The media needs to rethink how it approaches the Temper-Tantrum-in-Chief.
President Trump’s attack on “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski was so out of line, and yet just the latest salvo in his attempt to delegitimize the press and neutralize any negative coverage.
Trump’s assault was disgusting. And needed to be addressed by Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who responded as well as they could on Friday’s show. “It’s been fascinating and frightening and really sad for our country,” she said. Added Scarborough: “We are OK. The country is not.”
Unfortunately, coverage over this and other scandals remains fairly surface and focused on the outrage vs. the actual impact. That cloudy coverage means the American public is still mostly unaware of what this administration is actually doing to this country – and it’s terrifying.
But here’s the sticky situation the media is in: Trump craves attention, constantly wants to change the subject and direct the attention to himself by any means necessary – and he knows having a fit on Twitter is the quickest way to do it.
To some degree, it’s working. Trump fears an actual substantive conversation about his policies – because he doesn’t have any. But he does know how to fight. And every time he takes another sucker punch, that’s another news cycle he’s managed to steal.
According to CNN’s Jake Tapper (via a chart shared on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter), Trump has attacked the media 85 times on Twitter, which is more than he has used the social media platform to discuss jobs (67) or the military (27). It’s red meat for his supporters, and it’s effectively neutralizing the media’s ability to even cover the draconian and drastic changes this administration is pursuing.
Trump’s goal is to make it “us vs. them” to a point where a substantial portion of the population won’t believe anything the media says. They don’t see the horrific things Trump is saying about Brzezinski; they see it as Trump defending himself.
Here’s the problem: Trump apparently has no shame, nor does the team backing him. Meanwhile, the President’s attacks on the media overshadow substantive reports on the dismantling of the social safety net, environmental protections and services to the poor.
It’s a monster the media itself helped create, unfortunately. Covering his election rallies sans much context, in lieu of substantial deep dives into actual policies and subjects, has brought us to this.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that on Thursday, following Trump’s tweet, “CNN’s John King ripped up a note card and said, ‘Look, I had to do this when I came in today and rip up the show we were planning to do, which was about immigration, which was about health care. … This isn’t some guy in a bar. This isn’t some boorish, sexist guy in a bar making an ass of himself. This is the President of the United States.'”
Absolutely true. But what if the cable news covered… both? Trump’s tweets are considered official White House statements, as they should be – remember, he’s not just the Whiner Leader of the United States, he’s the Whiner Leader of the Free World.
But there’s so much more to canvass – and too many cable news talking heads aren’t digging deeply enough into the ramifications of this administration.
Case in point: When Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, a good chunk of the country scratched their head, not even clear on the concept. That’s because the networks failed to deliver any insightful coverage of climate change during the election.
According to a Media Matters study, the broadcast networks spent just 50 minutes total in 2016 on stories related to climate change, compared to 147 minutes in 2015. A marked decline, despite the fact that it was an election year, and Americans should have been better informed on how a Trump administration might handle such an important issue. (Presidential debate moderators also failed in their duty to discuss the topic.)
Most Americans already know that Trump is a vulgar child. Every Tweet, every statement is a reminder of that. During the election, the media focused too much on the electoral horse race. Now it’s focusing on the outrage.
Outrage is there, but by discussing it, we’re just spinning in circles. It’s time to truly examine the destructive things this offensive man is doing to the nation and its citizens – and how to restore dignity to the United States of America.