Published on November 8, 2020
One of the more interesting aspects of the US Presidential election that’s caught my attention is how the media (the four main US television channels and then the Australian media) have finally found their voice in terms of calling out Trump’s false statements and downright lying.
It started with the big four US television channels cutting away from the President’s media conference on 5 November. The longer it went the more ‘unreality’ it became, odd for a guy who made is celebrity status via the ‘reality’ TV of The Apprentice.
By early morning Australian time most of the radio and television media were using the phrases ‘false claims’, ‘unsubstantiated statements’, ‘false statements’.
Something has flipped in two days, after more than six years.
Just what happened?
The Emperor’s New Clothes is what happened. Just before I explore Mr Trump, let’s go back to Hans Christian Andersen’s original book, The Emperor’s New Clothes, a cautionary tale about a vain emperor who gets exposed before his subjects. Here’s how the book is summarised on Wikipedia.
Two swindlers arrive at the capital city of an emperor who spends lavishly on clothing at the expense of state matters. Posing as weavers, they offer to supply him with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. The emperor hires them, and they set up looms and go to work.
A succession of officials, and then the emperor himself, visit them to check their progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid being thought a fool. Finally, the weavers report that the emperor’s suit is finished. They mime dressing him and he sets off in a procession before the whole city. The townsfolk uncomfortably go along with the pretense, not wanting to appear inept or stupid, until a child blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all.
The people then realize that everyone has been fooled. Although startled, the emperor continues the procession, walking more proudly than ever.
Trump’s press conference on 5 November was a delusion rant of a man in power who was confronted with the reality that his ‘power’ was illusory, fleeting at best, propped up by spineless elected representatives of his own party, sycophants on his team, an out-played opposition and a media cohort who, largely, were unable to use it’s own power and supposed smarts to outsmart a consummate media operator. The few that took him on were sacked, castigated and vilified via Twitter.
As columnist Tom Nichols commented:
The press conference (well-telegraphed by Trump and his supporters) will do down a one of the most public of denouements seen for decades.
Trump acted like a 3-year old who had been admonished in the supermarket for wanting to put some Coco Puffs in the trolley and was told in no uncertain terms by his mother that his was not happening. A storewide tantrum follows . . . and the mother walks off. More tantrum…. How could she leave me, now I am alone, what do I do? Where’s my Mum? Sound familiar?
The immediate television media response is unprecedented. Cutting off a US President mid-way through a press conference calling out Trump’s false statements and lies.
Listening, watching and reading the news over the past 36 hours I’ve noticed that almost all outlets and now qualifying Donald Trumps accusations of illegal voting with the phrases ‘false statements’, ‘without evidence’ ‘unfounded statements’.
Brian Williams MSNBC Anchor perhaps sums up this shift as follows:
“Here we are again in the unusual position of not only interrupting the President of the United States, but correcting the President of the United States.
“There are no illegal votes that we know of, there has been no Trump victory that we know of.”
Why did this take so long to call out Trump’s false statements and lies?
I remain bemused as to why it’s taken so long for the media to adopt this approach: qualify Trump’s false statements and require facts, authentication, follow-up rather than just reporting, replaying, streaming his comments.
The upside is that its now happening and “false statement” is pretty much attached to most thing Donald Trump says. And I’ve also learnt a new word (as a writer and wordsmith who is trying to keep up with tech lingo I am delighted). The word? Chyron. What does it mean? An electronically generated caption superimposed on a television or cinema screen. AKA what Facebook and Twitter have been pasting over Donald Trump’s false statements.
I’d be really interested in feedback from others about this.
Fear, money, vested interest, disinterest, echo-chamber. . . ?
I suspect it’s something similar to The Queen’s Gambit. Yes I’ve just binged out on this terrific Netflix movie. Interestingly the The Queen’s Gambit is one of the oldest known chess openings as a key positional play. It’s gone in and out of fashion in professional chess as one opening repertoire.
In chess, a gambit is an opening move in which the player will sacrifice pieces to later gain a positive position. Perhaps Trump thought he could win by telling his supporters not to postal vote so he could claim voting fraud and irregularities (which he telegraphed quite early that he would do).
The Trump Gambit
Perhaps this explains Trump, the Trump Gambit: An opening positional play that requires the opponent to accept or decline the gambit but mostly operate in defense of it and only occasionally mount a counter gambit. The Democrats counter gambit was postal voting.
After a long time in defense I detect that the counter gambit will now become an integral part of elections in the US.
What are your thoughts?