Shock and Awe – The international news cycle for the entire week was dominated by the lead-up to, the outcome of and the immediate aftermath of the 2016 US Election.
On the day prior to the election, November 7th, most pundits within the United States, foreign correspondents and media outlets covering this story were confident, even bullish of a Clinton win.
Over the past 12 months, Trump, the ‘human headline’, defeated all opponents in spite of his blunt, mercurial, and vulgar style. Clinton, with her political pedigree, and in the main, carefully chosen words, was considered the common sense candidate. This was how the media portrayed the Clinton v. Trump contest. However upon reflection, this portrayal was wishful thinking based on ‘confirmation bias’.
As most major international mainstream and social media outlets are in the hands of a few giant corporations, the notion that one main idea making the rounds and being uncritically taken up as ‘gospel’, becomes more rather than less likely. This makes it difficult for journalists to do their jobs objectively as ‘the obvious’ becomes all pervading and counter-narratives, which may be closer to the truth, unpalatable and not newsworthy.
Contemporary news is about selling information for profit, not necessarily about spending energy and time to research the back-story – a perfect storm for a ‘black swan’.
The Trump Victory on November 8th was the ‘black swan’, a nightmare scenario made real. The ‘Deplorables’, a term used by Clinton to describe the ‘irrational, gun totting, xenophobes’ who supported Trump, had their victory. In hindsight, this should not have been a surprise at all.
Senator Hillary Clinton’s name was tainted by her email scandal while serving as Obama’s Secretary of State. So too was it tainted by accusations of corruption in the Clinton Foundation, a not-for-profit charity chaired by her husband, and former President Bill Clinton.
Whether or not all or any of these accusations are true is still anyone’s guess.
The fact is that not enough serious attention was given to the people who had suffered under the Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations, those who had worked in industries that were made redundant due to the US government’s neo-liberal, internationalist agenda, was the real, underlying problem. Public anger in many states was palpable, however, it was easy for the Clinton Democrats to throw ‘crazy Trump’ in with his ‘crazy supporters’ – oblivious to the pain of average, now redundant former members of America’s middle class. It was these people, people who remembered an America of another time, who joined Trump’s raucous rebellion, a rebellion against Washington ‘insider leadership’, a leadership so out of touch with the concerns of their electorate that they were ruling for the interests of the few, not the many.
On November 9th, the tears of the Clinton Democrats were genuine, made all the worse by the fact that their chosen candidate, with real political experience and a ‘sure thing’ according to the international media, lost. The media, oblivious to the part they played in raising people’s expectations of a Clinton win, walked away from this episode asking the question why they got it so wrong.
The sad fact is that today’s media is not the fourth estate of old, the people’s voice, the people’s critic of government and corporate interest. Today’s media is a moneymaking enterprise, a corporate interest itself, whose understanding and hold on ‘the truth’ is at best, fickle – at worst a controlled mouthpiece of elite opinion.
From November 10th-11th for America’s allies, their media outlets rapidly turned to the question of what a Trump presidency may mean for long-standing bilateral and multilateral relationships. Much of this speculation is pure conjecture because Trump has not yet revealed his ‘authentic self’.
That Trump is not the messianic figure of the American underclass goes without saying. He is a rich member of the one percent, masquerading as a non-traditional populist standing up for ‘the little guy’. But he has had a pattern of upsetting domestic American and foreign elite opinion and this is where his power lies. And, there are enough Americans to support the now president-elect, that is, until too many of his impossible promises are broken. It is quite likely that then, we will see the real American revolution.
Dr. John Bruni is CEO of SAGE International Australia
*** Views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of SAGE International Australia ***