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Decryption | We need to talk (more) about Donald Trump

Nature

(New York) Please, stop amplifying Donald Trump’s messages, repeating each of his excesses and, above all, playing into his hands by broadcasting his speeches live on television!




These prayers, warnings or admonitions addressed to the media are largely a thing of the past. These days, it is quite the opposite that is being advised or demanded of the media by various experts in politics or journalism, as well as by elected officials or democratic strategists.

Their thesis is the same: we need to talk (more) about Donald Trump, so that voters understand (better) the issues of the 2024 presidential election.

In an article published on 1er last October1, the American political scientist and author Brian Klaas contributed to this turnaround by calling on the media to combat the “banality of madness”. The phrase refers to the tendency of journalists or their employers to ignore, out of weariness or indifference, what Klaas calls the “routine madness” of Donald Trump.

He gives as an example a speech given by the former president on September 29, during the convention of the Republican Party of California, in Anaheim. That day, after making fun of Paul Pelosi, the octogenarian husband of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who was almost assassinated with a hammer by a fanatical conspiracy theorist, Donald Trump proposed tackle the problem of looting and shoplifting by shooting suspects on sight.

“It’s very simple: if you rob a store, you can expect to be shot when you leave that store. Beaten down ! »

The 1,500 Republicans in the audience, who had just laughed at Paul Pelosi, began chanting: “Trump! Trump! Trump! »

“Trinalization of madness”

As Brian Klaas notes, the New York Times didn’t publish a single line the next day about Trump’s promise to execute thieves upstairs. According to Paul Farhi, media critic of the Washington PostTHE Times ended up mentioning this commitment four days later, on page 14 of its paper edition. THE Washington PostTHE Wall Street Journal and NPR, among others, have not reported on it.

If Joe Biden called for executing shoplifters, do you think there would be a headline in the New York Times ? We all know the answer.

Brian Klaas, political scientist, in his article

A few days earlier, Donald Trump had accused General Mark Milley of “treason” on Truth Social and suggested that he deserved to be executed for trying to reassure the Chinese after the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol. The media reaction? The equivalent of a shrug.

“This is what I call the trivialization of insanity — and it is distorting the way Americans think about politics in the Trump and post-Trump era,” Klaas wrote.

Another striking example of the phenomenon: during a speech in New Hampshire to celebrate a patriotic holiday – Veterans Day – on November 11, Donald Trump promised to “eradicate the communists, the Marxists, the fascists and the thugs of the radical left who live like vermin in our country.”

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PHOTO JOSEPH PREZIOSO, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES

Donald Trump, last November 11 in New Hampshire

Upon learning of this statement, some journalists reacted immediately. “This is pure Nazi speech, the likes of which has never been made before,” Michael Tomasky, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, wrote the next day. The New Republic.

Announcing that the real enemy is national, then referring to that enemy as (vermin), is fascism 101.

Michael Tomasky, in The New Republic

However, according to Media Matters, a media monitoring group, no major American television network mentioned this speech the next day in its news bulletins or public affairs programs, except NBC. The host of the show Meet the Press Kristen Welker asked Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel what she thought about this kind of rhetoric. Mme McDaniel declined to comment. And Kristen Welker moved on to another topic.

Extreme rhetoric

University of Kansas political scientist Donald Haider-Markel, who is interested in American extremism, believes that “we are already seeing the consequences of the underestimation and normalization” of Donald Trump’s speeches. In several polls on the 2024 presidential election, “Trump is tied or ahead of Biden, even with his increasingly extreme rhetoric,” he told the online magazine Salon.

With the future of democracy at stake, a serious change of course is necessary, according to Margaret Sullivan, former mediator of the New York Times. In an article recently published by The Guardianthe latter recommends in particular that the American media “publish more reports – a lot more – on what Trump would do after the election”.

THE Washington Post and the New York Times seem to have received the message. THE Post recently published an in-depth report on how Donald Trump intends to use the Department of Justice and the army to take revenge on his critics and impose his law if he returns to the White House. And the Times went on to reveal in detail the presidential candidate’s plans to deport millions of illegal immigrants per year and ban Muslim nationals from entering the United States.

Even Democrats want more. In the House of Representatives, 38 elected officials from Joe Biden’s party signed a letter demanding the live television broadcast of Donald Trump’s federal trials. The irony is that the latter made the same request, being convinced that he would never receive too much attention.

Nature

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