Ann-Marie Murrell: How the Media Exploited Fear in the 2016 Presidential Elections (and How to Temper It)
Last week Morgan Brittany and I were in New York appearing 3 evenings on a news program called Nieuwsuur. The show, touted as the “60 Minutes of the Netherlands”, is immensely popular albeit notoriously left-leaning. Morgan and I knew what we were up against, but were surprised when we arrived the first night to find a studio audience filled with Dutch Americans who adored Obama and Hillary Clinton and loathed Donald Trump.
Everyone treated us very respectfully, but we were definitely the “unicorns” in the room (aka Donald Trump supporters). Seth Meyers, talk show host, SNL alumni, was one of the guests; we had fun chatting with him in the makeup room but yeah, major lefty. A few of the other guests were a Princeton history professor, a young African-American blogger, and a man who claimed to be a Republican but admitted he voted for Obama, hated Trump, and was considering changing parties (again). Another panelist was a woman who represented “Republicans for Hillary” (aka another Democrat).
Everything was light and fluffy until we were on camera and the firing squad began.
I’m paraphrasing here, but this is a sampling of some of the questions we were asked Monday and Tuesday nights (prior to election results):
(Host to Morgan): “Are you okay with having a president who says he’ll grab your p***y?” (The host said the actual word on camera.)
“Donald Trump supporters are very angry. Will you and all of your angry Trump supporters accept it peacefully if Hillary Clinton wins?”
“Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep people out, and to deport families, and end work on climate change, and stop the Iran deal. How will America survive?”
Morgan and I held our own, but panel segments go pretty fast and you can only defend so much before running out of time.
When I appeared on the show Wednesday night the mood was much more somber. Morgan had to fly home so I was on my own and the first thing I noticed in the studio was a pallor of gray everywhere. Everyone was absolutely morose. The studio was silent; no more live audience, probably because they were all in mourning. Seriously.
The African-American blogger was back on my panel. She was genuinely distraught as she explained how her 6-year old daughter woke up at 2 a.m. on election night “sobbing and terrified” that Trump had won. Again I’m paraphrasing but this is the gist of what she tearfully said on camera:
“My little girl is afraid that the giant wall will get built and many of her little friends will be taken away. She’s afraid that all the angry people who hate people of color or anyone who’s different will try to hurt all of us…”
After she made her statement the host looked at me and asked, “Ann-Marie, is this going to happen?” I said no, of course not, and explained that the Trump supporters I personally know are some of the nicest people in the world and that no one is going to hurt little children and people of color…and wow. I remember feeling completely incredulous, almost in a surreal way, that I had to even say such things.
After the show as we were leaving I hugged the young woman and told her I would pray for her and her daughter to find peace. She whispered in a conspiratorial way, “I’ve been told people in rural areas, rednecks and angry people, are looking to really hurt people like me, all people of color. They’re out for blood.” I laughed and said, “I know people in almost every rural area in America and no one is out for blood or to hurt anyone!” She shook her head and got in the car, as if she felt sorry for my naïveté…
I thought her hysteria was isolated until I got home and saw what was going on throughout social media, with protests taking place all over the U.S. It became even more real when I heard from some of my own family members who seemed genuinely afraid.
The media had effectively caused real fear and panic in the United States. People bought and sold the hype the media has been perpetuating all year: that Donald Trump is so evil he would magically make people go out into the world, ala The Walking Dead, and hurt all the minorities of the world.
Yep, most of the protesters out in the streets are bought and paid for and yes, the protests were a well-orchestrated plan from the beginning (see moveon.org screenshot, right). But there are definitely people out there who are terrified.
What we are witnessing right now is the fevered pitch end result of an agenda-driven media, and they are (and have always been) playing a very dangerous game with the entire world. Their goal was to terrify Americans on both sides of the political fence into believing that one person–either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton–could end America as we know it. On the Republican side, the fear was that our Constitutional rights would end, especially the 1st and 2nd. On the Democrat side, the media insinuated (and continues to do so) that Donald Trump would revive the (Democrat created) KKK, enable and encourage rapists and evil misogynists, and every bad thing since Cain killed Abel.
