The 2016 US election has been a core topic throughout media outlets for the majority of the year. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is continuously making headlines for his unique, straight forward campaign technique and disrespect for women. Ben Jacobs’s “’You can do anything:’ Trump brags on tape using fame to get women”, a news journalism article and Charles M. Blow’s “Donald Trump, the worst of America”, a views journalism piece, were both produced in the coming weeks of the election. Although different in their journalistic style, both articles characterise Trump in a negative light, positioning readers to adopt the same view.
Described as being a “sex offender” and a man of a “disordered personality”, a tape caught on a live microphone was released to the media of a conversation between Trump and a television host in 2005, where he explicitly describes various sexual encounters with women. Trump describes how “when you’re a star they let you do it”, going on to state that he “did try fuck her, she was married.” This is just one instance where Trump has been highly criticized for his disrespect of women.
The majority of media published after the release of the tape was highly negative, as authors expressed their disgust. However, it is not only this scandal which has attracted negative media attention towards trump, his public verbal attacks at various women have also sparked anger within many. Trump’s words of Hilary Clinton, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed,” is just one example which has left many questioning whether he is fit to be the President of the United States.
When analysing both Jacobs’s and Blow’s articles it is evident that both authors have evaluated the actions of Trump negatively, based on the moral standards of how one should conduct themselves if they are employed in a highly regarded position within the world. Although Jacobs’s article is a news journalism piece, his choice of quotation and supportive videos are an indication of his negative view towards Trump. Alternatively, Blow’s piece is a highly subjective views journalism article, which also shares the same negative view as Jacobs, however, uses different linguistic techniques to achieve his argument. Thus, it is evident that the values of both authors are mutual, where Trumps morals and transparent campaign techniques are regarded as abnormal and unfit for presidency.
Jacobs article, “’You can do anything:’ Trump brags on tape using fame to get women” communicates a negative characterisation of Trump through the use of facts, which are used as evidence to back up his argument. Evident from the title, this news journalism article conveys a negative reaction to the released footage of Trump “bragging” about his sexual encounters with women and how his fame allows him to do this. As this news journalism piece operates objectively, Jacobs uses facts ad quotations to position his audience.
Jacobs’s vilification of trump after the release of the tape can be seen in the first line of the article. “Donald Trump was hit by an outraged backlash from allies and opponents alike after a tape emerged of the Republican candidate bragging about using his fame to try and “fuck” women and groping them without waiting for their consent.” The use of quotation marks around the word “fuck” illustrates Trump’s poor use of language. Jacobs highlights Trumps failure to word phrases appropriately, therefore belittling any women who was involved in this affair. Jacobs further illustrates the vulgarity of this incident through the phrase “groping without consent”, where he highlights the seriousness of this offence. This works as a strong opening statement, where Jacobs’s choice of words is used as a tool to negatively portray Trump to his audience.
Jacobs is selective when including quotations of the tape. Although it is necessary for a news style report to be completely objective, Jacobs use of these snippets “When you’re a star they let you do it,” “I did try and fuck her, she was married,” and “grab them by the pussy”, which implicitly act as “attitudinal triggers”. These phrases quoted by Trump are not entirely evaluative, however, it is the shared moral standards by society which allow readers to understand that the act of grabbing a woman “by the pussy” and trying to “fuck” her while she is married conveys barbaric and animalistic behavior. Therefore, Jacobs negatively characterizes Trump through the reference of evidence.
In addition to this, Jacobs positions readers to perceive Trump negatively when he suggests that Trump “dismissed” the tape recording and labeled it as “locker room banter.” However, the main tool which Jacobs incorporates into his article to construct a negative representation of Trump is his inclusion of quotes by various authoritative government personnel condemning Trumps behavior. He asserts a seriousness towards the objectification of women, identifying how the House speaker Paul Ryan canceled Trumps attendance to a republican event. The inclusion of Ryan’s’ statement solidifies Jacobs negative characterisation of Trump, expressing through emotive language that he is “sickened” by what he heard. Ryan then goes on to state that “women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for woman than this clip suggests.” It is through this quote that Jacobs communicates a worldview that the objectification of women will not be tolerated by anyone, despite their status in society. Thus, through implementing these quotations into his argument, Jacobs is likely to sway readers, especially females to collectively accept that Trump does not treat women with adequate respect, creating negative characterisation.
When analyzing this news journalism piece, it is evident that Jacobs is unsure of the positioning of his readers and therefore implements facts into his argument to further persuade them negatively towards Trump. Jacobs only slightly touches on any counter argument, including quotes from Trump’s twitter account defending himself. In doing this, he does not give his readers much opportunity to think positively about Trump, positioning them to adapt the same negative viewpoint as himself.
Throughout the majority of the article, Jacob references various members of parliament who condemn the actions of Trump, implying that he should “step aside”, and reinforcing that “no woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.” Jacobs also includes quotes by recognized senators and leaders which include emotive language. Trump’s actions are criticized as being “vulgar”, “egregious”, “repugnant”, “offensive” and “despicable”. In doing this, Jacobs attitudinal positioning is created via facts, which may include the use of evaluative terms. Thus, it is evident that the negative characterisation of Trump is not treated as a “given”, however, needs to be argued for. Alongside these negative and evaluative terms, Jacobs includes a fact which further implicates Trump’s position. He describes how a “number of Trump campaign members have problematic histories with women,” whereby members were asked to step down from the network as they faced sexual harassment allegations and domestic violence charges. Jacobs uses this statistic and cites authoritative sources to further position readers to take a negative stance on Trump, an example of how facts are used as arguments to persuade the reader without explicitly stating a direct opinion.
