National Column: Blinded by PM’s sunny ways, U.S. media fail the public

by Vinay Menon

Justin Trudeau is on the new cover of Rolling Stone and please don’t beat yourself up for experiencing a rush of conflicted feelings.

On the upside, it’s always refreshing when the U.S. media glance over the border and devote ink – in this case, nearly 7,000 words – to what is a foreign story.

There is no free trade when it comes to media coverage.

In Canada, we cover America as if it’s our most important province.

But in America, unless a story is sensational enough to elbow its way into the domestic spotlight – a vicious road-rage beating in Peterborough, say, that’s captured on video – the U.S. media tend to ignore us the way a high school quarterback might brush past the treasurer of the chess club on his way to wolfing down a burger and fries in the caf.

America gorges on itself and we are starved for attention.

So when the mikes and the cameras do clear customs, when Canada is filtered through the prism of stateside outlets, we are on high alert for any distortions and errors, big and small. (In the Rolling Stone opus, there was a reference to the “Royal Canadian Mountain Police,” which I suppose should not be confused with CSIS, or the “Canadian Security Igloo Service.”)

You see, when it comes to covering Trudeau, the U.S. media are now so grateful he’s not Donald Trump, they continue to lionize him in a way that is failing readers on both sides of the border who may believe incompetence is not a zero-sum game.

Sure, your guy is a demonic clown. We get that.

But you know what? Our guy is not exactly keeping his promises or doing anything that might place this country on a solid footing for future generations.

This is something the U.S. media can’t grasp in the fog of Trump.

From the opening paragraphs to the unending subtext to the panting cover-line query – “Why Can’t He Be Our President?” – the Rolling Stone profile of Trudeau that landed on Wednesday is so glowingly submissive, so blindingly quixotic, that even if you tool around in a T-shirt that reads “Sunny Ways,” you might be wise to put on shades while skimming to avoid damaging your retinas.

This two-state media dynamic is clear: It’s much easier for Canadian media to cover Trump than it is for U.S. media to cover Trudeau.

Trump is so detached from all reasonable standards of decency and intelligence that he is a cartoon villain.

He is a fool on the hill who hurls thunderbolts from his social media citadel, insults that are invariably powered by paranoid scorn and delusions of grandeur because, in the absence of any real accomplishments for this White House, unhinged tweets are all he’s got left.

Trump is presidential in the same way my cat is a Tiffany lamp.

His supporters believe the fake media is on a witch hunt – that their beloved leader is under siege by diabolical elites who are waging partisan warfare. They are mistaken: From the start of this doomed odyssey, Donald Trump has been under siege by Donald Trump.

His ineptitude, naked greed, lunatic ego-cravings and severe allergies to both policy and hard work have exposed intractable failings as both an elected official and a human no sensible person would now choose to defend.

This makes covering him easy, albeit exhausting: Watch him shoot himself in the foot and document the bloodshed. Repeat. Repeat again.

Anything less is journalistic malpractice.

But for the U.S. media, in both the crosshairs of Trump’s incontinent rage and the vortex of his death spiral, covering Trudeau is not as straightforward. There is no obvious monster.

Whether he’s on the cover of GQ, in an issue devoted to “The Most Stylish Men Alive,” or brooding in black and white in Vogue as “The New Young Face of Canadian Politics,” the U.S. media have already chalked out Trudeau’s silhouette in a fairy tale imagining that continues to endure.

In style and temperament, Trudeau is the anti-Trump. He projects idealism on the world stage. He is not vile, at least not in any personal sense. And this yearning for an anti-Trump to call their own means the U.S. media are glossing over or ignoring the troubling similarities between both leaders, not the least of which is an obsession with celebrity that is ultimately counterproductive to governance.

Yes, Trump is obviously repulsive. But is there not also something repulsive in walking back electoral reform or dithering on Indigenous crises or blowing through taxpayer dollars with the fiscal restraint my young daughters exhibit at Toys “R” Us? If Trudeau ever spends a little less time sitting for cover stories or making cameos on award shows and podcasts, he might start breaking fewer promises.

In Canada, day after day, the media hold a flame-thrower to Trump’s toes. But as we can see from this Rolling Stone profile, America only has a concert lighter it holds up in the darkness while cheering on Trudeau.

The attention might be nice.

But a bit more neighbourly honesty would be even better.
Copyright 2017-Torstar Syndication Services

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