a sign of aging that I increasingly look ahead with hope that one day change will come, and some of the things I see now won’t exist? Maybe it’s not aging. It’s hope. But I can’t tell if it’s a wishful, superhero Utopia kind of hope, or some kind of hopeful faith in humanity waking up to its own sense of fairness, and choosing a different path.