Brendan O'Neill on the US media and Trump: 'It fails to hold to account all politicians equally'

Brendan O'Neill on the US media and Trump: 'It fails to hold to account all politicians equally'

Friday, August 17, 2018

Some 350 news organisations in the US published op-eds yesterday condemning Donald Trump for his repeated criticisms of the media.

He called the news media the “enemy of the American people” in a tweet in February 2017, and earlier this week, the Boston Globe urged all newspapers to unite in advocating for press freedom.

The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times and hundreds of other local outlets published editorials expressing why press freedom was important.

The Wall Street Journal, however, did not take part, saying the effort was “a strategy more suited to politics than to journalism” and went against values of editorial independence.


‘This is a war nobody’s going to win’

Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, said the press were playing into Trump supporters’ hands with their coordinated condemnation.

“This is a war that nobody’s going to win - on the one side you have Trump launching a war of words against the media, calling them enemies of the people, saying it’s all fake news, and it makes him look paranoid and illiberal,” he said.

“I do think that kind of language, from the most powerful man in the US is quite threatening to press freedom.

“On the other side, though, you have the media completely playing into his hands by partaking in this war of words.

“One concern Trump supporters have is that the media class doesn’t understand them, and I think this action could just prove that to supporters of Trump.”

Julia Hartley-Brewer said she thought the press appeared to be softer on Obama than they were on Trump, and O’Neill agreed.

“I think there is a good critique to be made of the modern American media, the fact they treated Obama much more softly than they treat Trump,” he said.

“There’s the deportations, the fact Obama bombed seven countries, he also implemented strict rules about who could come to America from certain Muslim majority countries, all that stuff was glossed over and treated as normal when done by Obama, but when Trump does it, the press in America and around the world say it’s the return of fascism, he’s the new Hitler.

“There is a double standard; a failure to hold to account all politicians equally, and that does come off to Trump supporters as evidence that the media is involved in a political conspiracy or is just casually anti-Trump in a thoughtless way.”


Did Obama ban Muslims?

It was widely reported at the time of Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ that the countries included in the ban were first identified by the Obama administration.

However the policies differed in that Trump sought to impose an outright ban on nationals of some countries such as Syria, but the Obama policy banned them from accessing the Visa Waiver programme, meaning they could still visit with appropriate visas.

The latest version of Trump’s travel ban does have exceptions - dual nationals and those who have already been granted asylum or refugee status, for example, are allowed in the US.