The Silver Linings in the Trump Cloud
Photo Credit: The New York Times
Yes. I know. Another bloody article about Trump. In the last two years, never has one person been the source of division MORE than Donald Trump.
But before I begin this article, I want to make it clear that I come from the viewpoint of someone who really can’t stand Trump in either a political or personal capacity (not that I have ever kept that a secret). In saying that, I am also aware that MANY of the people who elected him did so with no deliberate ill intentions, having seen him as a legitimate candidate to fix problems that exist in many US states.
People can’t stand talking about Trump. Any time he is brought up in any context, it leads to either angry debate, or more often a call for a dismissal of the topic. Many people tend to take ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach, and I for one can’t stand that. If people are afraid of feeling uncomfortable about even the idea of Trump, then quite frankly, how thin skinned are they? The ideas he talks about, the people he speaks about, the derogatory language he uses hurt people around us in all our lives. You should not ignore it, because doing that normalises it.
So considering I can’t stand the guy, why the title?
We live in a world nowadays where it is increasingly difficult to distinguish what is fact from fiction. Trump has certainly added fuel to these flames with his accusation of “fake news” and promises to “drain the swamp.” In all honesty, in the duration of his presidency, the swamp has only gotten swampier.
While I know many people are huge fans of him, it has become increasingly clear to me that many of the promises he made during the campaign are not only not going to happen, but if they somehow do happen, may cause more harm than good to the United States, and the broader global community. The next few months are going to be telling as to what exactly will happen in regards to those promises. There is going to be a lot more pain.
But, there are two silver linings that are beginning to emerge, particularly for my generation:
1. The Power of the ballot box
Photo Credit: CNBC.com
So often I have seen many people in younger generations not turn out to vote, or (even worse) donkey vote. In the past, I have donkey voted, and the reason was because I was often not inspired by either major political party. But, donkey voting can sometimes be just as damaging as not voting at all.
On Election Day in the US last year, 24 million people in the 18-29 category turned up to vote, or just under half of all 18-29 year olds in the US. Of that, 13 million voted for Hillary Clinton and 9 million voted Trump. So what about the other 2 million? They voted third party, or donkey voted. Considering the huge lead Clinton had in this demographic, what would have happened if those two million had voted differently? And what about the other 50% of 18-29 year olds?! It may have changed the outcome of the entire election. It was this youth vote that kept Clinton in the race at all, particularly in states like Michigan, Nevada and New Hampshire.
But that didn’t happen. And boy, do I sense regret? On Election Day, a friend of mine who lives and works in Japan told me that one of his American co-workers broke down at the news that Trump won. Had this friend voted? No.
Fortunately, our system is somewhat better in Australia, in that firstly everyone HAS to vote. Secondly, we also have a preferential voting system, meaning that while we may go for random parties that will never get into parliament, where we put Labor, the Liberals or Greens in preference matters, meaning that no votes are wasted.
Around two-thirds of young people are listed in Australia as either supporting Labor or the Greens. But, while you may not see it on the Australian ballot, even the ideology of voting for other parties like the Australian Sex Party, or the Bullet Train for Australia Party is dangerous. It puts us into a mindset that we can throw our vote away on parties that won’t get in, or even worse, give our vote to some nutcase who actually may get in (*cough One Nation).
However, that is starting to change. In the past, of the 800,000 Aussies not listed on the ballot, at the 2013 election 400,000 of those were in the 18-29 bracket. At the 2016 election, that number had fallen to 250,000. It was our generation that caused the huge momentum shift away from the Coalition at the last election.
In short, while our American counterparts have got a rude shock as to what can happen if they don’t turn up to vote, Australian youth is starting to learn to play the game of politics. When you learn to play it, you can win at it. Maybe the election of Trump may shock many young Americans in taking the voting system more seriously?
Leo Fieldgrass, from the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, has made it clear the political power we hold as a generation, saying in an interview with the ABC that:
"The interesting thing is that there are enough young people out there… if they were all enrolled then they could swing an election…The youth are really crucial. But to have their voice heard they need to show up, and to be able to show up, they need to make sure they're on the roll.”
