The American presidential election astonishes us in Europe in two ways,
- How could 325 million people end up with two candidates who appear to be the least popular in the USA?
- How can one candidate reiterate detailed policy and be ignored by close to 50% of the voters, whilst the other candidate has apparently no policies at all?
The talk of disenchantment with the political elite can go so far, surely disappointment cannot persuade millions to vote for a series of one liners including, “I like Putin.” “I’m going to build a wall.” “All Mexicans are drug carrying rapists.” And on and on it goes. Surely 50% of the American voting public can’t be that short of analytical skill.
What is it then that carries the Trump momentum? It must be the constant exposure of the so called billionaire chanting these absurd one liners on the one hand and his constant denigration of Mrs Clinton on the other.
So the media repeatedly shows the billionaire and his message, if there is one, is sublimated to the razzamatazz of nonsensical ideas and messages of distrust of Clinton.
Clinton tries to put over policy, and despite her efforts she’s been dragged into this slugging match of trading insults. The fact is Trump is better at this than Clinton. Clinton also has several self-inflicted bullet holes in her feet, from Whitewater, the Clinton Foundation, and now the e-mail saga.
The phrase ‘It’s the media not the message’ was introduced in McLuhan’s book, ‘Understanding Media’ published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study.
So Trump, focuses the message of his campaign about Clinton’s heinous crimes (as he calls them) This may be less about the individual issue itself (who knows if the e-mail thing has any real importance at all) – the content – and more about the change in public attitude towards the fact that such ‘Get rich quick attitudes of the establishment figures’ are in effect against the ordinary man. The man/woman in the street ‘gets’ this simple idea. This idea has become the dominant idea of the Trump campaign
Hence in Understanding Media, McLuhan describes the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.
Has Trump stolen the collective American mind? I do hope not.