If 'post-truth' and 'surreal' were the words of the year, as per a couple of notable dictionaries, the word that defines the transition of America into Trumpland is quite simply 'delegitimisation'.
That’s been there theme trumpeted by the US president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign since 8 November. Whether this has referred to the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails or the popular vote win for Hillary Clinton in the General Election (to be fair, a non-factor in determining the presidency), that has been the constant complaint. That the media is echoing liberal propaganda is now the default position and will continue through the process of vetting of Trump’s Cabinet nominees and any questions that are raised about their suitability for the offices they will hold or just questions that may be deemed unsuitable.
That was very evident during the press conference held by the president-elect, the first in nearly six months and possibly the only one of the transition phase. Two news organisations touted an apparent intelligence dossier that pointed to sexual deviation on part of Trump that could have been used by the Kremlin to blackmail him. Among them was Buzzfeed, a website that also offers up such headlines like '19 Lies You Actually Believed As A Teen'. As the presser progressed, Trump brushed aside another outlet, saying, “I’m not going to give you a question, you are fake news.”
The 'dossier', apparently prepared by a former British intelligence agent, makes for sensational reading but representatives of multiple news organisations, including The New York Times, have publicly noted that they cannot be substantiated.
Trump and his people have taken advantage of a deep loss of credibility within the American media as the results of the Presidential Election started streaming in. All polls and pundits got it incredibly wrong. That became even more damning as the 'hacking of the election' meme collapsed as three states went through recounts without those allegations getting any sort of confirmation. As stories of 'faithless' electors dumping Trump then gained currency, that too was debunked by double the number of members of the Electoral College ditching Clinton than they did Trump. And as the media positioned itself to take on an adversarial role to the Trump, that suspicion grew stronger as reports like Russia hacking the US power grid fell apart.
Even before Trump came to the podium, the stage had already been set with the cry of a "concerted effort" to "deligitimise this election and demean the incoming administration". Vice-President-elect Mike Pence tom-tommed that line as he said such reporting could "only be attributed to media bias".
What’s happened in America in the two months since the election is that there has been a conversation over "fake news", which was apparently disseminated at the instructions of Moscow to influence voters. That "fake news" straw man is now an employee of the Trump organisation. As pro-Trump Right-of-Centre outlets, disparaged as the Alt-Right, have turned it around to undermine the mainstream American media, as that phrase is handy to batter anti-Trump reporting. "It’s phony stuff," Trump said at one point during the media interaction, and that’s become part of the pushback against what his supporters (and voters) believe to be the media’s collusion with the Alt-Left, a neologism to describe shriller voices on the liberal side.
This episode, like those earlier, will be very useful to a President Trump: Criticism will be filed under the "fake news" category and the schism between him and the press will widen as he preaches from a social media bully pulpit. More than Hillary Clinton, the media may have become the biggest casualty of the US elections and it may take a debacle of Trumpian proportions to make such delegitimisation defunct.
Updated Date: Jan 12, 2017 11:06:15 IST