October 20, 2002
President Trump has a unique love-hate relationship with the media. And whether you love or hate him… you can’t argue with that.
Never before has the media so viciously and blatantly gone after a president like it has with Trump. And yet, no politician, let alone the president, has ever utilized social media the way he has… Twitter allows President Trump an unfiltered avenue straight to his 87 million followers’ eyeballs.
And in this tumultuous time of COVID-19 and the upcoming momentous election, we’re relying on media more than ever… Yet ironically, Americans remain largely distrustful of mass media.
Today, we’ve got radio show host Jason Rantz, who considers himself a “contemporary conservative.” Jason takes a deep dive on this topic, and explains why Trump’s real opponent isn’t Joe Biden…
Trump Versus the Media…
His Real 2020 Election Opponent
By Jason Rantz
When Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, the national media was already eager to watch it crash and burn. Offering endless hours of coverage, media outlets thought they would end up with an embarrassing shellacking of historic proportions.
The writing that Trump might win was clearly on the wall… That he even became the nominee should have been a clue that Trump tapped into something that connected with voters. Some journalists were shocked he made it to the general, though many credited his ascent to a crowded Republican field. They were blind to reality.
After all, what do Republicans know about connecting with the American people? The GOP adopted a thinly populist ideology espoused by a reality TV star. Hillary Clinton would be the next president, and the media couldn’t wait to humiliate the braggadocious, crude New Yorker with endless hours of preening that they always knew this defeat was coming.
The media obviously miscalculated Trump’s appeal. Reporters and analysts were shell-shocked by the victory. But they wouldn’t make the same mistakes in 2020…
Using two monumentally important stories – a global pandemic and civil unrest – the media seemed to develop an almost-coordinated attempt to gaslight the American people. They were going to convince their viewers and readers to vote for Trump’s opponent, whomever it may be. Members of the media decided to become activists.
Never before has the general media so openly and wantonly campaigned against a candidate in such a breathtakingly dishonest way. While there was clear bias and nefarious intent in the endless hours of coverage that outlets gave to Trump in 2016, the media wasn’t openly campaigning against him. But that all changed when Trump became president…
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, once a Trump ally, casually labels the president a “fascist” and an “autocrat,” and on CNN, Don Lemon matter-of-factly declares the president a “racist.” No more objective reporting or even good-faith analysis… They developed an agenda.
The media started 2020 with a tremendous opportunity to destroy an American president – the global pandemic. They took on the challenge, setting up Trump in lose-lose scenarios, attacking every decision he made as both too harsh, yet somehow also not harsh enough.
At the time, we didn’t grasp the seriousness of the virus since communist China withheld crucial information from the world. Nevertheless, the White House declared a public health emergency, and Trump restricted travel from China to slow the virus from entering the United States. It was a decision met with near-immediate derision… It’s xenophobic!
In February, a New York Times tourism reporter asked, “Who says it’s not safe to travel to China?” while bemoaning the racism expected to come. After Biden smeared the ban as “xenophobic,” CNN ran a piece claiming the ban would “stigmatize countries and ethnicities.”
BuzzFeed amplified global health law expert Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University who claimed the ban was both an “overreaction” and a likely violation of civil rights laws. Vox declared travel bans “simply don’t work.”
Stopping travelers who, at the time, had the highest likelihood of contracting the virus somehow wouldn’t work at slowing its spread… Yet months later, the very same outlets clutched their pearls over outdoor Trump rallies being “superspreader” events.
Media coverage in the age of Trump meant relishing any opportunity to attack him, even when their attacks conflicted with previous positions. When Trump left the decision to close state economies to governors, it was wrong… They said he should have mandated a strict nationwide lockdown. But when Trump wanted to reopen the economy, the very same outlets said it was government overreach, inviting governors on the air to push back at the supposed abuse.
The media coverage, and some objectively clear missteps by the president, was clearly turning the public against the administration. And though the cable networks covered 2016 Trump rallies uninterrupted, this election season they regularly broke away from his coronavirus press briefings for snarky “fact checks” and petty analysis. They were going to tell the public how to react to Trump.
