A Canadian Looks South

Trump, Tweets and the Media: Peas in a Pod

Despite the death of many newspapers in the U.S., the traditional media remains very powerful. Trump’s temper and tweets are propelled by what he sees on the morning news.

American journalism is polarized along progressive and populist lines. In a recent editorial, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal called for Mueller to resign and wrote that Hillary Clinton is the real culprit. This kind of reporting panders to power and deepens the country’s political divide.

The influence of the social media has become profound. It favors soundbite over substance, the caustic over the contemplative and the emotional over the rational.

In a recent speech in Phoenix, Trump railed about the networks turning off live coverage of his talk. He said, “the very dishonest media was terrified of his powerful words.” He added, “they’re turning off the lights so fast. CNN doesn’t want its failing viewership to see this.”

He was dead wrong about this.

As a reaction to this event, Matt Taibbi (U.S. author and writer) wrote that “No news director would turn off the feed in the middle of a Trump meltdown. This presidency has become the ultimate ratings bonanza. Trump couldn’t do better numbers if he jumped off Mount Kilimanjaro carrying a Kardashian.”

This was recently confirmed by Tony Maddox, head of CNN International. Maddox said CNN is doing business at “record levels. Trump is good for business. If you look at the groups that Trump has primarily targeted: CNN, The New York TimesThe Washington PostSaturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert,” he said, “every single one of those has seen a quite remarkable growth in their viewing figures, in their sales figures.”

Last year, CBS chief Leslie Moonves said that “Trump may not be good for America, but he’s damn good for CBS.” Moonves further stated that “The money’s rolling in, and this is fun. They’re not even talking about issues, they’re throwing bombs at each other, and I think the advertising reflects that.”

Matt Taibbi (U.S. author and writer) believes that “Many media executives, editors and writers have convinced themselves that the ratings and the money are a kind of cosmic reward for covering Trump responsibly. But deep down, most of us know that’s a lie.”

Nothing sells like the show that is Trump. And there is no President Trump without Twitter. The nature of tweeting fits Trump to a tee. Twitter has altered our sense of public discourse by convincing us that any worthwhile arguments are possible in a 140 character universe.

Brandon Ambrosino  (freelance U.S. writer) writes, “Part of our accommodation to twitter consists in us confusing ideas with information. We have become conditioned to shout in slogans and buzzwords. (tweet-scream). This kind of thought-reduction via Twitter has provided the very conditions that enabled Trump to win the election. He took it to a new level. “Lock her up”. “Make America Great Again.” These were always intended to function as tweets: pithy, punchy soundbites. Tweets aren’t meant to be analyzed or questioned.

Trump’s tweeting is his way of resonating with his base and retaining his political support. The media, by giving constant attention and publicity to his tweets, keeps the spotlight on him which is where he so desperately wants it. This emboldens him to continue to project this image of himself that he has created.

Trump and the media are allies and co-dependents. SAD!

Larry Kostoff resides in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, just a few miles from Buffalo but light years from the USA.  He’s been an astute observer of American politics and culture for six decades. In his experience, having an “at-a-distance” perspective is often helpful in that it can be more objective and less emotionally-fraught than is the case when one is in the “thick of things.”

Now retired, Larry spent the first part of his career in marketing management with General Foods and Unilever. He transferred to post-secondary education with Centennial College and held successive positions as Chairman, Dean and Vice President.  


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