The Media’s Complicity in the Rise of Donald Trump

Source: Salon, March 1

Edited conclusion of a recent speech by Les Moonves, CEO and executive chairman of CBS, at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.

Moonves and Trump…The Republican presidential race is a media-driven circus, and circuses are good for business. It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.

Trump’s presence makes the whole spectacle unpredictable and entertaining, not unlike a reality show…. The money’s rolling in and this is fun. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.

Moonves carried on a bit more about the surplus of advertising dollars “in the marketplace” due to Trump’s continued presence in the race. But the point is obvious enough. Trump is winning, and he’s made a mockery of the process along the way. As a TV man and professional charlatan, I expect Trump to behave like the swindler that he is, but the media’s complicity is a huge part of this story. Everyone in political media – myself included – shares some of the blame here, but cable news and network television are disproportionately driving the process.

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9 responses to “The Media’s Complicity in the Rise of Donald Trump

  1. Should we admire the CBS head honcho for his refreshing candour, or condemn him (and his ilk) for feeding the appalling spectacle? I was about to vote for the second choice, but then I realized how much time I spent on CNN last night.
    Woe is us.

  2. David Schatzky

    Trump continues to manipulate the media and us. Last night, after his Super Tuesday victories, he placed himself in front of a setting resembling an official presidential news conference, spoke in a relatively subdued manner, more rational, grounded, deferential and conciliatory than usual, almost statesman-like, because he knows (especially after all the revelations of his dubious track record as a businessman and outspoken provocateur) that he has to change the narrative if he wants to move into the White House. He’s now (we’ll see how long it lasts) demonstrating that he can act presidential, and is very well aware that the media will notice that and convey it to voters who could be lulled into trusting Trump, even if they haven’t up til now. Clinton will have a difficult time with Trump as her opponent, given his capacity to change tactics and seem real, authentic, genuine and trustworthy as opposed to her coached and studied scriptedness. The media is Trump’s unwitting/captive partner in this.

  3. How does one explain the fact that Canadian media are not immune to Trump’s charm?

  4. David Schatzky

    Horace, it seems that all of North America and much of the entire world was fascinated with Rob Ford when he was at the height/depths of his shenanigans. Trump is a much bigger figure and is deliberately attracting attention and for much greater stakes which could affect us all for better or worse. Why shouldn’t Canadian media pay attention, especially since Trump stories attract audiences and swell ratings? That allows media to increase advertising rates. It’s depressing/useful to remember that the business of television, print and digital media is to sell audiences to advertisers for profit. Trump has proven to be an effective way to hook viewers and readers.

  5. Thanks in a large part to the media, Donald Trump is bound to be a ‘winner’ in setting the scene for Hillary Clinton to become the first female President of the US by default.

  6. Elisabeth Ecker

    Maybe Bloomberg is waiting till Trump destroys Hillary and then he will announce his candidacy. The book, that just came out, “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer explains a lot about American policies.

  7. mike holliday

    We should not blame Americans or the American media for this situation. Similar media manipulating leaders have appeared in countries around the globe and it should come as no surprise that the apex country of marketing should produce the most effective example yet.
    We can blame American voters if D Trump succeeds. they know that their media is an entertainment industry not a news industry and that Donald’s home is Hollywood not House of Representatives.