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august 2017

On Agenda-Setting


by Hans Durrer

Donald Trump (I will from now on refer to him as "this man" for he embodies a larger phenomenon) has revolutionised the media world, said one of his personal lawyers a few weeks ago on MSNBC, and added: He is reaching over a hundred million with his tweets.

Whether these tweets are met with approval, disapproval or with ridicule, the lawyer did not say. Well, how could he possibly know? Moreover: Is that important? And if so, for whom?

What matters for this man are ratings, his ultimate goal is attention. But not only this man is like that, many are like that in the modern world of reality shows. And, although it all seems unprecedented and totally new, it is not — it has however never been more obvious.

  This man, for whom everything is personal, is into self-promotion, and he is doing an excellent job. He has become the best known man on the planet and is clearly setting the agenda. He does it by being himself. Most recently, Anthony Scaramucci, fired after only ten days as White House Director of Communications for shining brighter than his boss, stated as his goal to help this man to even more be himself.
  I've never thought being authentic a convincing idea (and most definitely not for a statesman) and this man is clearly the best argument against it. There are however advantages to this therapy-ideology for we now all get to see what extraordinarily ignorant people with manners that defy description are supposed to govern us. Yet "the real problem" is not this man — we are the problem for we allow this man to dominate our agendas. In fact, we behave like he does: Giving in to impulses, behaving like addicts, following almost every stupid tweet of his.
Next And, the mass media make it worse, much worse, for they follow literally all of this man's tweets, look for thought, motive and strategy — and since they do not find any such thing they read it into him. They do this because they profit — their print run went up —, but they also do it, very much like him, because they can.
  CNN, I've heard the other day on BBC, devoted on a certain day 92 percent of its coverage to this man and most mass media representatives argue that not to report on "the most powerful man in the world" is simply not an option for he needs to be held accountable. And so they continue to follow his every move and tweet — and make us forget about the rest of the world. In other words: They show themselves as ignorant of the world as this man is.
  This man, as we all know by now, is not interested in politics, he is only interested in himself. He's got no political agenda, his only agenda is being in the news and being talked about. He's a typical product of our pretty sick times although his attention seeking might be extraordinarily crass and extreme. Differently put: This man, or rather, what he represents, is the rule (Me Me Me and More More More) and not the exception. He is the outward manifestation of the worst in us.
Next So what is there to do?
  Ignore this man and his entourage. Don't let him dominate our time and eat up our energy. Instead, if you're a member of the press, solely report on the consequences of this man's actions. Do what journalists are supposed to do: Go out into the world and tell us what you've heard, seen and found.
  Would anyone be interested in hearing about this? No idea, really. But it surely would be worth a try.
  2017 © Hans Durrer / Soundscapes