Republican Rigging Part 25: Trump Trolls the Media and They Keep Biting


Courtesy easy health options

Written by Robert Warden

Usually, people think of internet trolls as an analogy to vexing little people who live in caves, holes and under bridges. However, trolling is a fishing technique and gives an analogy that usually is more apt in my opinion. In fact, the term internet troll probably originates from the fishing term, actually. A troll in this context is someone who makes controversial statements looking for attention — looking for a fight, basically. When people pay the desired attention, that is a “bite” and the troll reels them into the controversy and tries to drag them down to his or her level. It gets people to pay serious attention to topics that do not deserve serious attention. Donald Trump has been a master at this, as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight explained early in the last presidential election cycle (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/donald-trump-is-the-worlds-greatest-troll/). Unfortunately, nobody in the media paid attention to Nate Silver’s message as they continued to bite on every cast made by Trump, and basically still do.

As Silver points out in the article, trolls crave attention, even negative attention. This is typical behavior for a narcissist like Trump. He wants to be universally admired and given adulation, but even negative attention is better than none from his perspective. In fact, he has a clear strategy — Trump is actually quite predictable — when coverage goes against him. He becomes paranoid and claims that there is a conspiracy that is “out to get him.” When it doesn’t favor him, he calls it “fake news.” He attacks his critics consistently. He demands loyalty and attacks those who don’t give it to him, even though he is very poor at being loyal himself. His claims that the media or other people are lying, become news itself. His attacks on his critics become news. Once the media identified Trump as a celebrity, and thus worthy of coverage, he realized that the more controversial he behaves, the more coverage he will get from the news media — the same media which, with the exception of Fox so-called news, he attacks as spreading lies. By the time that he declared his candidacy for the presidency, virtually everything that he said publicly was reported by news media.

His attacks against his critics may not help his standing among those who oppose him politically, but since he says many things that a certain, fairly sizeable portion of the United States citizenry finds appealing, he has a loyal base who believe basically whatever he says, over professional and credible sources even. They believe him even when it is clear to rational people that he is either severely deluded, lying or both. They believe him even when he is attacking institutions which are meant to find and broadcast the truth, or protect citizens from harm. This is potentially a very dangerous situation regarding the destruction of social institutions such as news organizations, scientific organizations, regulatory agencies, educational agencies, environmental protection agencies, and so on. Yet, despite being the object of Donald Trump’s scorn, news agencies continue to hang on his every stupid word. How stupid is that? Trump continues to troll them and they continue to bite.

But now he is president, so news agencies find themselves having the dilemma of being compelled to cover in great detail their own enemy. Yet, they in large part brought this fate upon themselves. As has been widely reported, the news media has given Trump billions of dollars of free news coverage, far more than it has anyone else, including other candidates during the 2016 presidential election cycle. These numbers as of mid-March, 2016 are detailed in New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html). Note that this was rather early in the campaign, so the amount of free media coverage that Trump has received is now far higher, probably several additional billions of dollars. To be specific, Trump had received as of that time, 1898 million dollars worth of free media coverage. In contrast, Hillary Clinton had received 746 million while Bernie Sanders had only recieved 321 million dollars worth. The next highest Republican candidate was Ted Cruz with 313 million dollars worth of coverage. It is important to mention that I remember seeing during that period, also, that the Republican primaries as a whole were receiving much more attention than were the Democratic primaries. I cannot find the link now, but certainly if one adds up the free coverage for Repulblicans versus that for Democrats, the Republican total is far higher. I come up with a total of 1,082 millon dollars for the Democratic Party candidates, while that for Republicans adds up to 3,057. That is about three times as much for Republicans as for Democrats, with Trump leading the way!

This is very relevant to Republican rigging in general, in the sense that the media basically gave great credence to the idea that these Republican candidates should be taken seriously and were worth more coverage than the Democrats. I think there was a sense in the media, that after 8 years of Obama, it was the Republicans’ turn to run things from the White House. I also sense that although many reporters surely support Democrats, the ownership and those who make decisions regarding what stories are newsworthy, may have favored a Republican victory. After all, with $$$ in their eyes, they knew that Republican control would likely mean that a tax cut was coming, and indeed, the rich just got richer as they were “richly rewarded” by Republicans with a huge corporate tax cut plus a significant personal one as well.

The disingenuousness of media over-coverage of Republicans — especially Trump — worsens as we consider that labelling Democrats as just as liberal as Republicans currently are conservative is a horribly false equivalent. Under “Tea Party” guidance, if not before, Republicans have become practically a libertarian ultra-conservative cult which mixes misplaced fundamental religious values with anti-government sentiment that would make Ayn Rand proud, stirred in a toxic pot of racism, sexism, xenophobia and any other imaginable form of tribalistic sentiments supporting a sense of superiority as examplified in the terms “American Exceptionalism” and “Make America Great Again.” Democrats, meanwhile, have been trending to the right ever since Bill Clinton was elected, largely due to an overestimation of conservatism among United States voters in a misguided effort to appease them, in my opinion. This is another form of false equivalence, much like having a news show featuring an amateur climate change denier having a debate with a climate scientist, but it is a false equivalence that serves the oligarchy very well.

My hope is that the media will overcome its strange fascination with Donald Trump — now that it is clear to them that he is not their friend and he is probably in fact very bad for their profession — although they must cover him as long as he is president. Perhaps they can now help us get rid of him so we won’t have to endure hearing about his every tweet anymore. At the very least, they can offer more educated critiques of him and his policy, and I do think we are seeing evidence of that, and they can also stop paying far more attention to his every move than needs to be given.