President Trump has 21.2 million followers on Twitter, and 18.4 million likes on facebook. CNN had a prime time viewership of 2 million people in its best month in 8 years. 62% of American adults get their news from social media. Donald Trump is not going to quit twitter nor should he.
This has been the social media election, the meme war was part of that, but a larger part of that is that for the first time a presidential candidate was able to interface directly with the voting public without the use of an intermediary. Since the founding of America politicians and statesmen have had to rely on news media, first newspapers, then radio, then television, to communicate with the public, inevitably relying on someone else to relay what they are saying hopefully in the way it’s intended.
Twitter and Facebook have changed that irrevocably. The ability of the internet to convey any information that can be stored digitally to vast numbers of people across the entire world is already unmatched and improves exponentially. Going directly to the voting public is clearly a good strategy, especially for an outsider candidate.
The old media once announced to us all the brave new world of online revolutions, Mashable was telling us all about the ‘9 social media uprisings of 2011’ Today the old media laments that social media does not help them after all, and Mashable demands Donald Trump stop tweeting.
They were right in 2011; social media is the greatest democratization of politics in history. Far superior to the printing press or the radio, it reduces the cost of political discourse to almost zero for most people. What they were wrong about is their own understanding of society, and the power structures that govern it. What they thought would be the revolution of people like them against the people in power, became a revolution against people like them because they were the people in power.
Of course this democratization means that the standards of argument have slipped to an alarming degree, but accountability has risen commensurately. People say and believe stupid stuff on the internet, but they are also called out on the internet and the truth eventually emerges. At the level of the individual it is the quality of argument that matters.
CNN and the mainstream media are not used to such accountability, they’re used to being believed, they’re used to being able to select the information handed out for public consumption to the uneducated plebs below. Social media drags them down to a level playing field.
This trend has not yet run its course, but the outcome is inevitable. As new media (like The Unshackled), the cult of the amateur (like its tireless volunteers), and the forming of online communities reduces profit available to old media, they must cut costs, which means old media is increasingly relying on sources like Twitter and Facebook for their content.
It is much cheaper to report on tweets from the Middle East than to send a news team. It is much cheaper to read White House press releases than to investigate government corruption. It is much easier to overcharge for ads in return for favorable content than it is to increase viewership with honest coverage.
This cost cutting means they don’t actually have much to offer beyond what we can find for ourselves. What they do have to offer is analysis, exactly as The Unshackled provides, but at a much higher cost. The reaction is somewhat understandable, though not at all ethical, by branding any upstarts that do not support the power structure rigged in their favour as “fake news”.
It quickly became apparent that the distrust of old media had grown so great because of this very predicament, their attacks rebounded. The Washington Post who were the first to publish a list of “fake news”, were quickly called out by people who actually know what they are talking about, they faced a wave of articles attacking them for their own misbehavior, and eventually called uncle after having their own hypocrisy repeatedly shown to them.
Donald Trump did an end run around the entire failing system. By communicating directly with millions of people he denied a role to the old media. Old media became hysterical which made them easier to ignore. Old media became dishonest which made them easier to dismiss. And in the ruins of their empire they beg Trump to stop communicating on social media.
It’s as if they think he cares what they have to say.