The current media environment is suffering a disease; a disease of mass hysteria stirred by the current American president that has made it difficult for them to objectively cover him without a tint of panic. This is a problem that can create and has created a media environment filled with constant angst and a vulnerability to negative bias against the president’s actions simply because they come from him.
This is the similar to the Republican party’s reflexive opposition to the current president’s predecessor; when anytime an accomplishment was made—even with widely supportable bipartisan principles—automatic vilification of the proposal or accomplishment was de rigueur.
Today, the current president has reversed the roles of political perception from his predecessor in two ways.
First, he’s reversed the way mainstream media covers the presidency. During the Obama administration the popular media was all too eager to hail any of his accomplishments simply because they came from him. Therefore, they were hesitant to criticize him too much. Now, the opposite holds true. An attitude of blind criticism is the mainstream media’s de facto stance when covering Trump.
Second, and somewhat surprisingly, Trump has been able to convince the opposing party in congress to be open to working with him in different areas. Obama almost never received this open hand from the opposing party.
So what is the popular media missing here? Under Trump, more bipartisanship is more possible than it was during his predecessor’s reign; more so impressive at a time when a narrative of increased hardening of views currently rules supreme.
What gives, then?
For starters, Trump is a divisive and engrossing figure. We’re yet to even comprehend his stunning victory. His aggressive acceleration of the news cycle is what a friend of mine pithily described as: “Obama’s news cycle was like a child riding a tricycle. Trump is the rich uncle in a Corvette going 90 miles per hour in the neighborhood.” Of course, there’s the sympathy that the media has to work under a faster news cycle. There are also many characteristics that make it difficult to gauge whether Trump’s bark always precedes a bite. But it should not be an excuse for the media to assume that everything Trump proposes or does is another one of his ‘crazy’ ideas.
In other words, nothing ‘happens until it happens’. His purposeful deployment of reckless instability keeps everyone on edge—which is good in that opportunities to accomplish things are taken the first chance they appear before they disappear.
Take for example the de-certification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). There’s a collective freak-out in the current political climate as to what Trump has hinted to do with the deal. Unfortunately this collective freak-out obscures a certain fact: “Trump did not withdraw from the JCPOA itself. What he chose was a compromise: to make clear his disdain for the agreement without leaving it or reintroducing sanctions that were removed as part of it” wrote Richard N. Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
But the question is: if this occurred during a different administration, would an overblown perception of chaos arose? The answer is no. But because this occurred under Trump, under a climate of political hysteria and uncertainty, the difference between concern borne out of careful examination of his policies and concern just because it came from him is unclear. This sets a dangerous precedent.
Lack of careful analysis risks ‘jump-the-gun’ type of coverage where facts are reported with a tint of negative assumptions. Pure objectivity is obviously not completely possible. Now, more than ever, a purely objective analysis of the Trump administration is extremely important.
Not doing so furthers the gap between reality and perception; which is the real enemy here. Maybe Trump is right when he brands the media as “fake news”. He’s simply expressing his frustration when they don’t report facts in a manner that he observes to be entirely truthful.