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Remember when most people thought of the media as being fair, unbalanced and somehow existing outside of the political fray in Washington, D.C.? Those days are long over. These days, the political slant of a newspaper or magazine is practically oozing from its pages. All media – whether it is print or digital – is seen as a way of shaping the political discourse, silencing one’s opponents, and (quite literally) having the “last word” on any topic.
Why the sudden interest in media properties?
With that in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that a lot of known political players from both the left and right are buying up or heavily investing into struggling or failing media companies. Consider some of the big names that have ventured into the media world recently – like billionaire investor George Soros (Vice Media), billionaire Democratic donor Ron Burkle (National Enquirer), and billionaire tech titan Marc Benioff (TIME). And don’t forget about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his acquisition of the Washington Post back in 2013.
So what’s the end goal here? Viewed from one perspective, it could just be a case that a lot of really smart billionaires have all suddenly discovered an undervalued market sector, and they are swooping in now while asset prices are still cheap. That was one of the rationales offered up by Jeff Bezos when he acquired The Washington Post – he thought that he could turn around the failing newspaper by applying his Internet know-how and gaining global distribution for the paper online.
Or, it could just be the case that media properties are a new type of “trophy” that billionaires like to display – right next to their trophy wives and trophy yachts. Being able to say that you own a media property like TIME, certainly, is something that sounds impressive to anyone over the age of 40. In the case of George Soros, being able to say that you own a part of an edgy media property like Vice Media might give you a new kind of cachet with young millennials.
The shaping of the modern political agenda
But here’s the thing – many of the media properties currently being circled by these investors have strong political associations. Take the National Enquirer, for example. Yes, it’s still a supermarket rag filled with ridiculous stories. But it’s also known as being one of the few media properties out there with a pro-Trump viewpoint. Remember – the National Enquirer got itself tied up in the hush money scandal involving Stormy Daniels. So if a known Democratic player like Ron Burkle – someone who is very tight with the Clintons – gets hold of the paper, can we not assume that he will use it to wield some sort of vengeance against Donald Trump?
And what about George Soros? The shadowy investor has been linked to a number of political conspiracies. All of those caravans coming up through Mexico? Word on the street is that they’re being financed by Soros. So if Soros gets his hands on Vice Media and VICE News, doesn’t that imply that he might start to push out political viewpoints that are supportive of the whole caravan immigration narrative?
At the end of the day, it’s naïve to think that media properties are apolitical. These days, they all skew either right or left. So when you see a lot of wealthy billionaires circling these media properties, you can assume that they are looking for a way to put their own unique stamp on the current political discourse in America.