Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Trump’s No 1 Enemy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The playwright Bernard Shaw once said “I learned long ago not to engage in a quarrel with the media. It’s like wrestling with a pig. You will get dirty if you win or you lose. I apologise to my colleagues in the profession.”

The American President Donald Trump has been the best at deceiving the media and he used it for a year, during the election period. Trump was the media’s favourite subject because he was an unusual candidate and did not adhere to the rules of traditional competition.

He is incredibly popular and does not care much about intellectuals’ opinion of him. There is no doubt that Trump rose on the media’s shoulders for the cheapest price and invaded television screens for free after channels competed to broadcast him in order to gain more viewers.

While his rival Hillary Clinton spent more than $1 billion dollars on the media, Trump had only paid a very small amount until last September. Despite this, his presence dominated the media. I don’t believe that any major media strategist imagined that Trump’s luck would take him to the final stages and it was completely ruled out that he would win the elections.

Underestimating Trump made his pro-Democratic Party opponents, such as CNN, give him their microphones in an unprecedented manner and they pampered him in order to entertain people, not out of love for him or in order to promote him.

When there were a few weeks left till the elections and everyone began to realise that he was one of the two candidates to win the presidency, media outlets loyal to the Democrats turned against him. However, it was too late as he had built his name, established a plan and had gained popularity and followers.

Trump’s victory ended the electoral competition but it seems that the media war has just begun. Media figures are well aware that the president is an easy target because he is the first to be held responsible. His administration will undoubtedly commit mistakes, have shortcomings and will sometimes be unable to fulfil its promises. There may be developments against him that he cannot influence. In addition to this, there are endless possibilities and embarrassments. All of this will provide the media with ammunition to weaken him.

Trump, the man who looks like a tough Roman wrestler, will tire because, as Shaw said, a public figure cannot win against the media which considers criticism as its task and source of power.

In a country like the United States, its constitution expressly states that freedom of expression must be respected regardless of its aim and style. As a result, the president cannot do much to curb media outlets that oppose him. It appears that a big percentage of them oppose him and their attacks on Trump will be fiercer than their attacks on the former president Barack Obama who had a good relationship with the media.

Obama succeeded in subduing most of the media although, from amongst all American presidents, he was the most sensitive to criticism and journalists. It is said that he was the president who punished journalists the most by preventing those who disagreed with him or criticised him from participating in covering his activities and trips.

Trump’s problem is that, apart from being impulsive, he likes confrontation and believes that it is his weapon to discipline journalists. However, this will exhaust him and cost him a lot in the years to come, and it may even destroy him.

His Democrat rivals are influential and popular in society and they are favoured by the media which mainly consists of liberal movements that are affiliated to them. They are followed by Women’s groups, minorities, the LGBT community and the disabled. The list is long and includes rich organisations that have many supporters, and institutions that will keep Trump busy during the next four years with protests. They will use the weapon of popular and qualitative media against him on a large scale.

Therefore, the threat that President Trump made publicly against journalists a few days ago is mere talk and expresses his anger and frustration at the media’s attacks on him. He can shout in their faces but he can’t actually do much against them except deprive those who do not like him from accompanying him and keeping his personal information private.

Trump may retreat and accept that the only way of dealing with the bullying media is to co-exist with it as part of a long and slow relationship, or be patient with it.