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The Great Trump Show

by Daniel Leisegang Sunday, Jun. 11, 2017 at 3:48 PM
marc1seed@yahoo.com

The bizarre billionaire becomes epic disaster when regulation is demonized, social necessities like food stamps and Medicaid are cut in the hundreds of billions and taxes for corporations are cut in half. The failure of the media was manifest when no one asked about Trump's tax plans.

THE GREAT TRUMP SHOW


By Daniel Leisegang


[This article published in December 2016 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.blaetter.de.]


The United States of America has never experienced such an election campaign. The verbal breakdowns of the real estate mogul Donald Trump ensured new headlines day in and day out. He owes his surprising election victory to the mammoth news stations in the US. They offered a broad stage for Trump's production.


During the Republican primary, the stations donated broadcast time worth $2 billion to Trump. Hillary Clinton received less than half that amount… Trump gave stations record ratings and advertising revenue [1].


TRUMP AS A DRUG


Television still plays an important role in the daily media consumption of Americans – despite the growing significance of the Internet. Public television – the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) – financed mainly through taxes and donations – lives in the shadows. The three large private television networks ABC, CBS, and NBC have a greater range. In 2015, 32 million people watched their news broadcasts. However, the star of these broadcasts has been sinking. Since 2008, the news magazines of all three networks have lost around 16 percent of their viewers [2].


The broadcast station CNN, part of the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), has existed since 1980 and Fox News (21st Century Fox) since 1996. In recent times, CNN has been under considerable pressure since viewer statistics have hit rock bottom.


The candidate Donald Trump came at the right time for these stations. They used Trump "like a crack-addict uses his stuff," in the words of journalist Anne Curry [3].


Their ratings soared whenever Trump's face appeared on the screen. CNN recorded 170% more viewers in 2015 over 2014 in its so-called prime time. Its advertising revenue also skyrocketed. CNN demanded up to $200,000 for a thirty-second advertising spot during the live broadcasts of the TV duel – around forty times more than a regular evening [4].


The drug Trump dispelled all reservations. In March, Leslie Moonves, manager of the CDS news organization, admitted the "circus" around Donald Trump "may not be good for America but it's damn good for CBS" [5]. The money that flowed in gave him great satisfaction. CNN head, Jeff Zucker, also went into raptures before the crucial election night. "2016 will be the most profitable year in the history of cable television. CNN will probably make $100 million more in advertising revenue than in 2015" [6]. Altogether the private news station expects a record revenue of $2.5 billion for 2016 [7].


THE FAILURE OF THE MEDIA


The media followed the candidate to immediately broadcast his latest derailments. An armada of television cameras and microphones appeared whenever he turned up. The reporting was like the documentation of a yearningly expected rear-end collision. Against whom would he direct his attacks this time? Trump knew about the expectations of broadcasters – and of viewers – and obligingly fulfilled them [8].


The stations usually broadcasted Trump's escapades unfiltered. Only rarely did a moderator disturb the production by contradicting Trump's statements or criticizing his insults. Altogether Trump's assertions were an immediate spectacle, the innumerable attacks against African-Americans, Latinos, women, Muslims and disabled persons as well as the fact that he would not disclose the amount of his income or his tax returns. A moderate conservative like Jeb Bush or a Hillary Clinton with practical arguments was simply drowned out in this uproar. Even the rightwing conservative Ted Cruz could only follow on the heels of his rival before he was hit by Trump's method. Trump's destructive polemics offered a surface to project onto for all those onlookers who no longer saw themselves represented by "Washington" and wanted, at last, to show the red cared to the "Establishment."


That Trump's verbal attacks diverted very successfully from his own aberrations was crucial for the course of the election campaign. When Trump was criticized, his accusations and insults only became louder, shriller and more scandalous – with the result that the targeted escalation brought about by Trump dominated the reporting.


A few weeks before the election, a video appeared in which Trump spoke very disparagingly about women. Many observers presumed Trump would win the election. However, the tide turned all of a sudden when Trump openly threatened Hillary Clinton with prison only a few days later during the second TV duel because she deleted official E-mails as secretary of state. What a scandal!


SYSTEMATIC DEPOLITIZATION


Trump is supported in these attacks by more than 15 million followers. An allegation is usually enough – like the Democrats manipulated the election – and the theme of the day is set. Even Trump admitted it was "mad" that "he only had to tweet something, something insignificant, and within seconds that is in the news" [9].


This enormous discursive power enabled Trump to dominate the election campaign and at the same time to be largely free from political contents. Thanks to the sustained media fire, the discussion very rarely focused on Trump's political intentions like tax cuts for the highest incomes, privatization of streets or the deportation of eleven million "illegal" immigrants.


On the other hand, Hillary Clinton tried in vain to pick up points with political themes. During the whole election campaign, she had to grapple with the "E-mail affair" that – thanks to the FBI – stuck to her like bad luck. Consequently, "a series of journalists on television Sunday morning discussed every esoteric detail about Clinton's E-mail affair. Hardly one of them explained how Trump's tax plans would function" [10].


The targeted depoliticization that Trump carried out in the passing game with the media also guaranteed his media indoctrination. He wouldn't lose a single vote if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue - he once bragged at an election campaign event – as long as he put on a good show [11]. This could also explain why the election campaign became more and more aggressive in the course of the months. Trump's followers thanked him with loud roars and the television stations with more broadcasting time.


