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Yes, The Media Spent The Election Teaching Americans How To Love A Dictator

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Yes, The Media Spent The Election Teaching Americans How To Love A Dictator

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Trump, Dictator, Media

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

For a majority of Americans, feeling traumatized and terrified are reasonable responses to the words “President-elect Donald Trump.” But even if his inauguration marks the demise of the star-spangled mythos we grew up on, being catatonic is no way to spend the next four years, especially if we’re lucky enough to survive, oh, a nuclear war. But acceptance of Trump—acceptance is the last of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of dealing with death—is hardly chicken soup for our souls. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, Trump: That can’t be the best we can do.

Why not love? Those thousands at Trump’s rallies, those millions who voted for him: Many of them do seem to love him. Well, maybe the rest of us can, too!

Impossible? Recall what the Queen of Hearts told Alice when she said it was impossible to believe that the queen was 101 years old: Believing impossible things takes practice. “When I was your age,” the queen said, “I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Try it. (1) Trump won an electoral college landslide. (2) Trump won the popular vote. (3) Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil are the best friends of forgotten Americans. (4) No one has more respect for women than Donald Trump. (5) Mexico will pay for the wall. (6) Up is down, black is white and day is night.

Facts getting in the way of that? That’s why post-truthers have more fun. But put in half-an-hour a day, and by Inauguration Day you’ll be believing every word that comes out of Kellyanne Conway’s mouth.

No? So what’s your real problem with Trump? The gilt? Get over it.

From Beverly Hills to Short Hills, there are taste tribes for whom there’s no such thing as too much gold leaf, gold paint or bling. As a 12-year-old, I was fully complicit in my mother’s choice of a “conversation piece” for the gold-carpeted living room of our new suburban split level, a tower of three “antiqued” gold cherubs with a jeweled lampshade sprouting from the forehead of the chubby child on top. If gilt like that was regal enough for Kaplans, surely it’s fitting for our 21st-century roi soleil, so please park the snark when the new White House decorator goes a little Versailles on us.

Or is the problem the guilt? You can get over that, too.

You watch “Say Yes to the Dress,” don’t you? “Real Housewives of Atlanta”? You keep up with the Kardashians? Like those nominally unscripted soaps, the Trump Show is a guilty pleasure, too digital junk food, political empty calories, the “reality” formerly known as reality. Trump’s hat may say “Make America Great Again,” but his meta-hat says, Let me entertain you. The twitter taunts, the billionaire boys club, the mayhem at rallies, the humiliated rivals, the insulted, dishonest media: As Russell Crowe asks in “Gladiator,” “Are you not entertained?”

Look at the promotional campaign MSNBC is running for its anchors. The print ad features a tight close-up of Trump’s face. The text reads, “What will he do?” Beneath that, “What won’t he do?” And beneath that, an indictment not of him, but of us: “This is why you watch.” At the bottom, flanked by photos of its anchors, are the MSNBC logo and a tag line: “This is who we are.” New York magazine writer Joe Hagan tweeted about it, “This ad nails everything that is wrong with the media. Fascism as ratings spectacle.” If you grieve over the audience’s addiction to disaster porn, if you mourn the news-as-entertainment business model that fostered it, then you’re bound to feel guilty about watching, and you’ve got a rough ride ahead. But if, instead, you treat boredom like a fate worse than tyranny, if you medicate civic ADHD with always-breaking BREAKING NEWS, if you mistake engagement with social media for actual citizen participation, you’re gonna rock these next four years.

Trump voters love the rupture with the American political narrative that he ran on. But if the popular vote is any guide to the country’s mood, I suspect that fear of the future is now more widespread than exhilaration that anything can happen. The truth is that no one has a clue what’s next. That’s not fun; it’s frightening.

