In 1963, the CBC’s Patrick Watson went to see Pierre Trudeau, then a professor of law at the University of Montreal, to invite him to become one of the hosts of a new public affairs television program that was being planned. It turned out to be This Hour Has Seven Days. Trudeau was becoming restless in academic life and the idea of, as he put it, the mêlée of television was beginning to appeal to him. That was, after all, the world in which his friend René Lévesque (before he became a Quebec nationalist) was making a splash with his one-man public affairs show Point de Mire on Radio Canada. In the end the Watson-Trudeau negotiations collapsed because Trudeau could not accept the idea that the CBC as legal publisher had to have the last word on what went on the air. Eventually Trudeau became good on television, but he did not owe his political life to it.
Which major leader in North America or Europe did? I can’t think of any.
Trump became known in the U.S. as the star of the reality show The Apprentice, which became memorable because of its recurring punch-line “You’re Fired.” No one is an expert on the pathology of achieving fame on television, but surely it would be hard to prove that his rise in the Republican party was due to that program. It would be much easier to demonstrate that he owes his progress to the attention television news, and the social media, pay to him, and to the incalculable free publicity they give him.
We can safely say Donald Trump owes his progress to the media.
How do we define media? That is easy. We think of the print and electronic outlets in a modern mass society. How else but through them do we receive information about what is going on?
Vast empires can – and do – manipulate these outlets, but this does not alter the fact that we get our information though them, one way or another. How else, if we add word-of-mouth as one of the media?
Cleopatra and Napoleon owed their place in history to the media.