• Trump and Social Media: Welcome to the New World

    December 5, 2016

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump

    trump


    Did you see what Trump just tweeted out? Buzzfeed’s got it, and some guy over at Daily Kos is totally losing his mind replying. It’s Donald Trump’s Internet, and we’re allowed to watch. And retweet.

    Trump has done more than become the most prolific social media communicator in political history. He has discovered the Holy Grail of presidential-media relations: the ability to ignore the whole damn Fourth Estate. This is a new paradigm for political power, one that at a minimum pushes the media another circulation drop closer to irrelevancy. Oh well, they’ll always have the weather and sports to report. Craigslist already took the classifieds away.

    The latest online thrust by Trump has been a series of tweets directed personally against a reporter who said the president-elect claimed without evidence his popular vote total suffered because of extensive voter fraud. Jeff Zeleny, CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, said Trump was a “sore winner,” adding the president-elect had “zero evidence” to back his claim he won the popular vote. Commentators agreed with Zeleny, saying Trump’s ego couldn’t accept the insult of losing the popular vote.

    Trump responded with a series of tweets and retweets condemning Zeleny. All of the tweets saw “likes” in the tens of thousands, and endless websites excerpted and embedded them out to an even larger audience. Just another episode in the Trump reality show, right?

    Wrong.

    As the media missed the overall populist appeal of Trump right up until election night, so are they missing the populist power he is wielding and likely will continue wield via social media for the next four years.

    While Obama claimed the title of first “Internet president” by virtue of his online fundraising, brilliant datamining, and seeding of the 24-hour news cycle, the bulk of his efforts were essentially repurposing technology to do the traditional things politicians have always done, albeit faster and better. Evolution, not revolution.

    Trump has discovered something much, much bigger: he does not need to depend on the media to communicate to the electorate. As the once-upstarts such as HuffPo, Buzzfeed, and the Daily Beast pushed the TV networks into the background, so now is social media Trump-style stepping forward.

    Sure, OK, the Internet is a powerful tool for global communication, social media blah blah blah, Kanye something something Instagram, this stuff’s taught now in Communications 101: The Modern Age at community college.

    But social media for Trump is not simply a display board to pin policy statements to as Obama has used it. Social media is a tool that first allows Trump to bypass everything and speak to individual citizens/voters, and then force the traditional media to amplify what he says as part of its own thirst for “content.” There really isn’t any news anymore when Trump has it on Twitter as his own scoop. Ignore the tweets so as to starve the beast? The worry is more that the audience will ignore you because they can read the tweets themselves.

    Every president who’s left a record has expressed some level of disdain for the media of his day, and a desire to circumvent it. But no president could afford to ignore them, or to truly anger them. Influence them, of course: presidents would leak juicy stuff to one reporter, cut off another, but at the end of the day media and the president needed each other to do their respective jobs. A president would once upon a time have had to be careful chiding a columnist for the New York Times to her face for fear of being slaughtered on the editorial page. President Lyndon Johnson, after hearing CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite had spoken out against the War in Vietnam, famously said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.”

    Access now only has to be courted one way. Trump can afford to insult reporters because he no longer has any real need for them, except perhaps as foils for his anti-establishment rhetoric. He treats them with contempt because in his mind, all they really do is retweet him. Who cares what CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, thinks of you? How many followers on Twitter does he have anyway? Zeleny = 135k. Trump = 16.3 million.

    Trump has also mastered, via social media, the art of Internet logic. His tweets often read like the “Comments” section on some political blog. Make a bold statement unsupported by facts. When challenged, demand the challenger provide proof you’re wrong (often meaning to prove the negative) and then mock them if they don’t respond. Dispute sources, not facts — X can’t be true because it was reported by a media outlet that favored Clinton. Attack ad hominem, and goad others into doing the same. The enemy isn’t just CNN, it is Jeff Zeleny himself. Then stand back and disavow what happens, up to and including death threats. And, for the triple score, issue an appeal for calm with a conspiratorial wink.

    Social media Trump-style also offers the unprecedented ability to control the agenda. Should a troublesome story appear, a handful of bombastic tweets changes the conversation. If no one seems to be listening after some rude remarks about the musical Hamilton run their course, just yell louder — flag burners should lose their citizenship! All in real, real time; Trump is no stranger to sending out 140 characters of white noise at 3 am.

    With its reliance on “friends” and “followers,” social media also creates a personal bond between Trump and individual Americans not really experienced since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era fireside chats. As those radio broadcasts brought Roosevelt into the living room, Trump’s tweets put his policies, opinions and rants into the same feeds as Aunt Sally talking about Christmas plans. It creates intimacy, and by association (who doesn’t like Aunt Sally), may increase trust.

    And make no mistake about it; unlike most politicians’ social media, which sounds like robotic ad-speak, Trump’s tweets come from Trump. It’s him talking to you. Look at many of the responses to Trump on social media; people are writing back to him in the first person, using the informal language of the web. This is a personal connection. He is part of your world and part of your day. And unlike TV, you can speak back to him, and maybe get an answer of sorts; Trump has been known to retweet messages from his followers.