The next commander-in-chief is an impulsive, deceitful, corrupt, intellectually lazy megalomaniac. That’s a delicious character disorder for the villain of a comic book, and it’s ideally suited to a news industry whose audience is addicted to melodrama and whose narrative technique maximizes suspense, surprise and dread. Though horror is a thrilling genre, and real-time tension is irresistible to our animal appetites, there’s no guarantee that the scary story we’re living through will have a happy ending.

“This is why you watch.” Really? To torture ourselves wondering how bad things can get? To have a front row seat for the last days of American democracy?

There’s an awesome opportunity that responsible journalism can rise to right now. The repeal of Obamacare begs to be framed not as a retributive power struggle between political parties, but as a moral struggle for a diverse people to define a good society. Climate change cries out to be covered not as a farce about ignorance, but as an epic about the survival of our species. Explaining economic policy requires risky honesty from the media about inequality, and a fearless, patient commitment to educating its audiences. That’s not the same as keeping the country watching by keeping it on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

An avalanche of coverage of the first 100 days of Trump is imminent. How will the media do? We know how brilliantly they did covering the primaries and the general. They made a lot of dough doing it. It’s wishful thinking, I know, but imagine if there were a different yardstick for how well they tell the next part of the story. That would really be something to love.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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28 Comments

  1. Godzilla December 28, 2016

    Keep crying Snowflakes, keep crying!

    Reply
    1. Thoughtopsy December 28, 2016

      How are those Trump election promises going, oh conned one?

      Lets see:
      – Drain the Swamp – broken by hiring the swamp.
      – Get Tough on Wall Street – broken laughably.
      – Deport the illegals – broken in Trumps own words.
      – Lock her up – broken in Trumps own words.
      – Build the Wall – Pending but highly likely to be broken.

      Wow four of the biggest already turned out to be lies and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet….
      We warned you.

      Feeling like a gullible hick yet, pinhead?

    2. FireBaron December 29, 2016

      Actually, none of us are crying. We are waiting for you to realize you just hired the weasels to guard the hen house.

      1. The lucky one December 29, 2016

        You will wait a long time for that. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    3. timmfr30 December 29, 2016

      i cry for your ignorance

    1. Thoughtopsy December 28, 2016

      Could you be stupider?
      Point to one instance of Democrat corruption in the Obama Administration.
      And I’ll do the same for Bush the Dumber.
      Then we’ll keep going.

      Or we can do the same with Trump and Hillary…

      Who do you think will run out of corruption first, dumbass?

      You probably also buy into that Bullsh!t about Republicans being the “Fiscally Conservative” party and best for “Growth”… Because I suspect you don’t let actual facts into your skull and haven’t actually looked at the statistics of how Democratic Administrations have had to clean up the messes of their Republican Predecessors.

      That might require you to make room by throwing away some of the stupid.

      1. leonardo311 December 29, 2016

        Afraid the Stupid will never be thrown away.

        The “corruption” of the Dems is all made up garbage that despite numerous witch hunts, ah Congressional hearings found no basis or truth to the made up “corruption charges”, but as the saying goes . . . “a lie gets half way around the world, before the truth gets its pants on”

        The DAs like our friend Godzilla hear the lie, because it is what they want to hear and nothing will displace the lie once it is embedded in the vast void between their ears.

        1. Thoughtopsy January 3, 2017

          You’re probably right.

          Awww… I think DumbZilla has blocked me… He doesn’t write… he doesn’t call….
          Obviously my questions got way too inconvenient.

          Win!

    2. timmfr30 December 29, 2016

      a simple picture from a simple mind…sad

  2. sigrid28 December 28, 2016

    How will media outlets do more than cash in on the Trump sideshow? Kaplan’s goals set a worthy and high mark. I’d be happy if these outlets would just find a way to break Trump of using Twitter.
    Once in office, Trump’s penchant for using Twitter will completely undermine the perception of truthfulness when the POTUS speaks from the White House. Hearing CNN, Fox, and MSNBC citing Trump’s tweets and watching these tweets crawl across the bottom of the television screen will not, I’m afraid, give his Twitter commentary the weight of truth that comes with press conferences by invitation, where questions can be asked to clarify information and assure accuracy in reporting.

