Take a look at the chyron in the image above. “Why Criticism Of Trump Emboldens His Supporters”.
The banner makes a bold claim. Is it every little criticism of Trump that emboldens his supporters? Is that what’s really going on with the constant digging in and rejecting of the media’s message? Or is there something being overlooked in the claim?
The answer shouldn’t surprise you. The chyron’s claim misses the point. There is a deep divide between the American media and the American people, but it is not something that is unique to Trump supporters, nor is it something that can be explained away as simply “They don’t like us because we criticize Trump.”
The idea that the media is the enemy is not new. It’s a tale as old as time. However, for the sake of keeping this column from getting too far into the weeds, let’s just go back 20 years or so – 1998.
A sexual relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski comes to light. Clinton’s past sexual antics are somewhat known, but this one is pretty big. The media is all over it, to the point where it is visibly frustrating the Clintons and their allies. They begin to blame a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and believed the media’s response to the scandal was out of a puritanical obsession with sex.
Republicans, meanwhile, felt they couldn’t catch a break during the years George W. Bush years. Daily reminders of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seemingly hourly body counts, and a constant stream of criticism further alienated them. The media seemed more obsessed with opposing Bush at every turn, unlike the previous administration, where they held Clinton’s feet to the fire only during a major scandal that was originally broken by a conservative journalist – Matt Drudge. Had it not been for him, would they have even covered it?
Regardless, the mood shifted once again when Barack Obama was elected. Obama himself went on a months-long tirade against Fox News, and his administration seized the phone records of nearly two dozen Associated Press reporters. Fox News reporter James Rosen was labeled a “criminal co-conspirator” regarding a 2009 leak of information related to North Korea. Despite all of this, however, media outlets seemed more focused on Obama’s opposition than Obama himself.
Is it any wonder, given the evidence above, that people might not trust the media when the media can’t even be consistent in how it covers presidential administrations?
Reporters and journalists like Stelter point to Trump attacking the media and Trump supporters not believing the criticisms of Trump as the reason there is so little public trust in the media, but the fact of the matter is that this problem is decades in the making.
The diagnosis is correct: People don’t trust the media. Polling shows this.
However, the symptoms are wrong. The fact that Trump has told people not to trust the media isn’t what’s causing it. Trump’s talking points are all based on what his supporters already believe. They already had no trust or faith in the media, and it’s because the media has a major problem in how it treats the different parties.
The media has become reactive to Trump. Every story has a Trump angle. Every political issue is somehow related to Trump or his allies. There are other stories out there, but they don’t get any breathing room because all of the Trump headlines choke them out. And when narratives are built and then destroyed by an inconvenient fact (like when a crying little girl goes viral for being separated from her mother and it turns out literally every fact of that story is wrong), the media ignores it, saying essentially that the spirit of the story is still true.
It is insulting to Trump voters. Not just supporters, but people who voted for him without believing in everything he said. The media is essentially saying that they know better and that it’s your fault that you don’t trust them. They refuse to accept their own part in all this. And that is why the problem won’t get any better anytime soon.