When America polices the world, everybody loses
America treats the world like a board game. That's a problem.
JEFFREY SACHS: Power doesn't stick. You can try to impose your will on other countries and peoples, but without legitimacy what you end up with is unrest, instability, turmoil and the "need" — quote unquote — for violence to repress that turmoil. We've had, for the last century, an incredible upheaval. Indeed, I think we're still living in the aftermath of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was not a treaty of peace but a treaty of mess. It gave new imperial powers, for example, to the British Empire in the Middle East and to France. And it's in those very places the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in Iraq or in Syria or in Lebanon or in Palestine, now Israel, we have the continuing conflicts. The settlements that were made at the end of World War I were settlements for European imperial powers, not settlements for self-government, not the war to end all wars as Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. president at the time, promised the American people. In other words, power rather than justice was the message at the end of World War I.
So the wars that we have in the Middle East today were played first in the post-Ottoman wars that Britain and France engaged in in their new imperial roles in the Middle East. The United States took over those empires, in essence, after World War II, when Britain and France retreated from empire, the United States expanded its military reach. Americans never like to think of America as having an empire, but empire means keeping political control over others. We generally have not done it in U.S. history by direct ownership of other places – though we've had our colonies and still have them – but rather through manipulating foreign governments, toppling governments we didn't like. Think of Iran, where in 1953 the United States, the CIA that is, and British intelligence conspired to overthrow the elected Iranian government of Prime Minister Mossadegh and to install a police state under the Shah, who lasted until 1979, until the revolution came and threw a hated despot over — a despot associated with the United States.
The point is the attempt to impose rule on others in an era of literacy, communication, spreading capacity is not only immoral but it is doomed to fail. And the United States' efforts to impose the U.S. will in Iraq, for example, by overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003, or in Libya by overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, or the attempt — remember when President Obama said Assad must go in Syria? I scratched my head and said how can an American president say that the Syrian president must go? Well, we did. President Obama issued a secret CIA order, a presidential finding that the CIA should cooperate with Saudi Arabia to overthrow the Syrian government. That didn't turn out too well because the Syrian government had friends — Russia, Iran — which defended Assad's regime and even though the U.S. was there trying to destabilize it what happened, not surprisingly, was catastrophe! The flood of arms and jihadists into that little country, violence, and the flood of millions of refugees out of the country.
My response is a big: "Duh." What did you expect when you try to overthrow a country in the Middle East in a region of such instability? But U.S. policymakers often don't get it because the instinct is: we're exceptional. We control. We get to say who is in power. And read our journalism – The Wall Street Journal has editorial after editorial: Change that regime! What kind of foreign policy is that, that the United States tells other countries what kind of governments to have? Well, it is a foreign policy doomed to fail.
- Make no mistake, says Jeffrey Sachs, America is an empire. The end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles put the United States on a trajectory to exercise political control over foreign governments and topple world leaders on a whim, which, Sachs reminds us, is quite crazy.
- "Remember when President Obama said Assad must go in Syria?" says Sachs. "I scratched my head and said: How can an American president say that the Syrian president must go?"
- When America gets topple-happy, the result is catastrophe — just look at Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran. Overreach of power by the United States destabilizes global politics, threatens U.S. national security, and sets a ticking time bomb for violence and civil war. This kind of foreign policy is doomed to fail.
- Push Past Negative Self-Talk: Give Yourself the Proper Fuel to Attack the World, with David Goggins, Former NAVY SealIf you've ever spent 5 minutes trying to meditate, you know something most people don't realize: that our minds are filled, much of the time, with negative nonsense. Messaging from TV, from the news, from advertising, and from difficult daily interactions pulls us mentally in every direction, insisting that we focus on or worry about this or that. To start from a place of strength and stability, you need to quiet your mind and gain control. For former NAVY Seal David Goggins, this begins with recognizing all the negative self-messaging and committing to quieting the mind. It continues with replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones.
Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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