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The Pros and Cons of Media Fatigue in the Trump Era

Posted: May 4, 2017 at 1:26 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

It now has a name, “Trump Era Media Fatigue”, which describes the exhausting marathon of a circus campaign season and an equally disorganized and bazaar presidency.

President Donald Trump has given a dizzying amount of characteristically ridiculous interviews in the past week, along with holding a contentious rally that all too closely compared to his terrifying rallies on the campaign trail.

In their wake, the media has had a difficult time keeping up with the complete flip flops, historical gaffes, and downright lies that the President keeps injecting into the conversation.

This has resulted in a media fatigue that culminates the one and a half years of nonstop campaigning plus a clandestine transition phase, and 100 days of presidency.

This tiredness with the president has both pros and cons. On one hand, it has made the President’s words – and Twitter account and Press Secretary – less reliable and less followed by the general public.

However, the power and escalation of stakes generated by the President’s words are not only simulations. There are real-world immediate and long-term consequences attached to his actions and words, and a lot of the important aspects can get lost in the noise of the everyday terrifying news updates.

Pros of Media Fatigue in the Trump Era

Since day one, Trump has made gaffe after gaffe.

In his last three interviews that haven’t changed; from continuing to make untrue statements about Obama’s surveillance and his inauguration ceremony’s size; to odd speculations about President Andrew Jackson’s role in the Civil War; to walking out of an interview after a probing question by CBS’s John Dickerson.

And this is just from the past week. In the last hundred days, he’s made similar statements, gaffes and offensive ad libs concerning women’s rights, Muslims, Fredrick Douglass, the date of election day, and others throughout the campaign.

It should be no surprise that these new batch of blunders have been accompanied with large campaign-style rallies bringing back the “glory days” of… 8 months ago.

What it comes down to is a combination of novelty and news. At one point Trump’s ignorance was a novelty to get outraged about, but now that novelty is wearing off and his campaign act is “wearing thin,” as The Atlantic’s David Graham writes.

“Trump’s problem is that he faces a vicious cycle: The more his presidency feels stalled, the more he reverts to his campaign mode. And the more he reverts to campaign mode, the less influence and attention he seems able to garner,” Graham observes pointing to an analysis by AP showing a declining engagement with his Twitter account.

The fatigue for news about Trump in the media has spilled over to interest in him as a president. And that shouldn’t be surprising either. In a campaign season, there’s a bullheaded competition. But now Trump doesn’t have anyone to compete against, except his own ego (and mouth), and that’s far less exciting.

Cons of Media Fatigue

However, for all the bluffing, backtracking, bluster, and lies, there’s a real chance that escalating and grave conflicts will be shrugged off by an indifferent media (and an indifferent public).

This can be exemplified in the speech Trump gave in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to celebrate his 100th day. The speech was lightly attended by journalists, most of whom were at the White House Correspondents Dinner, which Trump relished in mocking.

However, the people who were paying attention gave it ominous reviews. Like David Gergen, who said:  “This was the most divisive speech I have ever heard from a sitting American president.”

Other topics, like his willingness to sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un only a day after saying that America wasn’t safe from nuclear strike, have raised alarms, but are quickly shuffled out of the news cycle and passed over within 48 hours.

The difficulty is not reading or processing the offensive material, but the fatigue that comes with having an emotional reaction to every little bit of potentially disastrous international policy, all of which seem to be building…. but to what? For now, it’s still an unforeseen conclusion.   

Steven Klett

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