It was working… Trump faced public perception that he was responsible for the pandemic’s impact. With the help of some activist media members, notably New York Times opinion writer Gail Collins, some even called it the “Trump virus.” Going into a reelection campaign, this was a bad look. Trump began calling the virus either the “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus.” That, too, was met with unhinged criticism.
Noting where the virus originated was fine when CNN, the Washington Post, and Politico did it. But when Trump started, suddenly the line from national outlets was that it was racist.
Labeling the president a racist was a tried-and-true strategy from the national media.
When they didn’t have comments to take out of context, they’d rely on the claims of secret nods to white supremacy. Postponing Harriet Tubman’s currency? The View’s Joy Behar called it a “dog whistle.” Did the president say he enjoyed the film Gone with the Wind? Yup, that’s another “dog whistle” according to Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang.
But these were small nitpicks that won’t get a country to dump Trump. So when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the media saw a huge opening. Not only could they help amplify messages many media members already agreed with – that there’s systemic racism inherent in everyday life and that we must rein in the police – but they could use the anger on the streets to push the president out of the White House
It seemed like a simple-enough task… The country was united in anger over Floyd’s murder, and the immediate response from scores of voters was marches in the streets. This could be a winning issue, and Biden was positioned as the leader who could take the mantle for meaningful change. Biden’s a uniter, and Trump is a racist divider. But little did they expect the civil unrest to spiral violently out of control and sustain itself over the summer.
That the media didn’t see this coming was remarkable… This movement was poised to be violent and destructive. The day after Floyd’s killing, there was a riot where activists attacked police with rocks and water bottles. The following day, Minneapolis burned. The violence wasn’t contained… It was spreading as fast as the coronavirus.
Knowing a peaceful racial justice movement could sign the Trump campaign’s death certificate, media members bent over backward to either downplay the violence or justify it, perhaps thinking it would end in a night or two. As businesses and neighborhoods were destroyed, media members became the movement’s public relations firm.
First, outlets flatly downplayed the violence…
Standing in front of a building literally burning to the ground, MSNBC’s Ali Velshi remarkably claimed the Minneapolis demonstration was “mostly a protest” and “not generally speaking unruly.” Nearly a month into Portland’s nightly rioting, CNN’s Brian Stelter chided Fox News for giving it coverage, bellyaching the network “evidently decided that a small group of self-described anarchists suddenly deserved national news coverage.” Despite $60 million worth of property damage caused in one Monday morning organized riot in Chicago, MSNBC did not mention it once during its primetime coverage.
Then, outlets played up the patriotism angle. We riot in America!
Don Lemon, while airing a video of looters breaking into a retail store in Los Angeles, cautioned, “I’m not judging this,” before stumbling his way through a Boston Tea Party comparison. The Huffington Post and the Atlantic forwarded the same theme… Rebellion is patriotic.
Finally, outlets that acknowledged there was violence argued it was all justified.
R.H. Lossin wrote a defense of the riots in the Nation arguing, “What if it is not a frustrated, emotional reaction but a reasonable and articulate expression in itself?” Claiming neighborhood destruction was a “proportional response” to Floyd’s killing, Steven Thrasher of Slate argued “destroying a police precinct is a reasonable reaction.” Yesha Callahan in Essence simply demanded we “burn it all down.”
Short-term violence that leads to peaceful marches, voter registration drives, and nightly reminders of how Trump is dividing this country would hurt the president, but the violence wouldn’t stop. It intensified with no end in sight, moving from New York to Chicago and Los Angeles to Kenosha. Not even rabid ideologues hoping the Black Lives Matter momentum would boot Trump from office could justify it. So just as quickly as it began, it stopped – the national media pretended it wasn’t happening.
The Pacific Northwest became a hotbed of violent political activism. With the notable exception of Fox News, the national media was disinterested in coverage when the violence started.
On June 8, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered police to abandon their precinct in the Capitol Hill neighborhood after several nights of clashes with violent agitators. Fearing the violence would only escalate, the police were told to retreat. They removed sensitive data and expensive equipment from the East Precinct, boarded up the windows, and left. Then, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (“CHAZ”) was born.
Activists took over a six-block radius surrounding the East Precinct. It included a spacious park, a few restaurants and businesses, and apartment buildings. Armed Antifa agitators with the local Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club took up security. Ironically, borders were established that limited entry into the zone. Tents took over the park. This was the defund-the-police movement in action… It was a police-free zone.
