Media Incest On Display: Will Anyone Notice?
The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
On the eve of the Republican convention in Cleveland Ohio, a remarkable thing happened. No, not another police shooting. Not just a tell all article about Donald Trump. It is an event that should send shock waves through the capitalist press in the United States, if people were really paying attention.
Half the Democrats and a few Republicans are sharing an article just out Monday in The New Yorker all over Facebook and Twitter from the writer and the media company that gave us Trump, Newhouse, which now intends to profit from taking him down.
It is truly a sensational blockbuster of an article, written by Jane Mayer, a New Yorker staff writer since 1995.
It is all about Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter who penned The Art of the Deal published in 1987 by Random House — a publishing company owned by the private family-owned Newhouse news conglomerate. The book made Trump a household name and created the myth that he is a great businessman.
“I put lipstick on a pig,” Schwartz said in an interview. But he is a liberal who now feels “deep remorse” for taking the money and making Trump look good.
As the story is portrayed in the article, Schwartz feels guilty seeing Trump rise so high as to be the Republican nominee, so he agreed to “set the record straight.” He left journalism to launch the Energy Project, a consulting firm that promises to improve employees’ productivity by helping them boost their “physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual” morale.
“It was a successful company, with clients such as Facebook, and Schwartz’s colleagues urged him to avoid the political fray. But the prospect of President Trump terrified him,” the magazine reports. “It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology — Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.”
Schwartz supposedly thought about publishing an article describing his reservations about Trump, “but he hesitated, knowing that, since he’d cashed in on the flattering Art of the Deal, his credibility and his motives would be seen as suspect. Yet watching the campaign was excruciating. Schwartz decided that if he kept mum and Trump was elected he’d never forgive himself. In June, he agreed to break his silence and give his first candid interview about Trump…”
“I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization,” he says.
If he were writing the Trump book today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title: “The Sociopath.”
Somehow none of this seems all that surprising considering what we have seen of Trump on the campaign trail over the past year. But what should readers really take away from the story?
OK, there is more good reason not to vote from Trump. Hopefully he will not win the presidency. He probably won’t anyway.
The most shocking thing in the story for me was not that Trump is a narcissist and a huckster. That’s obvious.
But we did not know this:
“The idea of Trump writing an autobiography didn’t originate with either Trump or Schwartz. It began with Si Newhouse, the media magnate whose company, Advance Publications, owned Random House at the time, and continues to own Condé Nast, the parent company of this magazine (The New Yorker).
“It was very definitely, and almost uniquely, Si Newhouse’s idea’,” Peter Osnos, who edited the book, recalls.
“GQ, which Condé Nast also owns, had published a cover story on Trump, and Newhouse noticed that newsstand sales had been unusually strong.”
Newhouse figured he could make money on Trump, so he commissioned a book. Objectivity based on the profit motive. It’s all about the money. Surprise, surprise.
As for Schwartz, he told the magazine he was reluctant to do the book, knowing he was “making a Faustian bargain.” But he needed the money too.
“A lifelong liberal, he was hardly an admirer of Trump’s ruthless and single-minded pursuit of profit,” the magazine reports.
“It was one of a number of times in my life when I was divided between the Devil and the higher side,” he said.
“He had grown up in a bourgeois, intellectual family in Manhattan, and had attended élite private schools, but he was not as wealthy as some of his classmates — and, unlike many of them, he had no trust fund,” the story goes.
“I grew up privileged,” he said. “But my parents made it clear: ‘You’re on your own … I was overly worried about money.”
He did the deal for half the advance of $500,000 and half the book’s royalties, generous for a ghostwriter.
“… I knew I was selling out. Literally, the term was invented to describe what I did,” Schwartz said. Spy magazine called him “former journalist Tony Schwartz.”
“I didn’t consider it my job to investigate,” he said.
Timothy L. O’Brien, an award-winning journalist who is currently the executive editor of Bloomberg View, published Trump Nation in 2005, an investigative biography. Trump unsuccessfully sued him for libel. He took a close look at The Art of the Deal, and said it should be characterized as a “nonfiction work of fiction.” He said Trump used the book to turn almost every step of his life, both personal and professional, into a “glittering fable.”
Newhouse knew it was fiction, but published it and made a fortune anyway. The New York Times must have known it was bullshit. But they gave it a positive review and helped elevate it to the top of the best seller list anyway.
“The notion that he’s a self-made man is a joke,” Schwartz said. “But I guess they couldn’t call the book The Art of My Father’s Deals.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump has used the book to tout his image created by it. “The working man likes me because he knows I didn’t inherit what I’ve built,” Trump says, and in the book he derides wealthy heirs as members of “the Lucky Sperm Club.”
I like that. I think I’ll use it from now on. Trump was and is a member of the Lucky Sperm Club. So is Schwartz. So are the heirs of Newhouse, who continue to make a fortune publishing crap that people lap up like cats drinking cream from a crystal bowl.
What other myths can we attribute to the Newhouse media empire? Let’s see, how about former Alabama Governor Guy Hunt? The Newhouse paper in Birmingham played a critical role in destroying the reputation of Bill Baxley in 1986, and did nothing to investigate his Republican opponent Guy Hunt. Then, when Hunt ended up in court, The Birmingham News just made another fortune by covering his fall.
I was the only newspaper reporter in Alabama to investigate Hunt and tell the story that should have disqualified him for office in the first place. He should have been indicted, not elected.
My work is cited in a book that came out later, Secret Deals, Political Fixes and Other Misadventures of the U.S. Department of Justice, by former New York Times reporter David Burnham.
The Newhouse-owned newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville and their online counterpart, the Alabama Media Group, a.k.a. Advance Publications, a.k.a. al dot com, also helped promote and elevate Robert Bentley into the governor’s mansion by portraying him as a good Christian doctor who would refuse to take a paycheck once in office until the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent.
But when the Bentley sex scandal story broke, the Newhouse papers could not wait to jump on the bandwagon covering the scandal, knowing they would make money from the online traffic and even selling their newspapers not many people are buying anymore.
I’m sure there are similar stories around the country. In addition to Alabama, Newhouse won the newspaper wars in New Orleans, Portland Oregon and several other states, even in Cleveland Ohio, where the Republicans are meeting this week.
In my new book, Jump On The Bus, I tell a story about briefly working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in Washington, D.C.
One of these days people are going to get interested in this story enough to stop promoting the mainstream, capitalist press in this country and help fund an alternative, independent press online. I can’t wait to see that day come.
Newhouse is never mentioned in any list of dominant, media monoploy corporations in America, even though they are one of the largest and most profitable, not even Ben Bagdikian’s updated book from Beacon Press or Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s Manufacuring Consent.
© 2016 – 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.