By: Mildred Robertson
Donald Trump’s crusade against the media is somewhat ironic, in that it was the media that provided the vehicle by which he was able to ascend to the most powerful position in the world. Trump’s outrageous antics made for good television. And the mainstream media, tabloids, and social media consumed his preposterous behavior like a fat man at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
No one actually believed that the American public would actually elect this misogynistic, ill-informed, inarticulate, racist, bombastic, uncultured man-child to our nation’s highest office. Even the man himself, I believe, did not consider it a possibility at first blush.
So he was entertaining. He made good copy. He boosted the ratings. And high ratings meant high profit. It seemed like a win-win for the media and the would-be-king. Except, he actually became king.
The media allowed the Trump saga to suck up all the oxygen in the room; first choking out any viable opposition in the Republican Primary and then strangling every policy-wonkish pitch produced by the Clinton campaign; a campaign that struggled both with message and the onslaught from Bernie-ites on the left and chants of “lock her up” on the right.
Hillary clearly did not have the charisma of her predecessor; but she was every bit as qualified and prepared to take on the burden of making the hard decisions that are the rock-bed of our democracy. President Obama even established that as he campaigned for her across the country.
Many of us, along with the media, thought that Clinton would surely lock this election up with the combination of a steady hand, and a gender advantage. Particularly when her opponent was so clearly unstable, and his opinion of women was so clearly objectionable.
And then there was that gender thing. It was 2016. The era should have been long passed when a glass ceiling could keep a woman from ascending to the highest seat in our nation. Women have risen to power in countries across the globe that are much farther removed from the democratic principles upon which our nation was built. So who would imagine that someone with Hillary Clinton’s record could possibly be defeated by someone like Donald Trump?
So, the media thought, let’s make the money. Let’s promote his every tweet. Let’s broadcast every speech he makes. Let’s discuss ad nauseam what he said and to whom he said it. Let’s talk about who would welcome his musings and who would be offended.
The media seemed to give little thought to the fact that Trump’s unsophisticated followers would accept every word from his mouth as truth, particularly when, at first, there was very little push back from journalists. So he said that immigrants from Mexico were rapists and murderers…and the public believed him. He said that women were objects that you could just grab by the genitals…and they said, “Well, okay if you say so.” He said that he would build a wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it, and Trumpsters chanted, “Build that wall.” The media broadcast his every word, his every tweet, without concern for the truth or the fallacy in them.
By the time the media realized the American public was falling for Trump’s vaudeville stick, it was far too late. They had already given him millions of dollars of free media, and had catapulted him to the center of the world stage. They had created a persona that was too big to defeat.
Having served its purpose, Trump then turned on the very entity that created him. It is clear that a special mission exists for the media in a free and open society. But the U.S. media failed to rise to that mission at this most critical time in our country’s history.
As we stand on the brink of a political shift that could possibly send our nation reeling into fascism it is imperative that the media take its place as the arbiter of truth. It seems that, after years of granting Trump a free pass, the media has finally embraced its revered status as the Fourth Estate. It appears the media is now ready to live up to its calling to help preserve and protect the very foundation of the Constitution.
That means speaking truth to power. That means giving no quarter to lies and half-truths. That means broadcasting facts and not propaganda. That means identifying an “alternative fact” as what it is—a lie. I believe that we must live up to the Journalist’s Creed written by Walter Williams in 1914, which states in part:
“I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.”
The media was not set aside in our Constitution to entertain us; but to inform us. They were not called to provide us opinions about the issues that threaten our liberty, but to give us facts. There have been times in our history when they have stepped up to that high calling. Now has not been one of those times.
It is imperative that a free citizen be an informed citizen. That is why the Founders set the media apart in our Constitution. We cannot allow this administration or any other to beguile the American public. If there ever has been a time when the media needs to embrace its calling and its creed, now is such a time.