    Finally, besides reading reputable print journalism, which still exists, I plan to watch C-Span instead to see what really happens on the floors of the House and Senate and at hearings. If there are any press conferences, C-Span will cover them. Already the Republicans are trying to limit televization of proceedings, legislation that we should all hope will fail. Our local cable channel shows city council meetings, which are also well worth watching and more trustworthy than what is reported in the local paper, though I will still subscribe to it, just to keep local print media alive. But for most political information, in this climate, I won’t believe anything unless I’ve seen well-written documentation in two reputable sources, researched it myself, or seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears.
    Finally, besides reading reputable print journalism, which still exists, I plan to watch C-Span instead to see what really happens on the floors of the House and Senate and at hearings. If there are any press conferences, C-Span will cover them. Already the Republicans are trying to limit televization of proceedings, legislation that we should all hope will fail. Our local cable channel shows city council meetings, which are also well worth watching and more trustworthy than what is reported in the local paper, though I will still subscribe to it, just to keep local print media alive. But for most political information, in this climate, I won’t believe anything unless I’ve seen well-written documentation in two reputable sources, researched it myself, or seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears.
    Finally, besides reading reputable print journalism, which still exists, I plan to watch C-Span instead to see what really happens on the floors of the House and Senate and at hearings. If there are any press conferences, C-Span will cover them. Already the Republicans are trying to limit televization of proceedings, legislation that we should all hope will fail. Our local cable channel shows city council meetings, which are also well worth watching and more trustworthy than what is reported in the local paper, though I will still subscribe to it, just to keep local print media alive. But for most political information, in this climate, I won’t believe anything unless I’ve seen well-written documentation in two reputable sources, researched it myself, or seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears.

    Finally, besides reading reputable print journalism, which still exists, I plan to watch C-Span instead to see what really happens on the floors of the House and Senate and at hearings. If there are any press conferences, C-Span will cover them. Already the Republicans are trying to limit televization of proceedings, legislation that we should all hope will fail. Our local cable channel shows city council meetings, which are also well worth watching and more trustworthy than what is reported in the local paper, though I will still subscribe to it, just to keep local print media alive. But for most political information, in this climate, I won’t believe anything unless I’ve seen well-written documentation in two reputable sources, researched it myself, or seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears.

    Finally, besides reading reputable print journalism, which still exists, I plan to watch C-Span instead to see what really happens on the floors of the House and Senate and at hearings. If there are any press conferences, C-Span will cover them. Already the Republicans are trying to limit televization of proceedings, legislation that we should all hope will fail. Our local cable channel shows city council meetings, which are also well worth watching and more trustworthy than what is reported in the local paper, though I will still subscribe to it, just to keep local print media alive. But for most political information, in this climate, I won’t believe anything unless I’ve seen well-written documentation in two reputable sources, researched it myself, or seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears.

    Reply
    1. dbtheonly December 29, 2016

      Not sure why you’re so set against Trump Tweets.

      They are Trump’s attempts to frame the narrative and insure his message gets through to his followers, and their followers, and their followers. It’s the Volkischer Beobacher in 140 characters or less. We know the source, we know the goal.

      1. sigrid28 December 29, 2016

        Trump’s knee-jerk reactions on Twitter are often like crying “Fire” in a crowded theater, in terms of how other world leaders may react to this stream of consciousness. I agree about the racist content in Trump’s Twitterfeed, but I don’t see any evidence of a goal–on his part–beyond receiving attention. It’s oddly apolitical and all about show business, like his appearance yesterday with Don King. My sense of it is that the one with the far-reaching goal is Steve Bannon, who seems to be pulling the strings now and then. It is impossible to know whether Trump writes his own tweets or not. But if he is forced to use traditional means of expressing the opinions of his administration–speeches and press conference–the majority who did not vote for Trump will have a better chance of opposing him and setting up an effective resistance. It’s hard to fight a giant piece of fluff, as we are seeing: How do you know when you win?

