Don't blame candidates for voter anger — the media is stoking the fire
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The 2016 presidential campaign has gone from the gutter to the sewer and now it stinks.

The reality television show that the media has created may be entertaining for some and undoubtedly good for ratings and selling ads, but it has left most of the country feeling either left out of the process or unable to control it. The people are helpless to control the direction of their own country and, and thus, their very own destiny.

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When Donald TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE calls the system “rigged” he speaks to Americans’ angst over to impact the government that is supposed of, by and for the people. The people are left out of the backroom deals being cut in Congress, the corporate bailouts, the onerous regulations imposed on them by a massive federal government. The Washington insiders impose their will on the people and they feel powerless to stop it.

The helplessness and frustration is manifesting itself in a multitude of ways and very few of which are constructive. Riots, anger, vulgarity, name-calling and violence have broken out in the streets of our nation with tempers on both sides flaring.

This unrecognizable anger is fomented and in many cases caused by the media. The media, who tries to scare people senseless about an upcoming storm or who sends dozens of crews and anchors to Ferguson, Missouri to “report on” the violence in the street, not realizing their very presence is stoking the flames.

They drive a story like mass shootings or plane crashes, (literally) into the ground with expert after expert and hour after hour of coverage that is not informative but taps into the fear and anxiety of the American people. 

Then there’s the endless hours of “election coverage” with every political reporter and every Democratic or Republican operative traveling to every debate and big campaign rally, regurgitating talking points and adding their important views on the state of the campaign. Now we know, thanks to Donna Brazile, that even a debate was rigged.

Never mind that there are real things happening in the world, famines, earthquakes, violence, refugee crisis, etc. Watch the BBC, CCTV or One America News Network for 5 minutes. Refreshing.

American anchors, reporters and talking heads use keywords to stir the pot, make it more edgy, more salacious.

FOX’s Megyn Kelly question to Newt Gingrich on Tuesday is a prime example “if Mr. Trump is a sexual predator...” Just by saying the words she is skewing the story, altering her viewers’ perceptions of Trump. Even more shocking is that she doesn’t realize the impact her language has and what it does to those listening.

Her FOX colleague Shepard Smith, in warning the people of Florida to prepare for hurricane Matthew recently said, “This storm will kill you. It will kill your children; it will kill your pets and everyone you know who messes with it ... If it moves 20 miles to the west, you and everyone you know are dead. All of you, cause you can’t survive it.”

Does this sound like someone reporting the news?  It sounds like someone who wants to scare small children and their parents to the point of panic.

In so doing, news outlets keep people glued to their televisions, watching the reality show take place in real time. That’s what the networks do to get your attention and grab viewers.

If bleeds, it leads, but if it’s salacious, it sells.

The media focused 62% of its attention in the GOP primaries on Donald Trump (Jan.-April 2016, according to the Media Research Center). They are doing the same now, despite the treasure trove of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Polls flash warning signs for Trump Polls suggest Sanders may be underestimated 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall MORE illegalities, for one reason only, Mr. Trump furthers their agenda: ratings.

The Republican debates had nothing to do with substance or policy ideas or what’s best for the country, but gossip and name-calling. Is hand-size a relevant policy topic? FOX, CNN, and all fed the beast, posed their questions on scandal, name-calling, and the infighting between the candidates.

Just as reality television shows have brides melting down screaming at their bridesmaids, or scantily clad housewives priding themselves in back-stabbing, innuendo and gossip (oh yea, and the obsession with sex), the media has created the reality show train wreck called the 2016 presidential election.

Like any wreck, it is hard to turn away. Unfortunately, a society and culture that feeds on this destructive influence will soon resemble it. Is it any wonder there are riots, protests, anger-laced rhetoric said to one another in this country?    

The telling point of the campaign was when Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE, an accomplished, sitting United States Senator walked across the street to talk with a Trump supporter to try to kindly reason with him and convince him of why he’d make a better candidate. He was greeted not only with hate-filled words, but vitriol and a person shouted “lyin Ted” straight to his face.

What kind of society produces the kind of people who can look a man in the eyes and simply launch into a tirade without ever having the person do a single thing to you?  “Well, he saw it on TV.”

When an institution becomes self-perpetuating, the people become secondary. The American media as an institution has created this mess and seem to have no concern for or understanding of the damage they are causing the people of this country, the human beings that follow their salacious, mean-spirited, gossip-driven reality show that is today’s politics.

Banister is the President of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, a media relations and government affairs firm in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm has worked on numerous presidential campaigns including Gov. Scott Walker and Newt Gingrich.


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