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What will 2024 bring? Some predictions about an unpredictable year and future

2024 Predictions

John Casey writes about union power, streaming content cuts, Trump's health, queer hate, and an unbearable noise.

Now that we are a month into 2024, and have a bit of a hint for what's to come, perhaps this is the best time to look into this year's crystal ball.

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Given my long and varied background in public relations, my editor asked me to peer into my crystal ball and write something about things we can expect to happen in 2024. When I sat down to write my “predictions,” for lack of a better term, I suddenly realized that I had no idea what to anticipate because we’re living in not only a transitory time but an era of rapidly diminishing attention spans and increasing unpredictability.

I confessed to myself that I needed some assistance, and I reached out to an old and dear friend, former colleague, and one of the world’s top trendspotters, Marian Salzman. For over 30 years, Salzman has released her eagerly awaited trend forecasts that are relied upon by businesses worldwide. Her forecasts, deeply researched and extraordinarily insightful, have provided decision-makers with a barometer of what’s ahead.

In her introductory letter to her 2024 forecast, I was startled to see that she might have to relinquish her title to — you guessed it — artificial intelligence. “In the future, will AI determine trends, subtly prompting the masses to crave or reject things according to its artificial whims — or careful programming? Is it capable of being used to push one trend and prematurely end the life of another?” she writes.

She goes on to say that despite attempts to slow down AI, “You can’t 'pause' machine learning. Or innovation of any kind, really. Companies are competitive. Governments are competitive. People are competitive. And sadly, all are flawed. The result will be multiple futures going off in multiple directions. We live in a time of poly-futures, and because people are people, I predict that trendspotting and the prediction industry will shatter into innumerable tiny burning shards and set little fires everywhere. Some insightful. Most way off the mark.”

Salzman told me that outside of AI, it’s also the rapid change and reshaping of the media industry that makes trendspotting more difficult and less precise. “We used to aggregate all media, but today all media is filtered through a point of view," she said. "I no longer can use CNN as an appropriate benchmark of the news. If I really do my job as a trendspotter, I need to obviously go to MSNBC. I also need to go and look at Fox or OAN. I need to go look at TheNew York Times and the New York Post and so forth. And even within the media themselves, there is reconfiguration, some of which will rely on AI."

That said, to make my editor happy, and to help elucidate you, the reader, here are some of my predictions, starting with some easy ones.

With the writers' and actors' strikes over, and as we watched our wealth of streaming choices evaporate late last year and into the spring of 2024, we may see that continue. The unions won major concessions from studios. That means drastic cost-cutting is ahead that will streamline streaming services that make them more cost-efficient. Major content makers Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery both had steep job cuts last year, and more cuts are on the way in 2024. Disney announced at the end of last year that it would slash content spending in 2024.

Additionally, Moody's Investors Service Senior Vice President Neil Begley said late last year, “We expect studios will trim their use of A-list talent, greenlight less filming on location and instead use more soundstages and green-screens, and that they will trim postproduction spending and special effects." When corporations give in to union demands, what follows are inevitably funding cuts across the board. With less fresh content, Is the era of a backlog of bingeing bygone?

And speaking of strikes last year, not only in Hollywood but in the auto and service industries, unions will rise in power in 2024. All unions — and all political candidates — took notice of unions winning higher wages and better benefits from movie studios and the three major automakers.

Unions are suddenly effective — and cool — again, and that includes increased political power in an election year when every vote matters. Here’s what I mean. In December, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley as the state’s Republican presidential primary choice. Most people yawned. When other state governors or prominent state legislators endorse candidates this year, there will be more yawning.

Most state and local voters tell media and pollsters that political endorsements don't matter much.

What will cause people to take notice this year will be endorsements from major unions like the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, and the National Education Association, for starters. It was major news when the Teamsters, longtime supporters of Democratic candidates, met with Donald Trump this week. That should send some shock waves through President Joe Biden's campaign that the Teamsters and other unions aren't going to automatically endorse Democrats this year as they recognize their newfound clout.

Now here are some difficult ones...

There’s our community, and maybe what I’m about to say is more of hope rather than prognostication. I wrote for our April magazine cover story last year about the history of the Republican Party using queers as an adversary rather than an ally. We all know that is not going to change in 2024, because 2023 showed that LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people and drag queens, are still targets for the GOP. This animosity was fueled further by the election of Mike Johnson, who is fervently anti-queer, as speaker of the House.

When I met with Johnson's predecessor Nancy Pelosi last year, she said that Republicans were “losers” for targeting our community. Her words were prophetic, because late last year we wrote about how voters overwhelmingly said that they rejected not only anti-LGBTQ+ bills proliferating in statehouses around the country but also anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in general.

Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. John Fetterman told me Republicans are "dopes," and while they might be, they also aren’t ignoring these polls. My belief is that yes, we will remain the whipping boy, so to speak, for Republicans, but those running for office won’t push hard to make sure anti-LGBTQ+ bills become law. It will be enough for candidates to say they cosponsored or supported bills like those restricting trans youth's medical care, particularly during primaries.

And they may even stop supporting hate altogether. For instance, Missouri Republican legislators announced recently that anti-LGBTQ+ bills will not be a priority this year.

Other states are no doubt taking note since more and more polls continuously and convincingly show more acceptance for our community, which has translated to more rights. I asked Salzman why Republicans would buck the trend and continue attacking us.

“I think I'm going to call what's happening right now Custer’s Last Stand," she said. "The idea that those people who feel alienated, who feel exceptionalism and that everyone is against them, push back, and they push back hard. The scales have tipped so much in the weight towards acceptance, allyship, pride, even people being able to go through different versions of themselves successfully over a lifetime.

“Because what happens when we don't define family as a father, a mother, and a child? What happens when we describe it as three 20-somethings? What happens when we describe it as a transgender couple? Or two dads and two moms? Or a nonbinary couple? Society has gotten so good at accepting, but those who don't feel good about it are really, really angry. And they are kicking up a storm, and they are, for the most part, aging out or now solidly in the minority, so they’re losing, but they keep fighting with every last breath."

Finally, the 2024 presidential election might not be Trump versus Biden. It goes without saying that we have no earthly idea how Trump’s trials will impact the race, because we’ve never had anyone run for office with one criminal indictment, let alone 91 of them. Or states throwing candidates off the ballot. Is Colorado's and Maine's stifling of Trump a harbinger of madness and mayhem coming from other states trying to exclude him?

No one in their right mind could possibly be able to say they know what’s ahead.

And we have to talk about it. We can’t ignore it. It can’t be the elephant in the room, and that is the impact of the ages of Biden and Trump. We’ve never had two presidential candidates who are 78-plus running for president. Everyone is worried about Biden falling over, but Trump is one cheeseburger away from a stroke. Both have reduced mental capacity, physical limitations, and health problems — anyone at that age does.

Campaigning is grueling, grueling work — well, Trump takes the lazy way out. But nevertheless, it’s fraught with danger, even for someone in their 60s. Everyone keeps bringing up Biden’s age and the fear he’ll falter, but maybe the surprise will be that it will be age-related issues for Trump that will prevent him from running. After all, not only is he near 80, he's medically obese, has an atrocious diet, is under an enormous amount of stress — whether he admits it or not — and he doesn't exercise.

Last month, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon called out Trump's questionable checkup results, joking, “Trump’s the only guy who gets his cardio in by storming out of courtrooms.” But Trump's health is no joke, and all his trials and tribulations might be hiding the source of his biggest downfall.

Then there’s AI. If we don’t know even half the things AI is capable of, then we can’t even predict how it might mess with the upcoming election. CNBC pointed out in December that AI is already an active participant in "U.S. politics, largely in government agencies and the campaigning space of elected officials."

And finally, there’s all the anger, and it’s not just from the far right, and that’s part of the equation that will weigh heavily this year. “I’ve never seen this much anger at the two major parties," said Joe Lieberman, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate and independent senator from Connecticut, told a radio host last month.

Salzman unequivocally agreed with that. “If I can make one prediction, it will be that the sound and fury of election 2024 will be more deafening than anything we've ever listened to before," she said. "It will grab us on broadcast and the narrow cast in our own social media worlds. It will get us in the workplace. It will get uas on the streets. Anger is going to be unavoidable.”

And all that anger can have consequences. “If you were honest, I think more people are going to extract themselves from the process than ever before because they will want to turn off the noise factor and the feeling that neither one of these choices really reflects who they are, and that is going to be contributory,” Salzman said.

Finally, she said that anger, withdrawing, and the lack of relating to the candidates will all be underscored by age. “Within all of that is this issue of the young have gotten older, and the old have gotten younger, but the young don’t think 70-something is young, right? So it’s not just the age of the candidates, as you mention, but it’s the ages of the voters and the perceptions the young and the old have of themselves and each other.”

And if I can make one honest prediction, it is that I have no earthly idea what will happen during the next 11 months. I can follow the news, rely on my long career in PR of picking up public sentiment, and the almost 60 years that I've lived. But in a world gone mad and giving way to AI, what do I really know?

So as the old saying goes, from back in the day when things were much simpler, cheaper, and easier to predict, “All the above and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee,” which is defined as “dismissing the mentioned thing as worthless or futile.”

Unless I’m right, or course! In which case, I'll be back next year with more, AI be damned!

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.