Haven’t we seen him before?

Trump has had a firm position in the headlines of CNNI, BBC World, RT and Al Jazeera almost everyday this week. In addition to his inauguration on January the 20th, his recent policies seem to have been met with particularly many protests around the globe, which have also been covered in the headlines to some extent.

Apart from being the 45th president of the United States, Trump is also the third US president to hold office during the period of inquiry for the Screening Protest project, which spans from 2008 to 2018. Among other possibilities, this data allows us to compare this week’s coverage of Trump with Obama’s first weeks in office during 2009 and 2013. While it is difficult not to get side-tracked by the uncertainty with Trump, it is important we remember this data and not only ask what is different about Trump, but also what is similar.

For instance, in spite of Trump’s seemingly spectacular politics, he remains, in our codebook, a political elite actor. As such we can compare the relation between his presence in the news and other, especially non-elite, actors, such as activists, with the relation between former political elite actors and non-elite actors. While elites historically have had a significantly stronger presence in the news, the protests surrounding Trump might tell us a different story about that presence, just as his firm position in this week’s headlines might tell us that things seem very much the same.

In addition, different from George W. Bush, and his last months in office during 2008, and Barack Obama when he was inaugurated in 2009, Trump is a political elite actor that is post-Arabic spring and post-Occupy Wall Street. While these observations may or may not be discussed in the news, they arguably give us strong grounds for analysing the coverage of the protests against Trump as a particular historical case, which can be compared with other different, yet similar cases. 

Thus, when a lot of things seem to be changing for the worse, I find some comfort in the fact that some things remain the same (if only in our codebook). At the same time I’m hoping to find that this week’s, or next week’s, headlines will be different.

Martin Karlsson

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