By Felice Southwell
Now, at this point in the game, we already know we shouldn’t be expecting too much from Trump. The firing of another high-profile Administration employee, a thousand controversial remarks or tweets which antagonise a dictator all seem to be the norm portrayed every day by the media, unfavoured journalists being called the leaders of ‘fake news’. So why does it still come as a surprise when an interview exposes the bafflingly dim reality-star running the White House?
Piers Morgan’s interview with Donald Trump contains soundbites galore, with some being reported days before the interview was even released on 28th January 2018. After the “I’m not a feminist” comment was released in a teaser for the interview, Twitter has understandably gone insane, with one Florida reporter, John-Carlos Estrada, quoting Trump and tweeting “‘I’m for women, I’m for men, I’m for everyone’ – so you are a feminist?”. Aside from aggravating the age-old misconception about feminism, this sort of idiocy is what we get all the time from the President of the US, so why does it still surprise us?
The interview – seemingly an opportunity for two rich white male friends to catch up and talk about international affairs – without any knowledge or substance – covered many topics, including climate change, Trump’s controversial retweets of Britain First, and a US trade deal with Britain after Brexit. It’s no surprise that the controversial journalist bagged an interview in Davos; he’d won Mr Trump’s reality show The Apprentice ten years earlier and bragged about his personal first-name relationship with Trump.
As a journalist, I’d like to point out that this farce of an interview is not reflective of our profession in the slightest. I’ve met local reporters in regional offices with more integrity and flare than was shown in this charade, all who would have had Trump sweating before the intervie was out. It disappoints me that, in an age where the media are doubted and demonised as enemies of the state, real political journalism created by honest and hard-working reporters seeking the truth is pushed aside in favour of cronyism and lacklustre questioning of the most controversial man in the world. If you ask someone for an apology on behalf of your country, you kick up a much bigger fuss than Piers did when you don’t get one.
In Britain, we’re used to the evasive answers of politicians – who can forget the meme of a press interview where Theresa May dodged answering the question 5 different times? What angers us about Trump, however, is the way that his evasiveness is almost automatically unchallenged. With the power of the world’s most militarily and financially capable state, Trump is still allowed to get away with half-answers and keeping the rest of the world in the dark.
More than that, these evasive answers also seem to be wildly out of touch with reality. President Trump, when asked about the recent wave of feminism displayed in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, spun the question onto his view on military spending and defence policy saying that women want safety, without even acknowledging the type of safety the movements are advocating for. Somehow, when Mr Trump says “I have tremendous respect for women”, I’m not wholly convinced.
Piers only had to mention Britain, and before he’d even asked a question, Trump jumped in, quite obnoxiously and proudly stating that “I think I’m very popular in your country… I own the great Turnberry and other things in your country.” Well, I’m sorry Mr President, but owning land in Scotland does not qualify you as popular. The ability to afford anything can never, and will never, reflect one’s attitudes and personality, all of which we’ve seen very clearly through Trump’s inflammatory use of social media.
Many people will also take away the irritating obliviousness to the consequences of his retweeting of unverified videos of radical Islamic terrorism from Britain First. Trump obviously thinks he’s too powerful to have to understand the feeling of utter panic and horror that many Britons felt when the President seemingly endorsed a racist and fascist group. He denied having any knowledge of who Britain First was or what they stood for. Heck, he even denied knowing the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. This distinct lack of information shows us a lot about what goes on in his White House – not a lot, apparently.
The answer to our question is quite blindingly obvious when you take away the rhetoric. We’re still surprised because Trump is just a man. We’re shocked because one man has changed the geopolitical environment so irreversibly in so little time. He’s a man who acts and speaks in ways which we find disgusting and vile, and so it is easier to hate him for the hate that he creates than to invest our energy and collective voice into productive ways of ending his presidency. He’s the villain of our generation, and we all love to hate a villain. When an interview such as Piers Morgan’s exposes the depth of the President’s oblivious nature – to world politics, climate change and basic current affairs – we leap on the chance to express our shock and horror. It’s easier to say “can you believe Trump just denied that climate change is real?” than to start a petition to ask our government to pressure him to reenter the Paris Agreement.
This is what has been happening since the beginning of Trump as a political entity. He’s blinded us with his stupidity and the rhetoric of ‘greatness’ which illuminates him as a Big Joke, all the while distracting us from his rise. He’s in the White House for God’s sake. Wake up America.
As Emily Thornberry called him, this “asteroid of awfulness” cannot be allowed to come to Britain on a state visit. Yes, there’s been official visits with arguably worse state leaders in the past, but that doesn’t have to be a pattern we permit to continue. Protest his visit and let him know that if he dares to try and spread his rhetoric here, we’ll be ready.
So, did the interview shock us? Trump and Piers are obviously a match made in heaven. Piers thinks he’s asking the right questions and lets Trump get away with evasiveness, while Trump uses the visuals to appeal to ITV viewers’ better nature. Trump is probably eyeing him up for a Secretary position; after all, he’s got all the credentials – winner of reality show, The Apprentice, controversial views, a substantial following. Was it the hard-hitting journalism Piers envisaged when he introduced the interview? Given how fast the media moved on, it can’t be deemed to have been that groundbreaking. Maybe it was just a chance to show that Trump has a British friend, in order to make him seem more tolerable – even manageable – to British people. If he can be friends with the undeniably unifying national treasure that is Piers Morgan, then surely he must be friends with Britain in the uncertain times ahead. With that flawed logic, it’s no surprise that this interview left so much to be desired. One thing is for sure – Piers and Trump absolutely deserve each other. Don’t be fooled, this interview is not shocking; it’s telling us what we already know, that we need to work harder to displace this President.