Media comes from the plural of medium the channel through which an idea is conveyed. Media exist as the channels through which an idea or ideas are expressed. From grunting and gesturing to orality and transcription various channels intertwine to establish human interaction. The means may change or alter but the principle remains focused upon the necessity of communicating. In our current age humanity can transverse nearly uninhibited through the roadblocks of time and space due to the nearly global communication network of personal devices and cyberspace. However, in the current freedom and facile ability to put forth a message, statement, or idea there remains a question that needs answering. Have these advances in the medium provided us with better communication?
Using American politics, specifically this election year, this post will work to uncover how, and if, our converging media has facilitated in communication. Starting strong we find a relevant issue, the leak of an eleven year old recording of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump describing how his star power allowed him to do anything to women he finds attractive regardless of consent, and find how each side approaches the latest news.
From the Republican side there is a divide one side attempting damage control while the other abandons ship to prepare for the next major election. Post genital-grabbing video, Trump’s campaign has not been tracking well. Various news outlets have shared the original video, wondering how the political climate of our country to get to this place. It’s been a hot mess. An article from the New York Times has commented on the issue, rising from 40 comments when I started typing this blog post to now 148 comments. The article details the way Trump’s video from 2005 has split the Republican party, bringing those who stand by Trump regardless of his comments apart from those who have decided that he is a morally inadequate candidate. Better late than never? The article (now at 201 comments) states that the Republican party has yet to come up with a good plan to rectify the situation, and they are waiting for the dust to settle before making any moves. The largest concern for the party is the way that Trump’s video could affect the House and the Senate. Sure, it will affect his candidacy, but the ripple will be felt all over as Republican representatives rethink their position. This article leads the collection of pieces on this topic, as it gets to the heart of the issue: how will the party move on from this?
From the Clinton campaign a stream of surety, as the leaked recording on October 7th changed the nature of the 2016 Presidential Race. It lead to the most bizarre, tension filled, vitriolic, and ultimately depressing weekend in the history of modern American politics.
The Clinton Campaign expressed immediate outrage over the video and shared it on their Facebook page at 5PM EST
And again at 8PM EST.
At that point it was clear that the story had become all dominating, impossible to escape on “old media” such as radio, television, and news organizations as well as new media. The Clinton campaign got out of the way. They did not post about it anymore for 48 hours (until the debate) on Facebook or Twitter, nor did they send any of the campaign’s surrogates to appear on news programs. Rather than presenting a figure to attack, their stepping back left other Republicans in the position of having to defend or abandon their candidate. And abandon they did. Listen to Steve Schmidt, a Republican. The disciplined Clinton campaigned continued their strategy to stand out of the way and let the social media conversation develop naturally as it was going their way.
Also, I can’t bring up Meet the Press and not share this wonderful video about blogs.
Media is to communication, as politics is to government. Politics this year in America provide an interesting venue to study the convergence of media. The two primary parties’ candidates seem to approach the subject of government through two different routes. Trump primarily works as an entertainer while Clinton seems to favor traditional methods of a politician. The entire leak is a story about new media and old media working in conjunction. First, the tape itself was shot on digital video in 2005 for a tabloid TV show. It is sent to the Washington Post, who shares it online. It is then picked up by news programs on television that then itself leads to public conversations and arguments on line on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Saturday night the Trump campaign released an apology video a little after midnight online on Twitter. Traditionally, mea culpas such as these would have been regulated to a televised speech or an interview with a major network. However, in this election the Trump campaigned bypassed traditional media and spoke directly to their followers. That strategy illustrates the discrepancy between the campaigns well when it comes to their usage of new media. While the Clinton campaign relies primarily on content created by old media, and then repackages them on line, the Trump campaign is far more comfortable bypassing old media and engaging supporters directly online. In that model old media reports on events taking place on new media, and not vice versa. This should not be very surprising tactics based off of the different backgrounds of each candidate.
There seems a link between politics and media that permanently binds the two together. Nowhere is this more evident than the style and form of the official debates. These pull from various styles of new media while finding its roots in the traditional. The latest in these debates shows this cross over. The Second Presidential Debate came at the end of the weekend on Sunday night. Here again, “old media” generates the content of the entire debate, and the campaign then selects portions to share on their social media accounts to reinforce their overall message. Broadcasted live from nytimes.com and available for review later, there is no debate (pun intended) about whether or not it added a new element to the election. This is also evident by the fact that multiple sites listed on WSJ’s BlueFeed, RedFeed Facebook Analysis tool were somehow related to the debate. The combination of effects from the video that was released Friday, October 7th and the presidential debate on Sunday have been fascinating. A piece that was released from the Liberal side of the WSJ tool mentioned that Trump’s position in towering over Clinton during the debate was a power move, perhaps used because Trump felt that his masculinity was being threatened. With over 4500 likes and 1200 shares, it seems that this viewpoint from Upworthy has some weight. The conservative side mentions nothing of this power move, instead resorting mostly to shaming Clinton for her husband’s previous sexual relations, instead of attacking her policy and opinions. From the debate, it seems clear that Trump has made Bill Clinton’s previous encounters with women a topic on the political agenda, which does little to take the public eye off of his recent downfall. Finger pointing and lie covering seem to be the deadly trends of this election. Oh, November…Oh, politics…Oh, media (Oh, and the latest Trump tee, just for kicks.)
So the question coming off any debate is, “Who won?”, but in this situation it is hard to tell who won. Not really because each candidate expressed a neat, cogent, and compelling argument, but because of the seemingly inability to distinguish policy above the mudslinging. Clinton supporters will claim she won, Trump supporters will claim he won, but there seems very little in the way of actual discussion. Several stories that pop up when looking for news on the second debate simply show how out of hand the debate became. For many, I image, they are feeling similar to this facebook user highlighted below. Questioning the effectiveness of the debate to communicate anything other than disdain from the opponents.
These two seem to mudsling in an attempt to win over voters, often times those followers of Bernie Sanders. Did they effectively communicate? Because from where I was sitting it seemed as if they simply trashed each other while praising Bernie Sanders. I can only image those Sander supporters are feeling that he won this debate and the media war on the issues as he his facebook post are bringing into focus the issues facing America (the pipeline effecting the Native Americans, the tax exemptions of the heads of corporations, the greed of the medical system). Perhaps shedding more light on the issues than either of the primary candidates’ despite their mudslinging.
Or if Bernie Sanders was not victorious during the debate it was Kenneth Bone in his red sweater. As discussed in this Daily Show clip below. http://www.cc.com/video-clips/liu9wa/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-ken-bone–america-s-newest-sweetheart?xrs=synd_FBPAGE_20161012_616873857_The%20Daily%20Show_Video%20with%20Link&linkId=29845999
Debates are supposed to expose the deep issues and challenge the candidates to provide good reasoning for their stances. In this entire debate debacle we have to wonder about the ability of the media to effectively communicate. Are we building bridges? Are we connecting people? Is there any honest communication happening? Or has this blended new media provided an outlet for everyone to express an opinion without interest in conversing. In this post we have covered several types of media crossovers brushing the ties that bind media and politics. We have not come out and answered directly the nature of media and communication because it is not a simple answer. Perhaps this post will allow for an introspective glance about what communication entails.