Because the U.S. media leans overwhelmingly left, Republican presidents usually have a harder time than Democratic ones. Their mistakes are more likely to be amplified, their successes are more likely to be downplayed, and the coverage they receive tends to be less favourable overall.
With Trump, however, this tendency became exaggerated out of all proportion. Many journalists became completely obsessed with the man, unable to summon any objectivity when evaluating his policies while focussing outsize criticism on his appearance and personal behaviour (‘orange man bad’, as the meme puts it.)
This is not to say Trump was necessarily a good president; just that the media’s reaction to him was far from rational. Indeed, the years 2016–2020 saw a major outbreak of ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’, which the centrist commentator Fareed Zakaria defined as “hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment”.
Or at least, that’s what many of us remember.
Yet good data has been lacking. Was the media really so obsessed with Trump? Or were they just as obsessed with his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush – a man whose command of the English language was also questionable.
Thanks to the expert data-scraper David Rozado, we now have the relevant data. And it suggests that Trump Derangement Syndrome is real.
Rozado tracked mentions of the past nine U.S. presidents in the country’s four main broadsheets: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times. He found that in all four cases, Trump was mentioned far more often when he was in office than the other eight presidents when they were in office.
In fact, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal (a right-leaning paper), Trump has been mentioned more often than Biden over the last two years, even though Biden is the one in the White House.
Rozado then checked whether the media’s fixation with Trump also extends to the U.K., and he found that it does. The BBC, the Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian all mentioned Trump far more often than previous presidents. It’s plausible, then, that ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ afflicts the entire Anglosphere.
What does pattern above have in common with the famous woke hockey stick? If I may speculate, both show that media coverage today is disproportionately driven by what goes viral on social media, and hence by the hangups and preoccupations of a relatively small but influential journalist-activist class.
We’ve more sources of information than ever, but a lot of them are saying the same things…