When the week began, nearly every major news outlet was blasting a nonstop narrative that could essentially be summed up with “Afghanistan Biden bad.” At the time, a number of observers suggested that the 2022 midterm elections would end up being a referendum on the Afghanistan pullout. But Palmer Report pointed out that the American public was incapable of remaining interested in Afghanistan for that long, and that the media would soon move on to some other ratings-friendly narrative.
Sure enough, we’re beginning to see that happen. Fox News may still be trying to push Afghanistan for partisan reasons, but that doesn’t matter, because Fox’s audience is already going to vote a certain way anyway. But on mainstream channels like MSNBC and CNN, the Texas anti-abortion law and the massive flooding in New York are already supplanting Afghanistan as the top story.
There’s a separate, and more nuanced, conversation to be had about how much media attention each of these stories should be getting in relation to each other. But when it comes to the mainstream media in general, and cable news in particular, that conversation always takes a back seat to whatever is going to drive ratings and keep the most eyeballs glued to the screen.
The Afghanistan War, a story that most Americans stopped caring about years ago until the media suddenly insisted that it mattered again, was never going to be a ratings-friendly narrative for long – particularly now that the pullout is over and there won’t be fresh new America-centric storylines coming out of Afghanistan. Right or wrong, that’s how the media ratings game works.
So what will the 2022 midterm elections be about? When it comes to major media outlets, it’s far too early to predict. Again, they’ll always go wherever the ratings are, because they’re billion dollar for-profit businesses who literally exist to chase the profits that come with ratings. During the 2022 election cycle they’ll end up focusing on whatever narratives they think will deliver those ratings.
In the meantime, the only part you can control is how much work you’re willing to put in when it comes to winning the 2022 midterms. If you don’t want to wait that long, there’s the California recall election, which you can (and should) get involved in right now, and a handful of important November 2021 elections in key states like Virginia.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report