Donald Trump: Medias favourite joke

 

New Yorker Cartoon: Donald Trump
New Yorker Cartoon: Donald Trump

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 liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist 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

 

 

 

 

Donald Trump- Media’s man of the moment?

The coverage of the US Presidential race has been both plentiful and controversial. Much of this media attention, however, has been focused more on the notorious character of Donald Trump than the political views being represented in the campaign itself. An analysis of some of the prominent media coverage triggered largely by personal responses to Trump’s public appearances suggests that Trump himself is also more concerned with his own opinionated views and wealth than the policies he is pitching to the nation. Two opinion pieces from prominent media outlets are noteworthy in such coverage, one by Markus Feldenkirchen from Spiegel Online International entitled ‘America’s Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World’s Most Dangerous Man’ and the other entitled ‘If Donald Trump was President, Here’s What Would Happen to the US Economy,’ by Emily Stewart for The Street. They reveal both authors operating with evaluative assumptions that the “average” reader is, predictably going to oppose Donald Trump and his public statements through the course of his campaign thus far. What is most fascinating is that both articles assume like-minded readers who establish a clear ‘us vs. them’ mentality about supporters for Trump. They are innately similar in that they presume the majority are in fierce opposition to his candidacy and take some offence at Trump’s public controversies.

These two articles may then provide an indicator of journalistic beliefs about news readers’ and the digital generations’ attitudes towards Donald Trump in both a personal sense and a political sense also. Accordingly, it is interesting to explore the depths of the articles and reveal both the mindset upon which they rely and the central ad hominen argument upon which their work is based. Such an analysis reveals one author, Feldenkirchen, assuming an audience with a deeply embedded dislike for the personal character of Donald Trump and his newly found position in the Presidential Race as a so-called serious political candidate. Stewart, while sharing the same foundational assumptions also provides, if only a limited acknowledgement of opposing positions, supporting this view with an appeal to fact by way of statistics and quotes. Notably, neither authors goes out of their way to convince the readers of their opinion, but rather assume it is shared by the majority.

In the article ‘America’s Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World’s Most Dangerous Man,’ it quickly became clear that Feldenkirchen is personally opposed to Donald Trump being a candidate in the presidential race, and even further opposed to the personal views expressed by Trump. From his first characterization of Trump as “America’s Agitator” in the title, Feldenkirchen rejects the possibility of Trump making a suitable President for the United States. The article focuses on the attention given to Trump’s “hate-filled” campaign with respect to his visions for the future of America. “Trump wants a ruthless America,” the article asserts, considering how his policies and agenda are drafted to create a more exclusive system within the United State. The article labels Trump as a narcissist with “a core element of racism.”Feldernkirchen is similarly negative in his appeal to popular appeal and analogy,

Donald Trump is the leader of a new, hate-filled authoritarian movement. Nothing would be more harmful to the idea of the west and world peace than if he were elected president. George W. Bush’s America would seem like a place of logic and reason in comparison.

What is most meaningful here, however, is not Feldenkirchen’s negativity but the assumptions upon which he relies in outlining his view. This becomes evident upon close analysis of the supporting arguments he presents.
This is the argument that “his most unique characteristic is his lack of scruples.” This argument follows an ad hominen argument as it attacks Trump personally, rather than his central point or campaign. It could also be viewed as a distraction method as it is taking attention away from the policies of his campaign in the US Presidential race and drawing attention to his personality in delivering these policies. The use of these informal fallacies throughout the article demonstrates a largely opinionated description, which offers little evidence or fact by way of support. The underlying logic here is that the author can rely on an appeal to popular opinion and emotion. This is further supported by an appeal to authority, “studies have shown that Trump speaks at a fourth-grade reading level.” This supporting argument employs the use of ‘studies’ to advance his matter of simple opinion into a somewhat justified argumentation. Adding a further element of argument, Feldenkirchen again makes an appeal to authority and recognises those views that oppose his own, “Some polls even show that Trump even stands a realistic chance of winning.” While seemingly a valid recognition, however, this argument is presented in a ‘tongue in cheek,’ or prominently sarcastic manner. The author therefore does not consider that anyone’s opinion but his own is correct or endorsed.

This relies on an underlying evaluative presumption that no one takes Trump seriously as a politician. This is significant in Feldenkirchen’s appeal to emotion,

His plain and sometimes embarrassing statement, his muddled speeches and his incomprehensible narcissism have been a source of amusement.”

