Politico's New Spin: 'Ambient' Tabloids Cost Hillary the White House


The once prestigious Politico now claims that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because of "ambient" tabloids like the National Enquirer and their disparaging headlines.

According to Jack Shafer, tabloids played a major role this past election in favor of Donald Trump. Their constant barrage of anti-Hillary front pages, he claims, planted a seed in Americans' subconscious that she was the Wicked Witch of the West. While that may or may not have been true, Shafer argues that a sizable portion of the electorate – including former Obama supporters – shaped their opinions on the Presidential candidates from photo-shopped paparazzi photographs and hyperbolic captions:

It’s easy to imagine that tabloids don’t matter; the Enquirer is a relatively small voice in the media kingdom, with a weekly circulation of only 342,071, down from the 5.9 million it commanded in the 1970s. But that misses the importance of the constant cultural background noise it adds to American life: There are 37,000 supermarkets in America, with an average of about 10 checkout stands each, and many stands feature a wire rack displaying the Enquirer, the Globe, often the company’s other tab, the National Examiner, and celebrity magazines. According to an industry study, American households make an average of 1.5 trips to the supermarket each week. Every customer passes by the checkout stand, which means that even people who never purchase a tabloid still absorb the ambient headlines, and those headlines can shape their view of the world.

Shafer neglects the fact that the National Enquirer and its sister tabloids have been relegated to joke status in the culture. Their spot on supermarket shelves indicates that these publications serve less as educational material than as light entertainment. 

Further down the page, Shafer gets to the meat of his article, which has nothing to do with tabloids and more with disparaging right-wing media engines like Fox News, Breitbart, and Drudge Report, which he views through the same lens. Buzzfeed, which actually published a false intel report on Trump's alleged sexual perversions, thanks in part to CNN, did not make the cut for being on the same level as National Enquirer.

"Put them together with the Drudge Report, which has hyped Enquirer stories; Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News Channel, which touted an Enquirer story in the late days of the campaign; and Breitbart, which toes the Trump line, and you’ve got the makings of a new, all-American misinformation bloc," he wrote.

Below are photos of the National Enquirer front pages Shafer seems so convinced cost Hillary the election, as if her calling half of America a "basket of deplorables" didn't have something to do with it: