On November 8th, Americans decided to elect an individual whose campaign centred entirely on intolerance, racism, misogyny, and bigotry. Above all, white Americans decided that they were willing to ignore or embrace the intolerance that Donald Trump presented day after day. Many decided that their “economic” interests outweighed those of their fellow citizens, and that they were willing to let a man with total disregard for minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ populations hold the country’s highest office. If there was any doubt that racism was alive and well in America before this election, that doubt has since been put to rest.
As student journalists, we hold a unique place in the media world. Former Strand editor Aine O’Hare noted in a 2006 editorial, “Student newspapers are in a perfect position to push the envelope since factors like media convergence don’t come into play.” It can be argued today that the same can be said about media divergence.
We are all aware of the questionable ways in which the conservative media conducts itself. It has largely sustained the hate and bigotry promoted by Donald Trump, with figures like Sean Hannity and the other usual suspects at Fox News leading the charge.
Of serious concern after this election, however, is the questionable way in which the liberal media has conducted itself. The New York Times deserves special mention in this regard, among other outlets such as NBC, Slate, and the like. Deserving special mention is that stupid fucking New York Times “chances of winning” meter that did a complete 180° turn on election night.
One of many things that stuck out was the sheer number of telephone interviews Trump conducted over the course of his campaign—a luxury not previously afforded on such a frequent basis to past presidential candidates. Telephone interviews allow the candidate to be coached, making it harder for them to be interrupted, and making them less accountable to an audience that cannot read their body language. The networks who allowed this to happen did it for their own gain. They did it for the higher ratings they would receive if Trump said something stupid and racist, as he often does.
That being said, the biggest issue lies with the so-called “limousine liberals”—the white, urban, often upper class, educated liberals who make up and control a large part of the media. I’m talking about people like Paul Krugman, who wrote this in The New York Times on November 8th: “What we do know is that people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in.” It is the media’s job and responsibility to understand their audience, and to inform them on this basis.
The coverage that often came from sources like Krugman, throughout the campaign, was inadequate—in that they put all the focus in the wrong places. They decided to focus on how Trump couldn’t form sentences, to focus on how America is stupid. They chose to focus on how they knew better than everyone else, and you would be wrong and helpless in not seeing what they did.
This discourse is one seen outside of the media and in our own classrooms. I myself deflected the chance of a Trump victory by disregarding the fact that these voters could have an effect. These sources sensationalizing Trump undoubtedly played into this dismissive mentality by making the campaign Trump’s very own reality TV show. A greater focus on the Americans that bought into this rhetoric would have been much more effective than simply turning Trump into a glorified cartoon character and hoping for the best.
Historically, members of the population who received higher education have tended to be more tolerant and accepting than their uneducated counterparts. Overall, Clinton took the educated vote, but by an incredibly small margin of only four points. However, what is truly terrifying is that many educated white people voted for Trump in the majority—49 percent to Clinton’s 45 percent. As political activist Van Jones put it on election night, “This was a white-lash against a changing country.”
The liberal media informs a great number of Americans and, moving forward, they need to focus on what matters most. More focus was placed on the stupidity of the people who bought Trump’s rhetoric, his inability to form sentences, and his orange-ish skin tone, than on the issues that really mattered. To infer that this helped contribute to Trump’s share of the vote among uneducated white voters—which was 67 per cent to 28 per cent, the largest margin since 1980— is not a far jump.
White people have proven to be an incredibly dangerous group of voters. Their fellow white people, on the other side of the political spectrum with their “holier than thou” attitudes in telling them how dumb they are for buying into Trump’s rhetoric, will do nothing to stop them. It can be argued that it was this sort of attitude that pushed them to their corner of the spectrum in the first place.
This is not to propose that we “set aside our differences and work together” like many have been shouting—with a great degree of insensitivity—since the election. But what may prevent a similar result in the future is the media reverting back to its duty to inform. They need to place emphasis on telling people what is wrong, why it is wrong, and hoping that some of this information makes it through and helps to shape peoples’ opinions.
The media does not have the power to rid America of its racism and intolerance. These divisions are so far entrenched in American society that crucial and deep-rooted changes need to occur if the country is to ever reconcile these issues. However, the media does shape public opinion, and it needs to take this role more seriously in the future. It needs to reconsider how it presents issues that can affect the safety, security, and comfort of the citizens it informs, many of whom now face the toughest four years of their lives.