Saturday, 26 November 2016

How the Media helped Donald Trump

by Katie Sharp

Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump
Donald Trump’s surprising victory on 8th November will have been a shock to almost everyone outside of the USA. It seemed like he was destined to lose- he was a far less qualified candidate than his rival from the Democrats, and a man who told his followers at a campaign rally: “I know words, I have the best words.”

The idea of Trump being the President-elect would have been completely laughable back in 2015, and to some extent the weight of the current reality still hasn’t sunk in for some people, myself included. The same situation was seen earlier this year in Britain with Brexit, where a large number of people (including most mainstream media outlets, the polls and a number of Brexit supporters) didn’t expect the result to leave the EU.

However, Trump’s victory may not have been so surprising to those who have been to the USA in the months leading up to the election (and didn’t have the optimistic view of “Americans won’t actually vote for Trump to be the president!”) and had been exposed to the American media. Hillary Clinton was almost vilified by some right-wing media outlets, including Breitbart (which one of Trump’s new senior advisors, Steve Bannon, co-founded), and most mainstream media described Clinton and Trump as both as bad as each other.

Clinton’s email scandal was consistently mentioned during her political campaign, which is likely to have significantly reduced her popularity, whereas no particular issue from Trump was used against him in the same manner. While Clinton was mainly criticised for the use of a private email server while in the White House and her husband’s Lewinsky scandal, Donald Trump was criticised for such a wide range of issues that there wasn’t one in particular that used as a smear campaign against him (though some that the media could have included the times when he said he would date Ivanka if she wasn’t his daughter, when he said he could shoot someone and wouldn’t lose voters, and when he mocked a disabled reporter).

As well as having his opponent’s popularity hit far harder by the press than he could manage in any debate, Trump also enjoyed free advertising by almost every media outlet in the USA, as well as around the world, as he was constantly mentioned both positively and negatively. After all, all publicity is good publicity. While Trump’s rallies were widely reported, Clinton only received a fraction of the attention in the media (and then, it would be about the email scandal). It could be argued that her first speech after the election was the most widely reported speech of hers, purely because she caused a sensation by not wearing makeup.

It’s also not difficult to see why Trump was favoured by the more right-wing media outlets, as Trump already had connections with the billionaire owners of leading media companies, including Rupert Murdoch, owner and CEO of 21st Century Fox - a man often described as the most powerful media mogul in the world.

So, the media made Trump seem like ‘the better of the two evils’, which may have led to a number of undecided Americans to vote for him. But surely, as he is now set to become the President in January, the media would have definitely stopped treating his lawsuits as minor issues compared to less significant reports - wouldn’t they?

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have been the case, as the news of Trump University’s fraud lawsuit being settled for $25 million was overshadowed by the cast of Hamilton performing a speech about upholding the inalienable rights of every American citizen to Vice President-Elect Pence at the end of the show, prompting backlash from media outlets including the Daily Mail and from Trump himself. In fact, the Hamilton story was often one of the top headlines on websites including the New York Times, whereas the lawsuit was closer to the bottom.

Therefore, it could be argued that a large amount of support for Trump is due to his billionaire friends’ news outlets downplaying his bad qualities, and the more left-wing media outlets’ inability to take Trump seriously and stop giving him airtime for free.

It looks as if history may repeat itself in the very near future in France, as the media in France and around the world is currently giving Marine Le Pen more publicity than any other candidate for the French Presidential Election next April. If you ask anybody who the candidates are, it is likely that Le Pen will be one of the first, and only, names that would be given, due to her being frequently mentioned (and described as the Donald Trump of France) in the media.

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