Trump’s love-hate relationship with media intensifies

Trump’s love-hate relationship with media intensifies
US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Updated 24 January 2017

Trump’s love-hate relationship with media intensifies

Trump’s love-hate relationship with media intensifies

At a campaign speech in August, Donald Trump pointed to a crowd of journalists covering the rally, and let rip.
“These people are the lowest form of life, I’m telling you,” he said of the journalists present, to some cheers from the crowd. “They are the lowest form of humanity.”
It was just one of several salvos in a long-running battle between Trump and the Fourth Estate — and one that experts tip will only get worse now that the 45th US president has taken office.
Just days before his inauguration, Trump said he plans to keep tweeting his views as the “only way to counteract… a very dishonest media.”
And the war with the mainstream media shows no sign of abating now Trump is in office. Just hours into his presidency, a row erupted over media coverage of Trump’s inauguration, specifically over the size of the crowd that gathered in Washington to see him sworn in. Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday took aim at some media outlets’ coverage of the inauguration, with the White House offering a vastly higher estimate of the size of the crowd that was present.
While Trump has slammed outlets for purveying “fake news”, he is — ironically, perhaps — on good terms with the far-right Breitbart News outlet, which itself has been accused of carrying bogus, or exaggerated stories.
On the campaign trail, Trump maligned the “dishonest media,” slammed mainstream media outlets for being “biased” and even, during one rally, mocked a disabled reporter.
But it has not been a one-sided battle. The New York Times published a memorably blunt letter from its lawyer, detailing why it was refusing to retract an article that featured two women accusing Trump of touching them inappropriately years ago.
And BuzzFeed recently took the controversial decision to publish a dossier alleging Russia has compromising information on Trump — despite the document having not been verified, and previously having been rejected by other media outlets.
More prosecutions of journalists?
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan told AFP she expects a “hellish” time under President Trump. She expects Trump to “punish journalists for doing their jobs” and suspects his administration will be “awash in investigations and prosecutions of journalists.”
In a sign, perhaps, of how the relationship will play out, Trump’s administration last week signaled it may seek to remove reporters from their long-time home in the West Wing, which some journalists have interpreted as an assault on the freedom of the press.
But experts say that, despite his obvious disdain for the profession, Trump needs the media and the media needs Trump. It is just a typical a love-hate relationship.
Prof. Mark Feldstein, professor of Broadcast Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism — University of Maryland, described it as a “codependent” relationship.
“As much as Trump and the media may hate each other, they also need each other,” Feldstein told Arab News. “Trump uses the media as a foil and to get his message out and the media uses Trump to attract an audience.”
But the relationship is certainly a difficult one, Feldstein points out.
“The mainstream media’s relationship with Trump has been exceedingly contentious, more so than with any other president in history. Trump has vilified individual reporters, the news outlets they work for, and the institution of the press as a whole. At the same time, in the past few months elite media organizations have aggressively exposed Trump’s professional and personal scandals — quite fairly as a whole, in my opinion,” he said.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, said that the mainstream US media and Trump have had a “contentious” relationship to date. Now Trump has been sworn in, she expects the media to be more critical of him, but that the US president will continue to exploit the media.
“Parts of mainstream press are now in an adversarial rather than a skeptical posture toward Trump,” Jamieson told Arab News.
Christopher Wells, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the media’s relationship with Trump “evolved over the course of the campaign.”
While some coverage was positive — such as the details of the size of Trump’s rallies — some of the media’s treatment of the then Republican candidate could be deemed “unfair,” Wells said.
“Some media did not take him particularly seriously, especially in the earlier stages of the campaign. In that sense, I think we saw the mainstream press underestimating Trump’s appeal to a large segment of the public,” Wells told Arab News.
“The press was also shocked that Trump would withstand the criticism of some of his own more outlandish statements, which seemed to break the known rules of running for office — but this did not stop them from printing stories about them, which they found was a great way to generate ratings. Additionally, the fact that trust in the US press is at historically low levels — and is incredibly low for Trump’s supporters especially — added to this.”

Dominating the news
Feldstein pointed out that, as a former reality TV star, Trump certainly knows how to manipulate the media.
“Trump has exploited the institutional weaknesses of the media by manipulating its insatiable appetite for constant controversy; he has dominated the news day after day, month after month with his tweets and outrageous statements, which overwhelm and drown out voices that otherwise might be heard,” Feldstein told Arab News.
“As a former TV reality star, he knows how to generate drama and ratings, leading television networks to cover him live constantly in ways they have never done before with other politicians because the networks make so much money from the bigger audiences that tune in to watch the spectacle.”
And as president, Trump now holds even more power.
“He will try to restrict and control the news media as much as he can. He will avoid unscripted news conferences, grant access to favored conservative reporters and increase government secrecy wherever he can. He will be vocal when he does not get positive news coverage and will try to go over the heads of the media directly to the public, through tweets, speeches, and scripted events,” said Feldstein.
“It will be a very acrimonious four years between the president and the press.”


Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?

Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?
Updated 16 January 2021

Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?

Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?
  • Why did the platform act now, and why does it tolerate so many other preachers of hate?

The decision by Twitter to permanently ban US President Donald Trump caused many people in the Arab world to accuse the platform of double standard.

Why, they wonder, did it take so long for action to be taken against him, and why are so many other public figures known for spreading hate and intolerance allowed to continue to tweet freely.
“Throughout history, God has imposed upon them (the Jews) people who would punish them for their corruption,” said Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in a fatwa.


“The last punishment was that of Hitler … This was a divine punishment for them. Next time, God willing, it will be done at the hands of the faithful believers.”
The Egyptian scholar has a long history of issuing hate-filled and antisemitic fatwas — yet he continues to enjoy the freedom provided by Twitter, which he joined in May 2011, to spread his objectionable views and ideas to more than 3 million followers.
“This decision (by Twitter to ban Trump) raises questions about the double standards with which these (social media) companies deal,” said veteran journalist and media expert Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy, who until 2011 was head of news with Egypt’s national broadcaster. “And also the extent to which the motives of these companies for their decisions are considered honest motives all the time.
“Trump’s approach, which encourages hate, has not changed for years. These companies did not take a stance on the US president at the time, but have now taken a position (when he is about to leave office).
“There are other personalities, some of them from the Middle East, who have been using hate speech for years and none of the major social media companies have taken action against them.”
Twitter suspended Trump’s account on Jan. 8 in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6. They gave “the risk of further incitement of violence” as the reason for the ban.
“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter rules would potentially result in this very course of action,” the platform said in a blog post, detailing the reasoning behind its decision.
Late last year Twitter updated its rules relating to hateful conduct, saying that it aims to create a more inclusive environment for users. In a blog entry posted on July 9, 2019 and updated on Dec. 2, 2020, the company said: “Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk.”
However El-Menawy said this might be a case of “too little, too late” for the social media company to be heralded as a champion for standing up to hate speech. The timing of the Trump ban, he says, “is questionable and raises suspicions about the motives.”
Mohammed Najem, executive director of SMEX, a digital-rights organization focusing on Arabic-speaking countries, echoed El-Menawy’s concerns.
“It shows that the companies don’t really know what they are doing when it comes to content moderation,” he said.
“For years many civil-society groups, in the US and around the globe, have been asking the right questions about content moderation but they were mostly ignored, or not given enough attention or acted upon by the tech companies. They have a lot of work to do (on this issue) and they need to listen to civil-society groups.”
Throughout his term as president, Trump has courted controversy with his Twitter activity. Supporters, opponents and journalists worldwide closely monitor his personal account on the platform, more so than the official account of the presidency (@POTUS), for a glimpse into his mind and motives.
As Brian L. Ott and Greg Dickinson, authors of the book “The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage,” wrote in an op-ed published by USA Today: “Historically, Twitter has been reluctant to hold Trump responsible for his speech, likely because he was their most notorious user.” They added: “Simply put, Trump was good for business.”
Trump — who was impeached on Wednesday on charges of “incitement of insurrection,” making him the first US president to be impeached twice — indeed was one of Twitter’s top users. He had nearly 89 million followers, and his posts had been retweeted 389,842,552 times and liked 1,659,180,779 times since he opened his account on March 18, 2009. He was mentioned in 16 million tweets on the day of the Capitol siege, and 17 million on the day after.

While Twitter has special rules that apply to the accounts of world leaders, it insists they are not immune to its enforcement policies. Yet some continue to post comment considered objectionable by many.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, for example, cannot be compared to President Trump in terms of number of followers or reach on Twitter, but his activity on the platform follows a similarly dangerous pattern. Just last week, the Iranian leader posted false claims across his multiple accounts — he has ones in English, Spanish, Farsi, Arabic and Russian — that COVID-19 vaccines developed in US and UK are “completely untrustworthy,” France has “HIV-tainted blood supplies,” and it is “not unlikely that they (Western countries) would want to contaminate other nations.”
This follows years of similarly dangerous and damaging tweets in which Khamenei incited violence against other nations. In May 2020, for example, he said that Iran will “support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.”

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has a long history of issuing hate-filled fatwas — yet he continues to enjoy the freedom provided by Twitter, which he joined in May 2011, to spread his objectionable views and ideas to more than 3 million followers. (File/AFP)

Other accounts, such as those of Al-Qaradawi and Qais Al-Khazali — both of whom have featured in the Preachers of Hate series published by Arab News — also remain active. Al-Khazali, from Iraq, was designated as a global terrorist by the US State Department in January last year.
The issue is not unique to accounts originating in the Arab world. In India, for example, social-media platforms, including Facebook, have been criticized for continuing to allow users to spread hate speech.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric from Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, is blamed for contributing to a rise in attacks against the minority Muslim community across the country, for example.
There are many accounts on Twitter and other social-media platforms that have prompted similar concerns. Observers warn that without better controls and moderation of objectionable content, Twitter runs the risk that its image as a promoter of free speech will be damaged and, through inactivity, it will come to be viewed as a promoter of hate speech.
Twitter did not respond to requests from Arab News for comment.