- Jim VandeHei
- Dec 1
Trump's mind-numbing media manipulation machine
Illustration: Sam Jayne / Axios
- Within minutes, thousands of Trump's Twitter followers retweet it, and the sparks fly in response. Trump knows this and has bragged to staff about the storm he's stirring as he hits "publish."
- 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 to either that morning's or yesterday's tweet bomb. But the real action unfolds on Twitter, with scores of journalists and activists howling in protest.
- "He exerts a deeper level of control simply through his ability to bait hostile media at will with his every seemingly nutty utterance," conservative columnist Bret Stephens smartly noted Thursday in the New York Times.
- One result: "A political opposition that is exhausting itself — and much of the public — with its perpetual state of moral apoplexy," Stephens writes.
- The data: Many of the most engaging politics and news pages on Facebook in October were hyper-partisan political pages, according to social analytics company NewsWhip, and the most popular reaction to them is the "angry face" emoji.
- The data: Hannity averages more than 3.1 million viewers a night over the last two months, and Maddow averaged 2.6 million.
"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," Stephens writes. "In Russia, Putin can compel attention thanks to his complete control over most media and many other aspects of ordinary life. In the United States, citizens can deprive Trump of his political oxygen simply by turning off and tuning out."
Go Deeper: Exhausted by the Trump presidency? Brace yourself. White House officials expect Trump to be even more outrageous and cocksure in coming months.
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