This suggests Trump is not taken seriously in the campaign, but is rather a source of media entertainment throughout the process. However, if the observations offered on the subject by the UK Telegraph are considered, this argument can be questioned on factual grounds as his controversial statements could be considered a business-smart and successful campaign method. 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.

But it is not so much the success of Trump’s campaign that is relevant, rather the assumption upon which he relies about his shared dissatisfaction with Donald Trump being a presidential candidate to begin with, “Trump has launched an uprising of the indecent.” The underlying argument here is that Trump is not an appropriate Presidential candidate and is not deserving of a position in the Presidential Race. This would be at odds with the overwhelming support Trump has received as evidence in his selection as the Republican candidate over Hilary Clinton. In this and other arguments advanced in his article, Feldenkirchen thus assumes a largely like-minded reader and formulates the ‘logic’ of his arguments accordingly. To the extent that his assumptions are somewhat well-founded, this suggests a notable level of support for his complaints against Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.

The article by Emily Stewart ‘If Donald Trump was President, Here’s What Would Happen to the US Economy,’ is somewhat in line with these arguments. This articles focuses on Trump’s current position in the US Presidential race, deliberating his policies though analogies with Trump’s personal fortune and personal life. It discusses what has been labelled as the “Trump effect,” fundamentally agreeing with mass media notion that Trump is not fit to be president. Stewart’s article, however, is founded more significantly on argumentation rather than the simple opinion offered by Feldenkirchen. She is strong in her view that Trump’s campaign has resulted in overwhelming amounts of opposition.

Trump has made plenty of enemies along the way as well, including but not limited to fellow GOP contenders Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Fox News Journalist Megyn Kelly, the media in general and even the pope.

Right from the introduction in this article, like Feldenkirchen, she is operating with the assumption that her readers share a similar view. Thus, she too follows an ad hominen structure as rather than making an argument by way of challenge to those who have criticised the proposal, she attacks the personal character of Donald Trump. This is evident in her assumption that his controversial public claims are representative of his views and are not merely a public relations stunt for media attention throughout his presidential campaign. For example, “Trump has certainly been this election cycle’s most riveting figure,” again focuses on the person himself rather than his position within the US Presidential Race. In an appeal to both fact and social norms, 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.

It is noteworthy here that she simply invents a new term, ‘trumpiness’ here without any means of explanation or definition. In the context of the argument, however, the term carries with it negative connotations and thus has implicit meaning. This requires a significant amount of deductive reasoning from the reader, however, given that Stewart is assuming a like-minded audience, this merely continues to fit with her evaluative claims. From this, Stewart moves on to include an appeal to authority,

While Trump certainly has some grandiose ideas- and equally lofty rhetoric to accompany them- Deciphering the exact nature of his economic policies is a complex task, according to John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at Washington DC.

The underlying assumption here is that Trump’s campaign is an act and that Trump is an actor within it. This continues to build on an underlying assumption that he is not being truthful in his campaign. This is supported by an article entitled ‘The Mind of Donald Trump’ in the Atlantic, written by Dan McAdams.

More than even Ronald Reagan, Trump seems supremely cognizant of the fact that he is always acting. He moves through life like a man who knows he is always being observed. If all human beings are, by their very nature, social actors, then Donald Trump seems to be more so—superhuman, in this one primal sense.

Here, McAdams supports Stewart’s assumption that Trump is a questionable presidential candidate. Interestingly, however, in the second half of the article Stewart acknowledges other possibilities and arguments that question her own position and assumed position of the reader. Stewart states multiple times, “Not everyone agrees,” this acknowledging that people do oppose her central assumption, and therefore adds credibility to her argument. She quotes,

I think Donald Trump is good for the Republican Party, and I think he’s good for the country,” Busler said. “Donald Trump is not afraid to face the public and raise his voice, even if it is politically unpopular.

By ending her article with this quote, Stewart’s article become somewhat juxtaposing as she flips the underlying assumption of her piece on its head by ending with a positive attitude. Arguably, this could be considered a tactical use of deduction as it leaves the reader to draw his or her own opinion and understanding from Stewart’s article.

Arguably, then, both articles are suggestive of a readership, which is hostile towards Donald Trump on either a personal or political level of interaction. The two pieces are both centred primarily on an ad hominen argument and evaluative presumption that assumes the readership shares in their personal views and argumentative points. Though different in their final nature, both articles are fundamentally similar in their underlying assumptions, primary conclusions and claims.

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