Trump’s war with the media is a cornerstone of his strategy
“Fake News!” “Fake News!” “Fake News!” “Dishonest Media!” “Dishonest Media!” “Dishonest Media!” These slogans are now boilerplate in President Trump’s tweets, (still) campaign rallies and press conferences.
His attacks on the press began in earnest during the primary debates when he slammed Megyn Kelly for asking “tough” questions. They escalated during the general election campaign when he dangerously incited his rabid supporters by pointing to the caged-in pens reserved for media at rallies and decrying that “they are the most dishonest people on earth.”
This loathsome behavior continued throughout the month after his inauguration and as recently as this past weekend tweeting that the media “is the enemy of the American people” and continuing the assault on the press at his comfort food campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Fl.
What gratitude! #hocopolitics
In rather simplistic terms, the media, who he assails, made Trump. Because if his different style (many would say absurd) and his willingness to go beyond normal boundaries in discourse, the media took to Trump like seagulls to a pile of trash.
They never let him out of their sight and followed him to each and every campaign event with the expectation or hope that something outlandish would be said that would make for interesting coverage especially on TV, which would boost ratings. Rarely were they disappointed.
The upshot of this focus on Trump was that the other primary candidates were starving for similar attention, and for the self-proclaimed billionaire, Mr. Trump received oodles of free press while his opponents had to spend.
President Trump who gets his information from “the shows” eschews mainstream media except for FOX News, the unofficial media partner of the Republican Party, and also from such places as Breitbart News, Gateway Pundit, and InfoWars.
For someone who calls the mainstream media dishonest, Trump and members of his Administration hypocritically traffics in conspiracy theories and blatant lies. From his assertion that his crowd size at the Inauguration was much larger than observed estimates to the ranking of his Electoral College victory as the greatest since Ronald Reagan, Trump cares little about facts, truth and honesty.
The media took to Trump like seagulls to a pile of trash.
Then there are the fabricated stories he purveys, such as some unspecified horror going on in Sweden (nothing occurred), or his counselor’s mentioning the Bowling Green Massacre (no such event), or his press secretary’s description of the terrorist attack in Atlanta (he meant Orlando since the two cities are so close—400 miles apart).
Why has he unleashed these non-stop attacks on the integrity of the press while his own statements are so frequently false? Anytime Trump’s weaknesses or worse are described in the media, even if they are totally accurate, he angrily charges “fake news” simply because he doesn’t like it or it makes him look bad. Discrediting Trump’s image is considered a sin that requires a strong rebuke; self-preservation is his number one priority.
There is more. Let’s go back to the primaries. The supreme marketer was aware that if you repeat something often enough, it will stick, especially with his base. “Lyin’” Ted, “Little” Marco, “Low Energy” Jeb were monikers that helped destroy the candidacies of Cruz, Rubio and Bush, respectively—Trump’s chief rivals.
Come the general election, “Crooked” Hillary took over, and his campaign narrative was built around that label. Again, it worked, though many other factors were part of the mind-boggling upset.
Bring on the press. The “failing” New York Times, “Fake News” CNN, “Dishonest Media”—repeat, rinse, spin and repeat. It will stick, and it is vital for Trump and his presidency to discredit the media for two reasons.
One, the media fact-checks his statements and tweets and they are often false, inaccurate or exaggerated, made-up, or out-and-out lies. He hates to be called out though it’s the press’ duty as stated in the First Amendment to keep the three branches of government accountable to the people, and the press is that vehicle.
Second, it is my belief that if there are any serious investigations into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian intelligence officers prior to the election and there are findings that Trump and/or his campaign staff were in collusion with the Russians, Trump’s presidency could be in jeopardy.
By discrediting the media ad nauseum, if and when these revelations come to light, he will have built a safety net of sorts and deny any such findings by blaming the press for the disclosures. People will discount those reports, because he is banking that the oft-repeated charge of “fake news” will resonate and the public will see him as a victim.
That may be his best strategy because much of his base will support him and blame the “dishonest media” for having an anti-Trump agenda. Will it work? Time will tell.
In the meanwhile, the press needs to be vigilant and hold firm against these charges. The First Amendment’s Freedom of the Press must be protected for the sake of our country.
“If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press," Senator John McCain said on Meet the Press this past weekend. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”