When Distancing Fails—How Journalists’ Discursive and Mnemonic Techniques Facilitated the Rise of Trump and Trumpism

Jennifer R. Henrichsen


This article argues that journalists used distancing techniques and mnemonic devices leading up to and following Trump’s electoral win to make sense of Trump and Trumpism and to bolster their cultural authority at a time when trust in media is at record lows. A textual analysis of news documents and metajournalistic discourse indicates a form of reflexivity in which journalistic practice is justified by relying on discursive distancing techniques and past historical analogies including Goldwater, McCarthyism, and Watergate. This article suggests that by using these techniques, journalists helped to facilitate the rise of Trump and Trumpism. Thus, this article recommends that journalists change their distancing practices and their reliance on past events that serve to legitimate their current temporal reality to ensure that journalism can serve as an agent of prospective memory and thus more accurately and comprehensively provide space for an imaginative future.


collective memory, cultural authority, Donald Trump, journalism, prospective memory, Trumpism

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