Takes on Trump


The election of Donald Trump has caused a quasi-endless stream of commentary, with a specific focus on the failure of the media to anticipate Trump’s success. In no time, the filter bubble  and fake news became household concepts. But media scholars have more to add to the debate than these two ideas. We want to share two analyses with you.

Toby Miller takes issue with the idea that Trump is the first “Twitter president”, prioritising the social medium rather than traditional mass media, and especially TV. Through the unconventional and apparently unpolished use of his Twitter account Trump indeed generated a lot of media buzz. But Miller argues that rather than a bypass, the Twitter account was an element driving television coverage of candidate Trump, which “generated US$2 billion in advertising revenue for these stations—an increase of 15 percent on last year and 25 percent on the previous Presidential election”. Miller concludes that rather than witnessing the end of TV, we have seen Television with Tears.

Writing from the other side of the pond, Nick Couldry draws parallels between Brexit and the Trump election, and uses the occasion for some soul searching about the failures and blindspots of his own work, and cultural studies more generally:

“I have written and thought at length about voice – about truly valuing voice – but failed completely in practice to do anything to make it happen; and when the consequences of neglecting voice for decades in large ‘democratic’ societies stared me in the face, my system loyalties had blocked me from seeing voice’s potency and (in the wrong hands) dangers. It is hard to see that unresolved contradiction as anything other than a personal failure, a failure that is hardly mine alone”.

Couldry explains this failure through the neoliberalisation of the university, but ends with a hopeful note: with the neoliberal project in tatters now, from its ashes “a new way of doing democratic politics can be built