The Media, the President, and the People

CNN took a bashing today. Well, not really, but that's the way they're playing it. The biggest question isn't whether or not Trump should have used his Twitter account, the question isn't whether or not Trump deserves the office of President.

It's whether or not CNN and the media created the problem.

I'm not an historian. And, I'll admit, it has probably been too long since I walked the halls of Old Main. However, I do remember enough American and European history to make some marked comparisons. I'll also admit that I am no journalist, and there is no way in hell I'd ever make the leap.

A phrase jumps to mind: Yellow Journalism. This competitive spirit from the 1890s has been pulsing in the blood of journalists since Pulitzer and Hearst first waged the war of words on each other. It's one of the most prevalent examples of how journalists pushed aside the quest for revelation through the discovery of truth in exchange for profit.

Perhaps, that's what it's all about nowadays. Money. Money. Money. And Trump is the greatest source of income right now. With every tweet he sends, there's a new wave of controversy, and CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and friends rake in the profit. They send out their defense, counterattack, and they don't need to report news any more. All they have to do is keep the flame kindled, and that's what they're doing. I call this the Soap Opera Effect. People sit in front of their phone screens and watch the story unfold. Watch the attacks. Watch the bluster and hype and exaggerated anger.

It's not real. It's fake, just like the sinking of the US naval battleship Maine (though that happened, the story and the cover art was completely overblown). That's the way of news today, in this day of Trump and Media.

That'll bring me to my next point. mudslinging and muckraking. Mudslinging is another politico-journalistic term describing the way candidates, media acolytes, -what have you- rake up the mud and toss it at one another. Muckraking is similar: dig until there's something sensational (or has the appearance of being so) and broadcast it as loudly and as much as possible. Today, it's exceedingly simple to do this. All the journalists have to do is get behind their phones and computers and upload vids, photos, and articles.

They say Trump is one step from dictator, that this is how they gain power. Dictators silence the media first, but I don't believe that's what's happening. For one, the media can't be silenced. I know that, you know that, and Trump knows that. But, it's the narrative that matters. There's no reason to believe Trump is attempting to surfeit the Constitution and create a populist nightmare where he has installed himself on the throne. It's sensationalist. It sells papers and clicks.

What would be Trump's motivation to "take over the nation"? Does he have wealth? Yes. Think Progress. org (spaces included so I wouldn't link that slop of a website) claims he's taking salary. But the NYT (another liberal source, though less obviously so) has investigated and found that Trump is donating the salary he's required to receive as president. He is also independently wealthy. He could survive on his investments alone for four years without earning any more. Does he have power? Yes. He's the CEO of a major hospitality chain, one he created himself. So, what would he gain?

Nothing. Plus, despotism would be very difficult to pull off in America today. It was difficult in 1787, more difficult in 1864, and today it would result in a coup before it began.

So, why the pushback from Trump? He, in my opinion, is using his Twitter account for something more serious. He's trying to get the media to regain perspective. Trump need only do one thing. He needs to excite his base. He's taking a stab at the one monopoly the liberals have held on to for centuries. And, he's rallying his troops behind him. The center- and right- leaning population has always been wary of the pencil pushers behind the papers. With Trump's often overexuberant attacks, he's solidifying the suspicions of these groups of people. He's turning the people against the media and they don't like it. That's why they're fighting back so hard. That's why they're resorting to muckraking and mudslinging.

Does Trump take it too far? I don't think anyone would argue that the tactics do border on excessive. However, the media fired the first shot. They didn't realize they were going to start a war. And this war, I think, they will lose.