Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle, GA
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Donald Trump is a media creation. He through the media created a persona that took him all the way to the White House. His use of the media is obviously propagandistic. He has successfully used this nefarious approach to bring roughly one-third of us onto his team. Despite the recent crack in his image, brought about by Nancy Pelosi, those of us frightened and repulsed by his ineptitude and lying should not assume that one crack will lead to image shattering capable of ensuring conviction of his impeachment by the Senate, or defeat in the Electoral College in 2020. There is, however, an approach which could help do both.
Media in our world is ubiquitous to the point that we now carry it around with us on our smart phones and tablets. Unfortunately, politically it has become team oriented. Those of us who are anti-Trump watch MSNBC and CNN and visit and post on anti-Trump internet sites. Pro team Trumpers watch Fox, visit InfoWars, and Breitbart and post on pro Trump internet sites. As long as this format is the only use of media following the President he could escape impeachment (Republican senators not voting to convict him). He could also or repeat 2016 where he lost the popular vote (by 3 million) while being "elected" through the Electoral College.
Modern media is formulistic to the point one can predict what hosts and guests are going to say before they actually say it. Some outlets try to appear that they are presenting both sides of the Trump debate. Their broadcasts present representatives from both teams who argue their side's talking points. While obviously there is necessary and informative reporting being broadcast, this format is essentially set up as entertainment which, like a sporting event, allows us to "root" for our respective team.
Media, however, as a medium is neutral. It could be used as an antidote to Trumpism. What if an independent media campaign were developed which in real time corrected Trump's lies and distortions and ensured the corrections were broadcast to those outlets watched by team Trump? This kind of campaign would use Trump video and quotes with corrections. For example "I'd be proud to shut down the government", along with his then blaming the Democrats for the recent shutdown. And, his most recent insane rant telling his intelligence chiefs they "should go back to school" because they, thank heaven, (having relied on intelligence) contradicted his fantasies regarding the threats posed by: ISIS, North Korea, Iran and climate change.
If done correctly this campaign would be picked up, commented on and rebroadcast by main stream media. The mechanics of doing this would include: creating a Truth In The Time Of Trump organization; having a kick-off press conference introducing the organization and explaining the need for the truth in the time of Trump; using spokespersons "acceptable" to team Trump; placing commercials on Fox News (and other Trump oriented outlets), social media sites focused on the President; writing op-eds and Letters to the Editor, et al. In other words, a constant drum beat of facts, in the media, aimed at Trump supporters correcting the President and pointing out the dangers implicit in his positions.
The problem, of course, with this idea is funding. Such a campaign would be expensive. Here too there are solutions. Tom Steyer's Impeach Trump campaign has been successful. Trump, once the Mueller Report is released, will be impeached by the Democratic House. Steyer is not running for president. He could transfer his focus to this kind of media campaign (as could other politically conscious moguls afraid of what is happening to our democracy). Or, the foundation community could take this on and fund a Truth In Government public education campaign.
The imperative for this, our society is at present hopelessly divided. Donald Trump did not create the divide we are living in. It has existed since the time of slavery. He, through manipulating the media, with help from the Russians, exploited it on his way to winning the Electoral College. He, understood, and understands, that both cable news and social media have to continue commenting and arguing about every lie he utters to the point that: “If all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed ...then the lie passed into history and became truth" (George Orwell, 1984).
Even if Donald Trump is removed from office, or not re-elected, he and his supporters will still be with us. He will continue propagandizing. The divide will continue to poison our democracy. Granted, a media campaign like the one I am suggesting cannot heal a divide which has existed since the creation of our country. But, it can be a beginning, a way of using Trump's lies and distortions as a teachable moment. If done correctly, the Truth In The Time Of Trump campaign can begin to educate those Americans who don't understand the dignity and power of a democracy with three co-equal branches of government, which does its best to rely on science and facts to create and carry out its policies and practices.