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Trump’s number one enemy

Trump was the media’s favorite topic because he was not an ordinary candidate

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Playwright George Bernard Shaw once said: “I learned long ago not to engage in a rivalry with the media. It’s like wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty. Apologies to my colleagues in the field.”

American President Donald Trump was the best at deceiving the media and he used the latter for around a year during presidential elections. Trump was the media’s favorite topic because he was not an ordinary candidate and he did not commit to the rules of traditional competition.

He attracts wide popularity and he does not care much about intellectuals’ opinion about him. There’s no doubt that Trump rose on the media’s shoulders for the cheapest of prices and invaded television channels for free after they had competed to present him to gain more viewers.

While his rival Hillary Clinton spent more than $1 billion on media, Trump had only paid a very small amount until last September. Despite that, his presence dominated the media. I don’t think any of the major media strategists imagined that Trump’s luck would get him to the final stages and it was completely ruled out that he will win the elections.

Underestimating Trump made his rivals from the Democrat Party, like CNN, use their platforms in an unprecedented manner and pampered him as part of entertaining people and not out of love or for the sake of promoting him. Few weeks before the elections, everyone began to realize that Trump was one of two candidates.

Trump’s problem – apart from the fact that he is impulsive – is that he likes confrontation and thinks it is his weapon in disciplining journalists. However, this will exhaust him and will cost him a lot

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Media outlets in support of Democrats thus turned against him but it was too late as he had already built a name for himself, established an agenda and gained popularity.

The electoral competition ended with Trump’s victory but it seems the media war has begun now. Media figures are well-aware that the president is an easy target because he is the first to be held responsible. His administration will certainly commit mistakes or fall into dereliction and it will sometimes fail to keep its promises.

There may be developments against him which he cannot influence. This is in addition to a number of endless possibilities and embarrassments. All these will provide the media with ammunition to weaken him. Trump, the man who looks like tough Roman wrestlers, will get tired because as Shaw said a public figure cannot win against media outlets which consider criticism as their task and source of power.

Freedom of expression

In a country like the US, the constitution clearly stipulates that freedom of expression must be respected regardless of its aim and style. Therefore, the president cannot do much to curb opposing media outlets. It seems a big percentage opposes him and their attack on Trump will be fiercer than their attack on former president Barack Obama who had good relations with the media.

Obama succeeded at taming most media outlets in his favor although, from among American presidents, he was the most sensitive to criticism and journalists. It’s said that Obama is the president who punished journalists the most by preventing those who disagreed with him or who criticized him from participating in covering his activities and trips.

Trump’s problem – apart from the fact that he is impulsive – is that he likes confrontation and thinks it is his weapon in disciplining journalists. However, this will exhaust him and will cost him a lot in the years to come and it may destroy him.

His democrat rivals have influential popularity in the society and they are favored by the media whose outlets mainly consist of liberal movements that are affiliated with them. There are also women groups, minorities, the LGBT community and the disabled.

The list is long and it includes rich organizations that have a lot of supporters and that include many institutions that will keep Trump busy during the next four years with protests. They will use the weapon of popular and qualitative media against him on a large scale.

Therefore, the threat which President Trump publicly made against journalists few days ago is just a statement that expresses his anger and frustration by the media’s attacks on him. He can yell in their faces but practically, he cannot do much other than prevent those whom he doesn’t like from accompanying him and keep his personal information private.

Trump may retreat and just accept the only means of dealing with the bullying media and which is co-existing with it through a long and slow relationship or being patient with it.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on January 23, 2017.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.