By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Are media accountable to any institution? Are they free to distort information, peddle false news and indulge in partisan politics in all impunity? A relentless witch-hunt targeting President Trump before the 2016 election and throughout his term of office has been carried out by mainstream leftist American newspapers and television channels. Their views are translated in several languages and broadcast by media across the world. In a highly connected and wired world overflooded with round-the-clock news, everyone has an opinion on any topic hitting the headlines. Opinion on the election of the new president widely rested on hearsay and views peddled by media. Why not wait and see what achievements he can be credited with before prophesying doom?
“However much social networks contribute to promote free expression of ideas and opinions worldwide, the current display of authoritarian rule on free speech targeting the US president is likely to be counter-productive, promote the Trump brand, push for a privately-owned Trump media platform, drive supporters to yearn for continuity in the Trump dynasty with daughter Ivanka in the lead role…” Photo – Getty Images
Anti-Trump protesters went on rampage on his swearing-in ceremony day in a well-orchestrated mass protest in the streets of Washington hardly meeting with disapproval in the media. He was portrayed as an irresponsible unstable man who could recklessly push the button and trigger a nuclear war, amid other sins that he was said to embody. Personal attacks included mockery of his facial features, which was a total lack of elegance and respect.
What followed at all levels was far from being the work of an amateur or a mentally deranged leader. China was probably used as a scapegoat for internal failures for years, but whereas spineless EU leaders had been complaining about China’s unfair trade practices, Trump took on China without any more ado, changed rules and gave a boost to the economy which resulted in the highest level of job creation in the past 50 years.This is what mattered to citizens, and he even won over the hearts of Democrat voters. 3 million migrants were sent back home at the Mexican border during Obama’s term of office, 1 million by Trump administration. The ban on visas to asylum seekers and visitors from countries hostile to US political, economic and geopolitical interests led leftist media to denounce ‘a Muslim ban’, and portrayed Trump as a racist just as Indian PM was demonized for CAA law in western media. The three Furies, female Congresswomen of the Democratic Party raised an outcry.
President Trump did not start any war, but avoided to embark on what could have been devastating for Iran. Hilary Clinton overtly declared her intention to declare war on Iran if she was elected in 2016. Amid conflicts in the war zone of Syria, Trump ordered a fighter jet to head towards Teheran and destroy its military infrastructure, but changed his mind ten minutes before the plane was due to reach its target for the simple reason that he was informed that 150 people would lose their lives in Iran. News of chemical attack by the Syrian president led to an immediate destruction of airport infrastructure at Damas. Last year, Iranian army chief was drone attacked for sporadically targeting Saudi oil tanks. President Trump restored US presence and prestige in hot spots like Syria after the Obama presidency pulled away from it, tarnished the image of the U.S as a superpower, leaving Russia and Iran free to intervene. Blame for unscrupulously letting down the Kurds can be equally put at the door of the allies and the Trump administration, the latter going a step further by branding the AKP as a terrorist organisation in a bid to spare Turkey of any reprisals. Cynicism and realpolitik was at its peak with Turkey fighting both against and with Islamic State soldiers.
Trump’s straightforward style embarrassed political and media opponents, entertained and rejoiced his supporters. In an interview during 2016 electoral campaign he moved away from the language of diplomacy, spoke out his mind frankly by stating that ‘We are not innocent.’ Unlike EU allies, he did not treat Russia as a pariah state, engaged like no other US president with the North Korean leader, offering an amusing picture of the towering figure of Trump patting young Kim Jung Un on the shoulder in a typical American patronizing style. In 2017 he addressed a clearly worded warning to Pakistan on the fight against terrorism. His envoy to the UN, Nicky Haley put on a bright performance at UN sessions, and called the bluff of a number of nations that systematically opposed US moves to confront state-sponsored terrorism. ‘I saved his a…’, he concluded, on sparing Saudi Crown Prince MBS of US anger and a CIA probe after the sordid assassination at Saudi embassy in Turkey. He bristled at ‘CNN bas…’ on television. Without beating about the bush, he directly took on Nigerain president some time back by asking: ‘Why are you persecuting Christians in Nigeria?’
Far from being a ‘populist’ clown, he dealt squarely and seriously with anyone trying to thwart US interests and mess with his policies in any way. His decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move US embassy there was in tune with his plan for geopolitics and peace in the Middle East. It was nothing of a sudden impulsive erratic decision coming from the hat of an irresponsible president, as portrayed in the media. It had been a carefully prepared strategy which his son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner put in place for six months with Saudi Crown Prince at Riyad, with the two protagonists in their early thirties becoming buddies, sipping tea together and discussing late into the night – something which no seasoned experienced American politician could have achieved. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump carried out his geopolitical strategy in the Middle-East, which he deemed would bring peace in the region. After the UAE, Sudan, Bahrain and Morocco mended ties with Israel. Sophisticated high-tech planes were sold to Qatar together with the technology, surprisingly. Lately, Saudi Arabia resumed ties with Qatar. How the Gulf state will conduct itself in the near future remains to be seen. If anything, the whole strategy is to bring peace in the Middle-East and promote trade in the region in a long-term win-win situation. Joe Biden is likely to follow the same policy.
Witch-hunt and permanent mudslinging by every means went on and on in the media, and Trump’s achievements were belittled and ignored. The initial ‘populist’ label stuck on Trump bars mainstream media from being rational and fair in its assessment of the president’s achievements. It is quite worrying in a country where a cancel culture is gaining ground. Media outlets drifted away from what their prime duty was supposed to be. Print media and private-owned television channels like CNN fed the public trend of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ devoid of deep thinking, a populist strategy in itself, misleading and ill-informing the world public in the process. Trump is not a paragon of refined language and diplomatic niceties, he is the odd man in American politics who delivers the goods nevertheless, something which embarrasses rivals and media. An abuse of power currently taken to higher level by a social network communication boss in silencing the president of the US amounts to an unelected authoritarian entity within a state and on the world stage. It is the extreme end-product of biased print media editorialist lines ‘regulating’ and ‘moderating’ public comments at will, a self-proclaimed judge on freedom of speech, a caricature of print media bosses, imposing big tech rules with a monstrous grin on the world stage.
However much social networks contribute to promote free expression of ideas and opinions worldwide, the current display of authoritarian rule on free speech targeting the US president is likely to be counter-productive, promote the Trump brand, push for a privately-owned Trump media platform, drive supporters to yearn for continuity in the Trump dynasty with daughter Ivanka in the lead role. Right now, demonizing Trump may fuel increasing violence in supporters who opine that the president has been unfairly treated by media follies.
* Published in print edition on 19 January 2021