Who’s to blame?
When the United States of America regains its sanity – when the equivalent of political Nuremberg war crimes trial is convened – who will bear the blame for Donald Trump? Who is responsible?
There will be plenty of blame to go around. Russia, of course, for interfering in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, so as to give Trump an extra 79,646 votes and an illegitimate Electoral College “victory.” The Republican Party, for embracing a “man” who admits to groping women – and who says dark-skinned people live in “huts” and “shitholes” and should not be allowed to set foot in the United States. Several million Americans, who are apparently just as racist and misogynistic as their man.
But we in the media will be in the metaphorical prisoner’s dock, too. We deserve to be.
We in the media share in the guilt for the chaos and division unleashed by Trump. We mocked his candidacy before he won the Republican nomination. And then, when he won, we swore that he’d never become president. And when he topped the Electoral College – criminally aided and abetted by the aforementioned Russia – we said he’d be swiftly impeached.
But a year later, Donald Trump is still President of the United States. And some of us bear responsibility for that.
This writer has a book coming out from Dundurn Press next year, loosely about the Trump era. It is called New Dark Ages. In a couple passages, I try to explain how those of us who ostensibly predict political events have gotten rather bad at it.
“The press called [him] a bigot and a white supremacist, and everything in between. But, to Republicans, it didn’t matter. The media didn’t understand that the Republican faithful weren’t gravitating towards to his campaign despite his racism – they were supporting him because of it.
“…the mainly-rural, high-school-educated, angry old white guys loved [Trump], wasn’t just because of what he said. They worshiped him because of how he said it – the way he said it. They loved him because he talked like they did, when they were in the privacy of a dark room in a trailer park somewhere. They loved that he didn’t use twenty-dollar words when two-dollar words would suffice. They loved that he said outrageous, offensive things, and that the queers on TV couldn’t resist reporting on what he said, and then analyzing it over and over and over. He stirred up the elites and the intellectuals.
And when they did that, they were letting [Trump] control the agenda. They were letting him dominate the dialogue. And, in some cases, [Trump] was therefore literally getting as much as a thousand times the coverage his more-experienced rivals were getting.”
Many of us in the media privately (and not-so-privately) despise Trump, but we can’t stop talking about him. We chase every shiny silver ball he rolls past us.
Since he has become President, the media’s inability to understand Trumpism has only grown worse. Facebook, for instance, last week announced that it would start minimizing real news stories on its platform – and, apparently, encouraging photos of kittens and birthday parties instead. Twitter has announced its cracking down on racists who post hateful comments – but has continued to let the Hater-in-Chief, Donald Trump, to thumb out whatever foul thing that pops into his miniscule cranium.
Platforms like Huffington Post – which, full disclosure, I parted ways with last week, because of their willingness to shield Trump-like sexual predators from scrutiny – don’t even pay a cent to those who contribute to their web sites, and then wonder why journalism is dying. And then Trump imposes a punitive duty of Canadian newsprint, clearly – as CFRA radio host Brian Lilley pointed out – to punish his critics at places like the Washington Post and the New York Times.
What we in the media are doing in respect of Trump’s new dark ages, we are doing wrong. We diagnosed the disease wrongly – and, now that the pandemic is fully underway, we are merely advising a couple of aspirin and some bed rest.
We can do more, and we should do more. We need to re-evaluate the way we cover Trump, and we need to change our ways.
Because whatever we are doing is working only for him. And it’s not working for the people we serve – our readers and listeners and viewers.