It didn’t take long for President Trump to take notice. He tweeted that “anarchists” took over Seattle and declared the city needed to end the occupation. That Trump took issue with CHAZ meant the media needed to defend it.
Reporters from numerous outlets showed up during the day for live or recorded hits. Dan Simon of CNN noted it was “entirely peaceful” with the “feel of a street festival.” Echoing that sentiment, NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard contradicted Trump, saying it’s “more of a pedestrian street festival.” The Guardian posted what can only be described as a propaganda video exclusively showing an inspiring speech while using an anti-Trump press conference by Durkan as narration. “Nightline” on ABC somehow managed to avoid any mention of violence in a seven-minute feature. Elle Reeve for CNN, however, did mention violence at CHAZ, though she blamed right-wing group Proud Boys for instigating it, while glorifying the armed Antifa guards.
Any reasonable person knew CHAZ was going to end badly. Though national outlets ignored the violence, locals knew what was going on. But they couldn’t let Trump be right. Unfortunately, he was… By the time the city took back CHAZ, there were two gun homicides of Black teens, several shootings, an attempted rape, arson, and even a riot. The outlets that covered the peaceful time of CHAZ either downplayed its tragic ending or ignored it completely.
Nearby, Portland saw 100-plus nights of violent riots. But when Trump got involved, sending federal law enforcement to protect a federal building, the media again pretended he was the problem.
On MSNBC, Dr. Phil Goff ridiculously claimed that “the only people firing here [in Portland] are federal agents.” This wasn’t just false… It was a dangerous lie meant to fuel more unrest. The violence started before the agents arrived and continued well after they left.
Sensing an opening to turn polling around, Trump directly campaigned on law and order. Media activists responded, claiming there’s no problem at all, and it was all made-up. Indeed, Brian Stelter blamed Fox News for playing up violence in a bid to help Trump. How ironic that Stelter and other activists pretending to act in good faith were the ones actually gaslighting their viewers.
Media outlets were in for a wake-up call. This strategy wasn’t working. After the DNC convention ignored the riots, the following week’s RNC convention hammered it home. And suddenly, a panicked Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo – TV’s dumbest duo – sounded the alarms that focus groups and polls showed Trump’s message was working. Anderson Cooper would end up creating a talking point that Biden used one day later… Actually, the violence is happening, but it’s happening in “Trump’s America.”
Biden is running for president (technically speaking, at least). He spends more days in his home than on the campaign trail. His willingness for press conferences? Almost nonexistent. He sticks to a script he stumbles through and enjoys the few softball interviews he does from his home. But Trump isn’t running against Biden as much as he is running against the media.
With media skepticism so high, do voters trust the onslaught of hypercritical Trump coverage? After all, consumers have access to social media, and they can easily find sources contradicting claims made by talking heads. Do you believe the analyst telling you Trump didn’t act soon enough on the coronavirus when you had to cancel your overseas vacation within days of learning about COVID-19? Can you trust the anchor telling you there has been no violence when you see video of a Molotov cocktail attack against police on Twitter?
As we edge closer to the election, there are a lot of unknowns. And regardless of the election’s result, honestly, it may not be easy to draw direct conclusions… But we can be certain there will be media consequences for playing such an active role in this election. The biggest one? They may not want to give up that role.
Now here are some of the stories we’re reading…
Twitter blocks post by Trump coronavirus adviser claiming masks are ineffective Tweet by Dr. Scott Atlas deleted for violating Twitter’s policy against spreading false or harmful information.
Why Social Media Is So Good at Polarizing Us If social media seems particularly infuriating lately, it’s possible that it’s as much about the way it shapes our perception of what’s going on as it is about the reality of the viewpoints and behavior of our fellow Americans.
The Paradoxical Potential of a Biden Presidency A 77-year-old moderate could become champion of young, progressive America…
The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League-Obsessed Parents Kids’ sports look a little different here – as they do in upscale neighborhoods across America. Backyards feature batting cages, pitching tunnels, fencing pistes, Olympic-size hockey rinks complete with floodlights and generators.
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
Managing Editor, American Consequences
with the Editorial Staff
October 20, 2020