Steven Williamson

Advisor Department

Political Science




2016; trump; election; media; manipulation; hegemony


The 2016 presidential election and the rise of Trump caught most of us (if not all) by surprise. Over the course of the months leading up to the election, it became apparent the American people weren’t being given the truth, and if we were, it was framed—we were primed to believe certain things, and the agenda was already set. In the face of this I decided to look into exactly what caused the media’s behavior in this election cycle. It became apparent that the media, and the rise of Trump into prominence (and the presidency) had a common connection, which I intended to explore.

In order to understand the phenomenon that was the 2016 presidential election, I read various works from political and social philosophers, focusing specifically on how the state functions. I read works from Antonio Gramsci, Richard Rorty, Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky and others, to try to understand what makes a society, and what role the elites and the state play, if any at all. When one looks at the media apparatus, we have known for decades that they use some techniques to manipulate the masses. There are many possible reasons for this manipulation. This election was no different. Gramsci discussed a concept called “cultural hegemony.” Many believe this hegemony cannot exist in a democracy; I argued it can, and does. We saw this concept at work in front of us these last few months and my aim is to shed light upon it.