“An apology for the devil: It must be remembered that we’ve heard only one side of the case. God has written all the books.”
-- Samuel Butler
After President-elect Trump became a reality, much to the chagrin of a lot of us, there were two things which caught my attention. One was a Facebook post by a blogger. The other was a message from the publisher of The New York Times.
In the Facebook post, the blogger first shows you a clipping from NowThis, a veritable left-wing media website, highlighting some of Donald Trump’s more xenophobic ideas from one particular speech.
In the video, which is rather obviously edited (as is evident from jump-cuts in the fluidity of the stream), Donald Trump brings up the Orlando shooter, who was of Afghani origin.
In it Trump brings up the shooter’s family and religion, and wonders how the American immigration system could “allow his family” to enter the country.
“We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country (jump cut) many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer.”
The implications are, of course, that Donald Trump is equating all Muslims with the Orlando shooter.
It goes on: “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. That is Hillary Clinton. (jump cut) I don’t want them in our country.”
The NowThis version of the speech is then followed by the full length of the speech. In it, what Trump says (whether or not his implications remain equally xenophobic, I leave that up to you) is vastly different, both in what he says and the way he says it.
In effect, Trump brings up the fact that the shooter’s father was a supporter of the Taliban, and that he, in fact, wished to be the president of Afghanistan. He asks: Why was the American immigration system not aware of his terroristic leanings? Why were they not more in tune with the intentions and beliefs that these people harboured? We need to revamp the immigration process; immigration is a privilege; unless they fully support all of our communities, we won’t allow them into our country.
The NY Times message from the publisher, in the wake of the Trump victory (even in the way they reported the victory could but not help but do so with the heavy tinge disgust, seeing it as a tragedy like any other), claimed to do what it has always done: “To report America and the world honestly, without fear or favour, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences … It is also to hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly.”
Personally, I’ll hold off on judgement for now on newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times who, in fact, so blatantly haven’t covered the election “honestly, without fear or favour.”
What was interesting, however, was the barrage of comments underneath the publisher’s message.
Disenchanted by the results, and realising the false sense of victory the NYT had deluded its readers into believing, the commenters (in good, calm, polite English) spoke of the paper’s double standards, of how they had constantly filled up the papers with Clinton coverage, how they had neglected Bernie Sanders, how the culmination of all of this had led to the false bubble in which the left felt that they were ahead when, in fact, they were falling behind.
But these two examples serve to highlight two things.
And, if we’re lucky, the best outcome would be that due to the vacuum of trust that has been effectively created, the media will finally come to realise that profiting out of agendas isn’t sustainable either
One: How the media consciously makes an attempt to create the narrative that suits their agendas. Whether they do this because they recognise a “greater good,” is besides the point.
Maybe not to the same extent as NowThis, but by contextualising the players in such ways as to create a villain and a hero (or rather, a better villain; if there was a hero, it was Bernie), they have completely shut off the other side of the metaphorical coin.
Two: As of now, more people have become aware of the bias that the media presented, whichever direction they were leaning towards.
What this effectively created -- it has been called a bubble, an echo chamber -- is a perfect example of how far confirmation bias goes, and how people, in general, accept what they themselves agree with, and reject, without reflection, what they don’t.
But more importantly, the people have been jarred enough to not trust anything that is presented to them. Every news story is an opinion, every incident a political tool.
Of course, some and many have continued to harp on about one narrative of the other, but on each side, the demonisation and deification of parties have resulted in false senses of righteousness, which, when it comes down the truth of the matter, are not sustainable.
But though the reality isn’t good, the consequences of this reality may be. It has taught more people to doubt what they know, to doubt what they hear, to basically doubt what they’ve been convincing themselves to believe.
And, if we’re lucky, the best outcome would be that due to the vacuum of trust that has been effectively created, the media will finally come to realise that profiting out of agendas isn’t sustainable either, and will be held accountable not merely for what they choose to exclusively report on, but also how they report on it.
Because, when it comes down to it, there are no angels or demons, just story-tellers with a point to make.
SN Rasul is a Sub-Editor at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.