    While many will advise him to tone it down, or perhaps switch his Twitter to a more “presidential model,” it seems unlikely Trump would set the whole thing aside when the clock strikes midnight on inauguration day. These are very powerful tools. They played a significant role in electing Trump. They will allow him for four years to pick and choose how and when, or if, he wants to engage with the traditional media. With that on one side of the scale, and with Trump being both the president, and, well, being Trump, who is going to make the argument that pulling back is in Trump’s interest?



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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • Mitch said...

      1

      Peter,

      So, essentially, your thinking is that Trump not only appealed to voters, because they feel he understands their anger/ rage at the system gone wild….

      But also because he mastered gossip media.

      And realized that he no longer needs media?

      If that is the case, he is even brighter than anyone gives him credit for. And, far more dangerous. To the status quo, for starters. For starters.

      M

      12/5/16 6:42 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      2

      I can’t say if Trump even knows what he’s doing with his Twitter, but the results are the same. The media discredited themselves so thoroughly in this election that a vast number of people simply do not pay attention to them. That leaves a vacuum, and into the vacuum come Trump’s Tweets and/or any bullshit anyone wants to peddle. Meanwhile, the media digs their hole of irrelevance deeper by screaming the apocalypse is near every day. I read well-respected China academics saying this weekend missiles would fly over Trump’s dumb phone call to Taiwan.

      12/5/16 7:53 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      3

      PS.

      I hope Trump realizes how dangerous his toy media is.

      As an example, pizzagate / comet pizza….

      M

      12/5/16 6:49 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      4

      Naw. Fake news (videogames, talking dogs, Marilyn Manson, Jodie Foster) don’t “cause” mentally ill to act. No sense restarting debate #Pizzagate. Crazy gun nuts will find a trigger, or create one in their own mind. They are in fact mentally ill and don’t need something on Twitter to “direct” them.

      12/5/16 7:55 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      The media is the message. Most voters today can’t understand more information than is contained in 140 characters.. DCOTP

      12/5/16 8:02 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      I know Mitch and JP will appreciate this: I shall return. I will be moving back to the DCOTP. If this is really the last roundup, folks, I want to witness it up close.

      12/5/16 8:08 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      7

      Peter,

      I saw the same articles your talking about.
      I spoke with a semi-well known WDC individual that said the same thing. Almost word for word. It was … Spooky.

      I missed the debate on pizzagate. Sounds like it would have been fun.

      Also, I would be one of those that has lost all trust in the mainstream.

      Hears an interesting experiment for you.

      Next time some major event hits the news on the east coast…. About every hour or so, track the story as it clears each time zone… And watch how it ‘evolves’ as it works its way west.
      And vise versa.

      As each new “reporter” got a hold of it, they added more and more.
      It was like watching the little kids game ‘telephone’.

      Interesting statement a lady I know made over the weekend for you…

      “I am convinced that reporters and most journalists now are all nothing more than unemployed drsma majors “.

      A lot of wisdom in that statement.

      M

      12/5/16 8:11 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      8

      PS.

      Peter,

      Like everyone else on the planet, I equate information, media, etc to personal experiences.

      So, Here’s one for you.

      When I first left California, and moved East.
      First , Arkansas (OMG!! RESEARCH BEFORE MOVE!!!!!. Is the lesson!!! )

      . Then Texas.(thank God)

      Unknown at the Time. Arkansas had been in a massive drought. Years of it. We arrived late winter. About a month later… It started raining. And raining…. And… Yep…. RAINING. A lot. So… Along around … August…. As its still Raining….. ( I swear, it felt like Portland)… One of the ‘Good Christian ‘ neighbors comes to me…. And says ” you can make it stop raining now “.

      I thought that was funny as hell.

      Bizarre part…. He…. And THEY… As in ALL the neighbors actually believe that.
      I mean. REALLY believe that. Like witchdoctor type weirdness.

      And, then… The social media (gossip ) wagon takes over.

      Which pretty much set the tone for staying in Arkansas.

      Some of the things people expected of me…. After all I brought RAIN….. Bizarre….
      ( btw…. One of their churchs had a preacher declare himself to be a prophet… I asked if that was true… Their response..” what’s wrong with that???” )

      Pretty much a fair representation of todays “media”… And “social media”.

      M

      12/5/16 8:47 AM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      9

      Rich,

      DCOTP???? Huh????

      Where is that??? Mars????

      M

      12/5/16 8:50 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      10

      The media? We don’t need no steen – king media! Who cares about press guys who sleazed their way into White House briefings. I haven’t watched corporate news on TV for ten years. The TV is in a guest room and my wife and I never go in there.
      Mitch- Trump is much smarter than his critics have judged him to be. He was smarter than Hillary and Bubba and damned. Not clever nor sinister nor crafty- but actually smarter. He knows how to read the real and important data. Hillary listened to and only cooed to the pillow talk of Huma praising her for her badass “smartness”.

      12/5/16 8:51 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      11

      Trump listening to Obama’s “….and they cling to their guns, religion and xenophobia…. ” “Ok, staff, we need to pitch our campaign to those types and get them to vote for me. That dumb Democrat Obama just blew off millions of potential voters for any hopeful party successor.”

      12/5/16 9:12 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      12

      I am also coming back to help General Flynn and his son get to the bottom of the Pizza Ping Pong child sex traffickers.

      12/5/16 10:51 AM | Comment Link

    • Ken said...

      13

      Peter, you should listen to the Chapo Trap House podcast

      12/5/16 1:11 PM | Comment Link

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