I am really sorry, I’ve tried not to mention the new President of the USA in these posts, but I can no longer hold my peace. A few days ago I watched the news bulletins with growing disbelief as Sean Spicer, Trump’s Press Secretary, declared war on the US media and promised to hold the press accountable.
The Trump administration clearly believe that the traditional media no longer has the influence which it once had, which may well be true, and that they can communicate directly with the US electorate via Twitter.
My own experience, admittedly with local authorities in the UK rather than a nuclear superpower such as the US Government, is that taking a confrontational approach to the press is not a good idea. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to get on with them. The influence of traditional media may be declining but it remains strong, particularly among opinion formers.
Already the US media has retaliated. The article in Harper’s magazine headlined Cabinet of Curiosities is just one of many stories highlighting some of the unsavoury back histories of Trump’s cabinet.
A lot of attention is being paid to Defence Secretary James Mattis, who must surely now be regretting his quote that”it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot people”. It almost makes you nostalgic for the days of Donald Rumsfeld and his known unknowns.
Then there is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a recent Director of the Acton Institute, a Christian Right think tank which last year called for the reintroduction of child labour. I am not the first blogger to point out that the Christian Right is in fact neither of those two things.
The Trump administration clearly believes that the mainstream media will never be on their side because it’s populated by pinko liberals. The Conservative Party in the UK feels much the same way, particularly about the BBC.
Rather than feeding the media alternative facts, Spicer would be well advised to play it straight and simply tell the truth. Otherwise both he and the President he serves will soon lose credibility.