There are many reasons why our country is so divided right now but it has very little to do with the 2016 presidential election. Problems first began 16 years ago with the seething hatred for President Bush, when protesters were on street corners almost daily burning Bush effigies. Then the divisiveness escalated to new heights (or lows) during Obama’s 8 years in which Americans were promptly divided by race, class, and socio-economics. The rule of law didn’t seem to exist anymore from the very beginning when Eric Holder referred to “my people” during the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case, which he promptly dismissed. From there our entire healthcare system was changed without a vote from the American people, law enforcement was vilified to the point of police officers being publicly executed, our military and veterans were given a back seat to almost everyone, and the IRS became more powerful than ever in blatantly destroying American citizens. The flames of racism were elevated to new heights by Black Lives Matter, funded by nefarious wealthy folks who have much to gain by destroying America.
So yes, there have been major problems the past 16 years or so–but where do we go from here? What can we do to build bridges instead of what we’ve done in the past, either ignoring or torching them?
My advice is to work on this one person at a time. Open up a serious dialogue and genuinely listen to your friends and family members who have bought into the crazed media ballyhoo and explain to them we’re all simply pawns in a much larger game. I spent the entire election night in NY with a dear “Never Trump” friend; I listened to her concerns and tried to temper them with hope and optimism- but I never degraded or ridiculed her. I did the same with a family member when I got home, listening to her ideas about how to build bridges and help some of the millennials who are genuinely terrified of what the media is telling them about Donald Trump and Republicans-in-general.
I realize, too, that many reading this on the Republican/conservative side are angry from years of false accusations and name-calling. As a public figure I suppose I’ve gotten used to it; for years I’ve been called every name in the book and have received my share of death threats for speaking out. But every day citizens are unaccustomed to being publicly attacked/humiliated, and that hurt is definitely real.
What I’ve learned in my life is the best way to counter ugliness, hatred, and fear is to try rise above it–and that usually begins with communication. Be the bigger person; set an example.
When trying to mend some of the damage that’s been done among friends, family, and colleagues:
Remind them that all of this is about one of the ugliest, dirtiest businesses in the history of businesses: politics. There has never been a perfectly “clean” election since politics began in ancient Greece.
Remind them there is much to gain for media talking-heads to perpetuate anger, strife, and hatred. The networks have had their greatest year ever and they do not want ratings to drop.
Remind them we’re dealing with politicians who made YUUUGE campaign promises that either will or won’t happen. As FDR said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Remind them we live in a Republic of laws created by and for the people, and no one man has the ability to change that.
Remind them that citizens on both sides of the aisle were angry at the establishment elites in Washington. The days of allowing governmental corruption to go unchecked has got to end, and we must remain vigilant that it happens.
Remind them that the overreaching power the Obama administration gave the IRS the ability to target American citizens that he disagreed with politically–and that same IRS is now going to be in the hands of Republicans. This is a perfect example of why it is always bad to give the federal government the power to enact personal revenge, and it must end immediately.
Remind them that the very nature of politics is, in a biblical sense, ugly, dangerous, and something to approach with caution:
Matthew 6:24 – No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Titus 3:9 – But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
Psalms 109:8 – Let his days be few; [and] let another take his office.
Of course you can’t save every relationship. This year I lost someone in my life because instead of talking to me like a friend, I was threatened with extortion and a lawsuit. Because legalities were involved the once mendable bridge was completely destroyed, nuked to the ground. Sadly some folks just can’t be saved–but that, too, is biblical.
As for PolitiChicks.com, we will continue calling out political abuse from both Democrats and Republicans. We will continue watching our elected officials like hawks and will report corruption and lies from every angle.
As Editor, I will encourage my writers not to fall into the mainstream media trap of fear mongering and perpetuating anger. And as a Christian woman, I will continue praying for my family, friends, and my country.
Thank you all for your work as citizen activists. Our work has only just begun.