Fieldgress also said that it was also important that young Australians did not miss their chance to hold politicians to account. This leads very nicely onto our second point.
2. The Power of Deconstruction, Examination and Hindsight
Photo Credit: NBC News
Never has the power of deconstruction been so important. In today’s world on conflicting values and ideologies, you need to ask yourself why you believe what you believe and then do some research to find out if your views have any basis in reality. Case in point, I myself had always been a fan of Obama and Clinton. When Trump emerged on the scene, and then won the election, my first reaction was that ALL Trump supporters must be racists or idiots. No basis in reality. Just a knee-jerk reaction.
Then I started to question that: I researched it and found out more about how so many people in the Southern states had been let down by Obama’s administration. They weren’t bad people. They weren’t all racists, or ignorant folk. They had been messed up by a system that genuinely ruined their lives. No wonder they looked at Trump, with all the promises he made, and saw him as someone who could tear down the system that had screwed their lives up. It was good to see their point of view, and question.
In the past, the media have been influential in the outcome of almost every election, with those in power often influencing the media (and voters) to support the leader they want most in power. In that case, Trumps victory in the US was a big middle finger to that system. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t always be trusting the media, so this was a victory for the people. The only problem is, the man the people chose to elect is an actual nutcase, and is someone who is as far away from knowing their hardships as possible.
But for all my criticisms of the media, it is important to recognise the important tenant of democracy that they uphold: that of free speech. This is something that Trump doesn’t appear to be a fan of. Trump has gone out his way to call anything that does not align with his own personal world opinions as “fake news.”
Yeah, CNN and Fox have had their fair share of scandals around news, which made me question what news places are actually trustworthy. Then I discovered where Trump gets his news from, the amount of cable news he watches and the lack of fact checking he actually does (such as his most recent accusations of President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower, which have been widely reported on right-leaning news sites as being true in spite of no evidence proving that). He gets his information from notoriously unreliable sources such as BreitBart and InfoWars, with the latter being the origin for much of Trump’s hate speech. Even the owner of InfoWars, Alex Jones has come out and admitted how surreal it is when Trump copies what he says, word for word.
You think it isn’t here in Australia? Channel Seven is owned by a mining company, Sevens Group Holdings; and Foxtel is owned by Rupert Murdoch. No surprises that many of these media outlets often cover news in a biased fashion, focusing on a perspective that favours those who own those media companies.
Photo Credit: ABC News
But, this is the second silver lining: we as a younger generation are more politically informed that any other generation in history. We have the benefit of hindsight on our side as well. It’s time for us to challenge what we are told to believe, and to look for media outlets that check their facts before publishing. From personal experience, fact-checking can be a long-winded and arduous process, especially for those of us with busy lives. But it is worthwhile to do it. It helps to understand more, question further, and most importantly, stop us focusing on bullshit.
We have to be critical not just of the media, but of our own bias. We need to examine articles that both challenge or support our pre-existing bias, and if necessary cut some news sources out of our media diet. Allowing a chance to check the facts provides a better way to give an opinion on a subject.
For example, I personally value The Washington Post, Politifact, ProPublica and The New York Times as sources that have fact-checked before they’ve published, as well as other shows like Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In Australia, its more complex. The ABC is statistically the most balanced of all the major networks, but other sources like FactCheck, The Conversation and even online sources like Friendlyjordies are sources that fact check before they publish.
And yes, I’ll admit it. A lot of those sources I personally have mentioned are left-leaning. This article itself is left-leaning. I know. I’m not going to hide that. Does that make me any better than Trump supporting right-leaning news sources? However, there is a big difference in these two, that many of these right-leaning websites publish information that has been proven multiple times to be false, and that they are not honest about their bias. In their minds, their viewpoint is correct, and the only source of truth. But this is not objective, contextual news.
Many of these sources I trust are honest about their bias. They know they are left-leaning, and they don’t hide it. But, their use of fact-checked sources makes it easier as a consumer to stay more informed, but more importantly, they use the independent data they collect to examine, question and self-critique their own points of view. All news is inevitably presented with a bias of some sort, but with practice it is possible to distinguish between facts and opinions and be more objective.