Where would Trump, US be without the media?

Friday, January 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Former US President Donald Trump. Photo/COURTESY

Yesterday’s scenes out of Washington, previously the world’s capital of democracy, were shocking to say the least.

The chambers where American elected leaders conduct their debate were overrun by protestors who believed President Donald Trump won the November elections whose results showed he lost.

Before the protests Trump, who is set to leave office in less than two weeks, had addressed his supporters essentially egging them on to occupy the nation’s capital in protest. They obliged him.

Like happens in most developing nations familiar with election disputes such protests often end in bloodshed and loss of lives. It was no different in the US and four lost lives in the process.

Granted order was restored quickly and debate continued. But that was only after America had showed the world that human foibles associated with the fragility of democracy is not a preserve of some third world countries but a human weakness.

The fragility is universal and needs mere triggers that would let out the worst human instincts.

In the middle of the chaos Trump issued statements through social media addressing his army of followers.

In the statements he blew cold and hot allowing all his followers to find something useful in what he said. Nearly half of America is in love with Trump.

The world watched in shock as this happened. It was not completely a surprise but still shocking when it unfolded.

The Western world was subdued. Russia let the images from Washington run on its national TV side by side with Christmas celebrations of the state church.

The powerful contrast was unmistakable: the failure of American style democracy and the triumph of the Russian style. 

Mmusi Maimane, South Africa’s former opposition leader offered the US some advice: “As Africa we call for Americans to respect democracy, to respect rule of law and allow for a peaceful transition to power.

Follow the example of great democratic states like South Africa which respect outcomes of elections”.

Media moguls and corporate America had enough. Facebook and Twitter decided to remove the images and messages that Trump was posting and suspended his accounts for a while. Probably this should have happened earlier. 

Trump is a creation of the media. A child of privilege born to a successful real estate mogul he operated on the fringes of political aspirations often toying with the idea of running for president as a way of self-actualisation, until the National Broadcasting Corporation gave him a platform to wow the world. 

In The Apprentice, America fell in love with the cultivated cult of Trump: rich, successful, powerful.

Media make people and it made Trump. When the show ran its course Trump set his eyes on bigger things.

In the White House, Trump had no bigger partner than the media. First it was the network Fox that created a cult around him. Conservative base followed him there.

But more importantly Trump created an army of followers on social media. 

If the media were to desert Trump, that would be the end of the cult. The followers on Twitter would be deserted and there would be no more tweets and retweets to urge his followers on.

Lately, it appeared as if Fox was reconsidering its position of singing Trump’s praise. Again, if Fox was to go silent on him, that would be a blow to his cult.

No wonder that Trump is considering launching own TV channel. Whether his cult alone would sustain the station is a matter of wait and see.

As a businessman, Trump would have sufficient potential investors who would believe in his brand and place their money there. But they would expect quick returns.

We can’t always blame the media in all circumstances, but it is always critical that media institutions exercise social responsibility.

Have media been responsible in nurturing the cult of Trump? Would US have ended differently if media exercised greater responsibility?

Media are part of the capitalist system and in this case capitalism may be eating itself. —  The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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