The controversial coverage of the US Presidential race, particularly media that challenges Donald Trumps candidacy, can be found in ample amounts. Generally, the media has been dominated by opposing views to the contentious character that is Donald Trump while pieces of support can be found few and far between. Three opinion pieces are noteworthy examples of such coverage; one by Lorraine Devon Wilke from The Huffington Post on October 29th 2016 entitled ‘Why Donald Trump Cannot Ever Be Our President.’ The second piece is by Toure from VICE published on August 13th 2015 entitled ‘The Real Reason Why Donald Trump Will Never Be President’ and the final piece is ‘Don’t Panic: Donald Trump Will Never, Ever Be President,’ by Ben Gran for PASTE Magazine on May 4th 2016. These articles are founded on a common ad hominen argument that establishes a clear opposition towards Trump as both a politician, and person. In addition to this, other media articles will also be discussed and referred to more briefly to provide a general overview of how the media tends to cover Donald Trump as both a person and a politician. They are generally innately similar in their assumption that the majority agree with their evaluative view, however, as always there are a few exceptions to the rule. Furthermore, it can be argued that some media portray out-of-context remarks made by Trump as full truths. These will be discussed as well, to ensure credibly and extensive analysis has been achieved.
These three articles offer a clear indication of the media’s opinion surrounding Donald Trump in the current context of the presidential election. The central commonalities of the three pieces are the ad hominen argument upon which they are founded and their assumption of an analogous or like-minded audience. It is evident that they assume the majority shares their opinion, however, they also appeal to an audience who are undecided and whose opinion can therefore be influenced. They do not, however, consider their audience may be supporters of Donald Trump, highlighting a rather meaningful issue of neglect.
In the article, ‘Why Donald Trump Cannot Ever Be Our president,’ it becomes immediately evident that Wilke stands in opposition to Donald Trump and his publicly expressed opinions. The opinion piece is based on ad hominen argument and therefore uses evaluative and persuasive language to attack the personal character of Trump throughout. Wilke forcefully relies on the use of emotional appeal to reach out to her audience and persuade them her opinion, like theirs, is the correct one. In doing this, Wilkes established a clear ‘us verse them’ mentality that almost attempts to humiliate Donald Trump’s supporters. This is evident in her inclusive language that evokes the protective instinct of humankind, “These children- your children, my children, the children of our world- are why Donald Trump cannot ever be our president.” The article therefore asserts that Trump is not a suitable political candidate and rejects any premise that he could rise to the occasion and benefit the people of our world. This emotional appeal is reiterated further along in the article,
Donald Trump does not possess, and is utterly incapable of, embodying and exemplifying the kind of integrity, consideration, grace, wisdom, compassion, impulse control, verbal acuity, knowledge, experience, honesty, and simple good manners…
This intense use of adjectives describing the most desirable attributes, all of which Trump arguably fails to possess, is used by Wilkes to consolidate in the mind of the reader, exactly why Trump should be opposed. To extenuate this view, Wilkes uses a comparison of Trump to criminals and other such unreliable peoples as a supporting argument,
There may be worse people; I’m sure there are, but odds are they’re either in prison, running multi-level marketing scams in other nondescript towns, or living in basements trolling ecologists and women with money.
This argument is therefore reliant on a like-minded readership who share the belief in the underlying warrant that these people are corrupt and should not be in a position of power. The assumption of an agreeable audience is supported in article, “The list is stunningly long and anyone reading this article likely knows it all.”
This assumption of a like-minded audience is consistent across the majority of articles opposing Trump. This is particularly evident in ‘If Donald Trump was President, Here’s What Would Happen to the US Economy,’ by Emily Stewart for The Street. In an appeal to social norm and fact, Stewart questions the personal fortune of Trump,
Trump’s brand has contributed an enormous amount of his net worth- he says more than $3 billion. But how will that trumpiness translate to the White House? Perhaps not well.
Here, Stewart invents the term ‘Trumpiness’, however, offers no definition or context for its meaning. Instead, the term simply carries with it negative connotations and an implicit meaning. The reader therefore has to deduce the meaning of the term, assuming they will reach the same conclusion as the author. This is reliant on a like-minded audience as seen in Wilke’s article.
However, while much less common in media articles, there is also an audience who do support Trump and the methods of his political campaign. In a piece entitled ‘The Five Key Ingredients of Donald Trump’s soar away Success’, Michael Barone makes the following point,
First, by staking out controversial stands on legitimate issues – immigration and trade – in his announcement speech on June 16, nearly 17 months before the general election, when he called illegal immigrants from Mexico “rapists”, conceding that some may be “good people”. This got enormous news coverage.
Therefore, despite the majority of pieces being presumptuous of an audience opposing Trump, it is evident that not everyone does and this could be considered a flaw in their arguments. This is arguably a flaw of Wilkes’ article as she fails to recognise this, slightly decreasing the validity of her argument as it appeals more to emotion than to fact and sources of authority.
Finally, Wilkes’ appeal to social norm and nationalism adopts an ad populum argument,
And we have an obligation- as caring, thinking, conscious Americans- to not allow our children, our country, our world, to be inflicted, infected, with the kind of bottom-feeding demagoguery that he and his cabal of alt-right coat tailers would impose upon this country.
The use of ad populum as an informal fallacy provides a stronger appeal to the audience and a more sincere argumentation throughout the piece. The author therefore effectively establishes their position on Donald Trump in an evaluative and highly persuasive manner. This could, however, be improved by the additional appeal to fact and authority to create more legitimacy in the argumentation of the article.
