Quantcast
Connect with us

Why are mainstream media reporters still letting Trump play them for suckers?

Published

on

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

When Donald Trump’s transition team dangled word that potential senior-level officials in his administration include billionaire Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador and former presidential candidate Ben Carson as secretary of housing and urban development, the media took the bait.

The Financial Times declared “Trump adds diversity”; the New York Times top headline blared “Trump Diversifies Cabinet”; and the Los Angeles Times affirmed that he “adds diversity.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Playing the race and gender cards was a cheap parlor trick for a master manipulator like Trump, but it beguiled the media nonetheless. The picks shifted attention away from a White House being stocked with despots and demagogues. Days earlier Trump had tapped Mike Pompeo, a Christian fanatic, as head of the CIA, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a blatant Islamophobe and conspiracy theorist, as national security advisor, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a “symbol of black voter-intimidation,” as U.S. attorney general.

With Trump assembling a regime eager to roll back everything since the Renaissance, it’s an open question if mainstream journalism can adapt to the alternate universe we now inhabit.

The corporate media is still operating by the old rules in which they defer to power by taking each presidential announcement and action at face value. That’s been a dubious approach for years, especially in the post-9/11 era in which the Bush administration boasted about creating “our own reality.” Now the media are confronted by a Trump administration whose chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, was likened to notorious Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl with “sincere admiration” by dead fabulist Andrew Breitbart.

The media need to wrestle with how Trump will be all about affect—the emotional bond and mood he creates with his supporters will outweigh any allegiance to fact or reason. In October Trump lied about stopping Ford from building $2.5 billion worth of factories in Mexico. On Nov. 17 Trump lied about preventing Ford from moving a separate plant from Kentucky to Mexico. Then on Thanksgiving Trump claimed he was “making progress” in stopping Carrier from moving an air-conditioner plant and its 1,400 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. The company acknowledged it was talking to Trump but added, “Nothing to announce at this time.” Months earlier Trump lied about being able to impose a tax on Carrier’s goods imported from Mexico if it moved the plant—only Congress can do that. He also lied about U.S. manufacturers paying a 16 percent tax in Mexico as the tax applies to all manufacturers there.

Trump has not saved one job, but he’s lining his pockets by treating the presidency as an extension of his branding empire. He’s banking on the frenetic action and deal-making making his supporters feel as if the country, and by extension their fortunes, are being revived. Trump will likely bully some companies into not shipping jobs abroad, which will provide the appearance of truth just as senior officials like DeVos and Haley provide the appearance of diversity. But beneath the veneer of deception will be unrelenting brutality carried out by his administration.

ADVERTISEMENT

This is why the media need to revive their role as an adversary to power, rather than a mouthpiece, and even more important to base their coverage on the reality that Trump has not changed.

The starting point is everything Trump does as president, as he did during the entire campaign and his life for that matter, is a cocktail of falsehoods, deception, nepotism, and graft. The Times gets one thing right when it says Trump’s transition phase is “an exercise in conspicuous self-promotion and carefully choreographed branding.” Most of the time the media get it wrong, however. They are eating up the images of his New Jersey golf club with its prime ministerial-style entrance serving as a catwalk for the pageant of thugs, opportunists, and autocrats seeking appointments and favors.

Traditional journalists are wandering dazed in the rubble of Trump’s Twitter-powered candidacy crashing into history. During the New York Times sit-down with Trump, the paper of record fretted he was “unapologetic about flouting some of the traditional ethical and political conventions that have long shaped the American presidency.” But it also proclaimed that Trump “moderates views.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In fact, the Times missed the story based on its own transcript: he’s the same old Trump with the grievances, bravado, ignorance, lies, and misdirection intact.

After spending more than a year heaping vitriol on the media, Trump sucked up to the Times editors and executives, saying the paper was “a great, great American jewel” even as he whined about being “treated extremely unfairly.”

ADVERTISEMENT

He lied about his vote totals with African-Americans, saying he got almost 15 percent when in fact it was barely half of that, 8 percent.

He displayed his dictatorial side in saying his purpose as president was “taking care of the people that really have proven to be, to love Donald Trump, as opposed to the political people.” That’s right, those who love Donald Trump will get taken care of.

