Whether intentionally or otherwise, the media in Britain and America continue to contribute to the support behind Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. The endless and meticulous coverage these men enjoy makes them the undisputed foci of any given day’s news cycle, coming at the cost of major issues in domestic and global affairs. Of the numerous similarities between Trump and Johnson, perhaps the most important is their controversial manner of political speech, as both frequently make disparaging remarks toward minorities.
This brand of speaking is the magic recipe for guaranteeing heavy news coverage, as it provides the entertainment and excitement needed to generate high ad revenues. It is also a cheap sort of news to produce since there is no need to devote reporters, surveys or extensive research, all of which cost time and money. A news outlet can simply broadcast Trump or Johnson’s controversial remarks and proceed to comment ad nauseam upon them, hosting incendiary debates between supporters and detractors in the studio.
In the British news media, even sources critical of Johnson will hang onto his every word and every move to no end. Ever since Theresa May announced her resignation and the Conservative Party moved to choose her replacement, there has been a noticeably conspicuous absence of the Brexit issue that previously dominated news cycles for months. It seems that Johnson may have taken its place as the attention-grabbing issue of the day, over serious problems in health and education affecting every British citizen, in addition to important international issues.
After spending more than a year on the Mueller investigation with near undivided focus, the American media remain fixated on Trump and cover every story about him to the minutest detail. This occurs while they turn a blind eye even to the policies of his own administration, to say nothing of other major domestic and international issues.
To make matters worse, the American and British media occupy a prominent position in the world media. An absence of critical issues in both of their respective news cycles means that these issues largely disappear from general interest globally. Chief among these is climate change, which scientists now deem an “existential threat” to humanity.
There is an irony in all this worth reflecting upon: the most important cause of Trump and Johnson’s meteoric rise remains almost entirely hidden from the media itself.
Though exacerbated by constant media exposure, the ascendancy of Trump was fueled by America’s enormous wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. Yet the neoliberal capitalist economics of this administration have exacerbated the very grievances that found expression in the clear and vocal anger that propelled Trump to power in the first place. This anger continues to be directed at the country’s minorities rather than the kinds of policies truly causing these economic problems.
Brexit, one of the reasons for Johnson’s rise in his country, is another phenomenon driven by anxiety over wealth inequality. The EU’s migration policies were blamed by many in the U.K. as the cause of its economic issues.
But the media, funded by enormous corporations and friends with the world’s billionaire elite, will not dare touch anything approaching a real discussion of this alarming divide.