In 1958, the author Aldous Huxley gave an interview on U.S. television in which he sagely forewarned the inevitability of a media-savvy personality like Donald Trump inveigling his way to the highest office in his adopted homeland.
To see just how prescient his warning was, you only need to consider that it came well before the age of cell phones or personal computers, let alone the internet or Twitter.
effectively declared the election over after the second presidential
When I stumbled upon the Huxley clip earlier this spring, I knew instinctively that Trump was destined to win the U.S. presidential election — this was his moment. I wasn’t going to bet the house on it, but I confess I wanted him to win. Yes, as an Indian American, I knew his policies on immigration went directly against my self-interest, vis-a-vis my H-1B visa. It’s another story that I ended up leaving the United States to return to India in September for personal reasons, which I jokingly referred to among friends as “Srexit”! So, why support Trump, you might ask?
The reason I cheered Trump on — aside from any comic relief or desire to support the underdog, both perfectly respectable reasons — was perhaps the single biggest reason Trump ended up winning in November, in my view.
Yes, he was a novel, if unpopular candidate, an outsider in a change election and a self-proclaimed champion against a borderless nation, endless wars and political correctness. And yes, he was running against an equally unpopular Democrat, the quintessential insider with a history of secrecy and ethical questions, but then Hillary Clinton came with the most impressive resume and the promise of a historic first-ever female presidency.
In the end, overriding everything else, the principal and indeed definitive difference came down to one thing: MSM — mainstream media.
As an Indian who lived in the United States for over a decade and has taken more than a passing interest in the American political scene, I have seen first-hand how the U.S. media has rightfully earned the scorn of the masses, especially the political right. While both television and print media in the past had only gingerly put their fingers on the scales for or against political candidates, the last couple of presidential cycles have witnessed an increasing and near-explicit bias in the media’s coverage of elections. Arguably, this has only served to exacerbate the already deep polarization in American political discourse into irredeemable fault-lines and divisions. As @realDonaldTrump might say: SAD.
In 2008, like many of us, the U.S mainstream media fell in love with Obama, the candidate — at once so gifted, so original and mysterious — but over time, as their infatuation wore off, the fourth estate gradually began to do greater justice to its responsibility to treat Obama the President more even handedly, even if the coverage still remained largely friendly in tone.
But during the current presidential cycle, the establishment media met their match in Donald Trump, a man who cultivated his personality and built his brand and fortune leveraging the media for over 30 years. During the primaries, the major cable news channels were too busy playing their ratings game, happily obliging Trump with billions of dollars worth of free airtime covering his rallies, giddily egging on his candidacy with his controversial statements and what that might mean for the Republican Party, while not even remotely considering his prospects seriously to warrant a vetting of his background, to the chagrin of other Republican primary candidates. Just ask Jeb Bush!
Then came the debates, a ratings bonanza for the media, but again covered with the same, predictably-biased filters. The race was considered practically over by early-October, with Hillary maintaining what looked like unassailable leads nationally and in several swing states. But Trump fought to live another day, honing in and staying on his counterpunching message, aided in no small part by smart, media-savvy campaign managers in KellyAnne Conway and Steve Bannon. While the media only saw an erratic, ranting candidate, Trump insiders saw the energy in the crowds at the rallies, they saw the anger at the Washington establishment, and yes, they saw the same disgust and distrust for the mainstream media.
And in the closing weeks, despite the odds heavily stacked against them, the Trump campaign was able to use the very arrogance of the media outlets, mirroring the overconfidence of the Clinton camp and most pollsters, which almost without exception were predicting a comfortable win for Hillary.
In the final analysis, whether by omission or commission, the media at large and the mainstream media in particular, was directly responsible for the election of Donald Trump — a thrice-married, reality TV and real estate billionaire with a big ego and shady history — as the next leader of the free world. It’s easy to see exactly which attributes endeared him to his coalition of conservatives, evangelicals, and working-class voters.
Say what you will, but if you put yourself in the shoes of one of the millions of voters in the “flyover country,” whose livelihoods were destroyed or languished under the forces of globalization and lack of opportunity over the past few decades, you too would jump at the opportunity to send a message and stick it to the elites in the New York, California and Washington, DC. As the filmmaker Michael Moore said, “it was the biggest f&&k you in human history.”
During this festive season, as we fervently hope that Trump doesn’t unintentionally spark a nuclear war, or intentionally start a trade one, we all can take solace from the fact that — as you would hope in such thriving democracies as the United States or India — the people spoke loud and clear against not just Hillary or Trump, but against a biased, complicit and deeply untrustworthy media.
And we are all the better for it.