The mainstream media, pollsters and the political class have been either scratching their heads or suffering from constant fits of despair in recent days. They can’t believe that Donald Trump won the election despite the fact that Hillary’s campaign had more money, more advertising, and more people on the ground, most of the mainstream media backing her, major corporations behind her and most of the mainstream celebrities supporting her campaign. This is because they all completely overlooked the role the internet played in this election in helping to create a Trump victory. The victory was specifically due to the rise of the new alternative media and the following Trump was able to create on social media sites.
This should come as surprise to the most serious of political analysts, given that Americans’ trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low at only 32% with trust by Republicans only at 14%. Citizens have always had a fair level of scepticism about the mainstream media and criticism of them is nothing new. However before the age of the internet citizens had no alternative method to get their news. Television, radio and print media were all that there was and were all owned by only a handful of media moguls. Starting up your own television or radio network was extremely expensive not to mention you had to get a licence from a government agency (basically ask the government for permission to broadcast). If you wanted to start your own newspaper and magazine you needed to be able to afford to print it on a regular basis and get it on sale in major retail chains.
However that has changed now with the growth of the internet and the cost and ability to start your own news website drastically lower. It is not just blogs, anyone can start a YouTube channel putting their opinion out there or start a podcast and have it accessible all to people all over the world with iTunes. Also the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and to a lesser degree Reddit and 4chan have also allowed people to put their views out to a wide range of people and also connect with people who have similar political views to them.
The internet has allowed many new media platforms to emerge and has arguably had its greatest impact catering to conservatives and the new right. America is still a country where conservatives are the largest number of voters so the popularity of these conservative sites should come as no surprise. Among the sites that had the biggest rise in popularity this year were Breitbart, Infowars, Drudge Report and the Daily Caller which were unashamedly pro Trump in catering to his large support base.
The traditional media dominance had limited the conservative voice in the public area. The first demonstration of the popularity of conservative media happened with the repeal of the FCC Fairness Doctrine in the 1980’s, meaning broadcast media was not required by law to be balanced. This led to the explosion of conservative talk radio programs such as Rush Limbaugh and San Hannity. The only media mogul who picked up on this large audience base wanting to be catered to was Rupert Murdoch. This is why he started Fox News in 1996 which is now the most watched cable news channel. The rest of the major media corporations took no notice and continued with their liberal bias but of course claimed that their news was neutral.
It could be said that in an election where only the traditional mainstream media was the only source of news Trump wouldn’t have stood a chance. But because there were these alternative news sources, ones which reported on the lies and corruption of the Clinton campaign, that told the truth about why Trump’s campaign was so popular and correcting the many untruths told in the media about Trump. The WikiLeaks emails were buried by the mainstream media but were reported on by many online alternative news sites.
Social media sites, despite the effort that was put in by their owners to censor conservative news and accounts, helped bring Trump’s supporters together. This had the effect of his supporters realising they were not alone, their opinions were not fringe ones, that they had allies all of over the country. The rise of pro-Trump Facebook groups and pages did the work of spreading Trump’s message to thousands of voters which was traditionally done by phone and door knocking. Trump himself has credited social media for his success stating “I think that social media has more power than the money they spent, and I think maybe to a certain extent, I proved that”.
In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, it should come as no surprise that those in the mainstream media are decrying the role the new media and social media played in this election. They point to the fact that fake news is able to circulate online and that when people are online they tend to be fed news that agrees with their political views. Although this can be argued it has never been easier to fact check stories and find out the truth for yourself. Falling for fake news and living in an echo chamber as it is called affects both conservatives and progressives. The criticism of online news is nothing more than a tantrum by progressives that they can no longer control the media and the political narrative, that the people no longer trust them and instead going elsewhere to find out what the truth really is, it is an unpleasant truth to them.
Libertarian podcaster Stefan Molyneux correctly concluded ‘FDR won because of radio, JFK won because of television, Trump won because of social media’. Trump was able to directly bypass the media gatekeepers, the most obvious example being his twitter account where he was able to send his message straight to the people. His supporters were able communicate in ways never before seen. This was the internet and new media election, the mainstream media even with their extremely biased coverage was not able to win the election for Hillary. They have been permanently discredited and they will see their ratings, circulation and subscriber numbers continuing to fall.
The left’s only way to stop the new media would be censor or heavily regulate internet content, which some of them want to do. This election has shown the power of this new technology and has achieved a great accomplishment in the election of Donald Trump. It is here to stay, Trump’s movement and supporters are here to stay and has forever changed the media and the world.