Trump, Twitter and #FakeNews
It was a banner week for President Trump on Twitter, as he offended millions of people with his tweets on North Korea, an LA morning TV host, the news media and a lot more. I can't think of the last time one person offended so many people without saying a word.
Trump and Twitter have become as closely linked as bacon and eggs and thunder and lightning. Despite running one of the world's biggest economies he finds time to tweet around a dozen times a day.
Even though Trump has been roundly criticized for his Twitter activity, the real story most of the mainstream media seems to be missing is that Twitter has given him a tool to bypass traditional media and talk to the world. He calls it unfiltered. I call it smart.
Trump on a Twitter Roll
We should have seen this coming.
Looking back at the primaries a little over a year ago and the Republican convention a year ago this month, we should have seen it coming. Trump’s use of Twitter seemed to increase during the election campaign last fall as he blasted “#CrookedHillary” day after day on Twitter and took swipes at the media in his spare time.
Here are a few of the highlights of Trump from the past week. His Twitter rants seemingly hit an all-time low when he went after Los Angeles-based Morning Joe TV co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who announced their engagement in May.
People were shocked by that Tweet. As much as we shouldn’t be surprised, we really were because Presidents aren’t supposed to act that way. If Trump crossed the line with the Tweet he didn’t seem to think so when he doubled down a couple of days later.
Last weekend Trump turned his Twitter thoughts to his most hated rival CNN. Taking delight over some bad reporting that CNN has admitted to, Trump cleverly created a new hashtag and took #FakeNews to a new level.
On Sunday morning we got up to a video that Trump tweeted. At Wrestlemania 23 in 2007 Trump took down WWE CEO Vince McMahon with a clothesline and then roughed him up beside the ring before walking away looking very much like the victor. Somebody put the CNN logo in place of McMahon’s head, giving the clear appearance that Trump was taking a round out of CNN. That brought this reaction from CNN.
Twitter Gives Trump Power
I’m not going to get into the merits of Trump’s tweets. I’ll leave that for political commentators in the US and Canada, who have said everything ranging from how disgraceful it's been to the possibility he has mental health issues.
I do want to make this point however. Twitter has given Trump the ability to communicate to a mass audience without needing the news media. Think about it. Trump has 33.3 million Twitter followers. That’s almost the same as the number of people in Canada and just a few million less than the population of California. That gives him a tremendous opportunity to communicate directly with a large percentage of voters whenever he wants to.
I’ve also watched how Trump’s tweets are “liked” and “retweeted”. It’s amazing. When somebody retweets a Tweet it basically means they are sharing that Tweet with their followers. In other words, if 10 people retweet a Tweet and each person has 1,000 followers, that Tweet is shared with 10,000 people. Many of those people also retweet the original Tweet, meaning the numbers multiply at an incredible rate. Trump’s controversial CNN/WWE tweet was retweeted over 200,000 times just eight hours after he originally sent it out.
When you look at the numbers below, you will also see it was “liked” by thousands of others and there was an incredible number of people who commented on his Tweet. Many of those were tremendously negative, but Trump is obviously a believer in the old line that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
I believe that Trump is savvy enough to understand that the more controversial his Tweets are, the more they get shared in social media and the more mainstream media picks up on them. The more that happens, the more people check his Twitter feed and share and comment on his Tweets. Wash, rinse, repeat.
So much has been said and written about Trump and Twitter, but I think one point that hasn’t been stated enough is that Twitter has given Trump the ability to say whatever he wants and not have the message affected by media. There’s no question mainstream media makes comments on his Tweets and allows people to comment on them, but the reality is Presidents before Barack Obama never had this form of communication and Trump is taking advantage of it like never before.
The President’s Weekly Radio Address goes back to the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was stopped for awhile, but Ronald Reagan brought it back. It was a way for Presidents to comment on issues of the day and make announcements. The radio address was widely used by mainstream media because it created content for newscasts, especially on weekends when the news was a little thin.
What Twitter is for Trump is a weekly radio address in short form with some major differences. 33 million people get his message instantly and he can make a statement within seconds. Nothing needs to be recorded in advance. The more off-the-wall he gets in the message, the more people hear about it. It’s a vicious cycle, but for Trump it works like a charm.
Like it or not, Twitter is a powerful tool for Trump. You may not like what he says, but you know what he’s saying and judging by everything that’s happened over the last year or so, I’m pretty sure he likes it that way.