With the Gilded Age of Trump about to dawn … I’ve become almost desperately eager as a news consumer for some different journalism to leaven the prevailing diet of outraged disgust vying with abject hero-worship.
Those two extremes are dominating national political coverage right now, more dismal evidence for what our still-President Barack Obama decried in his Tuesday farewell speech (accurately, but unorginally for a guy so verbally dextrous) as “our bubbles” where we accept “only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.”
So in my hunger for alternative fodder, I recalled my Scottish grandmother’s adage – if ye want sumthin’ daein’ … dae it yersel’ – and so went ahead, reporting and producing my own TV feature on a political character very far removed from Donald Trump.
My subject was the first Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. And I’m glad that PBS Newshour Weekend picked up the report for airing Saturday January 14th at 6pm EDT, following its screening last week on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
Khan is famously now the first person of Islamic faith ever to run a major western-world capital city – and inevitably has had occasion to cross words with Trump. Trump visited the UK during the 2016 campaign (but on a commercial not a political mission, opening a new Trump golf course) and he chose to praise the Brexit referendum result as a “great thing”, since it seemed to echo his own refrain about ‘taking our country back’.
Trump was oblivious to the particular UK territory in which he stood, Scotland, having voted against leaving the European Union. He provoked a strong critique from Khan, who of course rules another UK area, London itself, that voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe, a position that Khan strongly supports too. While Khan was resoundingly beating the UK’s Conservative Party to win his mayoral position, he made sure to condemn his opponents’ tactics (which were crudely anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim) as “straight out of the Donald Trump playbook”.
When I got to sit down with Mayor Khan and discuss his alternative message, I also heard naturally enough from analysts and commentators assessing his effectiveness and relevance.
Watch the new PBS Newshour Weekend version of the story here:
The experts included Rod O’Connor of Washington DC’s Messina Group. That’s the multifaceted consultancy that gave strategic advice that helped both Obama in 2012 and David Cameron in 2015 to gain their respective election victories. O’Connor firmly placed Mayor Khan in the context of today’s fear-based developments right across Europe, the UK and the US, saying:
“He’s so interesting because he comes at a time when questions of populism, these questions of religious intolerance, are at a louder volume.”
A louder volume, huh? The strategist, who’s American but has spent considerable time in the UK, may have let some stereotypically British understatement creep into his characterization of the bigoted cacophony that’s currently coursing through what used to be called the civilized world.