by Pavla Wernerová
Even though Trump called media “the enemy of the American People” after his inauguration it is the media who are partly responsible for him becoming the President. Even though “of the 100 circular print newspapers,” only “ two endorsed him”, as the saying goes “even bad publicity is good publicity”. Nevertheless, there is a strong difference between how he is depicted in the left and right-wing media. As Margaret Sullivan, an editor of The Washington Post points out, news makes its way quickly through the media. Quite often, the news which is most bizarre and unbelievable is the news spread by Trump himself: “once the president tweets it, it’s undeniably news, picked up by everywhere and re-amplified — especially by right-wing sites”. Even though Trump’s comments are quite often based only on his personal feelings and his desire to express his thoughts on everything he can, his sources are usually unclear. Apart from his comments on the internet, his behaviour and his public speeches also add up to his public image in the media. How is Trump depicted in the American media? In particular, the liberal media, and what is his public image? Is he a superhero, a sexist or a stand-up comedian? And does he actually stay true to his words?
From Trump to Bane: From a Superhero to a Villain
If there is one thing almost everyone can remember from Trump’s presidential campaign, it’s that he thinks he is “the best of the best”. From his favourite lines – that “nobody builds better walls than him” to Trump Steaks being “the world’s greatest steaks”. Another favourite claim is that nobody has done as much for different issues as him, from equality to fighting for veterans. He likes talking about himself as a superhero who can do anything he wants, and do it better than anybody else. This was apparent in his inauguration speech. As Nicole Puglise, an editor of The Guardian, points out, “Donald Trump has been compared to many things, but until now the Batman villain Bane had probably not been among them.” In his speech, Trump mentioned that his arrival in office had “special meaning” because “we are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the people”. Many people “were quick to point out on Twitter, that line had an uncanny echo of one spoken by Bane, the masked villain played by Tom Hardy in Christopher Nolan’s 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises”. The similarity between Trump’s and Bane’s speeches is even more obvious in the video.
It is unclear whether the similarity between Trump’s and Bane’s speech was desired or it was a pure coincidence. Nevertheless, it matches Trump’s position which can now be perceived much more as a villain than as a superhero. Even though Trump’s time in office has not been long, he has already managed to anger a huge number of people. Starting with his signing of a “decree barring US federal funding for foreign NGOs that support abortion” (which influences a large amount of women especially outside of the US, as Jill Filipovic, an editor of Cosmopolitan, mentions in her article) to building a wall between the US and Mexico and claiming that the Mexicans will pay for it (even though it is becoming obvious that it will never happen).
Another issue which is being discussed now is the repeal of Obamacare. Even though Trump often mentioned that “ObamaCare is imploding. It is a disaster and 2017 will be the worst year yet, by far! ” and also that “Republicans will come together and save the day”, now it seems to be the complete opposite. Although Trump’s proposed health care act failed because of the lack of support, it was far from the amazing health care act which he had promised. According to John Harwood, an editor of CNBC, it seemed that “the Republican health-care bill threatens Trump’s voters” among whom were people with low-paid jobs. If the act had been accepted, it would be possible that many people who were able to afford insurance under Obamacare would no longer be insured. The proposed health care plan failed because of the lack of support from both Democrats and Republicans. A vote on the bill never took place, it was “‘pulled’ moments before it was due to take place” by Paul Ryan. Even though the majority in the House is Republican, Trump blamed the failure of the act on Democrats and their lack of support. Even though in his campaign, he stated several times that he “will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare,” his statements about health care have slowly changed. In February, he stated that “nobody knew health care could be so complicated” and after the failure of the plan, he claimed that he had never said anything about repealing Obamacare immediately and he also stated that he has “a long time” to repeal and replace Obamacare. Thus, Trump’s words about “saving the day” are far from the reality. Because of these reasons, there can be seen that Trump’s position fits more of a villain than a superhero who will “make America great again.”
“There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have”
Even though Trump has often mentioned that “there’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have”, this fact could be strongly doubted during his whole presidential campaign and even in the moment he came to the office. One of the topics he often dealt with during his presidential campaign was the topic of abortion in the US. Trump “has pledged to nominate an anti-abortion justice to the Supreme Court, which could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade, the emblematic ruling that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973.” Nevertheless, when one of Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch was asked whether he would overturn Roe v. Wade, he stated that he “would have walked out the door.”
Since Roe v. Wade is a federal law, abortion must be accessible in all 50 states. Nevertheless, individual states have some freedom to choose how to make it accessible and some states try to restrict access as much as possible. For example in Ohio, the law forbade “abortions of what the statute calls viable fetuses, or fetuses that can survive outside the womb. Abortions beginning at 20 weeks‘ gestation” required “a doctor’s finding that the fetus is not viable.” The new proposal which was accepted in December prevents abortions “after 20 weeks of pregnancy” and it eliminates “the viability test.” In Oklahoma, a new bill is now being discussed which “would require women seeking an abortion to receive written consent from the father.”
