Normally we would be coming down hard on the side of newspaper owners in any argument; they are after all running the business where we make our living.
But we are finding it a little hard to choose sides in a struggle between three of the wealthiest men in the world and a news service organization – no pikers themselves for rolling in the dough. The problem seems to be that Google, the preeminent internet news service, has handed the three newspaper owners a bill they think unreasonable. Given their own great resources, it seems to be less a matter of their money than their power and influence.
The three newspaper owners who claim Google is driving them toward “serfdom” [their word no less!] are The Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos [worth $83.9 billion], perhaps the richest man in the world, the Mexican Carlos Slim who is also The New York Times’ largest stockholder, The Buffalo News’ Warren Buffett [the original megabillionaire publisher said to be worth a paltry $76.9 billion].
The three have asked Congress to intervene in support of an anti-trust action to back them against another duo of media moghuls, the billionaires Sergey Brin [$45.6 billion] and Larry Page [46.8 billion], the owners of Google.
The whole idea of a Congressional intervention is not only ridiculous but obviously unconstitutional: setting terms of any relationship between government and the media is a violation of the first amendment to the Constitution which says explicitly: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That has to include subsidies although perhaps at least temporarily beneficial to the media.[We’re not sure the U.S. Post Office subsidies for second and third class mail, although hoary parts of the current journalistic scene, don’t come under that purview.]
Google, of course, is a runner-up in a struggle with its old soulmate Amazon, both going after the broadest markets possible in their drive to eliminate the traditional retail outlet. The internet has allowed traditional retailers to connect with potential customers and express their brand in entirely new ways, and physical stores have become a part of their communication and sales strategy instead of being their only or primary way to reach consumers. Whether that isn’t a rocky relationship doomed to be eventually shaken loose remains to be seen with the retailer disappearing under the weight of his greater overhead.
The question is, of course, what is going to happen to the old newspaper establishments, so long a part of the financial as well as the cultural world. Many, if not most of that will continue to have a high value. But the days when a newspaper — even the voice of official Washington, The New York Times — set the contours of the public debate are rapidly disappearing. That isn’t helped, of course, by the current war of MainStreamMedia and their very personal antagonism toward Donald Trump. Having failed to recognize that Trump was a serious candidate, they have not accommodated themselves to the fact he is after all not only the President but one who is given to unpredictable and crucial decision-making. [He says not tipping your hand on upcoming decisions is an important part of any successful strategy.]
Trump has used the viciousness of the MSM attitude toward him and played it like a violin. If you give him the benefit of the doubt, you can say he has used this contretemps as a way of drawing attention away from his own more difficult agenda in solving the more important issues of government, although how far this strategy has worked if debatable and will be until we are further along in a very rough and tumble presidency.