On January 20th, President Biden was inaugurated in a sober but very moving ceremony protected ed by the absence and the silence of Donald Trump who had decamped without the desired fanfare from the” White House” to “Sea House” (Mar a Lago means in Spanish “the Sea with Lake”). From that time, the media have been almost silent on the post Presidential life. The main reason is that he no longer has a public voice since Twitter, Facebook and You Tube suspended his accounts shortly after the storming of the Capitol by Trump fanatics. This was the “The Big Cut”. Meanwhile, Trump’s departure sowed doubt and even despair amongst his core supporters now deprived of their daily fixes.
As we alluded in our previous article “The Biggest Lie”, the electoral fraud propaganda had for months, even before the Nov. 3 election, been a major subject of online disinformation, powerfully fabricated by Trump and his allies. But this warped propaganda using social media had a long history. It was really Obama that had perfected, with innovative flair, the art of social networking during his 2008 presidential campaign.
Just as F.D. Roosevelt with his public radio fireside chats and JFK television channels appearances had reinforced their support, Obama realized that the tremendous communication capabilities and the possibilities of dynamic database development could act as a potent catalyzer to bolster his potential mass of supporters. In addition, by integrating the various disparate social applications existing at the time in one single umbrella, he had the means to raise money, organize local support centers and deflect smear campaigns at the regional or national level.
Just as JFK had enhanced the use of TV during his brief 33 months in office, Obama over his 8 years term perfected the handling of social media to manage public communication to pursue the public’s engagement in his effort to implement his policies. Armed with millions of names of supporters who could be engaged almost instantly, he was to use the network that had served him so well to win the elections, to govern. Obama used tweets to reflect thoughts or gather the attendance to his public address. Unlike his successor who has been tracked as sending more than 70% of his tweets from his personal android cell phone, Obama rarely tweeted himself but dictated or had his tweets prepared by his staff.
The successful use of mass media by Obama during his campaign and his eight years of government was not lost on Trump. As a seasoned TV reality showman and producer, he not only understood the value of repeated TV exposition, but realized he could use the mass media conduits to fuel additional TV coverage and thus snowball the impact of his messages usually poisoned with spurious controversies.
During the 2016 Republican primaries he had noticed the meteoric rise in popularity of Ted Cruz propelled by the assistance of a London based firm Cambridge Analytica, that was reputed to have swung the British towards Brexit. Armed with the psychological profile of all voters connected with Facebook, they had mastered the technique of targeted messages directed to bend the opinion of undecided voters. As Trump won the nomination from the Republican party, he was able to secure, for his Presidential campaign, the assistance of Cambridge Analytica and other sources to generate and distribute an abundant blitz of targeted misinformation focused on micro groups of similar psychological profile.
Using his accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others such as Snapchat, Twitch, Spotify, Shopify which we in Europe are totally unfamiliar with, Trump used the mass media on an even larger scale than Obama, but with one big difference: whereas Obama had organised a gathering campaign to mobilize the largest possible mass of voters around central themes, Trump used vote microtargeting to gather undecided voters that could be easily swung through focused messages that could appeal to their psychological makeup.
This was particularly effective in the three swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that brought him victory with a mere 77,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had not even been once to Wisconsin, as she was so sure of her strong ascendance in that State. So efficient has been his combined use of the live and social media, that he is purported to have been surprised by his own victory!
Once in power, Trump would continue to use all these techniques to bolster his popularity using events or even fabricating issues to generate more television coverage around him. He perfected the benefits of TV appearances by using principally the national channel Fox News and more dedicated right-wing channels such One America News Network (OAN), and NewsMax.
Even before the 2016 vote, he had been fawning the ghost of voting fraud. From day one after his swearing in, he started planting in his supporters the idea that he had won the popular vote in the 2016 elections alleging that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes had tilted the popular vote in favor of Hillary Clinton. Parallelly, he claimed that there had been a greater attendance at his inauguration than that of 2008 Obama’s enthronisation. That was the beginning of the “alternate facts” doctrine”, so eloquently coined by Kellyanne Conway on the 22nd of January 2017. As seen on the graph below, that was the beginning of a mounting series of lies of deformed truths by the past President. These have been fact checked and amounted to 30,573 false or misleading claims over his 4-year term.
The titles of these alternate views alone could fill several pages of text, but two are outstanding: the lies about Covid that in all probability cost him the presidency as they kept more and more glaringly defying reality and the Big lie that precipitated the Capitol insurrection and resulted in the “BIG CUT”, the decapitation of his voice in the main social media.
Trump’s banishment was accompanied by Twitter’s ban of over 70,000 accounts affiliated with Q annon disciples and followed by other actions by other social media sites. According to research firm Zignal Labs, the week after the media suspension, Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent as conversations dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites. As according to MIT research, negative news circulate 7 times more than bad ones, this is a welcome development.
Less than a month after his un-ceremonial departure, his impeachment trial was quickly despatched to make room for legislative execution and atone the divisions within the legislative branch. Even though the acquittal was predictable because of excessive pro Trump influence in the Republican ranks, it is remarkable that 7 republican senators were willing to convict him openly and that Seniority leader Mitch McConnell publicly held him as “morally and practically responsible” for the events of that day and that he had shown ”a disgraceful dereliction of duty” in not stopping immediately his supporters. Could it be that with the BIG CUT will wane the influence of Trump over disoriented and confused supporters that were shaping the posture of the pro Trump wing politicians so scared to lose their post in the incoming 2022 elections.
17 February 2021