National View Column: Trump is right: The press is the 'enemy of the people'
In the aftermath of the tragedies in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump let fly with these 140 characters on Twitter: “Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy."
Remarkably, Trump seems to think more about ratings and clicks then about the welfare of the nation. Sadly, it seems to be working for him.
Apropos of his obsession with ratings, if there is one point Trump seems right about, it is his infamous declaration that the press is the “enemy of the people." After all, it was the press, and especially cable television, that, more than anything, helped elect the president who would carry on a fake war against “fake news.”
Media today are driven by a desperate need for ratings because it is the number of hits that reels in the lifeblood of advertising revenue. No cable networks have criticized and lampooned Trump more than MSNBC and CNN; for three years now, Trump and his antics have monopolized their offerings. Why? Because those of us who wince at the words of our self-described “stable genius” revel in hearing him excoriated.
Donna Summer gave us the hit, “Love to Love You Baby.” Well, when it comes to Trump, many of us are in love-to-hate-you-baby mode.
Recently, MSNBC’s “Hard Ball” host Chris Matthews ended a segment by shaking his head in disgust over Trump’s extreme indifference to immigrant children. Then, almost under his breath, Matthews archly chuckled something to the effect that it would be hypocritical of him not to acknowledge that cable networks love Trump, too — and for the obvious reason that Trump is a magnet for viewers.
TV talk-show hosts Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers have been bottom-feeding off Trump for years, and even the incurious and uninformed president well understands that all publicity — or almost all — is good publicity.
As for Fox, sometimes referred to as “state television,” watch host Sean Hannity and company for a few days and you, too, might feel befuddled by people distraught over Trump’s behavior.
In May, after then-Republican Congressman Justin Amash intrepidly called for impeachment hearings, he held a large town-hall meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich. Now an independent, Amash articulated his case against Trump and in a heated session fielded questions from both left and right field. Naturally, cable TV was right there to capture the fireworks. MSNBC elected to play and, of course, replay an interview with a constituent who, having attentively listened to Amash’s indictment, concede, “I was surprised to hear that there was anything negative in the Mueller report about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before, and I mainly listen to conservative news, and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report before and that President Trump had been exonerated.”
The president’s mistruths are legendary, but hear something enough and it becomes hard to dismiss. Hear enough false blather, and it eventually drowns out both the truth and the demand for truth.
It used to be a problem for a politician to blatantly contradict himself or herself, thanks in large part to never-ending press coverage. But the public now shrugs when Trump says one thing and then a few days later says the opposite — even when it is all caught on tape.
Yes, Trump is right; the press is the “enemy of the people,” because it is the press that not only provides him with boundless coverage but gets us to bite on the glittering lures Trump casts whenever he seems to want to divert attention from something like the Mueller testimony.
As political commentators have long noted, Trump loves to gin up conflicts and then congratulate himself for protecting us from the self-created conflicts.
Likewise, the media created this Frankenstein’s monster of a president, and for all their vitriol against Trump, the talking heads know they depend on the man they love to hate.
Gordon Marino is a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and is the author of “The Existentialist’s Survival Guide.” He wrote this for the News Tribune.