As we noted at some length around the time the 1619 Project debuted, some of the strongest criticism of it came from the World Socialist Web Site, which sees identity politics as a hindrance to old-fashioned, orthodox Marxist class-conscious revolution. And they might be on to something here. It really is tempting to see the whole domain of identity politics as a right-wing plot to get the left to commit ritual purity suicide. (Do I really mean this? To quote Francis Urquhart in the original—and best—House of Cards: “You might very well think so; I couldn’t possibly comment.” I know Steve Bannon was cheerleading for identity politics to take root in the Democratic Party.)
Well check out the latest from Freddie deBoer, who is a far-left writer most often for the uber-socialist magazine Jacobin. First, he provides these heart-warming statistics (from Pew) about what is happening to the news media:
- U.S. newspaper circulation fell in 2018 to its lowest level since 1940, the first year with available data. Total daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) was an estimated 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday in 2018. Those numbers were down 8% and 9%, respectively, from the previous year. Both figures are now below their lowest recorded levels, though weekday circulation first passed this threshold in 2013.
- Newspaper revenues declined dramatically between 2008 and 2018. Advertising revenue fell from $37.8 billion in 2008 to $14.3 billion in 2018, a 62% decline.
- Newsroom employment at U.S. newspapers dropped by nearly half (47%) between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 workers to 38,000. Newspapers drove a broader decline in overall U.S. newsroom employment during that span.
- Layoffs continue to pummel U.S. newspapers. Roughly a quarter (27%) of papers with an average Sunday circulation of 50,000 or more experienced layoffs in 2018. The layoffs came on top of the roughly one-third (31%) of papers in the same circulation range that experienced layoffs in 2017. What’s more, the number of jobs typically cut by newspapers in 2018 tended to be higher than in the year before.
As I say, who says there isn’t any good news these days?
Then deBoer—a leftist, remember—goes on to offer this explanation for a big reason the major media is collapsing:
In the span of a decade or so, essentially all professional media not explicitly branded as conservative has been taken over by a school of politics that emerged from humanities departments at elite universities and began colonizing the college educated through social media. Those politics are obscure, they are confusing, they are socially and culturally extreme, they are expressed in a bizarre vocabulary, they are deeply alienating to many, and they are very unpopular by any definition. The vast majority of the country is not woke, including the vast majority of women and people of color. How could it possibly be healthy for the entire media industry to be captured by any single niche political movement, let alone one that nobody likes? Why does no one in media seem willing to have an honest, uncomfortable conversation about the near-total takeover of their industry by a fringe ideology?
And the bizarre assumption of almost everyone in media seems to have been that they could adopt this brand of extreme niche politics, in mass, as an industry, and treat those politics as a crusade that trumps every other journalistic value, with no professional or economic consequences. They seem to have thought that Americans were just going to swallow it; they seem to have thought they could paint most of the country as vicious bigots and that their audiences would just come along for the ride.
DeBoer has followed a lot of writers to Substack, and most of his piece is pushing back against the mainstream media types who hate Substack because it is taking even more of their audience away.
Chaser, from the Washington Post—for the pure schadenfreude file:
Hat tip: JD.