Throughout the article there are two links to watch the video and tape recording where Trump is caught saying these claims. Both videos include the use of subtitles which allow readers to not only hear the dialogue for themselves, but follow along. (Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koTrmin5n0g) The use of these links allows a person to evaluate the tape for themselves and also becomes more personal to readers than reading a quote in an article. Thus, by using a video source to support the content within the article, the audience is given an opportunity to visually interpret the topic at hand and are more likely to pass the same judgement as the author if the video is seen as a reliable source, through an appeal to emotion. When analyzing this article, it is evident that there is also a link to another Trump related story with the headline, “Jill Harth speaks out about alleged grouping by Donald Trump,” which is used as a tool to further validate Jacobs’s point of view.
The underlying assumption embedded within this article, reinforces that any behavior that is derogatory to women is not acceptable, regardless of one’s place in society. This is reinforced in the last line of the article, “The Illinois senator Mark Kirk, who has vowed not to support Trump, went further, saying on Twitter that Trump “should drop out” and the Republican party “should engage rules for emergency replacement,” and Jacobs’s use of selected quotes which position the audience against trump, creating a negative characterisation.
Similarly, Blow’s article “Donald Trump, the worst of America” presents a negative representation of Trump; however, the author is more derogatory, as it is an opinion piece. As indicated by the title of the piece, Blow’s article is also constructed against Trump, making evaluative negative judgements of him, labelling him a “lunatic”. Blow does not only focus on the released tape of Trump. However, Blow touches on other instances where he has mistreated and disrespected women, together with examples of his fiery campaign techniques which in his opinion makes Trump “the worst of America.”
Although both Jacobs and Blow exhibited a negative characterisation of Trump, Blow adopts a more explicit and evaluative way of communicating this. This is seen where Bolt implies that Trump knows the end is near, and therefore aims his anger at “all within reach.” He goes on to say “as his path to victory grows narrower, his desperation grows more pronounced.” This phrase, accompanied with the main image associated with the article paints a negative picture of Trump.
This image illustrates an intimate, close up of Trump. Dressed in a business suit, this candid shot of Trump is very serious. He is engaging eye contact with the camera; however, is extremely passive, looking or thinking. Trump’s facial expression is not happy, but alternatively does portray a sense of desperation, uncertainty and vulnerability, which Blow implies within the opening paragraphs of the article. Thus, when an audience looks at this photo they are not welcomed or encouraged to to create a positive relationship with Trump, making it easy for Blow to position them negatively towards Trump.
In conjunction with Jacobs, Blow also touches on Trump’s sexual assault allegations, highlighting his poor response to the allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Blow asserts that Trump’s response has “been marked by a stunning lack of grace and dignity, let alone contrition or empathy, a response much like the man himself.” To accompany this, Blow lists many examples whereby Trump has belittled or disrespected women. This is seen in his response retaliating to a woman from People magazine who accused him of forcibly kissing her; “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.” In including demeaning quotes by Trump himself, Blow is negatively characterising him, and further positioning the reader to go against Trump. Further stating his opinion of Trump’s response to the charges, Blow uses evaluative language, such as “callow”, “mocked”, “whined”, “Chided”, “bemoaned” and “belittled” to show Trump’s “emotional ineptitude”, reinforcing his negative opinion of Trump. Through this use of evaluative language, Blow positions the reader to accept his worldview that Trump is a “lunatic”, who is not fit for presidency, a view explicitly stated in the headline.
Blow makes an appeal to comparison, comparing Trump to a pig, an act that “seems to be most natural to him.” Together with this, Blow uses a sarcastic tone to almost “make fun” of any counter arguments set out by Trump. This is evident when he describes how everything is “rigged against him”, and urges Clinton to “take a drug test before the next debate.” It is through his use of emotive terms and sarcastic tone that Blow makes an assumption that his audience does share the same view as him, and therefore he does not employ the use of facts often within his piece. Blow uses this notion to further emphasise his negative characterisation of Trump, labelling him a “logical extension of toxic masculinity and ambient misogyny,” a view which is also shared by Jacobs.
Finally, Blow’s last attempt at positioning his audience to embrace a negative view of Trump can be seen in the last paragraphs of the article where he states that Trump is “corrupting” American politics. The article ends with the line; “Republicans sowed intolerance and in its shadow, Trump sprang up like toxic fungi,” which labels Trump as toxic, an extreme use of emotive language which encourages his audience to think the same. Thus, Blow creates a negative characterisation of Trump through the use of explicit emotive language. In doing this, it is evident that he assumes his audience does hold the same world view and negative view of Trump as he does not employ an overwhelming use of facts to put forward his argument.
These articles provide a sample of texts which construct negative characterisations of Donald Trump. The difference in linguistic technique demonstrates that each authors assumed reader varies. However, both Jacobs’s and Bolt’s articles share the same ideology of Trump. An analysis of these very different articles shows the high standards of morals which are embedded into society, shunning anyone who does not act appropriately or respectfully. Thus, as a result of Trump’s actions, each article positions their audience to negatively evaluate their findings.
“’You can do anything:’ Trump brags on tape using fame to get women” By Ben Jacobs, published on The Guardian, 8/10/2016
“Donald Trump, the Worst of America” By Charles M. Blow, published on the New York Times, 17/10/16