To some extent every politician, businessman and celebrity seeks to control their public image through manipulation of the media. As a person who represents all three of these roles, Donald Trump has successfully turned his decades-long struggle with the media into an avid art form. This week’s target, apart from Hillary Clinton, was the “dishonest” Washington Post, whose press credentials were revoked at Trump’s latest rally. But is this type of overt criticism of the media the result of a bully’s tantrum when things don’t go his way, or is it just a clever way to create more press and dominate the news cycle?
As the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and potential head of the world’s leading superpower, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Trump would want to set up a mutually beneficial relationship with the fourth estate. Not so much, and if you don’t believe that, go read his Twitter feed. But his growing blacklist of media outlets banned at his campaign events doesn’t actually stop members of the press entering rallies with the public, because of course no one would be more devastated than Trump if the media stopped their 24/7 coverage of his campaign. But Trump’s harsh stance, which he could easily use as a precedent for revoking White House press corps credentials, is unlikely to result in “more fair” coverage.
So why does any of this matter? Because if you take Trump’s actions to their furthest logical conclusions, it reveals a slippery slope to the dark side, where democracy is undermined and freedoms are limited. What is disheartening is the applause of his followers, who don’t understand or appreciate the privilege of a free and accessible media. Sure the media can be full of bias and often has its own agenda, but that doesn’t mean a President Trump should make it easier to sue newspapers because they write negative coverage. One thing's for sure; democracy will surely become harder to hang onto if its advocates refuse to recognize the concept.
Wondering what an undemocratic America would look like? Movie for your mood: The Dictator