Trump: Year One
19th January 2018
A year on and the Trump carnival continues. But how should the media cover Trump, and what does his Presidency tell us about America? What wider response and ‘resistance’ should we enact against the politics of the new right?
Covering the spectacle is itself deeply problematic because you become part of it.
Confession: I believed the Gorilla Channel spoof.
Fake News! I should have spotted it, I probably wanted it to be true. But then amongst the madness it could easily have been true.
Today, the president — who appears to have had an affair with a porn star after his wife gave birth to their son — will speak to anti-abortion rally tomorrow as his approval among evangelicals remains high. The level of cognitive dissonance / mass hypocrisy / self-delusion / back watching (delete as appropriate) that’s going on for the Religious Right to continue backing Trump is unfathomable.
A few days ago it was reported – and confirmed – that the president was giving a media briefing by relay from a room few yards away from the press corps.
So – sorry for believing in the Gorilla Channel but … not sorry.
And, yesterday I published links and extracts through to the New York Times (who knew a lack of testosterone was the problem in American politics?). The results are unintentionally hilarious: “Trump has succeeded where Barack Obama failed. The economy is up, foreign tyrants are afraid, ISIS has lost most of its territory, our embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and tax reform is accomplished. More than that, Mr. Trump is learning, adapting and getting savvier every day…”
But there’s a problem too about being seen to celebrate the New York Times. The media complicity in the creation and election of Trump is palpable and outlets like the Washington Post and the NYT, now heralded as bulwarks of democracy were some of the worst to blame.
As Sarah Kendzior points out:
“During the presidential campaign:
* WSJ killed op-ed on Trump’s mafia ties
* Multiple outlets, most notably NYT, lied about Trump’s Kremlin ties and FBI investigation after being briefed on them
* Multiple outlets killed Trump porn star and hush money stories”
She points out too that the Trump lawyer implicated in the porn star case, Michael Cohen, has a history of threatening journalists, and did so during the campaign. This from the Daily Beast is just one example:
And it’s true also, there’s a tendency (mea culpa) to rareify Trump’s disastrous weird reactionary neo-fascism and somehow lose sight of the history of American foreign aggression and imperialism.
Yes Trump’s reign is madness but it wasn’t preceded by a series of enlightened rational benevolence.
Awkward too is the narrative that Trump was elected solely because of anti-Hillary misogyny. Sure the campaign was awash with a misogynistic vibe, of course the entire Trump movement is riddled with that, and yes Trump’s behaviour both leads and reflects male violence and contempt. But none of that takes away from the very real failings of the Clinton campaign, the very real issues about her own record in office, or the shallowness of the campaign to elect someone ‘because she’s a woman’.
Like the flurry of excitement about Oprah Winfrey for President, it reflects a sort of negligent post-ideological sloppiness that’s pretty much doomed to failure. Replacing a ridiculous Media invention of the Right with a Liberal equivalent isn’t progress, it would be cementing the disaster.
There are it seems a whole number of false summits, dead-ends and political cul de sacs that should be avoided. Chief amongst these is the faith in Mueller and his team to investigate and impeach the President. This may well happen, but it may not. If it ‘succeeds’ it will succeed only in getting rid of Donald Trump not his ideology and not the political culture which gave birth to him.
The Trump presidency is a kleptocracy. But to think about how we respond needs to move beyond being consumed by the spectacle, mimicking his means and methods or grabbing at a quick fix populist solution.
The impulse to respond to propaganda with counter propaganda must be resisted at all costs.
To recover from Trump and Trumpism we need to:
1. fight fascism, racism and the far-right in all its new forms
2. create waves of mass solidarity with each other and against all forms of oppression
3. create a better media and new levels of media literacy to combat the toxic paranoia of ‘fake news’
4. understand – and ruthlessly expose – the class and economic interests at play
5. initiate financial transparency, so that disclosure of tax returns and (as just one tiny example) his inauguration funds are revealed
6. engage in movement building that moves beyond a single party or figure
7. create multiple not singular leadership models
8. reclaim a basic public standard of debate, respect and values
9.identify the democratic left as a movement for deep change not continuity
10. create a new story about the future that moves beyond avarice as an admirable goal
Much of these strategies are applicable in Europe and in Britain and in Scotland as we fight some of the same political forces.