Donald Trump has pulled off one of the best publicity stunts this country has seen in a long time. He forced the president’s hand, taking the credit for getting Barack Obama to prove he’s a red-blooded American and not some Kenyan infiltrator who hoodwinked Americans into electing him. He tapped into an unrecognized racism brewing in many TEA Party activists and laymen and women alike. He got us to clamor around an issue that’s been settled long ago and propelled the president to once again prove that he’s one of us.
The Donald was also effective in his mass media campaign by drawing attention to himself and his train wreck of endless rallies and meetings with citizens on his quest to find out if he wants to be president. He was also a master at getting the media to once again address an issue it put to bed more than 3 years ago.
Like an annoying gnat, Donald Trump kept pressing the birther issue, claiming he had operatives on the ground in Hawaii investigating the president’s birth country. He, along with others, implied Obama’s parents, hospital workers and Hawaiian officials all anointed Barack Obama as the boy who will become the first black president and conspired to falsify records to make him eligible to run for public office.
Trump gave interviews to the media, claiming Obama’s birth certificate was “missing.” He forced cable news hosts to criticize him for his birther sideshow. He forced ABS’s George Stephanopolous and Rep. Michelle Bachmann to “settle” the birther debate bydisplaying the president’s certificate of live birth. He even prompted CNN to do an extensive “investigation,” which led the news organization to declare what we all knew: Obama is an American.
Trump ran a good game on the American people. He won an exquisite match over Big Media by shifting the focus on what he would do as president to rampant conspiracy theories surrounding Obama’s birth certificate. Yet, in the debate, the media refused to press Trump on the latent racism and xenophobia he expressed in his doubts about the country electing an American to serve as chief of state.
This Associated Press article captures the frustration and lamentation some black folks had surrounding the birther issue, but many of the traditional news outlets and journalists refused to examine the racial factor behind the birther issue. Big Media refused to dig deeper into the underlying racist feelings that when a black man or woman obtains higher power or authority, there’s something astray about that person’s ascent to power. It failed to ponder why so many people feel that whenever a black man or woman achieves great success, their rise to fame or fortune must be the result of either a law or being broken or skewed in their favor at the expense of a white person.
But, I can’t blame Big Media for failing to delve into any analytical reporting or investigating. Reporting on the racial, xenophobia aspect of the birther issue would require the media to confront the system of white supremacy and privilege set up to benefit many of the reporters working for Big Media. It would require them to dig deeper than the shallow reporting they are so accustomed to (due to advertising demands, a short attention span and hollow reasoning by their audience) and examine the subconscious racism laying dormant in a majority of our society. It would require making their audience and their bosses uncomfortable reading and editing stories about race as they would see quotes or segments reminiscent of their underlying racist feelings.
Donald Trump and those who sympathize with the birther movement were allowed to operate unchecked and spew their overt, racist sentiments surrounding the speculation about Obama’s birth place. Birthers were allowed on national television without one reporter even attempting to check their latent racism surrounding doubts about Obama’s citizenship.
Big Media’s refusal to check Trump and other birthers on his racism is a reflection of the sad, stagnant state of race relations in this country. In order to move past racism, there must be an awakening of sorts inside one’s mind. One must come to understand the impact of institutional racism and white privilege before it can dismantle racism. Big Media’s refusal to question Trump’s racism — and his statement about getting along fine with “The Blacks” — demonstrates its superficial understanding of racism and rampant denial about white privilege’s partnership to sustain supremacy.
Big Media played into the hands of Trump’s publicity stunt and helped propel questions about Obama’s citizenship back into the spotlight as one of those news stories that really didn’t demand the attention it received. Trump has proven himself as the master manipulator of the press and took advantage of Big Media’s lack of skills and desire to produce quality news stories and analyses on how far we are from the Utopian idea of a post-racial America.