Well now: interesting times indeed. I prefer dull times myself. It appears that it is not an ancient Chinese curse (I’ve even read one theory attributing it Eric Frank Russell and another to Arthur C Clarke) but that’s narrative for you. Dislodging an idea once it has gained traction is near impossible, even when the facts run counter to it. Give a dog a bad name, as they say…
The biggest loser in the last week, as one of my more erudite friends put it, is not US President Donald J Trump. He’s only about fifth in line, if that at all. The fracturing of the US and the loss of faith in the electoral system by roughly half of its voters (a huge number) has to be the most serious issue. No matter what the courts decide, that won’t go away any more than the ancient Chinese curse does. Nothing the Democratic Party, or MSM or Facebook or Twitter can say or memory hole will get rid of it. It will stick forever, damaging their reputations and weakening trust in democratic process. In fact, sense would have them rushing to help expose any fraudulent behavior, and demanding transparent investigations and terrible consequences, even if that means losing this time, because the alternatives are horrible… but they haven’t shown much sense so far, and I think they are hoping they can hush it up and pooh-pooh it and quickly brush it aside…
Not likely IMO. That’s just too many angry people, too high a proportion of the population.
Which is why the MSM are probably the next biggest losers. They’re staking what’s left of their credibility (already polled at historic lows among the group calling fraud) on this. I doubt if any (including Fox News) are at more than single figures for trust by that half of the electorate. The biggest losers are Fox – no, the audience who support the Democrats are not suddenly going to abandon CNN etc. Nor will their historic share of the market – the right and center – forgive them. I fully expect some other new News channels and online papers – like the Epoch Times, to enjoy spectacular growth at their expense. After all, that is really the story behind Fox’s growth.
In third but vying for second place (and maybe they should win it) are Facebook and Twitter. Neither platform are perceived as neutral or fair in their treatment of both sides. Both depend on volume and broad spectrum public participation for financial viability. I’d put Facebook in serious trouble: its audience are older (the young regard it as a fuddy-duddy thing already) and strongly lean toward ordinary people (it’s not ‘cool’ like Instagram) and given the age profile and background of the two main US political parties would put mean that if 50% of the voters are Conservative, at least 40% of Facebook users lean that way. Facebook’s management and laughable ‘fact checkers’ (you know: the ones who ‘fact check’ Babylon Bee and tell you isn’t true. I gather the Bee tries not to publish the truth, but events in 2020 are making ridicule harder to find.) may be supporters of the MSM and Democrats… but their merchandise – eyeballs – who are already peeved with ‘New Facebook’ (as popular as ‘New Coke’) are substantially not. I am on one of their smaller rivals – where they haven’t played for either side or subjected at least 40% (and possibly far more) of their audience to bans and thought-policing. It was a fairly bucolic forum for the last year or so. It has grown like Kudzu in the last few days. I think someone should explain what happened to Myspace to Mark Zuckerberg.
In fourth place are the pundits, the polling companies, who managed to take wrong in the 2016 elections to a whole new level. One of the things that fascinates me as a statistician is the way the down-ballot races played out. Look, it is pretty well-known that these reflect the political identity of the top name. If Fred of the Donkponky party got your vote for President, you won’t typically vote downticket for his rival Rinkydink party senators, and congressmen etc. While Fred might get votes that don’t bother with the rest, the pattern will be very reflective of that. If the Donkponky party does well for Presidential votes so too do the downticket Donkponky representatives. This is historically the case, and is the case in quite a few states in US this time. And then of course there are the states where Donkponks claim to have ‘won’ the presidency, but the Rinkydinks won everything else. It’s a big ‘please explain’ that the various pundits failed to predict as well as being further out this time on the margins betwixt. I’d be wary to base my business and trust on such statisticians in future. And of course their actual value to the MSM is directly proportional to how accurate they’ve been. It sounds like ‘out of touch’ is being kind.
So: what does all this have to do with the professional writer – besides being an unwelcome distraction? It’s really about audiences, and trust, and expectations. Look, break a substantial part of your audience’s trust (whether it is in how you deal with a character they love – or an award they trusted to indicate quality) – there really is no easy way back. Abuse some of your audience… and it’s no use saying later ‘let’s move on, it’s different now.’ Trust is slow-won and even harder to re-win, and a bad reputation, real or not, sticks.
Secondly, as the Facebook example shows, one the biggest mistakes an author can make is abandon his existing audience to try to please one he’d like to have. And I’d hold off as an author working on using FB for marketing and networking. No point in working hard – or spending money on a platform that’s in that situation.
Thirdly if you’re going to try and guess what sort of books people will like: make sure you know and understand the people you are writing for.
And finally, drink tea. It did come from China originally and is good in the most interesting of times.