        1. dbtheonly December 29, 2016

          You call it receiving attention, I call it controlling the message. I see a small but significant difference. Call it receiving the “right” attention, & we’re in agreement.

          “he is forced to use traditional means…”

          Since when has Trump ever been forced to do anything?

          And how would you do that anyhow?

          1. sigrid28 December 29, 2016

            Such good questions. Your replies point to how I am just beginning to see the problem of confronting the Trump administration and how the press will be challenged by covering it. Laurence O’Donnell just interviewed the author of the piece I link to below, which gives much better guidance than mine on how the press needs to change its ways to cover Trump.
            http://pressthink.org/2016/12/winter-coming-prospects-american-press-trump/

          2. dbtheonly December 30, 2016

            Read the article. Thanks.

            But I’m looking at the issue in the other direction. It’s Trump’s, and the RWMO’s, goal to control the access, and to control the message. Trump can’t be forced to utilize “the Media” as his very goal is to render it obsolete.

            Another small quibble, though you may have me on this one.
            Winter isn’t coming. Winter is here.

          3. sigrid28 December 30, 2016

            Keep up those quibbles! It is the winter of our discontent, and we shall need them to keep warm.

            I would be remiss if I did not first acknowledge your POV. Without trying to wiggle out of doing so (and in a full-throated concession), I would first like to say that Trump’s refusal to be beholden to the media smacks of Reince Priebus during the Romney campaign, when he declared that the candidate was not obliged “to be beholden to fact-checkers.” Your position, that Trump’s goal is to do away with the role of the press as we know it, turns out to be my starting point (unbeknownst to me).

            One quibble: I’m still concerned about Trump’s seeming oblivion with respect to what is expected of him. Is it your position that he is sly and only putting on this imbecile behavior, or that he is just the puppet of the band of weasels he has assembled around him?

          4. dbtheonly December 30, 2016

            Does winter start on Jan 21st, or has it started now?

            I’m not sure one can ascribe any values to Trump. More than any leader since the 1940s, Trump’s indomitable will seems to remake reality. Puppet of the weasels? Decidedly not. The weasels think they own him. How many times has that been thought and proven wrong?

            I’m no sure our expectations have any relevance for Trump. We, and our expectations, don’t own him any more than the accuracy of the “Trump’s Finished” headlines over the summer. We have expectations of how a President should act. Trump ignores them like all the other expectations hung on him.

          5. sigrid28 December 30, 2016

            Traditionally December 21st is the Winter Solstice with December 22nd the first day of winter.
            Please keep believing in Trump’s indomitable will and his cleverness in defying expectations. I feel certain you will not be disappointed.

          6. dbtheonly December 30, 2016

            Ah, but the Trumpian Winter will last for four years, not months.

            Trump has avoided or rejected all efforts to classify, label, or limit him. Predicting Trump’s actions is futile.

  3. Eleanore Whitaker December 29, 2016

    You will be happy to know that the Big Balls Republicans, like Ryan and McConnell plan to FINE the Dem Senators if they opposed any of the GOP legislation. How is that NOT a violation of the oath of office they took? These Republican tyrants are asking for the angry mobs they will get. 74 million votes were less important than 270 Electors votes in the Electoral College. What happens when those 74 million are in a rage over these Repbublican dictators and decide they’ve had enough?

    Ryan and McConnell are doing what all GUILTY men always do…try to cause a distraction from their part in the election rigging to pretend it is not big deal. WRONG. It is a Big Deal when Trump could ONLY get elected by Electoral College votes and by Russians hacking into DNC emails. What real difference is there in Russians hacking into the DNC emails for the Republicans than Nixon sending his Plumbers to break into the DNC headquarters at the WaterGate? But let’s go after Clinton for MonicaGate right? Let’s go after Hillary for Benghazi…these guys are so guilty it’s like they wear flashing neons signs, “GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY” that flash night and day.

