The Media: 1770 and 2016 – Part 2

Published: January 11, 2017

By Jim Lichtman
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In his 1997 introduction to his screenplay, All the President’s Men, writer William Goldman makes this prescient observation.

“The scariest thing about hype today is this: as the hype artists get more and more skilled, and they are, pretty soon hype is going to be accepted as truth.”


“If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?” — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016

Like the many misrepresentations in the “Boston Massacre” broadside, as discussed on Monday, this statement is false. However, due to Mr. Trump’s preternatural tendencies toward hype and the fact that he is the president-elect, his statements are accepted by many as true.

In a brief meeting with the press outside his Florida estate on New Year’s Eve, Trump continued to challenge the U.S. intelligence community regarding their assertion that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election. “I just want them to be sure,” Trump said, “because it’s a pretty serious charge. I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. And,” he added…

…well, I’ll come back to this, later.

But, first, let me discuss the other media, the mainstream media – print, broadcast and digital.

The success of Donald Trump will be analyzed for years to come. And while there were many parts to his success, the media underestimated his considerable skill in tapping into the anger and unrest by a decisive segment of the population. While much of the media viewed Trump as an empty suit who talked about building walls and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, a very vocal and motivated segment of the electorate saw someone who spoke for them.

Doris Crandell, 60, OH: “Even though Trump seemed arrogant and loud mouthed, when he said it, I believed it, and I think he’ll back everything he said.”

Mike Cuomo, 57, NY: “The thing that appeals to me about Donald Trump is he is a political outsider, and he has succeeded at something; He’s succeeded at running something. He runs his own companies. Granted, he’s been bankrupt a number of times but he’s worth about $8 billion.”

Don Knight, 60, AL: “…I like the idea of securing the borders. I like his idea of building the wall.”

Michael Akiyama, 75, HI: “What I like about him is that he calls it like it is. He’s going to say what he thinks, whether he offends anybody or not.”

These are just a small sampling, by USA Today, of voices from across the country that clearly spoke to the belief that Donald Trump is someone they can trust to lead America in the right direction; someone who has the business acumen and “calls it like it is” rhetoric that appeals to followers.

Even though fact-checkers unanimously agreed that Trump had the worst record of telling the truth of any modern day politician, many supporters looked upon these fact nerds as a part of a “politically correct” system pushing an agenda.

So, how did the mainstream media miss these voices?

While they did offer sporadic field reports from Trump supporters, the media placed more emphasis on the bombast and hype coming from Trump and far too little on the issues. In effect, the media marginalized much of the Trump supporters. It also didn’t help when Trump, himself, would stand in front of a rally of thousands and regularly refer to the “dishonest” “lying” media.

However, as The New Yorker magazine pointed out (Sept. 28, 2016), “The irony of Donald Trump’s relationship with the press is that, while he has spent his entire campaign complaining bitterly about it, he has also sopped up more media attention than arguably any Presidential candidate in history.

“According to Andrew Tyndall, of the Tyndall Report, which tracks broadcast news,” the magazine said, “Trump received, in the period from January 1st to Labor Day, a combined eight hundred and twenty-two minutes [emphasis added] of screen time on the nightly news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Hillary Clinton received three hundred and eighty-six minutes [emphasis added] —and nearly ninety of her minutes were devoted to the controversy over the private e-mail server she used while Secretary of State.”

The impact on voters was clear. According to Gallup, “Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. Republicans,” Gallup emphasized, “fuel[ed] the drop in media trust.”

The mainstream media, thinking they were serving the public, constantly repeated Trump’s disparaging comments in the belief that such comments would never clear the bar of what’s acceptable for a presidential candidate.

They were wrong.

In taking themselves to task, New York Times’ journalists Jim Rutenberg, Maggie Haberman and  Nicholas Confessore weighed-in.

“What we now know is that a huge part of the country is far more upset about the ills that he [Trump] was pointing to and promising to fix than any of the flaws that we were pointing out about him as a candidate,” Mr. Rutenberg said.

“Fundamentally Clinton, as it turns out, was the worst candidate Democrats could have run — which is kind of ironic since the field was cleared for her back in 2013,” Ms. Haberman says.”

“ ‘It’s impossible to look at Trump and not see that he captured the votes of people who thought of Obama as an alien, as “other,” as something un-American,’ Mr. Confessore says. ‘And some of those people are racist — it’s just a fact,’ he added. ‘We could see it in social media, we could see it at rallies, we could see it from Trump himself in the way that he pursued this Birtherism lie for years on end.’ ”

However, in spite of all the hype, and untruths, enough Trump supporters didn’t care what he said or even what he talked about doing to women in an Access Hollywood video released a month before the election. Billy Bush, the host who interviewed Trump at the time, was fired from his job on NBC’s Today Show because of the video. Trump, however, was Teflon.

But I want to return to social media, because, in the end, I believe it played a much larger part in electing Donald Trump than anything else. And that’s the concluding part to this series.


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