“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
If Roe v. Wade were overturned, it could mean that the permission for abortion would be given by the individual states separately. Every state could choose whether they want to legalize abortion or not and it could mean that in some states, abortions could be outlawed completely. Even though repealing Roe v. Wade would take some longer time, Trump is currently doing a lot to restrict the accessibility of abortions. As Jeremy Diamond, an editor of CNN, points out “Planned Parenthood swiftly rejected . . . a proposal by President Donald Trump that would have pledged his support for federal funding for the women’s health organization if it ceased providing abortion services.” The women’s health organization “receives about a $500 million annually in federal funds.” As the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America tweeted in response to the proposal, “Planned Parenthood is proud to provide abortion: a necessary service that’s as vital to our mission as birth control or cancer screenings.” From these points, there can be seen that even though Trump repeatedly claimed that “There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as” he has, he fatally wants to reduce the rights of women to choose whether they want to have children or not.
When Trump came to office, it became clear that he will definitely not be a president who supports women’s rights. One of the first things he did when he came to office was sign a decree “barring US federal funding for foreign NGOs that support abortion.” The restrictions “prohibit foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive US family planning assistance from using non-US funding to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals and from engaging in advocacy to promote abortion.” In reality, it means that women from less-developed countries who were victims of sexual assault cannot get any help which is in any way related to abortion services from NGOs funded by the US. Victims of sexual assault are not the only ones who will be strongly affected by the decree, many other women from less-developed countries will also be affected by it. According to Marie Stopes International, an organization “helping women to have children by choice, not chance,” this decree “could cause 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths,” which are huge numbers.
A bill introduced in the US state of Texas would fine men $100 for masturbating, unless they do it in an approved medical facility.
The photo of Trump signing the decree evoked a huge response as it includes 7 other men and not one woman. As a result, the photo was copied and mocked internationally. One example from “Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Isabella Lövin,” who “has published a photograph of herself signing a climate bill surrounded by her closest female colleagues, apparently mocking a photo of US president Donald Trump.”
Another example is a picture made by a French feminist group called 52 (“named because women make up 52% of France’s population”) who created a photo which shows “Hillary Clinton surrounded by women, signing a ban on ejaculation for non-procreative purposes.” As another response to Trump’s attempts to reduce women’s rights can be seen “a bill introduced in the US state of Texas” that “would fine men $100 for masturbating, unless they do it in an approved medical facility.” The bill “was introduced by Representative Jessica Farrar” and “is in response to debates around women’s reproductive health across the US.” The bill was “intended as a satirical attack on the way that male politicians try to make judgements on women’s bodies” and “the bill would restrict men in the same way that some seek to restrict women’s access to abortions and contraceptives.” Even though the bill is satirical and “a lot of people find the bill funny,” it has a strong meaning. As Representative Jessica Farrar says, “What’s not funny are the obstacles that Texas women face every day, that were placed there by legislatures making it very difficult for them to access healthcare.” In a satirical way, the bill shows what barriers women have to deal with which does not concern men but are strongly influenced by them.
So it can be seen that even though he promotes gender equality and women’s rights, Trump is doing the exact opposite. Trump portrays himself as somebody who does everything he can for gender equality but at the same time, passes or wants to pass laws which restrict women’s rights.
“We totally understand it’s going to be America first, but can we just say: The Netherlands second?”
As was mentioned before, although Trump often talks about himself in a super-heroic way, his words are often not taken seriously and his public speeches are ridiculed or made fun of. Probably the best example is his inauguration speech and his “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first”. This resulted in a massive response in which viral videos were created. The first of these videos was made by “Dutch news satire show Zondag Met Lubach” which “released a fake tourism advert introducing the Republican politician to their ‘tiny country’”. In the video, the narrator parodies Trump’s accent and his way of speaking and does not forget to mention that “We speak Dutch. It‘s the best language in Europe. We‘ve got the best words. All the other languages failed. Danish … total disaster. German is not even a real language.” The narrator concludes the video by saying: “We totally understand it’s going to be America first, but can we just say: The Netherlands second?” This video resulted in other satiric videos where the creators are ironically highlighting the aspects of their countries which Trump may be interested in. The creators of the Czech version even went so far as to ask that “America first but the Czech Republic fifty first.” Even though Trump wanted to aim high during his inauguration speech, one of the visible consequences it had is that he became a source of material for many comedians all over the world.
