Scotland's 5th Estate

Trump: Year One

 

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.

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2 Comments

  • SleepingDog 4 weeks ago

    Should the media cover Trump as a person at all, in their serious sections? Surely that just plays into attention-seeking behaviour and frequently gives in to the kind of (typically valid) criticism that nevertheless seems to appear as bad-loser sniping to his supporters? According to a recent Panorama programme, anyway.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09p5g53/panorama-trump-voters-one-year-on

    I seem to remember not so long ago that the office and administration was more commonly invoked (“The White House today indicated…”) than the individual.

    From my viewpoint, the USA dominates far too much of UK news (and culture) anyway, although still generally they miss the more uncomfortable facts. However, there now seems to be a bit more interest in presenting USA as a backward nation in decline, so perhaps the presidential incumbent’s no-holds-barred style is eroding old privileges and sanctities.

    Reply
  • Jo Greenhorn 3 weeks ago

    Interesting piece Mike. I’m glad you point out that Hillary’s defeat wasn’t down to an outbreak of national misogyny! Some of us felt the biggest strength on Trump’s side was the opponent standing against him. I believe still that she was the reason he won. If enough wasn’t already known about her war-mongering tendencies and control freakery we got plenty more on what she was prepared to do, even to her own, to get the nomination. The pity is that her Party went along with the dirty stuff done to Sanders. The pity is they let her stand.

    It is no wonder they got a bloody nose. Hillary’s recent book asked, “What Happened?” Clearly she still doesn’t get it. What happened was that people felt there was a worse option than Trump. That option, for them, was Hillary. I think, actually, that the media both sides of the pond didn’t get that either. I found the outpouring of sheer rage from the media, including the BBC, quite incredible. Such champions for a creature with a record like Clinton’s! “Celebrities” howling, almost literally, about the injustice of it all. And they still are…..including at the Grammy Awards! There was even a place at the Grammys for Hillary to ridicule the current US President. They’re still backing her. Still leading her to believe she’s relevant. And they still don’t understand that she was the biggest reason Trump won.

    Reply

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