The ongoing war between Donald Trump and the media has reached new lows of playground lunacy – and it might just be that the U.S. president is winning.
Say what? Well, he’s winning because he has suckered much of the press corps into reacting to his taunts instead of ignoring or laughing them off as the jibes of a petulant child – more age-appropriate to 11-year-old Barron Trump than the 71-year-old leader of the free world.
One is reminded of that guy on the street corner of any city who is shabbily dressed and haphazardly groomed and shouts about the coming apocalypse. Most of us avert our eyes and hurry past him – quite possibly putting a protective arm around our children.
What none of us do is stop, clear our throats and make the conscious decision to start a conversation. We don’t because most of us have the sober judgment to realize that nothing will be gained by engaging the speaker in a debate that from the outset is not destined to end well.
Recently, Trump tweeted a GIF showing him in a staged wrestling takedown of World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon from 2007. The body slam was done in the showbiz, high-drama wrestling way popularized by the likes of Hulk Hogan. However, in the tweeted version, Trump placed a CNN logo over the face of McMahon.
It could have been viewed as harmless fun – a tongue-in-cheek visual jab between admittedly bitter rivals. But, no, we are through the looking glass in politician-press relations and CNN instead protested that the American president was advocating and inciting violence against journalists.
If I could send a message to CNN it would be to ask them to spare me the feigned indignation. It’s more appropriate to an Edwardian aunt who swoons and requires smelling salts because she accidentally walked in on her niece in bloomers kissing the bare-chested stable boy.
CNN should know they’ve overreacted when they set up Trump to look like the adult. Speaking from Poland, Trump said, “I will say that CNN has really taken it too seriously, and I think they’ve hurt themselves very badly.” Since this is Trump, he elaborated for clarity – in case we didn’t grasp his meaning – “Very, very badly.”
Yes, it’s a very bad time for journalists – and journalism generally. However, their troubles did not begin with Trump’s ascendancy to actual power. They’ve simply been highlighted and made more acute because of his ongoing penchant to endlessly deride and demean them at every turn.
If nothing else, Trump delights in making a bad situation worse and, if we’re being honest, journalists are also blowing smoke on the fire each time they take issue with his ravings.
There is no ‘other man’ behind the curtain – no softer, gentler soul or cunning intellect yearning to break free. Trump is who he is and he’s not going to change. In fact, his supporters probably love him more with each battle joined and each insult hurled. They view his victory in the presidential election as one that happened in spite of a perceived bias in favour of Hillary Clinton on the part of the mainstream media.
Trump defeated the mainstream media as much as he did Clinton.
That the press continues to squeal at his insults probably serves to delight his supporters in a way that Trump and his team perfectly understand and are doing everything to exploit.
I realize it’s a risky business to ascribe method to madness, but I believe Trump and his team are banking on the profound disconnect between how the public perceives journalists and how journalists perceive themselves. And, yes, as much as the intellectual elite – and effete – may hate to admit it, the legions of Trump supporters are part of the general public.
For now, the rest of us would be better served if Trump and the media wiped the blood and sweat off their wrestling tights and retreated to separate corners.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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