In the world of American politics, one is aware of the importance that our independent media plays in the political process. Leaders usually try to befriend the media, to use it to their advantage as a tool by which to accomplish their goals.
Newly-elected president Donald Trump does the opposite. During his campaign he assailed publications such as the New York Times for spreading what he considered to be lies and false information about himself, later threatening to sue the paper for breaching libel laws.
Donald Trump’s relationship with the media is the most volatile we’ve seen since Nixon’s presidency. He has made himself an enemy of the media, as a part of his anti-establishment image, and, for him, this has been a good thing. Indeed, it helped him win him the election.
Clearly, Trump has been making a call for a strong brand of populism in a country governed by oligarchs and elites. For many American people, the mainstream media is viewed as being an integrated part of this elite core.
In August of 2016, Trump went as far as to release a “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey,” designed for his supporters to rank how fairly or unfairly they believe different mainstream media publications and networks covered Trump and his campaign.
While his populist message seems to be less and less credible as the days of his presidency go by, Trump has been keeping up with the charade of it all. He attacks the media for its corruption and for what he and his supporters believe is total dishonesty.
A strong man’s fight against institutional corruption is what a lot of Americans had been clamoring for in the past few decades. Trump clearly wants to make sure his voters believe he is still fighting for them, even as he puts millionaires and billionaires in charge of key government positions.
In fighting against the media, and making them accountable for alleged corruption and dishonesty, Trump manages to maintain his anti-establishment image, while advancing the goals of himself and his corporate millionaire cabinet.
Part of the fault, of course, needs to be shouldered on the media itself. Like much of the government, the mainstream media has been ignoring Americans in some of America’s poorest areas – the rust belt and the rural United States, both key voting blocs that gave Trump his victory.
This was made painfully clear when, at the beginning of election day, mainstream media polls had Hillary Clinton at around an 80-90 percent lead over Trump. We all know how that turned out.
In her article “I’m a Journalist from Rural America. The Media Can’t Understand Donald Trump Until it Hires More of Us,” Kristin Oakley illustrates the media’s massive blindspot when it comes to rural citizens.
“There are a number of factors that led the mainstream media astray in the 2016,” she said. “But among the most important is a lack of geographic diversity among mainstream journalists themselves, which blinded them to Trump’s appeal.”
Clearly, those voters feel this blindspot themselves, and retaliated as such. For Trump to continue his battle with the media is paramount. Then, he must continue to show many of the lower-income white Americans that voted for him that he still cares.
If the media starts to pride itself on news, rather than entertainment, as it once did, Trump would no longer have an argument, and if they diversify their hiring and coverage, people won’t feel as marginalized. These are key steps that networks must take to win over key areas in the United States.
Indeed, many Americans have become so desperate they are more inclined to believe “alternative facts” than those presented on mainstream news channels, such as the widely circulated statement, by Trump himself, that 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants voted in the recent election. According to The National Association of Secretaries of State and others, there is no evidence to back up this claim.
Trump is right to challenge the media, and the challenge itself has been long overdue, but he is doing so entirely for the wrong reason, and in a myriad of ways that might turn out to be much more harmful than good.
Any American, politician or otherwise, should be challenging the institutional monolith that is the mainstream media, and heavily criticizing their lack of attention to the issues which plague millions of American citizens daily.
Therefore, while Trump criticizes the major news networks to keep up egalitarian appearances with his supporters, many others must rise to do the same for the right reasons, to fight for those who have been ignored, and to make sure that a posturing fake populist like Donald Trump does not get elected over someone who actually cares about the wellbeing of their fellow citizens.