Who are you, Mr. Trump, when you are alone?


Elouise Paabo z5059584


Two words. Donald Trump. Two words that we are probably all so sick of hearing, yet will continue to hear for a few more weeks. And if he wins the current 2016 American Presidential race, a few more years at least. The 2016 Republication Presidential candidate has a long history of being represented in various ways in the media. Yet as of this current election, his media coverage has gone through the roof. With newspaper articles, videos, internet sensationalism and even memes of him flooding Facebook newsfeeds, it is a phenomenal task to try to analyse how he is being represented in the media. Yet in the mainstream Australian media, it is safe to say that he is being depicted as an extreme, brash and often offensive contender for the US Presidential Race.


Donald Trump has always had a personality that the media love to represent due to his extravagant personality. His rise in media coverage is no new feat, as in 2004 the reality television show, “The Apprentice” captured public and media attention as Trump created the catchphrase, “You’re Fired!” The Emmy-nominated reality show made sixteen businessmen compete for a position in Donald Trump’s empire. The buzz of the show overflowed into other networks such as print media and what is known as the “metaphorical watercooler”, people were talking about him. The cultural phenomenon saw audiences enjoy the blend of routine and drama, of unpredictability and familiarity as well as the constant battle between appealing and appalling personalities. Twelve years later and people are still talking about him, and media outlets still cannot get enough of him. The media in terms of entertainment, news and their hybrids represent reality in a way that promotes certain meanings and interpretations of how the world works and why. These specific representations are selected and constructed in ways that consistently promote the status quo- the current beliefs, structures and inequalities of the time including the racial and financial hierarchy that Donald Trump is currently trying to dominate.


The three differing articles portray differing ways in which Donald Trump is represented in the media. The first piece of discussion is a news journalism article written by Peter McGeough for the Sydney Morning Herald, “US Election 2016: Donald Trump should be a dead man walking”. The article thus tries not to use emotive, descriptive language to describe Donald Trump but rather uses the facts from the election to represent Trump. It is interesting to note that this author uses the least extreme language to describe Trump and is written from and Australian contextual background.


The second article of discussion is written for Atlantic magazine, an American magazine. Instantly, undertones of certain representative ideas can already be seen from the feature article titled, “The Mind of Donald Trump”, written by Dan P. McAdams due to the fact that it is written by an American publication and is in the style of a feature story. The feature story format allows for discussion of the representative ideas depicted within the use of photographs.


The third article of discussion is a views journalism article written for Vanity Fair by Micheal Kinsley, an American political journalist and commentator. Kinsley writes mostly a purely opinionative piece as he gives his own answer as to how to take down Donald Trump and thus is laden with representative language. Kinsley’s article is also laden with political cartoons that hold many symbolic and visual representations of Donald Trump.


  1. Sydney Morning Herald:



  1. Atlantic Magazine: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/


  1. Vanity Fair:



Peter McGeough’s  article, “US Election 2016: Donald Trump should be a dead man walking” is written for the Sydney Morning Herald, a reputable Australian newspaper that typically depicts left-wing views on politics. From the very title of the article, “…Donald Trump should be a dead man walking”, it is evident that McGeough is making a hasty generalisation. The title also clarifies the contention of the author as we can see from the outset that he will be taking an anti-Trump approach.  The words “should be a dead man” further enhance McGeough’s passionate tone of voice rather than an informed tone.


In regards to where McGeough is positioning the reader, McGeough is making an Ad Hominem argument as he is attacking Donald Trump and believes the reader should also have views that are against Donald Trump. This assumption is concurrent within nearly all media articles that are written about Trump. The author so often writes in such a passionate way that he is positioning and almost forcing the reader or viewer to agree with the notion that Donald Trump is wrong and should be ridiculed.


The media is currently flooded with this underlying current of emotion rather than factual and informed opinions. Although the arguments may well be informed, the argument is often realised later than the emotion is portrayed.


McGeough is one journalist who belongs in the category of assuming their readers agree with their views through using emotive language. McGeough establishes an evaluative tone to the piece early on through the quote:


“For all his boofhead behaviour on the hustings, there’s a surgically precise aspect to his shtick that is lethal. Cockily careless, he shot himself in the foot


McGeough is also using the device of positioning his respective readers in a position that is in fact above Donald Trump. The author uses such extreme language that he makes the reader feel comfortable through knowing that he (the reader) would never do something as “cockily careless”. McGeough also represents Donald Trump as a joke as he “shot himself in the foot”.


McGeough also represents the actions of Donald Trump as something “other” as he states his past ideas have been examples of “lethal voodoo psychology”. Such extreme, emotive language clarifies the Ad Populum argument that McGeough makes through assuming the view is widely held by everyone in general.


Dan McAdams, has written a feature story on the psychology of Donald Trump for the Atlantic.com. The article named, “The Real Donald Trump” was written in June 2016.  Next to an enlarged close up photograph of Donald Trump looking concerned and slightly angry, is the text in larger bold white font saying, “Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity- a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.” This first, close-up photograph is large in scale and uses a low camera angle to make Trump seem larger than reality. This photograph could further indicate that he is represented as “looming” over America and the world. The fact that the photo is so close-up indicates that we can so clearly see all of Donald Trump’s flaws and we are quick to analyse such flaws.


