Silence Is Not Golden

Posted on December 10, 2015 by

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Donald Trump is no stranger to the news; it seems like every day he says something even more controversial than the last. Back in 2011 when he called for President Obama’s birth certificate and then questioned the validity of it to just days ago when he argued to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. However, this article focuses on what Donald Trump didn’t say that caused an uproar. On Thursday September 17, a questioner at Trump’s rally proclaimed that Muslims are the problem in this country and President Obama is one. Before diving into the controversy behind Trump’s silence, I ask that the reader to push aside any previous personal opinions of Trump. Pretend you’ve never even heard of the man, and watch the video below.

You may be wondering why I asked you to do those two things and here’s why:

  • you have probably heard this story, but maybe never watched the video (like me)
  • your opinion of Trump probably didn’t go away no matter how hard you tried

The purpose of this article is to explore how the media can sway viewers’ opinions, maybe purposefully or without any thought. I chose Donald Trump for this, because he is extremely animated and open with his opinions and he is always in the news. The amount of online news articles about Donald Trump is endless; there is a new article about him every hour, which made it hard to find specific articles about him from Sept. 17-18. The original goal of this project was to find a few articles from conservative sources and a few articles from liberal sources to compare and contrast them.

I asked you to watch the video, because if you had not seen it and only read/heard about it from other sources who knows how accurate the information was. . I found a few common factors among articles that could potentially influence a reader’s thoughts. Many of the articles actually omit the video and supply a transcript instead. The first was the word choice; some articles write Donald Trump laughs when he hears what the anti-Muslim questioner has to say. Is this meant to be a maniacal laugh, a scoff in response to an ignorant statement, or is Trump simply not taking the issue seriously? The word ‘laugh’ might seem like an insignificant word, but a reader who has not seen the video could interpret it a number of ways.

Second, the adjectives used to describe Trump in the more liberal articles were strong. Words like ‘ignorant’, ‘racist’, and ‘coward’ were common. If someone tends to read more liberal news sources, they would see these words more and those ideas would be pounded into their memory. Later, they would most likely use those words to describe Trump as they are what the reader hears more often. In the first paragraph of this article I could have easily wrote ‘Pretend you have never even heard this ignorant, racist, xenophobic man’. Then if the reader did not already have that opinion, they would have watched the video with those predetermined adjectives. It is very easy for the media to work its own opinions into the minds of readers, especially if the readers are  young. This can be applied to anyone or anything. I was only 11 in 2008 and I knew nothing about the government or presidential elections. However, I watched many SNL sketches spoofing the 2008 election. I based all my opinions of the candidates on parodies, not the best source for news – it is a good thing I could not vote back then.

Third, almost every article used an authority figure in order to enhance their argument. The articles usually referred back to 2011 when John McCain was speaking to a crowd and a woman claimed Obama wasn’t American. Unlike Trump, McCain took the time to shut down the false claim and moved on. Gov. Chris Christie made a statement after the rally that Trump has the responsibility as a political leader to clear the air of any false rumors. If a reader sees what an authority figure has to say, and not just an online news article, they are more likely to take that argument more seriously. Although believing every word from a person in power is not always a good thing…

Finally, I noticed since most, if not all, liberal news sources are not in favor of Trump, they tend to use unflattering pictures of him. Sometimes the first thing you see, besides the headline, is a big picture of whoever or whatever the article is about. In the case of this particular story, articles used pictures like these:

gop-2016-trump

Donald-Trump-696x464

When a viewer sees these pictures they’re going to expect him to say something nasty and offensive, which is quite often. It’s kind of a visual ‘what you see is what you get’. Now who’s to say every word these articles write about Trump isn’t true? It’s all up to the reader to decide.  These are just a few similarities I found among the liberal new sources, but finding conservative news sources that covered this story proved to be quite difficult.

I looked high and low for any conservative new source that reported this story; I even looked up a Top 50 list. There were very few websites that reported this story, and when one did, it was usually covering an interview about the story. Surprisingly, the sources that did cover it reported it straight forward, all very factual. This could be, because they knew Trump should have spoken up or maybe they could not find a way to defend him. One interesting article I came across covered the same rally, but a different moment. CNS posted the article on the same day the rest of articles were coming out attacking Trump. This article focuses on Trump saying he would not accept a salary if he is elected president, leaving out the most controversial moment of the rally. Also, the article does not use a picture that makes him look scary, but he’s throwing up a big wave.

Now this isn’t a persuasive essay on why the media should not call out Trump for his behavior, but it is about how the media can so easily alter someone’s mindset. I believe the main goal of any news source should be to relay information with as much accuracy as possible. It is up to the individual to decide how they interpret but anything from the main headline to the images to the smaller details like diction can sway a reader.

References:

Ammar Nasir, “Donald Trump Under Fire on Ignoring Anti-Muslim Slur,” Cambiar News, 9/19/205 (http://www.cambiarnews.com/worldnews/donald-trump-fire-ignoring-anti-muslim-obama-slur/)

Dan Boyer, “White House blasts Donald Trump over suppoters’ anti-Muslim comments,” The Washington Times, 9/18/2015 (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/sep/18/white-house-blasts-trump-over-supporters-anti-musl/)

Dan Gonyea, “Donald Trump Fails to Correct Supporter Who Called Obama A Muslim,” NPR, 9/11/2015 (http://www.npr.org/2015/09/18/441530698/donald-trump-fails-to-correct-supporter-who-called-obama-a-muslim)

Dean Obeidallah, “Finally, Trump and the GOP Start Muslim-Bashing,” The Daily Beast, 9/18/2015 (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/18/finally-trump-and-the-gop-start-muslim-bashing.html)

Denis Slattery, Leonard Greene, “Donald Trump silent on accusation that Barack Obama is Muslim at New Hampshire rally,” NY Daily News. 9/18/2015 (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-silent-questioner-calls-obama-muslic-rally-article-1.2365196)

Juliet Eilperin, “WHY spokesman, on anti-Muslim comments: ‘Is anyone really surprised that this happened at a Donald Trump rally?’, The Washington Post, 9/18/2015 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/09/18/wh-spokesman-on-anti-muslim-comments-is-anyone-really-surprised-that-this-happened-at-a-donald-trump-rally/)

Mandy Oaklander, “Donald Trump Defends His Treatment of Anti-Muslim Comments,” Time, 9/19/2015 (http://time.com/4041457/donald-trump-muslim-comments/)

Melanie Hunter, “Trump: ‘If I’m Elected President, I’m Accepting No Salary,” CNS News, 9/18/2015 (http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/melanie-hunter/trump-if-im-elected-president-im-accepting-no-salary)

Reuters News, “Trump defend Obama? ‘I don’t think so!’,” Townhall, 9/19/2015 (http://townhall.com/news/politics-elections/2015/09/19/trump-defend-obama-i-dont-think-so-n2054245)

Theodore Schleifer, “Trump doesn’t challenge anti-Muslim questioner at event,” CNN, 9/18/2015 (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/17/politics/donald-trump-obama-muslim-new-hampshire/index.html)

 

 

 

 

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