By Andrew M. Mwenda
How the new US president is bursting the Washington bubble and annoying the nation’s hypocrites
For many decades, American journalists have deluded themselves into the belief that they are unelected representatives of the people. They are convinced that their profession places them above politics as impartial, altruistic, compassionate and moral human beings – with the responsibility to hold elected officials to account. The politicians accept this media self-aggrandizement and play (and prey) on it. They massage the journalists’ inflated egos, giving them access. Yet in many ways the politicians control these journalists and shape their career trajectories.
Journalists, especially the Washington press corps, depend on leaks for headlines. To cultivate good sources who leak to them vital information, journalists have to treat those in power with care. If they annoy them, they would be cut off from the leaks. Without leaks, the journalist would have limited access to breaking news and headlines. Media in America do not reward journalists for not producing headlines. They fire them. Thus, journalist and politician in America indulge in a game of mutual deceit that one is holding the other to account. Yet they are part of the same power structure.
America’s political system is controlled by big money and its iniquities are reproduced by the very structures of representative government and “free” media. The propertied classes fund the universities and think tanks that produce “knowledge”, they own/control the media that regurgitate this “knowledge” and they fund the campaigns of politicians to gain public office and then lobby them to placate their interests.
Thus, the academic in the university, the intellectual in a think tank, the journalist in the media and the politician in congress or White House or in the governor’s mansion are all servants of this largely white, propertied patriarchal order. Its major instrument of power is not force but consent achieved through control of education and ownership/control of the weapons of mass propaganda. This has consolidated the concept of “American values” which, apparently, they claim Trump is violating. But what actually are these values and how has Trump violated them?
Is it Trump who exterminated Native Americans while the nation enjoyed a free press, regular elections and “impartial” courts? Is it Trump who enslaved black people for 90 years after independence, then kept them under apartheid for another 100 years and now keeps millions of them in jails? Is it Trump who introduced torture but called it “enhanced interrogation methods”, kidnapped people from different nations and took them to illegal detention facilities around the world but called it “rendition” or is it him who has been murdering innocents in countries America has been bombing and calling it “collateral damage?
Is it Trump who created the perception that black people are criminals so much so that when asked to imagine a criminal 96% of Americans see a black male? Wasn’t this campaign of vilification done by the “free media” in service of power long before Trump came on the scene? Is it Trump who consistently projected Muslims as terrorists even though since 9/11 more Americans have died at the hands of local right wing, largely white, terrorist organisations than they have died at the hands of jihadists? Who, other than the American media, propagated this narrative?