Conservative Politics, Big Tech, And The Media: What Is The Problem?
Been thinking, analyzing, and reviewing history on this topic and I have some ideas as to what the root of the problem is. I also have recommendations for change going forward that I feel benefits everyone.
The problem that many on the right side of the aisle claim is that media and big tech is biased to the left on political issues and news reporting. From an objective standpoint, it appears to be the case unless you talk to media and big tech themselves. They don't always willingly admit to this, but some do. But assuming this is an accurate perception, how did it get that way?
The answer isn't hard to understand. It isn't about the content, it's about the hardware and infrastructure. Conservatives have lost ground in that area a long time ago and have been playing from behind ever since. I find that conservativism tends to be reactionary; people who identify as liberal are more proactive. Conservatives often are of the "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore" mindset. While there are some virtues to that way of thinking, over the long haul it's a recipe for losing and they must change if they have any realistic goals of seeing parity in media and in the big tech arena.
I began my adult career in a field totally the opposite of what I do know: Print media, specifically newspapers. It's safe to say that I have experience with that platform and understand the history of it quite well. For many years I've though that experience was useless, but as time has passed it is anything but. The experience was priceless because I believe I've learned how to connect the dots from then until now and identify the mistakes that have been made along the way and opportunities missed by conservative outlets and utilized successfully by liberal outlets.
There was a time when newspapers were the media. Everything that mattered was found in the paper. Television was either non-existent or very limited. ABC, CBS, and NBC, that was it; there was no cable or anything close to it. There also was no internet or 24 hour news cycle, no smartphones, nothing. Newspapers were king and a trusted institution. Only radio was perhaps the closest competition, but in the tube era, radios were often big consoles in people's homes. So newspapers were the portable information source.
It is often forgotten, but from a historical perspective, media was more balanced when newspapers were in their prime. For example, there were often multiple daily papers in a lot of cities. Washington, DC had the Post like we know, but there were others including most notably a paper called The Washington Star. Philadelphia had not only the Inquirer, but also has the Daily News in a tabloid format. But there was also a big competitor in Philly called The Philadelphia Bulletin. The Bulletin was very popular; my Grandfather was a native Philadelphian and a diehard Bulletin guy.
Beyond that, there were morning and evening editions. The Washington Star and Philadelphia Bulletin had evening papers. Extra! Extra! Read all about it! That iconic image of the paper boy hawking on the street? That was most associated with evening newspapers. Many people forget this. My Dad told me many stories of my Grandfather coming home from work at the Shipyard and he'd have a copy of the Evening Bulletin he'd read after dinner. So the daily papers used to get the news out both in the morning and evening by having two papers.
This format worked for decades, but eventually technology would start to supplant it. Evening papers are all but gone, and papers themselves are almost dead. That started in the 1980s as cable news like CNN came along and the 24 hour news cycle started to build. It accelerated in the 90s as internet news took off and eventually led us to where we are now with smartphones and alternatives to print that are faster, cheaper, and better.
Where conservatives fit into this equation is their inability or perhaps unwillingness to get ahead of the technology. Like I said, conservatives are often reactionary and don't get involved until they're kicked around a bit. Fox News is a prime example, as is Newsmax, Breitbart, and others. They've done a good job within the framework of what they have to work with, but all of them have been reactionary companies. They came as a response to the established media that tends to support the more liberal establishment. So clearly they're playing from behind.
That has to change if conservatives are ever going to find parity in media and big tech. Let's take big tech for example. Companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, and Facebook are predominantly supportive of more progressive politics. That much we know. But it's their control over the hardware that rules the day. To their credit, guys like Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Jobs and so forth were innovating and building these platforms and hardware long before conservatives knew what was going on. They succeeded and developed products and services that everyone adopted.
Unfortunately for conservatives, the big tech people are brilliant, but are not supportive of their positions. They own the platforms and hardware, so it's their house and in the end it's their rules. Conservatives continue to fight for a piece of the action, but haven't been that successful. And their responses to it are typically reactionary. Truth Social, Parler and so forth? All trying to match what the big guys already have and most people are satisfied with. It's like the guy who's driven a Chevy his whole life. Getting him to switch to Toyota is a challenge.
I feel it's best for people who identify as conservative concede defeat at this stage. No way you're going to develop mirrored platforms and hardware that will draw people away successfully. I'd suggest they maintain what they have in the Fox Newses and Breitbarts of the world while the current tech is dominant. The key to success though is being more proactive focusing on the "next tech" to gain parity. The claim is that Augmented Reality (AR) is the successor to smartphones. In simple terms, AR utilizes glasses and headset technology to display data and imagery right before your eyes. The belief is that it can make the world you live in mesh with tech and create a whole new experience. Metaverse is one offshoot that is being actively developed at this time.
Apple and Google are already working on it, and certainly the social media platforms have their plans as well. That's where the battle needs to be waged. Conservatives would be best served to limit arguing over the here and now and focus their efforts on the future. You cannot expect anyone who you compete with, whether in politics, sports, or business, to willingly share their innovations with you. You have to compete, innovate, and get ahead of the curve on things like technology. Apple succeeded with the iPhone because they saw the future and had a plan. BlackBerry and Microsoft were bearish at the time on the iPhone, but in the end Apple won. Where is BlackBerry these days?
So what would it take for self-identified conservatives to gain leverage in the tech world? They'd have to do what the big tech companies have done for over 30 years. They'd need venture capitalists, grants, and investors, along with smart young IT people and engineers on their side. They would also need a warp speed effort to develop the replacement tech that people adopt over the iPhone and so forth. With that approach, they could potentially gain real leverage in the marketplace. Right now they're all about just trying to start a Facebook or Twitter of their own, but that's not going to work. Too reactionary and the big tech companies have way too much market share at this stage.
None of this is easy nor cheap, and the big challenge would be coming out of comfort zones. Conservatives dominate in areas such as energy and agriculture, but in tech they are several steps behind. It will require investment in research programs at major universities that have IT programs. For example, MIT has long been an incubator for tech, and they've developed many bright coders and engineers with the help of venture capitalists, grants, and other investors. Typically people on the conservative side of things shun the colleges due to the politically hostile environment on these campuses. But those campuses are where the research in IT is done, and they have to do the hard work to gain influence in these institutions.
In conclusion, big tech and media has become what it is because the people who've developed it are of a certain philosophy and worldview. By default they're going to shape it in favor of said philosophy and worldview. If someone of a different way of thinking wishes to compete in these areas, it cannot be done by legislation but by competition. In my view the current technological battle is won as far as who has power and influence. The key is to win the next battle, and unless conservatives are willing to put in the time and money to develop the hardware, they'll continue to struggle in these areas.