It is no secret that major media outlets frame stories to be more attractive or captivating to their audiences. In extension, journalists have been criticized for incorporating sensationalism to influence public responses for generations.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, sensationalism is defined as the “presentation of stories in a way that is intended to provoke public interest or excitement, at the expense of accuracy.” Even today, traces of sensationalism can be found in our mass media.
There is a line to be drawn between the news and our entertainment, but tuning into major political channels proves that this distinction has become increasingly blurred. While “putting a spin” on the political news can attract more viewers, it’s impediment that media curators are mindful of the impact their messages can have on audiences.
President Donald Trump exudes this issue in his public speeches. Trump is primarily an entertainer, considering his extensive background in television shows “Miss America” and “The Apprentice.” He’s translated persuasive skills learned from the entertainment industry into his strategies to gain supporters. By making exaggerated and even offensive statements, Trump provokes viewers to profit off any reaction they may have towards him. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Even if people disagree with him, he’s making headlines, and that enough propelled his campaign to the office he sits in today.
At the same time, while considerable populations oppose Trump, his words do not go without consequences. His hateful rhetoric towards marginalized groups have hurt our diverse communities in America, and in many cases have even provoked physical harm on individuals. While Trump has countless examples of politically incorrect and insensitive statements, a major one is his proposed ban on Muslims from immigrating to America.
In December 2015, Trump called on the United States to bar Muslims from the country in light of San Bernardino terrorist attacks, which escalated Islamophobic rhetoric across the country (NY Times, 2015). By correlating all Muslims as contributors to the radical terrorist group, ISIS, Trump promoted a dangerous message that was unfortunately accepted by too many.
Stories of American Muslims living in fear due to threats made by Trump and his supporters have surfaced across the internet. One mother was quoted to describe the current social climate as “a dangerous place right now” (Independent Journal, 2016). The Huffington Post reports that “Trump has taken the first tiny dangerous steps towards unleashing forces that could trigger large-scale violence against the Muslim community.”
Xenophobia and racism don’t just affect marginalized communities emotionally, some Trump supporters have been convicted of committing acts of violence against others as inspired by Trump’s speeches. This past November, a Black protester was beaten up by Trump fans, and Trump condoned it by saying of the victim, “Maybe he should have been roughed up” (Think Progress, 2015).
Trump has the unwavering constitutional right to express his opinions freely. However, as someone with significant power, he should consider the harmful influence his words directly have on people. Perhaps civil unrest is his goal and these tactics are purposeful, citizens cannot and should not continue to deny that the sensationalist way he presents his ideas provokes detrimental reactions across the board. While they may inspire his fans, that impact has a ripple effect that ultimately harms our communities, especially those that are typically marginalized. It’s incredibly important as we continue our conversations in the political sphere that we remain sensitive to the nuances of Trump’s words and how they have micro-implications on our daily interactions and institutionalized processes.