Trump and the end of objectivity

Ask a reasonably clever ten year old what a journalist is and she will say someone who reports what is happening. While this impression may become more nuanced as we develop a greater understanding of how news is broken and spun this basic understanding still underpins our view of what the media is. How is the media to fulfil this duty when confronted by the blatant parody of political orthodoxy that is Donald Trump? To report on him is to provide a platform for a tone of politics that much of the media find objectionable. Professional reporters play catch up to the correspondents of social media. In 2016 it is more likely to be the twitter troll than the Pulitzer journalist who is telling us what’s happening. Consequently even the most seasoned of neutral observers are struggling to keep up the pretence of impartiality. To report the facts is seemingly to rebuke the Trumpisms.

 

For decades cultural commentators from the academic left like Noam Chomsky have been lecturing on the impossibility of a neutral press. From Trump’s soundbite rhetocracy to the freewheeling improvisations on the truth that played out during the EU referendum these arguments have gone mainstream.

 

There is something bigger behind this than the media’s appalled fascination with certain fear-baiting demagogues. It goes to the heart of what we look for in our news in an info-saturated age.  Recently PwC produced on report on the rise of interest in cross border news outlets via the availability of channels such as Al Jazeera, France 24, RT, TVC Nigeria and News 18 India. From its global survey PwC found that 66% consume multiple news sources that originate from outside their home country. For these consumers -who are overwhelmingly millennial, urban and educated- the key driver for choosing news is not trust or impartiality but variety of perspective.

 

What this tells us is that even for the global elites objectivity has begun to lose its sheen. It is speaking from a position of privilege to celebrate the benefits of multiple cultural experience; it is important, however, to remember this relativity is the flipside of being confined to a mono-cultural silo. Both states demonstrate that the pursuit of objective truth has become irrelevant. From the downtrodden blue-collars who yelp and scream to the call of the Donald to the multi-lingual jetsetters gobbling up views from Helsinki to Islamabad, we are all post-modern now.