Saturday, November 17, 2018

Media in a Trap

You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.

~Winston Churchill

One thing that has bothered me from the day after the November 2016 US election is the current US president's obsession with Twitter. It's one thing to be a private citizen tweeting away, or even a celebrity building audience; but quite another for a US president to allow himself to be caught up in really trivial things on Twitter. Plus, really, I thought the job of president would leave anyone little time to spend watching TV much less tweeting all the time on Twitter. I've wished for Twitter to shut down the account, for the Secret Service to shut down the account, for his wife to shut down the account. It's embarrassing. He has no clue the image he's projecting to the world through that account. And it's not dignified, intelligent, statesmanlike, or compassionate. And definitely not presidential. He throws stones at every dog that barks at him.

Equally disturbing is the attention paid by the news media to that Twitter account. I've often wondered what would happen if they just stopped reporting on it, stopped giving attention to the attention-craving narcissist. On the one hand, it's entertainment, and the news media has moved deeper and deeper into entertainment in order to sustain itself and pay the bills. On the other hand, how is that account news? He rarely says anything on it that could be considered newsworthy (or even worth saying, in my opinion). Just because he's the president, I suppose, the reasoning is that it needs to be monitored and reported. Can you imagine how much he loves that? Clearly he doesn't think anything he says is "fake news" even if it's reported by the news outlets he accuses of reporting "fake news." Isn't it time to finally just say that what he says is "fake news" is really just reportage that he doesn't like or that is unflattering to him?

Bald Eagle in Bear Trap
The US news media, it seems to me, is caught in a trap. It has a responsibility to the citizens of the US to report on what's happening in the country and the world, to inform the citizenry, and to insure that those people who are public servants are held accountable. Freedom of the Press plays a crucial role in a free society. Without it, who could know what was really happening? So, the news media today reports on everything that comes out of the US White House, including on the president's Twitter account, even if it's not newsworthy. They spend that time on giving him the attention he craves when it could be better spent shining a harsh light on Senator Mitch McConnell and how the Republicans have slowly undermined American democracy through, obstructionism, gerrymandering, voting rights suppression, tax cuts for the wealthy as a strategy to destroy Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, among others. What's the US news media to do? They are damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

The recent US midterm elections brought some heartening news. The Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives. As Nancy Pelosi commented as well, now Congress can better serve the American people by fulfilling one of its crucial duties of being a check and balance for the Executive branch, i.e. the president. Will that give the US news media an escape door out of its current trap? 

Will someone finally shut down the US president's Twitter account? 

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