Who has the power to t/sell the truth?

How influential leaders bend the rules to their personal advantage

It isn’t everyday that the leader, or in this case former leader, of a nation starts a social media frenzy with a claim that he will soon be arrested. For former US President Donald Trump, these claims, which have neither been confirmed nor denied by officials, took the news media by storm. Trump, who is no stranger to media presence as he often wheels his Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread misinformation and garner support, has once again been placed in the spotlight of US national news. 

Trump has been the subject of a very lengthy investigation surrounding a hush money scheme in which his confidants allegedly paid, on his behalf, a well-known adult-film star, large sums of money in an attempt to buy her silence after what has been called a sexual encounter or assault. Trump’s social media arrest claims do not come without a call to action. In his posts, he urged his supporters to protest. The connotations of these words are eerily similar to Trump’s messages that led up to the January 6th riot of the US capital by his supporters. 

Taking a step back from the details of this scandal provides us with a concerning look into the US, and global, political climate today. Per multiple sources, the threat of indictment, while not something desired by the former president, would not be perceived by him as a disadvantage in his 2024 presidential campaign. Sources have said that Trump has been encouraging his team to use various media outlets to stir up support for his case and furthermore, that he believes an indictment would not hurt his political reputation. On the contrary, he believes it may even help him politically, in part due to the attention it would bring. 

As can be seen by Trump’s impressive ability to spin negative allegations, it appears to have become more common that political leaders tend not to fall in the face of scandal. While some, entrenched with their personal followers and party supporters, choose to sit out the storm, others thrive on it. This phenomenon is by no means unique to the United States. “Il Papi” Silvio Berlusconi has for decades now played a big role in Italian national politics, serving three times as Prime minister, and truly is a champion of political survival. He was on trial for tax fraud, bribing senators, and wiretapping police cars, and on top of all that, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for paying a minor for sex in 2010, although he never served the sentence. After taking a small break from politics, at age 86, he returned to government office. 

Similarly to Trump, Berlusconi is a TV personality, a billionaire, and a former actor who now owns one of Italy’s biggest media outlets. Accordingly, he has considerable influence on Italy’s media and used that to uphold a sexist, backward discourse, which also enabled him to uphold a narrative of being the “most persecuted man in the history of the world” and of a left-wing witch-hunt against him. Sounds familiar? 

Trump is currently facing a handful of other investigations and legal proceedings for his involvement in the January 6th riot, possession of classified documents, and his possible interference with the outcome of the 2020 election, amidst other allegations. The results of these investigations will no doubt play a role in the 2024 US Presidential Election, but to what extent, positive or negative, remains to be seen. Only one thing can be certain right now, controlling the narrative has always been a key part of a corrupt leader’s playbook.

Further reading:

The many trials of Silvio Berlusconi explained

Is Trump actually getting arrested this week? Here’s what we know

Donald Trump faces several investigations. Here’s where they stand.

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