Could it ever happen here?

SAN PEDRO, CA - SEPTEMBER 15, 2015: Donald Trump, 2016 RepublicaWhile the UK continues to prepare for Brexit (in the loosest possible sense of the word ‘prepare’), across the Atlantic in my homeland the US, news media are preoccupied with the latest machinations of that other disruptive phenomenon of our times, Donald Trump – especially the ongoing outrage around the candidacy and appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

It’s interesting to compare the approach that the two sets of media have taken to their respective issues. In the UK, while the coverage of Brexit is constant, it is also for the most part relatively low-key – certainly to anyone who has one eye on how the US media and the Trump camp interact.  Two things in particular are bound to strike the UK observer about the US coverage. First, there’s the extraordinarily partisan stance of the various news outlets. Of course there are partisan newspapers in the UK, but even they are models of even-handedness compared to the US networks. It’s little wonder that Trump is able to make his constant claims of being the victim of ‘fake news’. What he generally means by that is ‘biased news’, and quite often he’s justified – though of course he and his outlets are giving more than as good as they get in return.

The second thing that strikes a UK observer about the US media’s Trump coverage is the sheer volume, which is truly wall-to-wall. It’s often said that US politics has become a branch of show business, and there can never have been a better illustration of this than what we’re seeing at the moment. Outrage is so entertaining. So, whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporter or diametrically opposed to him and everything he stands for, there is a ready-made community of like-minded folk to join and keep up to date with. (I wonder in fact whether the momentum would be half as great without the constant reminders and updates on social media).

What really worries me about the US experience, however, is how it has hijacked the debate about equality for women, on which real progress was beginning to be made. It’s been shocking in fact to see how the need to get the right-wing candidate on to the Supreme Court has overridden the underlying issues of gender and equality – to the point that women who are otherwise relatively committed to that cause have abandoned it for short-term political expediency. Nothing surprises me about Donald Trump any more (if it ever did), but I have been surprised at the cynicism of some of the normally more sane members of the Republican party.

So, while the coverage here of Brexit might not be without its frustrations, there is a great deal to be said for media that take a measured approach. They might not always have the same entertainment value but it seems difficult to believe that, thanks to their focus on the issues rather than the showbiz, someone like Donald Trump could ever come to power here. And no, despite the hair, I don’t include Boris Johnson in that category…


Photo Credit:
Joseph Sohm / Visons of America



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