If Donald Trump is a less-eloquent Odysseus with the same amount of arrogance and misguided pride, then the news media are the Trojans who have just located a huge wooden horse at the gate of their city after a ten year siege with the Greeks.
Don’t be deceived by Trump’s lackluster acceptance to concede the election and sail away from the presidency now that Biden has won the electoral college vote. Like the Greeks, his horse is armed and full of soldiers. This is not an offering of peace or an end to the war that Trump has waged against democracy, but rather an incitement of action. The alternate reality of Trumpism is here to stay regardless of who resides in the White House.
One of the many tenets of Trumpism involves the humiliation of the press. During his tenure in the Oval Office Trump threatened, filed lawsuits and belittled the news media so much so that the slogan “fake news” has become a rallying cry for his fanbase. A few weeks into his first year in office, Trump announced on Twitter that some of the major news outlets like The New York Times and NBC were “the enemy of the American people.” He has also labeled reporters as “some of the worst people you’ll ever meet.” These baseless exclamations were all that self-declared patriots needed to hear before pumping their chests to aggressively loathe and demean most, if not all, news publications or programs.
This ideology which vilified the vitality of the press has been progressively exacerbated in the past four years. Public opinion of the news media has therefore become largely skeptical too, regardless of a free press being one of the many central elements of democracy.
To make matters worse, in 2018 Trump admitted to CBS’s Lesley Stahl that he uses terms like “alternative facts” when referring to the truth not because he actually believes the published stories are fake, but rather because he wants to discredit the news media. His rationale in doing so is so that when negative stories are written about him no one will believe it.
Presidents have always complained about the highly scrutinizing lens the press uses to write about them, though, which gives Trump a bit of foundation to stand on. The swindling statesman is surely not the first to claim that reporters are mean-spirited or that newspapers are putrid and biased. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was. But, the difference is that Jefferson understood the importance of a free press to maintain a democracy which keeps a not so gentle eye on those in power. Trump does not.
It is also critical to note that while claiming that the press is spreading lies Trump has spread his own misinformation campaign. That is, one which has made more than sixteen thousand false or misleading claims and convinced nearly half of republican voters that the election was rigged and the pandemic is a hoax. His pugnacious rhetoric has effectively riled up millions of Americans to a point of no return.
According to the myth, the Greeks pretended to leave when the Trojans pulled the manufactured wooden horse into Troy as a sign of victory. It was at this moment, when the Trojans least expected it, that disaster struck and the Greeks successfully attacked. The news media must not lighten the load of its invective stories as Trump prepares to leave the White House next month, or else it risks being outwitted by the claims which have hypnotized a large number of American people.