The Twitter Presidency

I hesitate writing this.  I like to talk about broader themes, and I generally like to avoid getting into the weeds of individual stories and details, but this story stuck out to me, and I think there are broader implications.  So hold you breath and put on some thick rubber boots, because we are going to wander into the depraved depths of Trump’s biggest fans.

Our commander in chief tweeted out a little video.  It’s an edited version of a real video taken when he was active in the world of fake wrestling.  In the edited version Trump is beating up a guy with the CNN logo superimposed over his face.  It’s his most retweeted tweet yet.  He got it from a forum online dedicated to basically worshipping him.  He’s called the God Emperor there, so you can see why he’d like to visit it.  The creator of this masterpiece has a long history of racist, homophobic posts.  If I just go by what he’s posted under his username, I’m forced to assume he’s a real prick.  That’s fine, even assholes need to flex their creative muscles every now and then.  And this type of thing happened before, so why do I feel the need to write about this story?

Given that the text of the video is explicitly showing the president beat up a media organization, the media organization in question felt threatened.  So they did a little journalistic research and found the name of the user in question.  And vaguely threatened to publish it unless he apologized.  And he did.  At length.  This is fascinating.

Trump won in part because he wasn’t playing the same game everyone else was.  He made impossible promises in every speech, playing directly to people’s emotions and bypassing their rational brains entirely.  It was impressive.  He brought a gun to a boxing match, and almost everyone laughed at him, because how are you going to box without gloves?  To this day, I’m not aware of any professional politician who is as good as he is at this game, with the exception of his predecessor, Barack Obama.  And media organizations are terrible.  They still seem to be operating under the delusion that they are reporting truth, and anyone being rational must trust them.  As I’ve explained before, the media is in the business of telling stories.  It is entirely irrelevant that these stories are based on real events.  This is the first time that I’m aware of CNN playing a different game.  Rather than reporting on what the president did, they are attacking the source of his power.  His rabid fans who will support anything he does, as long as he’s bullying someone else.  These people love a bully.  So how will they respond when CNN starts bullying as well?

This is a new move on CNN’s part.  Time will tell if it’s part of a broader strategy, or just a one off event.  But if the media is perceived to be bullies just as strong as Trump is, how will his fans react?  Will they flock to his newly minted victimhood?  Or will they abandon the man they now perceive as weak?  If his core supporters abandon him then he will wish his approval rating is as high as it is now.  Everyone else disapproves, so it’s only this group of about 35% of Americans that still think he’s doing a good job.  And that opinion is, at best, based loosely on his performance.  It’s his personality that these people like, and that personality is based on his reputation as a bully.  Who likes a bully who is himself bullied?  We may find out.

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