He became petulant when asked to condemn his supporters giving Nazi salutes at a prominent gathering in Washington, D.C., telling the questioner, “Boy, you are really into this stuff, huh?”

ADVERTISEMENT

He double-downed on his false claims, without being challenged, that companies that move operations out of America won’t be able to sell their product here.

He displayed an utter lack of knowledge about industrial policy saying “robotics is becoming very big” when in fact it already surpasses $100 billion in annual revenue. He added, “Right now we don’t make the robots,” when in fact the United States is tied with China and surpassed only by Japan in robotics technology production.

Trump made waves by saying he wouldn’t flatly reject the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Times declared Trump had moderated his views, but during the interview he veered repeatedly into denialist nonsense. He dredged up a fake controversy about emails showing scientists fabricating data, which was debunked by six separate investigations. When confronted with the devastating storms that have struck New York recently, Trump said, “we’ve had storms always.” When it came to the science, Trump said “you can make lots of cases for different views” and “I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know.” The Times failed to point out that Trump indicated even if he accepted climate change as human-caused, he would take no action because “It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies [and] our companies are noncompetitive right now.”

Trump is still playing the media for suckers. He may be the new normal, but treating his presidency as normal aids and abets a monster. What matters is what Trump does, not what he says, the track record of the people he appoints, not their melanin or genitals, the mundane policies he pushes, not the incendiary Tweets he fires off. A Trump administration will make the disastrous Bush presidency look like an “age of reason.

ADVERTISEMENT

One step is to use proper terms, such as calling the Alt-Right “white nationalists” or “white supremacists,” which ThinkProgress said it will do. Another is to replace horserace and personality reporting with issues and policies. The corporate media almost completely abandoned this during the 2016 campaign, with the three major nightly news programs devoting a pathetic 32 minutes of coverage to issues.

The most important rule comes from the great muckraker I.F. Stone: “All governments lie.” That should be the guiding assumption for everything a Trump administration says or does.

Arun Gupta contributes to The Washington Post, YES! Magazine, In These Times, The Progressive, Telesur English, and The Nation. He is author of the forthcoming, Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste, from The New Press. Follow him @arunindy or email at arun_dot_indypendent_at_gmail_dot_com.

 


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Trump-Biden race could hinge on how this one Florida county swings

Published

on

Betty Jones voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, but the lifelong Republican has her doubts she will do it again this year.

The federal response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed about 200,000 Americans and forced older adults to restrict their activities has her contemplating a leadership change.

It “makes me unsure,” said Jones, 78, of Largo, in Pinellas County, Florida. Before COVID-19, she said, she would have definitely voted for Trump.

Polls show that many people will have the pandemic and its public health and economic consequences on their minds when they cast their votes — whether by mail or in person — this fall. Early in-person voting starts Oct. 19 in most Florida counties, including Pinellas.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Cindy McCain crosses party lines to endorse Joe Biden

Published

on

The widow of late U.S. Sen. John McCain plans to endorse Joe Biden on Wednesday, giving the former vice president another boost from a prominent Republican.Biden leaked Cindy McCain’s political plans during a fundraising call Tuesday evening.“Maybe I shouldn’t say it,” Biden told campaign donors, “but I’m about to go on one of these Zooms with John McCain’s wife, who is first time ever, is endorsing me.”The last straw for McCain was a report from The Atlantic saying Trump told staff that American soldiers killed in combat were “suckers” and “losers,” according to Biden.“Because of what he talk... (more…)

Continue Reading
 

2020 Election

‘They’ll get away with it’: Strategist explains how GOP federal judges will help Trump steal election

Published

on

President Donald Trump will remain in power if he narrowly loses the 2020 presidential election, with conservative judges poised to help him "steal" the election, a longtime Democratic Party strategist warned on Tuesday.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed James Carville about the Supreme Court vacancy and how it could impact any legal wrangling about counting the votes.

"James, that's a pretty neat trick, the president is gaslighting out in advance voter fraud that he is promoting, ergo the need for nine justices on the court, which doesn't exist in law. The court has functioned just fine with eight during times of a death or a recusal," Williams noted. "Be that as it may, if Trump fills this seat before the election, in your view, how does that change the dynamic of the election?"

Continue Reading
 
 
Democracy is in peril. Invest in progressive news. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free. LEARN MORE