Are the media to blame for 2016 US Presidential Election outcome? That’s a good question, which is worth exploring. Let’s try.
On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump, with zero political or military knowledge, skill or interest, will become the 45th President of the United States of America. Trump, known for his dodgy business and a predilection for making controversial and racist remarks, will become the most influential man in the world.
Is this bizarre and frightening circumstance thanks, to some degree, at least, the fault of the US news and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter? Did the media help the election outcome, in favor of Donald Trump? Are the American media impotent and reluctant to recognize fake news stories and out these stories for the lies they contain? Well, maybe yes or maybe no.
Media can have a strong influence on any election outcome. The popularity of an electoral candidate grows or declines in response to the potentially powerful influence of media, as it regards one or another candidates. That Trump won the 2016 Presidential election is a disaster, by the American political elite and upper middle class. For these groups, at least and for now, mostly, Trump is the most undeserving candidate to hold the presidency of the USA.
The political, economic and social elite blame the media for the election of Trump. Members of the working and lower middle class blame the media, for the election of Trump, too. Both groups view the media as biased, failing to cover Trump accurately and fairly.
The media are the culprit for the rise of Trump. This epic election fail, at least for some, occurred because media constantly covered and highlighted every move by Trump in a way that made his seem foolish. The media aligned not only against Trump, but also against the demographic groups that make up its audience.
The media repeatedly told election stories that public wanted to hear, irrespective of the credibility of these stories. The media always generally portrayed Trump in a good way, giving him brownie points for attracting large audiences to his rallies. This created a false impression of his popularity.
Based on prevailing television advertising rates, Trump received $55 million in free positive mentions. The New York Times concludes Trump is a creation of media, revealing he received roughly $1.9 billion dollars is free attention from all media, news and social. By comparison, mediaQuant reports Hillary Clinton received roughly one billion dollars of free mentions. Ted Cruz, the runner up to Trump for the Republican nomination for presented, received roughly $300 million dollars of free mentions during the primaries.
The media highlighted controversial statements made by Trump, without driving home the inconsistencies and outright lies. For example, Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the USA, with little more than a “He can’t do that,” from the media. This and many of his more controversial statements were made during the “invisible primary,” that is, before the official primaries, when candidates toe-tested policy and platform ideas
Trump refused to release his tax returns and claimed he did not pay Federal Income Tax for almost twenty years. Thus, Trump, in his own words, was smart. These statements, intended to attract attention, were successful; he knew there wouldn’t be much a media pushback or sustained criticism.
Social media, such as Facebook, were unable to crack down on fake news. Americans went rampant on sharing ridiculously skewed articles in favor of Trump and against Hillary. This caused a huge impact on the minds of voters while the admissible news stories that showed Trump in an extremely antagonistic light seemingly had no effect.
The fanatical coverage of Hillary’s email controversy benefited Trump, greatly. The relentless coverage, of the Clinton e-mails, effectively facilitated a Trump victorious candidacy. Although historians will make the final decision, regarding coverage of the Clinton e-mails, it seems the media, news and social, can effect voting; the coverage reinforces pre-existing biases of candidates, political parties and elite control.
The birther issue, that is, Obama was not born in the USA and, thus, ineligible to be President, had an effect, too, it seems. Trump was the number one promoter of the birther issue, until, one day, he said, out of nowhere, Obama, indeed, was born in the USA. Still, this conspiracy influenced the people and they began to speculate about consider voting for Trump.
Gender played a role, too, in the election of Trump to the Presidency. Many men and women were uncomfortable with the idea of a woman, especially Hillary Clinton, as president. Most likely, these voters are from the working and lower middle class; men control their lives: bosses, fathers, husbands and so forth.
What are the repercussions of the failure of the US media, news and social, in 2016 Presidential election outcome? With Trumps, a candidate and a man, created by the media, several risks are already casting shadows in the coming times. For example, he wants to repeal estate tax. This could lead to long-term deficit and might trigger recession? With this comes the risk of deficit financed tax snip, which will worsen income inequality. In turn, this might lead to a major crunch of wealth in the hands of elites and a failure to foster actual economic growth.
Trump wants to increase US protectionism. Trump is looking at waging trade wars with overseas partners, especially China, by imposing larger taxes on foreign made goods, which he sees as snatching American jobs. Pressurizing manufacturing jobs back to the US will increase the cost of production. Though temporary jobs will be available for some Americans, the remaining percentage of the country will have to look at subsidized jobs by paying increased prices. Globally, few will buy US products due to increase in the prices and thus this protectionism is not all sustainable.
Uncertainty and miserable economic growth means higher risk. Long before the 2016 election results became official, the USA was already reeling under economic shocks. As the last votes exuded in, the Asian stocks already fell, the peso went down by 8 percent and Dow Jones lost as much as 700 points, though these losses were short term. The US economy, which is already fragile, is replete with uncertainty. This forces the consumers as well as the business to hold back leads to economic breakdowns and recessions.
Trump threatens immigrants. He made racial remarks about non-residents. He hinted at making America a land of white nationalists. He is considering repealing the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, thus facilitating the return of immigrants, based on racial quotes. He wants to completely stop or drastically reduce the percentage of immigrants coming from several countries based on religion and race.
In short, America elected a caricature named Donald Trump, as its 45th president. Reflecting a deteriorating character, Trump is an example of how new depths of racism and thuggery looks like. He has demonstrated all possible ways a responsible citizen holding the most powerful position can stoop. One thing is certainly over; that is, the unsteady, sometimes nauseating, 18 months long saga of the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign.
The eventual Trump voters took his cue, believed the media despised him for all the change he promised and reacted, voted, against the media. If the new came down too hard on Trump, more voters, lacking much in the way of critical skills, flowed to Trump. If the media didn’t come down hard on him, his voters simply believed what he said and thought the media agreed.
The media, news and social, seems caught in a Catch-22. Damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Now is the time for the media to re-evaluate what it does and how it works. There ways to expose Trump that do not alienate large segments of the US population; the media are now charged with finding those new ways and developing skills to do the job, right, in a new, dangerous era of American politics.
John Doe is an unknown writer and reviewer, who won't reveal his name.
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