Apparently Beyoncé refuses to perform at Trump’s inauguration. Celine Dion said no as well, as have a long list of A-list celebrities. Jay-Z, Kanye, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, the list goes on.
The media have had a field day. Many organisations, including The Independent, CNN, The New York Times, among others, have saturated their social media feeds with stories about the latest celebrity to decline an invitation to perform on January 20.
Is it just me, or have these organisations learnt nothing from the November 8 election? Their intense focus on the latest celebrity decline feeds directly into Trump’s narrative about a ‘real America’ forgotten by a long list of establishment elites that include the media and the very A-list celebrities who seek to boycott his inauguration.
Predictably, Trump has used it to his advantage, recently posting the following on Twitter: ‘The so-called A-list celebrities are all wanting tix to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary. NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!’
By reporting on trivial matters, these organisations merely reinforce the idea that the media are out of touch with the issues that matter.
It makes little difference to an unemployed factory worker in Detroit whether Bruno Mars belts out one of his number ones on Trump’s big night. But when Trump promises jobs for Americans, whether he can deliver them or not, that message does make a difference.
What we are seeing is lazy journalism. Rather than reporting on the issues that coalesced to lead to Trump’s victory, some reporters are more interested in the President-Elect’s latest tweet, or of the views of a fellow multi-millionaire who has sold a copious amount of records.
Perhaps what needs to happen more regularly is an intense examination into the lives of those who supported Trump. What is it like to be on the other side of globalisation in the middle U.S states, the side that doesn’t guarantee wealth and jobs? What is it like to live in a community decimated by the forces of change brought about by free trade?
Most would rather write off Trump supporters as racists or bigots, and no doubt some of them are, but the majority are misunderstood due to one of the very causes of his election: a failure of the press to objectively examine the social forces behind America’s discontent.
Similar forces were at play in the UK during the Brexit referendum, and there is little to be said of Australia’s media when examining exactly why Pauline Hanson has made such a successful comeback.
The Fourth Estate has been too timid to report on such matters for fear of legitimising the message of these inconvenient movements. Of course it is difficult to understand Hanson’s appeal if you are a tertiary educated millennial with the benefit of a high paying job, and of course it seems crazy to support Trump if you are not living on the rust belt.
That is why it is more important than ever for journalists to help open the eyes of dismayed onlookers and examine the forces at play. Instead, the public are being fed news that merely reaffirms their bias. In the age of social media filters and increased selective reading, organisations are preaching to their audience rather than challenging them.
We can expect to read more stories about Trump’s difficult inauguration planning, or of Pauline Hanson’s latest faux pas, and when that happens, be reminded that the very material you are reading is part of the reason why you are even reading about them in the first place.