This is a blog post in response to the article by Sarah Penkava titled “The Aftermath of a Populist Leader in a Democracy”, published on the 3rd of December, 2020. She discusses the massive impacts that Donald J. Trump’s presidency has had on the country and the aftermath of what many would consider the first populist president in the history of the United States. I strongly agree with her position but have decided to expand upon an idea that she mentioned briefly at the beginning of her article that actually had a major effect on the Trump era, and that is her discussion of people’s mistrust in the government. In this post, I wanted to discuss the media’s role in the general mistrust of the government.
Penkava mentions the fact that the citizens of the United States have a mistrust in the government that has increased in the aftermath of a populist president. I thought I would elaborate on this mistrust, and discuss why it led to the election of a populist president in the first place. In general, mistrust in the media correlates with a related mistrust in the government. This means that if the media fails to report the news fairly and truthfully, the government will suffer negative approval ratings, despite the government having no control over the press. This decline began quite a while ago in the 1970s when the American people were expected to believe President Eisenhower’s lies about the U-2 spy plane, President Kennedy’s lies about the “missile gap,” President Johnson’s lies about the war in Vietnam, and President Nixon’s lies about Watergate. At a certain point, trust broke, and it has been a steady decline since then.
A large technological change since this time period is the birth of social media. Social media has become a center point in many people’s lives, and it has been a major contributor to people’s negative feelings towards the media. Many political posts on social media are responses to major news outlets pointing out falsehoods or lies that are told. This occurs on both sides, with Democrats pointing out the controversial and biased Fox News and republicans pointing out the shortcomings of CNN. At this point, there are so many conflicting ideas being spread about the same topics, so voters are left confused and unsure of who to believe. This is a substantial factor that led to the election of Donald J. Trump, a populist leader. Trump became the middle and lower classes champion due to his populist rhetoric that identified him as a hero and savior of anyone who was sick of the traditional government that had functioned the same corrupt way for far too long.
Overall, Penkava’s article was a perfect recount of the past few months in American history, and I thought it would be interesting to dive a little deeper into the roots of the issues that she described in her article. I think the idea of the fall of trust in the media and government is quite sad as an American citizen myself, and I hope that in years to come we can build a relationship based on trust with these institutions once again.
Schudson, M. (2019, December 3). The fall, rise, and fall of media trust. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.cjr.org/special_report/the-fall-rise-and-fall-of-media-trust.php
Medium, J. (2019, September 02). How social media has exacerbated mistrust in journalism. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://givingcompass.org/article/social-media-exacerbated-mistrust-in-journalism/
Gray, K. (2020, March 3). Why Do So Many Americans Distrust the Media? Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.pulitzer.org/article/why-do-so-many-americans-distrust-media