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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has maintained a constant level of social media momentum in 2019, even outpacing some of the year's most buzzworthy cultural events, according to data from the social media analytics company NewsWhip.

Why it matters: It reveals just how deeply political stories have become enmeshed with traditional cultural discourse — and how the two can often seem indistinguishable.

  • That was highlighted this week by the image of Capitol Hill interns camping out all night for a spot at Mueller's much-anticipated hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees — just like they might for a sold-out concert or, more likely in 2019, a Supreme clothing drop.

Driving the news: Articles about Mueller during the week of his hearings generated nearly 14.3 million social media interactions in the period from just Monday to Friday.

  • That topped the interactions on articles about "Game of Thrones" during the week of its polarizing series finale (10.2 million), as well as articles about "Avengers: Endgame" — now the highest-grossing film of all time — during the week of its release (10.5 million).

The big picture: The buzz surrounding Mueller's hearings was only a fraction of that generated during the week of the release of his report, which saw an eye-popping 30.1 million social media interactions.

  • That outpaced the interactions for some of the year's biggest cultural one-offs, including the Super Bowl (26.8 million) and the Oscars (15.2 million).
  • Topping the Super Bowl is especially impressive, given the breadth of angles that go beyond the outcome of the game itself — everything from viral moments at the halftime show to the business impact of its multimillion-dollar ads to the trailers for the hottest new movies and TV shows.

The state of play: The Mueller trend also underpins why news organizations are willing to spend millions to staff up with knowledgable reporters and hire embeds to follow every candidate in the massive 2020 Democratic field. The political horserace never fails to move the needle — and that means guaranteed revenue.

The bottom line: There's no denying that outrage and opinion is a main driver of social media likes and shares, so it's not surprising that Mueller has staying power.

  • Rather, it's the sheer scale of society's reaction to his investigation that has turned him into an icon — or a pariah, depending on one's point of view — on par with its most popular pastimes.

Go deeper

Biden to sign 15 executive actions on Day One

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 15 executive actions upon taking office Wednesday, immediately reversing key Trump administration policies.

Why it matters: The 15 actions — aimed at issues like climate change and immigration — mark more drastic immediate steps compared with the two day-one actions from Biden's four predecessors combined, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Off the Rails

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Elijah Nouvelage, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 7: Trump turns on Pence. Trump believes the vice president can solve all his problems by simply refusing to certify the Electoral College results. It's a simple test of loyalty: Trump or the U.S. Constitution.

"The end is coming, Donald."

The male voice in the TV ad boomed through the White House residence during "Fox & Friends" commercial breaks. Over and over and over. "The end is coming, Donald. ... On Jan. 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin."

Big Tech's post-riot reckoning

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Capitol insurrection means the anti-tech talk in Washington is more likely to lead to action, since it's ever clearer that the attack was planned, at least in part, on social media.

Why it matters: The big platforms may have hoped they'd move to D.C.'s back burner, with the Hill focused on the Biden agenda and the pandemic out of control. But now, there'll be no escaping harsh scrutiny.

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