JOURNALISM AS A SCAPEGOAT


On election night, it may have dawned on the editors what a Faustian pact they had made. To the end, they viewed Donald Trump as a scurrilous outsider, an advertising gag who could never really be president of the US.


They couldn't have been more wrong. In that sense, the media underrated Trump in a fatal or disastrous way and took a bad turn. More than once, Trump made clear his complete contempt for the media and political journalists. For "the most powerful man of the world," deeds could soon follow his nasty words.

At his first election campaign events, Trump denounced the media in all strictness. They were "lying," "unfair," and "only caused a disturbance." He grilled media representatives who were present, standing in the middle of the raging people [12].


Whoever questioned too offensively felt Trump's anger. After the journalist Jorge Ramos criticized Trump's immigration policy at a press conference, he was thrown out of the hall. When Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly broached the subject too often in an interview, Trump replied with the most vicious sexist insults. He insulted other journalists as "incompetent," "Bimbo," "clown" or "as dumb as a stone."


Trump's accusations made a whole army of Internet trolls rise from the dead and terrorized the slandered. After she wrote a not openly critical portrait of Trump's wife, Melania Trump, the journalist Julia Joffe received murder threats and a photo montage showing her as a concentration camp prisoner. The photo was titled "Julia Joffe at Camp Trump." Asked about that, Trump replied "Oh, I know nothing about that. Are you talking about my fans?" He had no report about that. He only knew a woman wrote an article that was "incorrect" and "horrible" [13]. The matter ended for him.


IS TRUMP A SEDUCER?


How should President Trump be handled with his hatred toward the media?


The "dangerous part-time clown" (Michael Moore) will be sitting at the controls. The Republicans hold the Senate, the Congress and probably also the Supreme Court in their hands. Thus the system of checks and balances – the mutual controls of the authorities – will be considerably weakened in the coming years.


In addition, Trump appointed the former psychopath of the website "Breitbart News," Stephen Bannon, to be his chief-strategist and highest-ranking advisor. The 62-year old Bannon, previously the director of Trump's election campaign, is considered a rightwing agitator who established "Breitbart News" as the megaphone of ideologues of white supremacy.


All this does not look promising. Quite the contrary! A critical, investigative journalism – a fourth branch that remembers its core task again, controlling political power – is urgently needed in the US.


There are already the first signs of this consciousness. A few days after the presidential election, the "NewYork Times" editor Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. and chief editor Dean Baquet sent a letter to all their subscribers [14]. They assured them the "Times" would report impartially and fairly about the future president. At the same time, they raised the question whether "the unconventional style of Donald Trump has seduced us and other media to underrate his support by American voters?"

The "Times" is by no means alone in asking this question.

[Translator's note: We need to win over three Republicans and the Trump agenda with all his social injustice and sadism toward the poor, children, seniors and the environment would be stopped. The 52-48 margin in the Senate means the Trump agenda could come to nothing, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing but contempt for life and the future.]

NOTES
[1] Vgl. Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, $2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump, www.nytimes.com, 15.3.2016.
[2] Vgl. Pew Research Center, State of the News Media 2016, www.journalism.org, 15.6.2016.
[3] Vgl. Nicholas Kristoff, My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump, www.nytimes.com, 26.3.2016.
[4] Vgl. www.adage.com, 2.9.2015.
[5] Vgl. CBS Chief: Trump's Success Is ‘Damn Good' For the Network, www.fortune.com, 1.3.2016.
[6] Vgl. Peter Preston, With Trump, we may have got what we deserve, www.theguardian.com, 6.11.2016.
[7] Hadas Gold and Alex Weprin, Cable news' election-year haul could reach, $2.5 billion, www.politico.com, 27.9.2016.
[8] Trump rief auch direkt bei den Sendern an und wurde live in die Nachrichtensendungen hinzugeschaltet. Vgl. dazu „Zapp" (WDR), 12.10.2016.
[9] Vgl. Jim Rutenberg, The Mutual Dependence of Donald Trump and the News Media, www.nytimes.com, 20.3.2016. Dass Trumps Tweets ungewöhnlich oft „trendeten", verdankt sich auch Meinungsrobotern, die seine Äußerungen automatisch weiterleiteten. Vgl. Bryan Clark, Study: Bots accounted for a third of all pro-Trump Twitter activity during the debate, www.thenextweb.com, 18.10.2016.
[10] Vgl. Brian Beutler, Shame on Us, the American Media, www.newrepublic.com, 8.11.2016.
[11] Vgl. Colin Deyer, Donald Trump: ‚I Could Shoot Somebody, And I Wouldn‘t Lose Any Voters‘, www.npr.org, 23.1.2016.
[12] Vgl. Tom Huddleston, Jr., Why Some People Say Donald Trump Is Waging a ‚War on Media', www.fortune.com, 12.3.2016.
[13] Vgl. Katherine Krueger, Trump Won‘t Condemn Anti-Semitic Threats On Journo Who Profiled His Wife, www.talkingpointsmemo.com, 5.5.2016.
[14] Vgl. „To Our Readers, From the Publisher and Executive Editor", www.nytimes.com, 13.11.2016
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