Donald Trump is exploiting a weakness in our media — its quest for eyeballs at any cost. Trump is best at gluing eyeballs to the screen — he inflames his supporters and infuriates his detractors. Meanwhile, he oversees a train wreck of an administration that dominates headlines. “If it bleeds, it leads” — and our country is bleeding under his leadership.
Media owners seem to see synergy here: empower Trump with free and sweeping coverage and watch ratings and profits soar. But Trump is a parasite. He’s drawing strength from the media even as he sucks its power and influence dry. But the biggest loser is democracy, since the Trump-media nexus is degrading (and perhaps destroying) fact-based decision-making.
These thoughts came to mind as I read Tom Engelhardt’s latest article at TomDispatch.com. Trump, Engelhardt notes, has the unique and ultimately pernicious ability to drive — and often to dominate — discourse:
Never, not ever, has a single human being been so inescapable. You can’t turn on the TV news, read a newspaper, listen to the radio, wander on social media, or do much of anything else without almost instantly bumping into or tripping over… him, attacking them, praising himself, telling you how wonderful or terrible he feels and how much he loves or loathes… well, whatever happens to be ever so briefly on his mind that very moment.
Engelhardt highlights an important truth later in his piece: Trump’s true “base” is the very “fake news” media he’s so happy to attack.
Of course, Trump has always been a relentless, even ruthless, self-promoter. Now that he’s president, the media can’t exactly ignore him (or can they?). But what’s truly shocking is how the mainstream media is so supinely subservient to him. How unwilling they are to call him a liar when he lies; and how unwilling they are to critique their own obsequious coverage in a way that would lead to meaningful changes.
The media can’t get enough of Trump. Knowing this dependency, Trump exploits it, relentlessly. He reminds me of Agent Smith in “The Matrix” movies. He’s a rapidly-replicating virus that, if left unchecked, will destroy the matrix of American democracy . The question is: How is Trump to be neutralized, or at least contained, when the media keeps feeding him?
Breaking News: Jim Acosta got his press pass back. Big deal. Now Trump can score more points off of CNN and its “fake news” machine.