The Revolt of the Public
The departure of Tucker Carlson from Fox News and relocation to Twitter exemplifies an information revolution in media, politics, and society
Love him or hate him, nobody can dispute that Tucker Carlson had a massive audience for his 8p Fox News show. In the first quarter of 2023, he averaged 3.2 million viewers a night[i] and had long been the highest rated primetime show on cable[ii]. After he was fired last month, ratings for his time slot dropped by 60% to 1.3 million viewers[iii]. He recently announced the resumption of his show as a streaming broadcast on Twitter. Tucker Carlson isn’t the only one to move to online-only. Democratic Presidential candidate and scion of the Kennedy family political dynasty Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running a campaign largely on Twitter and podcasts. The ideologically heterodox journalist Glenn Greenwald (behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on the Edward Snowden mass surveillance leak) has a nightly show on Rumble (an alternative to YouTube). Conservative commentator Dan Bongino recently left Fox News for the online streaming service Rumble. And the Republican National Convention has partnered with Rumble to broadcast its primary debates.
Distrust in media
This exodus from cable news to online is occurring as American’s trust in mass media craters. In 2022, more people distrusted the mass media (66%) than trusted it (34%). This lack of trust and the resulting hunger for information is one of the primary reasons we write this Substack, Ad Astra.
Figure 1: American’s trust in mass media
Rise of online media
While the legacy media dies, there has been a Cambrian explosion of New Media online. The number of unique podcasts has increased from zero in the 2000s to over 250,000 today[iv]. While Tucker Carlson was the most popular TV host at 3.2 million viewers a show, the Joe Rogan podcast gets 11 million viewers each episode[v]. Twitter has replaced newspapers as the most influential disseminator of information and has grown to almost half a billion users globally[vi]. Online video streaming at platforms like YouTube and Rumble have exploded. The amount of free information available is increasing at an exponentially increasing rate and is causing profound societal consequences.
Figure 2: Growth of the online video streaming platform Rumble
Revolt of the public
Before the Information Revolution, there were three television channels. The government and other institutions of authority could control their message through these channels. When network news host Walter Cronkite soured on the Vietnam War, American public opinion turned against the conflict. The “truth”, so much as there ever was one, was simple and easily controllable.
Today, there are a nearly infinite number of “truths” available. Don’t like the facts? Block the account, change the channel, or follow a new feed. It has become obvious when institutions try to manipulate information to shape their desired narrative. As a result, trust in all the institutions that hold society together – from government, to media, to business – is plummeting.
The public is revolting against authority all around the world and there is no end to the information explosion in sight. Based on current trends, the increase in data we’ve seen since 2010 is only beginning.
Figure 3: Data is exponentially increasing
Navigating the media transition
Ad Astra has written on how to fix journalism in the Information Warfare Era and will be writing more on how to regulate the information monopolies (Big Tech) and how to protect kids on social media in future posts. There is growing evidence that the ubiquity of information is fueling our mental health crisis. You can take quick action to ease into this new world:
1. Quit doomscrolling
Doomscrolling the web may be addictive but it releases harmful chemicals in your brain and makes you mentally and physically unwell. Don’t give your attention to a divisive and sensational media that is only looking for clicks. Trust in national institutions is falling but not in local news, community government, or your neighbors. Prioritize these relationships and remember, Twitter is not a real place.
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