Why Donald Trump is the Media's Biggest Beneficiary
Last month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shocked people all over the world by defeating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Despite winning the Republican nomination, Trump was widely seen as an underdog in the election, and many media polls conducted before the election had shown Clinton to be leading. Trump’s campaign was fraught with controversy, including a dispute with the Muslim family of a deceased American soldier; his stated desire to build a wall, which would be used to keep out illegal immigrants; and, shortly before the election, the release of a video in which Trump used vulgar language to outline specific inappropriate behaviors towards women. All of these incidents were highly publicized by the media, who frequently criticized Trump, either openly or indirectly. In response, Trump recognized the media’s criticism, and often responded aggressively to their censure, by repeatedly complaining about their coverage of his campaign, and referring to numerous specific media institutions as “dishonest”.
In fact, Trump’s hatred of the media become almost a rallying cry for his campaign and his supporters, who frequently accused the media of being biased and skewed towards Clinton. At face value, Trump may have had something resembling a point in his criticism of media institutions, many of whom would openly scrutinize his campaign and vilify Trump as a candidate. However, Trump’s frequent criticism of the media ignores the fact that Trump’s campaign benefited tremendously from the media’s coverage of him, and that he almost constantly used their coverage to his advantage during the election cycle.
When the media analyzed one of Trump’s many inflammatory comments or incidents, they often referred to the comment, or Trump’s actions, as “offensive”. While this may seem like a harsh reproach of Trump’s behavior, the only thing that the word “offensive” really means is that his action may have hurt the feelings of some citizens. This type of criticism is actually a particularly inaccurate way to analyze Trump’s inappropriateness for the office of the presidency, because the job of the president has absolutely nothing to do with the emotions of citizens, but rather their logical best interests. Even (or especially) after Trump has won the election, there are many valid criticisms that could be made of him as a politician, including his lack of a political acumen, and his tendency to give political offices to only those who share his conservative agenda, in a way that is reminiscent of the “spoils system” employed by President Andrew Jackson. However, to merely state that Trump may have offended some citizens as his biggest flaw fails to do justice to the actual reasons why he was a poor candidate for the presidency. These reasons included Trump’s lack of political competence, and a lack of commitment to serve the United States honorably, both of which are ultimately highly important traits of a presidential candidate.
Trump frequently reacted to the media’s criticism of his actions and comments by asserting that the media was biased against him, and accused them of attempting to turn voters against him. However, Trump also repeatedly stated that he was attempting to fix the problem of “political correctness” in his campaign, and that his seemingly inflammatory comments were actually examples of his supposed commitment to being honest in his rhetoric, regardless of the public’s reaction. Many voters came to see Trump as the “politically incorrect” candidate, who would analyze an issue with brutal honesty, as opposed to other candidates who would paint a somewhat inaccurate picture of a situation in order to cause intense emotional reaction amongst voters. There is certainly no denying that Trump utilized the perception of him as being “politically incorrect” to great advantage during his campaign, and manipulated that perception into being a tool to convince voters that he was the best choice for the presidency. However, the perception of Trump as being “politically incorrect” was due largely to the media’s extensive analysis of his many “offensive” incidents, which Trump was able to derive political benefit from.
Whenever the media labeled Trump’s actions as “offensive”, they either directly or unwittingly fed into the notion of Trump being “politically incorrect”, which Trump obviously capitalized on. The media, in reality, was never actually able to give a harsh criticism of Trump, even if they wanted and actively attempted to do so, because their focus on the ultimately insignificant offensiveness of his actions was often the extent of their analysis of his candidacy, and was actually an analysis which he was able to greatly benefit from. Trump used the media’s criticism of his behavior to fuel the notion that he was “politically incorrect”, and therefore made that criticism advantageous for his campaign. When saying or doing one of his many inflammatory things, Trump knew beforehand what the media’s reaction would be (or didn’t, and is an even bigger fool than he seems), yet said or did them anyway, which means that Trump knew that the media’s coverage would be either inconsequential or beneficial to his campaign. This is because Trump would not perform actions that he would know to be counterproductive to his candidacy, even for the sake of his “political incorrectness”. Trump simply manipulated the media’s coverage of his behavior into his advantage, and used their bad press as publicity of his “political incorrectness”.
Additionally, many seemingly believe that Trump’s “political incorrectness” represents a departure from the norms of political thought, and that he was a refreshingly independent candidate from the political institutions that have generally dominated American elections. In fact, many pointed to the “unconventional” nature of Trump’s campaign as proof that Trump would bring a creative and individualistic approach to the presidency.
In reality, Trump has absolutely no basis in originality or creativity, because every aspect of his campaign has parallels to previous political notions. Trump presumes to label himself as an “outsider” to the political system, yet he is a billionaire businessman who has actually run for president before, and has spent the entirety of his life (from childhood) living in wealth that most people never see in their lifetimes. The fact that he decided to run for the presidency this time around does not change the fact that he has spent his entire lifetime having a significant amount of wealth and influence. Additionally, many of Trump’s specific policies, like his hard stance on illegal immigration, are in no way his original creation, but rather the political beliefs held by many throughout the country. Trump simply managed to convince them that he will honor those beliefs if elected, unlike “establishment” politicians. Simply put, the notion that Trump is a “different” type of politician is nothing short of a falsehood.
Trump may have complained consistently about the media’s analysis of his campaign, but in truth, he ought to be thanking them for their publicity, which he manipulated to his own political benefit. The perception of Trump as “politically incorrect” may or may not be incorrect, but there is no denying that the reason that that perception exists is because he thought he could benefit from it politically. Additionally, Trump is in no way a political “maverick”, and would hardly be the first politician to label himself as such. Finally, the media’s focus on incidents of “offensiveness” failed to accurately define why Trump was the wrong choice for the presidency.