Media in Trump’s America
With all the discussion on fake news (coming from both sides of the aisle), as well as the claims that President Trump is creating a propaganda state, plus the new development of Trump TV, I thought it would be a good discussion to start. What are these things? What are their differences? What do they have to do with President Trump?
Pizzagate. The event that started it all. Edgar Maddison Welch opened fire on Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in a “self-[investigation]”. What was he self-investigating? A conspiracy linking presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a child sex-trafficking ring. When Anthony Weiner was being investigated for his sex scandals, it was found that a pedophilia ring involving Democratic Party members may have existed. People read into leaked emails from former Chief of Staff John Podesta, and saw code in it the speculated sex trafficking rings. This conspiracy was completely debunked. Yet 14% of Trump supporters believed it was true, while another (significant) 32% weren’t sure either way of the validity of the claims.
So what exactly is fake news? “It is a type of yellow journalism (journalism presenting little or no well-researched news, instead using eye-catching titles to get more popularity) or propaganda (information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience) that consists of misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media”.
The question has been raised as to what is motivating the rise in fake news (which can be seen on both sides of the news media). Some posit it is some form of bias, sloppiness, or sheer panic. This can be seen in the case of the Bowling Green Massacre or the claim that Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Mexican immigrants “filth”.
Propaganda can be defined as “ information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” It seeks to control what people believe. One crucial element of propaganda is that it is a hidden quality, meaning that people perceive it as the simple truth. When done right, you can’t even tell it’s really there. For it to be successful, those trying to push the propaganda must be in control of the mass-communication media.
A new kind of propaganda has seemingly begun to take place: state TV. State TV can be defined as “media for mass communication which is ‘controlled financially and editorially by the state’”. Some reasons the newly released Trump TV is being dubbed state media is that it is run by President Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, as well as the fact that is is broadcast from Trump Tower, and refers to itself as “real news” which can only be truly known when in comparison to the label that President Trump has given major news outlets in the U.S. as “fake news”. This is supposed to legitimize the news venture and pull people away from non-government sponsored news sources to just the one government sponsored news source. I refrain from referring to Trump TV as state news because it is still a new venture and it is unknown what route it will take. But it definitely needs to be questioned. It also appears that Trump TV is overestimating the positive effects of the Trump presidency on the American people. Trump TV is “filmed, produced, and scripted at Trump Tower and is paid for by Trump’s reelection fund.”
Kayleigh McEnany is a political commentator and writer. She was formally a CNN correspondent. In 2017, she was named the spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. She left CNN to be the anchorwoman for Trump TV. Trump TV is made to be easily accessible and easy to understand; segments are mere minutes long and air on Facebook.
In the first episode McEnany, took some liberties in describing the work President Trump has done for the U.S. Many stem from inheriting economic stats that rolled over from the Obama administration (since economic policies are slow to roll and take time to adjust, meaning Trump’s policies wouldn’t have hit yet- but let’s hope he keeps up the pattern).
Hopefully this prompts some thoughts, some questions, and some honest (though probably uncomfortable) discussion. I felt it important to go into state media, propaganda, and fake news specifically because they are not the same thing and I wanted to make clear they are not. Though, where there is one, other are likely to follow.
For an interview with a media scholar with strong arguments that Trump is trying to delegitimize the media and thereby install his own state media, see here.