The use of informal fallacies is an exhausted tool in articles opposing Donald Trump. A noteworthy example is one by Markus Feldenkirchen from Spiegel Online International entitled ‘America’s Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World’s Most Dangerous Man’. This media piece is also based on an ad hominen argument as it attacks Trump on an innately personal level. The central argument is that Trump’s “most unique characteristic is his lack of scruples.” This is arguably a distraction method as it is ultimately taking attention away from his political standpoint and re-centring it on his personal mannerisms. This reinforces the notion of an ad hominen argument as the article focus not on the events and the political race, but on Donald Trump as a person.
The article by Toure, ‘The Real Reason by Donald Trump Will Never Be President’ shares the same foundational views. Also centred on an ad hominent argument, the piece attacks the character and public profile of Donald Trump as a means to derail his political position. This article, however, relies less significantly on the emotional appeal presented by Wilkes, and provides a more factual appeal. Before delving into this approach, however, the piece opens with a humorous remark, “Watching the 2016 race is like we’re watching an outlandishly madcap absurdist film mocking the presidential process.” The tongue-in-cheek nature of this comment firmly establishes the author’s position on Trump, and inaugurates in the audience a disrespect towards his presidential candidacy. This is furthered by an appeal to both authority and popular opinion,
As the Washington Post’s John Capehart tweeted recently, “The 2012 Republican presidential field was derided as a clown car. The 2016 clown is being driven by a clown.
Despite this joke within this reference, it alludes to an overwhelming opposition to Trump. The use of humour or a tongue-in-cheek method is common to articles opposing Trump. A prominent example is in ‘Donald Trump: Just cancel the election and name me president’ by Daniel Halper, published in the New York Post in October 2016. The opening of this piece is a clear tongue-in-cheek reference to one of Trump’s speeches, “Donald Trump has proposed a sure way for him to become president: Cancel the election and anoint him leader.” This statement essentially makes a joke out of Trump, opposing any support towards him.
Moving back to Tour’s article, in a further appeal to authority he refers to another news outlet, “An online NBC news/Survey Monkey poll conducted after the GOP debate found Trump at 23 per cent.” This also incorporates an appeal to fact, providing clear evidence and support for the view being presented rather than relying only on emotional appeals. However, emotional appeals are also evident in the text. A noteworthy example is Toure’s use of vulgar language designed to stir up disgust in the readership, arguing that Trump is “Using his words to pee all over the race, like an Alpha establishing its dominance.” This controversial claim focuses the readers attention on unrefined words used to describe Trump’s action, thus creating an emotional reaction. Toure’s article therefore uses the combination of emotional and factual appeals to build an intricate ad hominen argument.
The feature article, ‘Don’t Panic: Donald Trump Will Never Ever Be President’ by Ben Gran is an interesting analyses as it was published in May of 2016 prior to any real belief that Trump was in with a realistic chance of being elected President of the United States. Also based on an ad hominen argument, the article is an evaluative piece similarly opposing Donald Trump in both a personal and political sense. In line with ‘The Real Reason Why Trump Will Never Be President, Gran incorporates a more balanced used of appeal to fact and emotion, arguably creating a more credible argument than that presented by Wilkes’s in the first article. Notably, Gran uses an informal fallacy, ad populum, to appeal to wide ranging audience, “Donald Trump is especially unpopular with minority groups, women and young voters.” This appeals to a wide audience by referencing popular opinion to create a more reliable line of argument. This appeal to public opinion is also evident in Gran’s nationalistic opinions, “Most Americans hate Donald Trump,” and “Trump is trying to appeal to America by insulting America.” These argumentative approaches are based on creating an emotional agreement or response from the audience. However, Gran does not leave it there. To give a more substantial opinion piece, Gran supports his views with an appeal to fact, “67 per cent of Americans have an “unfavourable” view of Donald Trump.” Referencing statistics adds a new level of dependability in the piece, also acting a tool to persuade the audience. This is extended in the supporting argumentation, “No seriously, check out the polls.” Here, directing the audience to another reliable source demonstrates that Gran is firm his belief, and is also sure he is supported by the majority.
The underlying assumptions presented in Gran’s article are also present in an article titled ‘The mind of Donald Trump’ by Dan McAdams. In this, McAdams assumes a like-minded audience and relies on a number of assumptions. This is evident in his analogy, “More than even Ronald Reagan, Trump seems supremely cognizant of the fact that he is always acting.” Here, it is noteworthy that McAdams relies not only on a dislike for Trump, but also for Reagan. It is therefore evident that media pieces focusing on a dislike for Donald Trump are based on similar assumptions, particularly that of a similar audience.
Finally, there is a trend, particularly in the Huffington Post to include the following Editor’s note on pieces about Trump,
“Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”
This demonstrates a clear bias from news corporation and world media in the case of Trump.
Lorraine Wilke’s piece, ‘Why Donald Trump Cannot Ever be our President,’ Toure’s article ‘The Real Reason Why Donald Trump Will Never be President’ and ‘Don’t Panic: Donald Trump Will Never, Ever be president’ by Ben Gran are three noteworthy examples of how the media covers the character that is Donald Trump. They are in line with general opinions about the legitimacy of Trump’s presidential candidacy and the type of leader he would be. Importantly, the articles are all based on a central ad hominen argument and thus, attack the personal character of Trump more so than his political position. Furthermore, they rely on a general assumption of a readership who share their opposition to Trump. This assumption is common across most media covering Trump, as made evident by other such examples included in this analysis. However, ‘The Five Key Ingredients of Donald Trump’s Soar Away success’ by Michael Barone was also discussed to demonstrate that while a minority, there is media that reports in favour of Donald Trump and applauds his character. Despite this, the in-depth analysis demonstrates key trends in media discussion Trump; an opposition to his character, an assumption of a like-minded audience, a central ad hominen argument and clear tongue-in-cheek approach, all culminating to produce similarly composed opinion pieces.
Word count, 2021