There is a very specific — and dangerous — formula for manipulating the media and hijacking the Twitter/cable/conventional media industrial complex, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes.
- Trump sets this formulaic trap increasingly often. And news organizations keep falling for it.
Step 1: Throw an early morning Twitter bomb, usually but not always timed to "Fox & Friends" fodder or reinforcement. The Tweet-bomb frequently hits "fake news" or some social topic with racial undertones.
- Within minutes, thousands of Trump's Twitter followers retweet it, and the sparks fly.
- The data: As president, Trump has tweeted about fake news 124 times, mostly before 9 a.m., and his tweets about fake news average more retweets and likes
Step 2: The outrage machine kicks in. The first hour of "Morning Joe" is consumed by reaction. But the real action unfolds on Twitter, with scores of journalists and activists howling in protest.Step 3: The cable beast awakens. MSNBC/CNN/Fox are basically 24/7 politics now, and the reporters who uncorked on Twitter sit alongside the hosts to dissect/condemn the Twitter bomb. They tweet the highlights. The rage builds. The cycle speeds.
Step 4: The fringes foment. Breitbart belts out a stream of stories, usually supporting Trump or mocking cable hysteria on the left. It pumps its greatest hits through Facebook, where both sides game the algorithm to play to their team's emotional response. Twitter wars usually ensue.
- The data: Many of the most engaging politics and news pages on Facebook are hyper-partisan political pages, according to social analytics company NewsWhip.
- The most popular reaction to them is the "angry face" emoji.
Step 5: Opinions fly. By nighttime, MSNBC goes hard left, Fox hard right, peaking with their highest-rated champions (Maddow on the left and Hannity on the right) tucking like-minded people in with soothing stories of why they were so right today.
- We go to bed, sleep poorly, wake up and do it again.
Sound smart: We are all amplifying and participating in this endless sideshow. There is no easy solution, other than clinging to reality and clinically exposing Trump's make-believe. Check the facts, pay attention, but ignore the pure crap.
P.S. Must-read column ... N.Y. Times' Bret Stephens, "We're All Part of Trump's Show": "The Trump news is scarier, funnier, more salacious and more relevant than anything else on TV. ... The truth about Trump is not that he's crazy. He's a narcissist and a neurotic with a feral talent for attracting the attention he craves. ... [C]itizens can deprive Trump of his political oxygen simply by turning off and tuning out."