    Reply
    1. sigrid28 December 30, 2016

      I think the perfect Trump stand-in for his idolatrous fans is one of those air-dancers you see out in front of a Sprint store or a used-car lot with its arms flapping around.

  4. Todd Nelson December 29, 2016

    What a whiner. You lost, get over it. Stop whining. Conservatives felt much the same way when Barack Obama was elected, but, instead of whining about it, the conservatives did something. Starting at the local level, we started getting rid of the liberals, then we went to the states and did the same thing. in 2010 and 2014, we sent liberals packing in congress, only to find the so called republican conservatives in congress were no different than the liberals we voted out, so Donald Trump has been elected to get rid of the trash in congress on both sides of the isle. During Obama”s regime, democrats have lost 1030 seats in local, state, and national offices. The job of liberals, if you want to control anything ever again, is to start at the local level to change those votes. Just wait a bit, you might find Trump is not as bad as Mrs. Bill (the rapist) Clinton’s campaign has made him out to be

    Reply
    1. dbtheonly December 29, 2016

      You know, I agree with 90% of what you’ve written.

      I will call the Trump Administration a success if he doesn’t incinerate all of us in a nuclear war.

      How’s that for a low bar?

    2. Thoughtopsy January 2, 2017

      Generally agree with most of what you wrote.

      Just one point:
      Only one party lies frequently. Not just about small things, but about big things.
      Only one party frequently ignores facts and science.

      Both of these things denote weakness. Either intellectual weakness, or cowardice. Those with intellectual rigor, and the faith of their convictions don’t need to lie or suppress/ignore facts.

      (And don’t bother with the false equivalence of “both sides do it” if you feel so inclined. We both know which side does it exponentially more)

      I agree that the Dems need to focus locally.
      It’s just a pity that their main mission is to combat ignorance, and deliberate lies.

      1. InformedVoter January 4, 2017

        Sorry but you are mistaken in your description of the GOP. It’s the Dems who regularly lie. The MSM sources like NYT and WP make up fake stories and the lapdog MSM sources like MSNBC and CNN broadcast the fake stories as if they were true.
        So naturally, you low information folks, having both read and the seen the fake stories, think you’re well informed.
        Examples? The Obama team keeps preaching the economy is doing great. Well then please explain the record number on food stamps, or the record number on aid, or the record number of Americans not working, or annual growth <2% or wages being stagnant.
        Yet, all you hear from Obama is the altered unemployment numbers being lower than in years. The true unemployment remains above 11%, the same as the past 10-12 years.
        During the primaries, HilLIARy attacked the economy as she tried to distance herself from Obama's economic policies.
        After the election, Obama himself, made the statement that they focused too much on who was using which bathroom and not enough about the working class folks. Gee, if the economy was doing so great, they why would both make statements about the economy not being so great?
        President Trump ran on draining the swamp and his cabinet selections show he's keeping that campaign promise. Voters wanted the swamp changed.

  5. leonardo311 December 29, 2016

    Lets get down to the nuts and bolts here. First he is a megalomaniac, as such thrives on hearing his name and seeing his picture on the News. I sincerely believe he would have been reduced to a footnote had the Media NOT covered his every utterance.

    Therefore, the Media should reframe from showing his picture and calling him out by name, simply refer to him as the “President”.

    Do not reprint his tweets, except to mock them for the immature content.

    If he does hold a traditional press conference, then it should be on a delay so when he lies, those remarks and the questions that were the prelude to the lie, may be edited out and not broadcasted.

    Reply
    1. sigrid28 December 30, 2016

      Up-voting the idea of putting his press conferences on a delay.

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