Donald Trumpâ€™s stunning and â€œupsetâ€ victory over Hillary Clinton in the recent US presidential election should primarily go down in history as the triumph of a political outsider over a corrupt and arrogant media industrial-complex, not necessarily as the triumph of a derided billionaire against a woman that was a political insider like no other.
The US media claims it did not see Trumpâ€™s victory coming. It did; it just turned its evil and uber-partisan eyes away from a nagging probability that was unfolding before its very eyes. Instead of confronting, or better still, reporting that reality it turned to manipulating obvious and not-so-obvious facts, while allowing itself to be blinded by its not-too-subtle political and ideological preferences.
Instead of the vessel of information and knowledge that it projects itself to beâ€”and with its access to superior technology definitely unquestionedâ€”the US media is in reality a tool of partisan hacks who control the profession like a ventriloquist and also populate it, while largely using its resources and dignity to manipulate enraptured publics unable to escape their strong and omnipresent reach.
One worrisome characteristic of the media in the US, once-acclaimed to be the freest and most independent in the world, is the manner of its ownership, which are usually behemoth corporations. CNN, a mainstay of cable television news all over the world (including Nigeria), has been variously owned by corporate giants such as AOL and Time Warner. The Washington Post is now controlled by the man who owns the online retail giant, Amazon. NBC and MSNBC are controlled in one form or the other by the Microsoft Corporation and the cable giant, Comcast. What this means is that journalists at these outlets often feel the pressure to be anything but independent. While they need the behemoth owners to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive and challenging media market, they often choose to sell their souls to the interests of the corporate interests that control them.
I have also observed in the many years I have lived and worked here in the US that the controlling impulses in a vast swath of the American media tend to be liberal and â€œprogressiveâ€. In contrast, the Fox News, the Drudge Report and the Rush Limbaughs (radio and TV) of the world who tend conservative and often lean right have much less reach and influence, compared to the liberal tendency of the American media.
This was the (probably simplistic, I admit, but more on that later, in another fora) backdrop that led to the recent â€œdebacleâ€ of a Trump victory that â€œno oneâ€ ostensibly saw coming, especially the resource-rich American media.
Not quite. The vastâ€”and liberal segmentâ€”of the American media failed its vast publics (compared to the conservativesâ€™ share of the media market) simply because it chose to ignore the Trump phenomenon, rather than professionally investigate / research and then educate its readers about it.
It was professional malpractice at its most embarrassing level.
This much-vaunted media which unabashedly celebrates itselfâ€”and is also celebrated by those inside and outside the US who hardly know better, since they are also manipulatedâ€”ultimately fell victim to its own manipulative practices, and the embarrassingly partisan slants it gives to stories, largely informed by personal, pecuniary and societal impulses that have nothing to do with journalism and its timeless tenets.
Any unbiased observer or watcher of CNN, MSNBC and other liberal outlets in the months before the elections, or read the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc., prior to the November 8 polls in the US, witnessed these outlets engage in unceasing hack jobs against the Republican candidate. Nearly every story about Donald Trump became a contrived scandal: his taxes; modeling pictures his wife took before they married; the â€œethnicâ€ meals he ate while travelling on his private plane; comments from a Gold Star parent about the Republican candidate; etc.
Many times, one could almost feel the glee on the faces of certain panelists who appeared on the various CNN news programmes, as they took turns piling on Trump in the guise of â€œinformedâ€ news commentary and analyses. Certain CNN anchors would mention Trumpâ€™s name during their segment and then laugh mid-sentence, for no apparent reason, while shaking their heads!
Although I have never met the man, I have read about Donald Trump since the late 70s, well before I even became a teenager. I read the National Enquirer religiously every week back then while growing up in Nigeria, along with other (more staid) American magazines like TIME and Newsweek, among others. I read about his wild bachelorship ways back then that would make even the most â€œhardcoreâ€, free-wheeling liberal blush, in New York City, no less; I read about his courtship and then eventual marriage to his first wife, Ivana Trump, who hailed from the-then Czechoslavakia, a country behind the now-defunct â€œIron Curtainâ€. I savoured the stories about Trumpâ€™s many alleged affairs, and then the one that destroyed his marriage to Ivana, with Marla Maples, who then became his second (and also ex-) wife. In between, I read stories of his many bankruptcies, and how he emerged from these failures that would have destroyed many other persons, even more successful.
And so on and so forth. It was as if I grew up with the man in my lifeâ€”even though I lived thousands of miles from him, in Nigeria.
Then, fast forward to 2015, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for US president. Of course, things had become a little different. I now lived and worked in the US, and Trump had declared himself a right-leaning Republican and candidate for the US Presidency through the Republican Party (after having been a liberal democrat nearly all his life, with views and actions over the years that adhered to the most liberal of ideologies).
Even when there were whispered then widespread stories that the polls which gave Hillary a great edge were wrong and that the election was very close, this overwhelming segment of the US media still refused to do its job; instead, it dug further into its redoubts of mindless partisanship. CNN panelist after CNN panelist (not to mention MSNBC), Washington Post story /commentary after AP story/commentary derided ever-growing speculations about the â€œhidden Trump voterâ€ who would not tell any pollster he/she would be voting for Trump until he cast his/her vote.
Yet, despite Hillaryâ€™s vaunted â€œground gameâ€ that was supposed to overwhelm Trumpâ€™s and the fact that the Hillary campaign vastly outspent Trumpâ€™s, the Republican contender always remained close to Hillary Clinton in the polls, in spite of his many crises, many gleefully championed by the liberal media.
Despite every indication to the contrary or every lead, members of this same lazy, evil, uber-liberal and majority wing of the US media stuck to their guns of telling their viewers and readers that Donald Trump was on his way to a loss, or that he had a near-impossible path to the US Presidency. These so-called journalists who are really partisan hacks with primal, evil agendas (more on that later, in other fora), became so blinded by their partisanship that they forgot a fundamental tenet of an otherwise noble profession: chase down every lead, wherever it may lead.
The real story of Trumpâ€™s victory is not his triumph against an opponent considered unbeatable until she got trounced; it is how the phenomenon â€œno one sawâ€ exposed the majority of the US media for what it really is: an aggregation of â€œpretend-journalistsâ€, or media practitioners (they also populate the radio and advertising segments of the US media, wreaking mayhem and spreading evil), who routinely engage in shameless, orgiastic paroxysms of bare-faced partisanship, while all the while hoping no one would notice. Or comment.
â€“ Soboyede is a US-trained journalist and lawyer.