His inauguration speech is not the only source of inspiration for comedians, basically his entire administration is a fruitful source for satirists. One of the most best parodies of the Trump administration in the US is a series of skits made by Saturday Night Live. Donald Trump played by Alec Baldwin, White House press secretary Sean Spicer by Melissa McCarthy and Ivanka Trump by Scarlett Johansson. The skits make fun of several topics related to Trump and his administration, starting with the “the president’s ‘tiny hands’ to the Russia scandal.” While Sean Spicer made the comment “it was funny” but that Melissa MacCarthy “was a little bit too exaggerated,” Donald Trump commented several times on his Twitter account that “it is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all” and that “the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse.” Even though the show may seem like something that only tries to ridicule Trump, it is not its main goal. Its main goal is “to make a funny reflection on what’s happening.” But probably, Trump is not able to accept the facts that anyone can make fun of him and that not everyone takes him seriously.
“We speak Dutch. It’s the best language in Europe. We’ve got the best words. All the other languages failed.”
Apart from the skits and videos parodying Trump, there are many other parodies of Trump and his administration. Apart from memes which quite often contrast Trump with either Barack Obama or Justin Trudeau, there are also many cartoons which parody Trump’s relationships with women or his rude behaviour.
Even though Donald Trump does not like being parodied and does not accept direct criticism or criticism in a form of parodies, his behaviour and his statements are a great source of inspiration for many comedians from all around the world.
Still a hero … for some
While Donald Trump is often criticized by the media, he is still a hero for some of them. As John Oliver pointed out in one of the episodes of his show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Trump‘s favourite sources of information include media such as Breitbart or InfoWars. In those two and a few other conservative media, Trump is still seen as a hero, which is in strong contrast to his portrayal in liberal media.
In contemporary media, there can be several examples of how differently the same facts are seen by conservative and liberal media. For example in National Review, a conservative magazine, Dennis Prager, an editor of the media, praises Trump because he has honoured his promises. Ironically, many of the facts which Prager mentions are the key elements which liberal media criticize. Prager mentions that Trump “has appointed as secretary of education a woman who, as a billionaire, could easily have devoted her life to enjoying her wealth, but instead has fought for American students and their parents to be able to choose their schools just as the wealthy do.” Nevertheless, the appointment of Betsy DeVos is often criticized by liberal media for “her support of charter schools, which are publicly funded and set up by teachers, parents, or community groups, outside the state school system.” John Oliver even dedicated one episode of his show to charter schools and explained why they are so problematic. Another point which Dennis Prager highlights about Trump in his article is that “by building a wall along our southern border, he is reasserting the belief that America actually has borders.” Nevertheless, Trump also claimed that he will make Mexico pay for it and judging from the current situation, there is no chance that Trump will be able to do that. Prager then adds a few other examples why Trump should be appreciated for his presidency. He concluded the whole article by saying: “If you live among liberals, it is not chic to express support for President Trump. But it is time more of us did so. If people abandon you because you support this president, they weren‘t serious friends to begin with. And, sorry to say, they aren‘t worthy of you. Somehow you have been able to look beyond their support for the America – and West-destroying Left. But they can’t look beyond your support for the first conservative president in a generation – and the gutsiest perhaps ever.” Even though Prager’s article is only one of several others where Trump is highly praised for his presidency, it very clearly shows that even though Trump is often criticized by liberal media, the same facts are highly praised by conservative media.
Although not all of Trump’s attempts succeeded, when he fails, his fails are quite often blamed on somebody else by conservative media. This can be seen very clearly after the proposal of his health care reform did not manage to get enough support. As The Washington Post pointed out, “when lack of support compelled Republicans to cancel Friday’s scheduled vote on a health-care policy overhaul, it did not take long for Breitbart News to lay the blame at the feet of House Speaker Paul Ryan.” The headline of the article was “House GOP Leaders Pull Paul Ryan’s Obamacare 2.0 Bill Off Floor Again” and the article made it look like “Ryan, not President Trump, owned this bill and therefore this failure.”
As was mentioned in the previous parts, even though Trump is often criticized by liberal media, for many Conservatives, he is still seen as “the hero we needed,” as Red State, a Conservative blog, describes him.
Who is he?
Even though Trump is fond of describing himself as a person who is the greatest at everything and who does more for the others than anybody else, when comparing the public image he tries to create of himself and his real acts, there is an enormous contrast. Not only does he do quite a lot to reduce the rights of women but he is also slowly destroying such important acts such as the Affordable Health Care for America Act. He is also not able to accept any kind of criticism, which quite often results in his acts and statements being parodied. Even to these parodies, he acts with anger and he feels like he is a victim of unfair representation by the media. If he fails at something, he tries to blame it on others, as could be seen in the failure of his proposed health care plan for which he blamed the Democrats.
For these reasons, Trump can be considered to be more a stand-up comedian who cannot be taken seriously and who can be made fun of than a serious politician who is supposed to be the most powerful leader in the world. He is also definitely not a hero who will save everything and who is doing as much as he can for everyone because he tries to diminish the rights of several social groups. Even as Trump‘s advisor Anthony Scaramucci himself said about Trump: “don’t take him literally, take him symbolically” and that‘s the only thing you can actually do. In spite of all these facts, for many Conservatives, he still will be perceived as “the hero we needed.”