Inside the Trump Media Cage

By |2016-08-25T09:00:00-04:00August 25th, 2016|Opinions, Viewpoints|

The paranoia related to the media was on sure display Friday in Dimondale during the visit of GOP Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. The media, of course, was the enemy: “They don’t tell the truth, they have an agenda to silence the truth.”
I watched as Trump supporters would bring to bear their voices whenever television cameras would try to interview people standing in line in the bright sun. They would erupt in chants of “Lock her up!” and “Blue lives matter.” Of course, the she they were referring to is Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Presidential candidate.
To be clear, the crowd in Dimondale was not like crowds that have gathered to support the Republican billionaire in other places. The crowd was generally friendly.
The white nationalists who have fervently supported his candidacy with what experts call his blatant and dog whistle campaign rhetoric on immigrants and people of color were present, but not in the neo-Nazi uniforms or clothing one might expect. Instead, the white nationalists were dressed in civilian attire, the only hint of their political beliefs where visible white nationalist tattoos on their necks or arms.
While there were a handful of people of color present to support Trump, the vast majority of the crowd of several thousand people were white, and mostly in their late 30s and up. Ironically, national and state level polling shows Trump is losing what the New York Times reported last week, was the all important white male demographic vote. Without that population pulling the lever for Trump, the GOP nominee could lose the race, the paper reported.
I’ve covered Presidential candidate visits to Michigan since 1992 when then Gov. Bill Clinton showed up at Michigan State University for the no-debate,debate event. In every candidate visit I have covered, the media has had a media area, and access to the crowd from that area.
That was not the case at the Trump event. With Trump scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. credentialed media was blocked into the media area – which I call the Trump Media Cage – located directly in front of Trump’s podium and teleprompter. We were perfectly placed to be targeted by the candidate and his surrogates.
“Do you trust the mainstream media?” Scott Hagerstrom, Trump Michigan coordinator, asked to a round of ‘Nos.’ “Do you trust them to get the story out to your fellow Americans, friends and family? That’s why we need you, all of you, to help get the message out. We’re going to bypass the mainstream media, we’re going to get the message out to our friends, family and neighbors.”
That’s when the weirdness began. People would walk by the media area, cell phones and hand held video cameras running. Pictures of all of us were taken. Videos taken. I’d never had that happen – at GOP or Democratic Presidential candidate visits. It was, deliberately or not, a form of intimidation.
And that fits into the Trump script. This is a candidate who has berated the media in previous rallies. He’s banned certain publications. He’s threatened to undermine the First Amendment, should he be elected, to allow him to sue media outlets that do not report favorably on his positions, ideas and history.
You would not have known that Trump had that history with the First Amendment from the rally event in Dimondale, however. About 45 minutes before Trump took the stage, a staffer admonished supporters not to harm protesters.
“Donald Trump supports the First Amendment just as much as he supports the Second Amendment,” the staffer said. “However, some people have taken advantage of Mr. Trump’s hospitality by choosing to disrupt his rallies by using them as an opportunity to promote their own political messages. While they certainly have the right to free speech, this is a private event paid for by Mr. Trump. We have provided a safe protest area outside the venue for all protesters. If a protester starts demonstrating in the area around you please do not touch or harm the protester. This is a peaceful rally. In order to notify the law enforcement officers of the location of the protester, please hold a rally sign over your head and start chanting ‘Trump, Trump, Trump.’ Ask the people around you to do likewise until officers remove the protesters. Thank you for helping us ‘Make America Great Again.'”
After Trump was done with a surreal speech in which he asked African Americans to cast their ballots for him (‘what the hell have you got to lose,’ he asked), and the barriers blocking the media into the cage were removed, I was standing with another reporter on the back side of the space, watching as ralliers were leaving. A couple walked up to us.
“Please tell your fellow media people that we appreciate what you are doing,” he said. The woman with him nodded. “What you do is important. Don’t change. Keep doing it. Keep asking the questions. We appreciate it.”

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