Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Donald Trump's Confusion Over the Media's Role in the Election

The bedrock of a Democracy is free speech and an open, independent, free press. The media's fundamental role in a free society is to (a) report, analyze and investigate the news in a timely, factual and objective manner; (b) hold government leaders accountable to its citizens; (c) educate and inform relating to key issues and news; and (d) connect citizens with each other. In doing so, it is supposed to have unfettered access to those people and situations on which it reports.

But Donald Trump, his campaign officials and surrogates appear to have a different definition of the media's role not just in a Democracy like America, but within his very campaign. To Team Trump, the media is an extension of the campaign itself, much in the same way that publicists and surrogates function.

To understand Trump's relationship with the media is to start with his basic disdain for journalists. He sees them as the enemy. He neither understands their role in American society or appreciates the critical fact that without them we'd live in a fascist dictatorship (though the latter appears increasingly more attractive to him). With his incredibly thin-skin, Trump views challenges from the media as "vicious" criticism. An attack. A "ganging up" on him for which he responds, as a self-described "counter-puncher," with often ruthless, incendiary return-fire, public insults and/or, as in the case of the Washington Post, a ban from campaign events and rallies.

As a self-consumed, self-aggrandizing narcissist, Trump believes everyone else in the world exists to serve him. Even as he runs for president of the Unites States, Trump fails to understand and accept journalists' role, especially on the campaign trail. The press is viewed as an extension of his promotion, marketing and PR team. Rather than respect the media's watchdog role, Trump genuinely expects them to reinforce and help spread his message, and gets deeply shocked and offended when they don't. And when they don't they're mocked, ridiculed, called "disgusting" and accused of "rigging" the system.

When Trump makes ignorant, inflammatory, sexist, racist and ill-advised comments, he gets mad at the press for covering it as news. And when his unconscionable behavior impacts his campaign -- miring it in controversy and sagging polls, for example -- he then blames the media for his misfortunes. He's living the old Tina Fey parody of Sarah Palin: "I hope the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeatin' 'em verbatim!"

It's an incredibly dangerous state of being when a candidate for the highest office in the freest nation on the planet loathes and impedes its free press because of personal animus. This Constitutionally-bankrupt behavior on Trump's part should be an automatic disqualifier in the race. But bankruptcy seems to be a calling-card in this unprecedentedly bizarre election.

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