Dan McAdams is the first author to use descriptive language in a way that is not entirely negatively charged. He describes Trump as “the golden-haired guest sitting across the table”. The mystery embedded into this tone of voice depicts Trump as a youthful, polite man. Perhaps McAdams has used irony in this sentiment.


McAdams from the outset of his article depicts Donald Trump metaphorically with that of an actor, “It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump… There was something unreal about it.” This comparative imagery runs continuously throughout the piece. The representation is based at the idea that Trump moves through life like a man who knows he is always being observed by others.


McAdams also, unlike many other media writers, does not use emotive language at the heart of his article about Donald Trump. Instead of evaluative language and hasty generalisations, McAdams deems to represent Trump from a psychological viewpoint.

“Across his lifetime, Donald Trump has exhibited a trait profile that you would not expect of a U.G. president: sky-high extroversion combined with off-the-chart low agreeableness.”

Next to this particular psychological analysis is yet another photographic representation of Trump. Yet this time he is mid-yelling depicting the full capacity of the anger within his personality. This photo is even more close up than the last, we can even see where he has had a filling in his teeth. The large red border of the photograph depicts emotions of frustration and anger further creating this “angry” image of Donald Trump.


McAdams representation of Trump is specifically interesting as he outlines Trump’s qualities that are usually not depicted in the media. This article then gives us an insight of the Donald Trump that is rarely seen in the media.


“But nobody else seems to embrace the campaign with the gusto of Trump. And no other candidate seems to have so much fun.”


The use of the word fun is not a word that we are used to seeing in the same sentence as the word Trump. Thus there is evidence of that the media can represent Donald Trump in a way that is not extremely biased from a left-wing nor a right-wing perspective but rather a psychological perspective that is informed and unbiased.


“Trump loves his family, for sure. He is reported to be a generous and fair-minded boss. There is even a famous story about his meeting with a boy who was dying of cancer. A fan of The Apprentice, the young boy simply wanted Trump to tell him, ‘You’re fired!’”


However McAdams does not only discuss the positive aspects of Trump that mainstream society are not aware of, but also the small parts of his personality that are the less extreme versions of what we see in the mainstream media. For example, McAdams discusses how Donald Trump spoke merely about himself at his father’s funeral, saying it was the “the hardest day of his life” and “what a successful and rich son he had bought up”.


Micheal Kinsley’s The Serious Problem with treating Donald Trump Seriously written for Vanity Fair outlines the traditional views of Donald Trump that are conventionally seen in the media.  Again, we can see from the emotive language and evaluative tone from the headline that Kinsley takes a negative stance on Donald Trump. The headline of the article also depicts potential for an appeal to negative consequences argument.


At the forefront of the article is a demeaning cartoon titled “Losers”. The cartoon is of Donald Trump amongst an array of animals in the form of Disney Cartoon characters. This cartoon in turn is making an analogy between Donald Trump and a bunch of animals that would in reality belong in a zoo. Trump’s head in the cartoon is also much larger than his own body and anyone else’s head within the cartoon, indicating the idea that Trump is big-headed. The caption of the cartoon reads, “Why are Trump’s opponents so reluctant to call him a goofball?” This caption further indicates the fear that Trump is perpetuating within the political sphere and the real world.


Kinsley takes the straight-up approach that we are often used to seeing in the media in relation to Trump by using emotive and harsh words to describe him. Again the animalistic analogy is used by Kinsley to further enhance his point that Trump does not deserve to be treated like a human but rather an animal.


“The trouble with Trump is that he is, by temperament, by experience, and by character, utterly unqualified to be president of the United States. He is a buffoon.”


The second cartoon used to represent Trump is again making fun of Trump as a person and as a political candidate. The cartoon depicts Donald Trump walking along a corridor of pictures of all the historical American presidents. However all of the presidents look in complete disgust and worry they shake their head and hold their head in despair as Trump walks past. Abraham Lincoln is even shown vomiting in disgust. The symbolism depicted in their faces is that America should not be proud of where it has come in comparison with its great leaders of the past. The illustration by Barry Blitt is captioned, “That we’re even talking about his “positions” is a victory for Trump.” Further indicating the shock that the media is establishing at just how far Trump has actually come in this political campaign.


The media is often understood to be thoroughly hostile towards Trump and especially in the rise of internet articles as journalist’s have evidently broken new ground in what they are allowed to say in ostensibly “objective” news articles and broadcasts. The rise of internet “journalism” also allows for a blurred line between what is opinionative and what is journalistic within an article. Despite such hostility in the media, Donald Trump seems to only grow stronger.


Evidently Donald Trump is a case that is so represented in the media it can be difficult to narrow down his exact representation. However it is clear that presidents work within institutional frameworks that transcend the idiosyncratic relationships between specific people and society as a whole. Perhaps Donald Trump’s emotional disconnection from the hostility of the media is a factor that is accelerating his drive as the most effective leaders are considered able to maintain some measure of distance from the social and emotional fray of everyday politics. Nevertheless, for U.S. presidents the political is not merely personal as it has to be much more as they keep the big picture in mind and try not to invest too heavily in any particular relationship, including with that of the media.


Written by Elouise Paabo








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