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President Trump - The media's Frankenstein moment the world has to deal with

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 9 November 2016, 18:09 IST

The unthinkable has happened - Donald J Trump will be the next president of the United States of America. As of the time of writing this, he is not only winning the requisite number of electoral college seats, but also the popular vote. Shock and horror aside, America has spoken.

Now, over the next 24 hours, you're going to see a deluge of pieces lamenting the result. The New Yorker has already called it 'An American Tragedy'. The media will lampoon the man and his policies. They will decry his actions and statements. They will question the conscience of the American people and mourn the hit the US' public perception will inevitably suffer.

Also read - Here's how Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States

In effect, they will do their best to wash their hands off of Trump. But they can't, because President Trump is most definitely a media creation.

An improbable candidate

When Trump announced his candidacy, he had so little support that he actually paid actors $50 each to play Trump supporters at his announcement. Cut to today where he has won the presidential election in a landslide victory. Of course some credit for this turnaround has to go to Trump, but the bulk of credit has to go to the media.

When Trump launched his campaign, he wasn't a serious candidate. With no actual experience of governance he wasn't considered likely to win the Republican primary, never mind an actual run at the White House.

Also read - Hillary Clinton loses race to White House: Here's what went against her

However, while his opponents at the time largely dismissed his campaign, one entity shone the spotlight on him more than he ever really deserved - the media. Where the political establishment saw a joke, the media also saw a joke, but one that could drive ratings. With that, Trump went from head of a dubious business empire to the most prominent candidate in the Republican primaries.

A ratings goldmine

While other candidates attempted to put forth their vision for presidency, Trump just stood up and spewed an endless barrage of bigotry. The media should have ignored it as the ramblings of a man with a tenuous grip on sanity or reality.

Trump didn't even demand or command the media's coverage. He just said the first offensive things that came to his mind and the media flocked, like moths to a flame. A very dim flame, but a flame nonetheless.

The media gave Trump the limelight, knowing full well the voyeuristic pleasure of watching train wrecks.

The media placed him front and centre. "Look," they said, "this man is clearly crazy. Look and laugh, isn't this crazy," knowing full well the voyeuristic pleasure audiences derive from watching train wrecks. Seated in their ivory towers, ensconced in the warmth of their political wisdom and assured in the belief that everyone got the joke, they sat back, laughed at the unfolding charade and watched the page views and TRPs skyrocket.

On 16 March, CNN Worldwide's Jeff Zucker claimed that all the media was doing was justified because "He [Trump] has been the front-runner of the Republican party since he announced last June." Still, he'd be hard pressed to justify why Trump was, according to media analyst Andrew Tyndall, the second most covered news in 2015.

In fact, according to Tyndall, Trump's coverage in the 2016 election cycle was nearly one-third of all election coverage and more than all the candidates in the Democratic primaries put together.

Trump's coverage was nearly a third of all election news and more than all the Democratic candidates combined.

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Still, the media assumed that the public would never take such a candidate seriously, so, instead of shining the limelight on deserving candidates and serving public interest, they instead shone it on Trump's circus and catered to the public's interest. This attitude was reflected when CBS boss Les Moonves quipped that Trump's political success "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."

But, as Trump moved into the lead in the Republican primaries, shit started to feel uncomfortably real. Media houses suddenly realised the very real danger that America faced. The minority-hating, politically incorrect tangerine called Trump actually had a shot at becoming the leader of the free world.

Killing Trumpenstein

The media should have remembered what William James, the father of modern psychology, once said - "There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it." They had broadcasted Trump ad nauseum and some portion of the public had actually bought into the joke rather than just laughing at it. The media was Frankenstein and Trump was the monster it had created - albeit with tiny, tiny hands.

Now, that monster had to be killed.

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

The media realising it created a monster.

Suddenly, we began to see wall-to-wall coverage about how dangerous a Trump presidency could be. The tone went from "ha-ha" to something far more ominous. The skeletons in Trump's closet were hunted down, exhumed and put on public viewing.

His detractors were given more airtime, every slip up of his was magnified, his rival - Hillary Clinton - was given a considerably easier ride despite her own share of scandal. Every speech was dissected and every statement fact checked. Surely, thought the media, all of this craziness could be undone. People would get that the coverage was meant as a joke and America would dodge a bullet.

Just as in Frankenstein, the media were unable to kill the monster they had created.

But, just as in Frankenstein, they weren't able to kill the monster they had created. All the coverage had allowed Trump to connect to a fanatical voter base, disillusioned with the establishment, insecure about their futures and desperate for a candidate they could relate to. The media's last ditch attempts to unseat Trump were too little, too late.

Now, the world will have to put up with President Donald Trump. The media can blame the American public for voting the way they did, but, in truth, they are as much to blame as anyone.

First published: 9 November 2016, 18:09 IST
 
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