Here’s an exhaustive list of every politician who’s ever felt unfairly treated by the media: all of them.
The number of politicians showing open disregard for the function of a free press—through rhetoric or actions—is significantly smaller, but rapidly growing.
Donald Trump happily goes to war with the media claiming “fake news” and calling the press “the enemy of the people.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford is clearly taking his cues from Trump in his complaints over recent news coverage, be it of protest over his government scrapping plans for a French-language university or a potential conflict of interest in the hiring of Ford’s close friend to head the OPP. At a recent press conference, Ford claimed his biggest rival at Queen’s Park isn’t the Liberals or NDP. Rather, he said, “the Official Opposition is the media.” He later referred to reporters as the “Media Party”—the favoured epithet of extreme right-wing commentator Ezra Levant.
These slights have real importance, because recent history suggests this more than just the griping of thin-skinned politicians. At a debate during the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership race, Ford said Conservatives needed someone like him who could “stand up to the media.” On the campaign trail, he snubbed reporters by abandoning the longstanding practice of hiring a media bus to follow him—which left many journalists behind, or scrambling to find the addresses of his campaign stops. During his limited media availabilities, he had one of his handlers hold the portable microphone reporters used to ask questions in order to prevent follow-ups.
Moreover, there are signs that those taking this page from the Trump playbook are parlaying success at the ballot box: the media made their qualms about Ford’s gambit known, after all, and Ontario voters gave Ford a majority mandate.
All told, the time-tested maxim that one should never pick a fight with a person who buys his ink by the barrel is quickly falling away—not least, say experts, because so few voters consume information written in ink, or sent to them over the airwaves.
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