evolving ecological media culture(s)

Trump’s advisers


One of the questions that has emerged as Joe Biden’s victory has become more apparent, especially following Trump’s falsehood-riddled rant on Thursday evening, is who are his advisers, who might advise him to accept his defeat rather than to go down fighting?

Media watchers should not be surprised at all that Trump, media hound that he is, mainly takes advice from those he relies on for his ratings. Their names include Sean, Laura, Rush, Lou, and Tucker, and at least a few of them (but not all) have begun seeing the writing on the wall and advising him to do the right thing (with the kid gloves that someone of his delicate nature seems to require).

As they do, the Fox News empire, which has been Trump’s single most influential propaganda outlet (and which most of them work for), is facing questions of what it will do as he goes down. The Intercept reports infighting within the Murdoch family that controls it. The longer-term question for media-watchers is how the two arms of Fox — the somewhat more responsible news anchors and the knife-wielding punditocracy — will continue to cohabit the same house, or if post-presidency Trump will try to drag his favorites over into a new right-wing media empire of his own making. (Reports of Trump considering starting his own network or buying out the slavishly pro-Trump One America News Network have been circulating for months.)

Meanwhile, the seemingly big issue for media watchers — how it is that pundits and pollsters got things wrong again? — might not really be an issue after all. In most respects, what has occurred is what was supposed to occur. Trump had long encouraged his supporters not to vote by mail, and has long planned to both discredit and disrupt the mail-in ballots, knowing that Biden supporters would be less likely to show up in person during a pandemic.

Greg Sargent summarizes what we all should have known would happen:

“Trump would rely on GOP state legislatures in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which refused to allow the counting of mailed ballots before Election Day, helping to create the delays that Trump would then exploit.

He would enjoy a big lead as the Election Day votes were counted first, allowing him to declare victory, and then insist that the counting of millions of other ballots constituted an effort to steal the election from him.

It all unfolded exactly this way. Trump’s broadcasting of his scheme surely helped persuade millions of Democrats to get their mail ballots in early. Meanwhile, in the days leading up to the election, he kept tweeting about a “GIANT RED WAVE COMING!”

These were the Election Day votes that would be counted first, and on Election Day, things went according to plan in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump then did prematurely declare victory early the next morning. And he has since launched a legal effort to try to invalidate as many mail votes as possible.

But Trump never thought to imagine that all those mailed ballots actually would get counted, that the system actually would honor the votes of millions who opposed him, that election officials and volunteers across the country actually do believe in democracy and are willing to work extraordinarily hard to make it function on behalf of the American people, on behalf of all of them. He couldn’t simply make all of that disappear.”

There are still questions for pollsters, and all the more for Democrats, to answer. And the big question for the country is: how is it that after four years of Donald Trump, roughly half the country still wants him as their president?

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Mitrovica phrases this question most acutely. The election showed, he writes, that Trump was not an aberration.

It was a choice of millions of Americans who are happy to vote for a nihilist who has used the presidency to promote his obscene brand and enrich his family and pack of sycophants at the expense of the increasingly phantom “national interest.”

He ends by quoting Noam Chomsky: “We are moving towards cataclysm. There is one country in the world, the United States, that wants to put its foot on the accelerator.”

The person whose foot is on that accelerator just got 70 million Americans to vote for him.

There is lot of work ahead, for the rest of us. That starts with continuing to analyze who Trump’s, and the science-denying radical right’s, real “advisers” are, and how and why their version of reality resonates with so many Americans. That it resonates increasingly around the world makes the question even more acute.

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