How Trump by­passed hos­tile media to de­liver his mes­sage

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: With the main­stream media al­most uni­formly hos­tile to­ward him, Don­ald Trump ral­lied sup­port­ers dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign by de­liv­er­ing his mes­sage on Twit­ter and a loose net­work of al­ter­na­tive news sites. The Pres­i­dent-elect’s abil­ity to cir­cum­vent the main news chan­nels to reach and en­er­gize his au­di­ence be­came a key fac­tor in his vic­tory, an­a­lysts say.

“Trump had a way of tak­ing to Twit­ter and could lit­er­ally change the nar­ra­tive be­cause he had such a large fol­low­ing,” said Alan Rosen­blatt, a digital con­sul­tant and strate­gist at Lake Re­search Part­ners and Turn­er4D who op­posed Trump. The real es­tate bil­lion­aire kept mo­men­tum even as ma­jor news or­ga­ni­za­tions un­earthed em­bar­rass­ing episodes about his past, in­clud­ing on his fi­nances and sex­ual con­duct. As main­stream media stepped up their in­ves­ti­ga­tions, go­ing so far as to call him a “liar,” Trump was able to sus­tain a counter-nar­ra­tive on so­cial media used by conservative, or “alt-right,” news sites friendly to the Repub­li­can can­di­date. A net­work of so­cial media sup­port­ers am­pli­fied the Trump mes­sage, not only re­in­forc­ing his vi­sion but also ac­tively seek­ing to counter and quash mes­sages from anti-Trump forces. “It’s or­ga­nized digital bul­ly­ing,” Rosen­blatt said. “They would fo­cus in on pro­gres­sive Demo­cratic tweet­ers and bar­rage them and abuse them to try to in­cite an in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse.” Many Trump sup­port­ers and con­ser­va­tives turned to Twit­ter, Face­book and other so­cial media to spread their mes­sages and counter the news in tra­di­tional out­lets. But much of the news on Face­book was fake, media watch­ers pointed out, com­pro­mis­ing the plat­form as well as con­fi­dence in the media.One lo­cal of­fi­cial shared news on Face­book with head­lines such as “Hil­lary Clin­ton Call­ing for Civil War If Trump Is Elected” and “Pope Fran­cis Shocks World, En­dorses Don­ald Trump for Pres­i­dent,” said Joshua Ben­ton, di­rec­tor of Har­vard University’s Nie­man Jour­nal­ism Lab.

‘Al­ter­nate re­al­ity’

The on­slaught of pro-Trump mes­sages on those plat­forms al­lowed him to sur­vive the neg­a­tive cov­er­age, said Gabriel Kahn of the University of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s An­nen­berg School and a for­mer news­pa­per cor­re­spon­dent. “It be­came pos­si­ble for him to con­struct an al­ter­nate nar­ra­tive, I would say an al­ter­nate re­al­ity,” he said. “In this way, you have un­truths and false­hoods that tran­sit through our media ecosys­tem and be­come a tidal wave.”

Trump’s mes­sage echoed through the alt-right media that sup­ported his agenda, in­clud­ing Bre­it­bart News, whose chair­man Stephen Ban­non served as chair­man of the can­di­date’s cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion. As a re­sult, fact-check­ing by tra­di­tional media-which re­vealed Trump’s mas­sive pen­chant for ex­ag­ger­a­tion and false­hood-had less im­pact than might have been ex­pected. As on­line media out­lets on both the left and right grow in­creas­ingly ide­o­log­i­cally driven, the so­cial dis­course democ­ra­cies re­quire be­comes limited, Rosen­blatt said. “The health of democ­racy de­pends on peo­ple be­ing ex­posed to both sides of an is­sue,” he said. “These ‘fil­ter bub­bles’ and the idea of cus­tom­ized home pages and news feeds I think hurts democ­racy. It means peo­ple are not de­bat­ing ideas to ar­rive at a con­sen­sus.” The main­stream media, im­por­tant for pro­mot­ing that dis­course, has also been seen as fail­ing, Rosen­blatt said. A Gallup sur­vey this year found just 32 per­cent had con­fi­dence in the media’s abil­ity “to re­port the news fully, ac­cu­rately and fairly. ”There is a grow­ing sen­ti­ment among con­ser­va­tives that “the main­stream press is left-of-cen­ter and that the con­ser­va­tives should have their own plat­forms,” Rosen­blatt said.

Fak­ing on Face­book

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