The Media's Collective Trump Amnesia
Commentators have suddenly woken up to the dangerous prospect of a lawless authoritarian leader taking over the White House. So where were they in 2016?
As the American mainstream media grapples with how to cover another presidential run by Donald Trump, there has been a growing debate about using words that the traditional press has not been known to use.
Words like “dictator” and “fascist,” which previously never would have been used in the nation’s biggest newspapers, have now appeared in places like the Washington Post.
Robert Kagan, a noted neoconservative, published a recent piece in the Washington Post titled “The Trump dictatorship: How to stop it.” That phrasing alone represents a huge leap from 2016, when the mainstream media failed to take Trump seriously and instead focused much of its criticism on Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Jay Rosen, a professor at New York University who has frequently criticized the media’s coverage of Trump, noted the importance of Kagan’s piece.
“The stakes have never been put as clearly as they are in this bone-chilling piece by Robert Kagan,” Rosen said.
On stopping Trump, Kagan said “the challenges are even greater, but there is little evidence that the people we need to rise to the occasion are any more likely to do so than they have been for the past eight years.”
He’s right and despite these improvements, the media are unlikely to rise to the occasion. There’s still a feel of amnesia in the media’s coverage of Trump’s current run. Many of the stories have focused on Trump’s pronunciations of retribution, and his promises to use the government to go after his political opponents and solidify his own power. Certainly these deserve coverage, but they need to be placed into the proper context.
Too many in the media have painted these statements as a new strategy for Trump. It’s as if they’ve forgotten about his first term, where he did exactly everything he is saying he will do if he gets back into power. However, the media appear to have forgotten the extreme dictatorial behavior that Trump has already exhibited.