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Revolt of the Media

Willa Grace Hart

Posted on May 18, 2020 11:26

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Martin Gurri's book, 'The Revolt of the Public,' got me thinking about Donald Trump's election this week, and how major news media may have inadvertently contributed to his success.

This week during the endless stretch of quarantine, I decided to take some time to read The Revolt of the Public: And the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium by Martin Gurri, a book about how the age of information is impacting the public’s view of authority. The main thesis of Gurri’s work is that the increased availability of conflicting information breeds distrust in traditional establishment sources of information, like government and mass media, leading to the rise of counter-canter movements across the globe. According to Gurri, we can expect to see these types of movements -- like the Arab Spring in 2011, or the pro-Trump push in 2016 -- continue to surface until our perspective on information and media fundamentally changes.

I wasn’t totally sold on Gurri’s argument -- there seemed to be a few conspicuous blank spots, and some misleading, if not false, factual claims -- but there’s no questioning his book is a very interesting read. It got me thinking about politics from new angles I hadn’t considered before, both generally and in regard to specific historical situations. One such situation was the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the media coverage leading up to it.

As I’m sure we’re all aware, Trump sold himself to voters as the quintessential anti-establishment candidate, promising to clean out the swamp of corrupted politicians -- which he, among all candidates, was uniquely capable of given his total lack of political experience. He turned the very traits that the media hounded him for -- his brashness, dangerous honesty, and lack of experience -- into strengths. And it’s no question the media hounded him. Even as a high school student in 2016, who spent little to no time watching the news, I was aware of the overwhelming negativity that Trump received in the press. It was part of the reason I was so shocked when I woke up the morning of November 9 and saw the headlines proclaiming his victory.

Now, after reading Gurri’s book, I realize how much that media coverage may actually have helped Trump. As someone aiming for the votes of the anti-establishment sector, Trump wouldn’t want endorsements from center-authority sources like CNN and MSNBC. Their rejection, in addition to giving him free publicity, proved the point he was trying to sell: that he would turn things around in Washington, and effect the long-awaited change the public was seeking.

With that in mind, for any news reporters reading this, I’d like to make a novel suggestion: this fall, let’s sell Trump as an embedded elite. After all, he is the current President of the United States -- more authority and establishment than a mere former VP. Meanwhile, let’s paint Joe Biden as the change-maker, the radical, the coronavirus-era version of 2007 Barack Obama. I’d love to see how that would turn out.

Willa Grace Hart

Posted on May 18, 2020 11:26

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