Trump’s interview disaster was long overdue – Labour Article
There was something different about the most recent interview President Trump conducted in the White House – the look of pure, undisguised incredulity on interviewer Johnathan Swan’s face. Inevitably memed, the expression was indicative of Swan’s approach to handling the infamously fast-talking President. In other words, Swan wasn’t having any of it. Thus, Trump’s interview has been labelled a disaster, a first of its kind due to the ineffective accountability of partisan media on Trump.
Most interviewers are left gawping by the relentless pace with which Trump hops from falsehood to falsehood, unable to question him before he moves on to another topic. When it came to the pandemic, however, Trump was out of his comfort zone, and Swan was quick to nip at his heels.
It’s telling that this incredibly basic form of questioning, the “whos” and the “whats”, is almost revelatory in the USA – and is easily capable of publicly humiliating their head of state.
Trump’s recent series of car-crash interviews are not just a reflection of his own incompetence, but also of the systemic failure of the American media that is meant to hold him accountable. We should have seen interviews like this at the start of his campaign in 2016, but according to CNN and their ilk, broadcasting the ramblings of what many Democrats saw as a joke candidate was adequate criticism of itself.
Listen to any politician being interviewed in the UK; the minute they start spewing a stream of meaningless buzzwords you will almost certainly hear the interviewer cut them off and confront them with a difficult question. It’s the keystone of effective political journalism. You simply cannot allow a politician uninterrupted, scrutiny-free air-time, because they will say whatever the voters want to hear. It’s morally irresponsible.
So, why has it taken nearly four years for American journalists to crack the code and expose Trump for the smooth-talking con-man he always has been?
The sad truth is that America is so dominated by terrifyingly partisan media, that objective scrutiny has been long eclipsed by the incessant squabbling between the two sides. Take US pundit Ben Shapiro’s grilling by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, for instance. Neil, a conservative figure by any standards, was interrogating the right-wing poster boy on his views on abortion, when Shapiro erupted into a tantrum, accosting Neil with the question “Why don’t you just say that you’re on the left?”.
For many in the American political sphere, scrutiny is indistinguishable from a partisan attack. The default is to attack from the other side of the aisle – why not from the middle? It’s a broken and democratically inadequate system.
Political media shouldn’t be some talking head doing the thinking for you, it should be an impartial arena of accountability, something politicians should dread appearing on, and for good reason. If an elected official is not suited to their job, TV should be where they come to crash and burn when exposed to real, necessary pressure, not to spout nonsense whilst a news anchor nods along thoughtfully.
Considering the huge national and international impact recent Trump interviews like Johnathan Swan’s and Chris Wallace’s have had, it seems like American media has finally stumbled upon the long-lost art of effective, impartial criticism. Let’s just hope it lasts.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Max Ingleby
Point of Information
Partisan Media Thrives Off Poor Education – a Liberal Response
I strongly agree with Max’s article: the media should challenge politicians, not facilitate them! As both Max and Rebecca point out, partisan media in America borders on party propaganda. A lack of criticism and extreme polarisation pervades American media. In a healthy democracy, there should be critical debate on all sides, with views provided by a variety of sources.
Yet, Max is too optimistic in believing that American media has come across the ‘art of criticism’. Whilst Trump’s interview with Chris Wallace, a Fox News anchor, was certainly an improvement, it will remain a blip until deeper issues are addressed. This interview will probably be written off by Republican-leaning voters. If the mismanagement of a deadly pandemic cannot even sway Trump’s fan base, then Wallace’s interview stands little chance of causing a ripple.
To make the media more critical in a lasting, meaningful way, we need to fix the American system. Education is a good place to start.
Partisan media survives because of our unwillingness to challenge its narratives. Yet, this starts at school. If we can be taught to debate multiple perspectives and evaluate evidence critically, we can push damaging media narratives out of the mainstream.
However, many American schools are not geared this way. The way History classes are taught is a case in point. Real historical analysis is missing in the educators’ aim to promote a single narrative. Differing historians are rarely considered. Sources are poorly evaluated. The singular narrative remains strong. If we can read our history critically, then we can do the same with our political media outlets.
Education in America needs to be reformed to reflect this. The ‘art of criticism’ will abound if it is. Critical debate is the worst enemy of partisan media.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Debate is crucial, Trump’s Interview is a good place to start – a Conservative Response
In a democracy, we must be given the opportunity to think for ourselves. The partisan media in America is certainly a hindrance to that. I agree with Max that the realm of political media should not be a place where our thinking is done for us. We must be able to witness political agendas being challenged in order to encourage healthy debate.
A 2018 survey polled Fox News and CNN as two of the most biased news channels in America. However, according to their own viewers, they are seen as the least. This is extremely concerning considering that both news networks are amongst the top 3 most watched in the U.S! It is evident that American news channels have become echo chambers for their political affiliations. This is dangerous.
People are being packed into political echo chambers on both sides of the spectrum.
Think back to the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016. Republican, or would be Republican, voters on social media were submerged in a sea of party propaganda. News networks operate on a similar basis. They surround viewers with conversations that are solely based on the views that they already have.
How can a person develop their own ideas if all of their news sources are heavily ingrained with the ideology of a single political party? The American media is an echo chamber for polarised perspectives. We must do everything that we can to encourage free debate.
Written By Guest Conservative Writer, Rebecca Selt
A late bloomer when it comes to politics and current affairs, I first dipped my toes in the political pool at the tender age of sixteen with a bracing submersion into the AS politics syllabus, and I have been hooked ever since.
I am a third year student studying English and Film Studies at the University of Exeter. After completing my degree, I will be converting to law to begin my journey of becoming a commercial lawyer. As an avid reader of the Financial Times, I have begun to understand how important the commercial market is in forming global politics.
Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.