messaging, mendacity, and media

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Bob Cesca's Salon piece "Taking the Resistance to Trumpland" points out that "The message of the resistance hasn't broken through Trump's wall of mendacity:"

Couple the large-scale Russia scandal with his explosive diarrhea of horrendous tweets and public statements, along with the fact that his own staffers think he's mentally unstable, and there's simply no logical reason why Trump hasn't been driven from office in disgrace.

"Republicans still support Trump by overwhelming margins," he mentions, as "86 percent of GOP voters still approve of Trump's job performance so far:"

The problem here is obvious. Voters who still support Trump aren't getting the news. The ongoing Trump catastrophe isn't breaking through the firewall of disinformation at Fox News or AM talk radio, and, so Trump's popularity remains unnaturally higher than it should be. Shockingly, much of the news you're reading and watching throughout a typical day is being intercepted and buried by pro-Trump media outlets and publications, making it virtually impossible for Trump voters to get a full taste of how irresponsible they were by electing a professed sexual predator and/or a mentally unstable game show host to be president.

A key part of correcting this will be bursting their false narrative of white victimhood. Despite mockery of #triggered snowflakes and "safe spaces," writes Sean McElwee, "feelings of victimhood are central to Trump's appeal:"

Far from being concerned about "facts, not feelings," Trump supporters and the conservative movement have created a false narrative of victimhood that motivates their supporters.

McElwee quotes Corey Robin from his book The Reactionary Mind:

Far from being an invention of the politically correct, victimhood has been a talking point of the right ever since Burke decried the mob's treatment of Marie Antoinette. The conservative, to be sure, speaks for a special type of victim: one who has lost something of value, as opposed to the wretched of the earth, whose chief complaint is that they never had anything to lose.

"Trumpism is a movement built around the loss of privilege and perceived social status and a desire to re-create social hierarchy," McElwee writes, "one that requires its adherents to live in a state of constant fear and victimization:"

This mythology requires extensive ideological work and media filtering to remain true. Conservatives must create an ideological bubble in which crime is out of control (instead of hovering near historic lows), the rate of abortion is rising (instead of falling), refugees are committing terrorist attacks en masse (they aren't at all) and immigrants are taking jobs (it's the capitalists), all while the government is funneling money to undeserving black people (black people receive government support in accordance with their share of the population, despite making up a disproportionately large share of the poor). Conservatives, and many in the general public, believe that Muslims and immigrants (both legal and unauthorized) make up a dramatically larger share of the population than they actually do.

"At the same time," he continues, "the right has created a caricature of their opponents on the left:"

In this imagined caricature, the left is sensitive to being "triggered" at every corner, but also capable of unspeakable political violence. The activist left are "snowflakes" on one hand, and brutal killers on the other. In reality, political violence has long been a tactic of the right, from the labor violence that left thousands of workers dead to lynchings to brutality against peaceful protesters inflicted by corporate security and police to the harassment of women seeking abortion, the destruction of abortion clinics and the assassination of doctors who provide abortions. The rhetoric of victimization has costs -- white supremacists are committing unspeakable violence to combat the perceived threat of immigrants, Muslims and people of color. For the next four years, we are likely to have a government driven by perceptions of white Christian victimhood.

Another all-too-prevalent misperception on the Right is the "liberal media" myth:

One would expect Trump -- a reality TV star who clearly understands the importance of ratings -- to have a pretty good idea how the mass media works in America. In public, however, the president espouses a simplistic right-wing view of the press, portraying it as an all-powerful monolith that is always out to unfairly smear him and advance a sinister left-wing agenda. (Trump may believe this to a degree, but he has clearly been playing on the right's ingrained distrust and paranoia.)

And thus, in Trump's mind, the press is the "opposition party," as his chief strategist Steve Bannon put it last month. It deliberately underreports Islamic terrorist attacks while overreporting or manufacturing bad press, such as mass protests, his slipping approval rating or public opinion polls that disapprove of his agenda.

In reality, the mainstream media, or the "corporate media," is driven primarily by business rationale and the profit motive, not some left-wing or liberal agenda.

For a specific--and highly relevant--example, see this Harvard Gazette article about researcher Thomas Patterson:

Given all of the attention that was devoted to Trump by the press, it certainly wasn't surprising that he got the lion's share of the coverage. The interesting part is how much of that was favorable coverage, which contradicts the media narrative that they were tough on him from the beginning.

Patterson's Harvard study from last June found that "Trump got the most coverage of any candidate running on either side" during the primaries, and that the vast majority of it "was favorable in tone:"

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton received the "least favorable coverage of any Democratic or Republican candidate," and during the first half of her campaign there were "three negative reports about her for every positive one." That was partly because Clinton undeniably came with extensive political baggage, but it also discredits the right-wing narrative that the media was a propaganda machine for Clinton.

(Not that logical consistency has ever been one of their strengths...)

Besides reality-TV-style political campaigns, terrorist attacks and other calamities tend to bring in big ratings for news networks, which means Trump has it completely backwards when he claims that those in the media "have their reasons" for underreporting terrorism. In fact, they have every reason to overreport and sensationalize terrorism -- which they do. This sensationalism has resulted in a false perception of violence and danger, leaving Americans extremely fearful of terrorism even though they're more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than to die in a terrorist attack.

Here is some detail from the study:

This paper evaluates news media coverage of the invisible primary phase ["the period before a single primary or caucus vote is cast "] of the 2016 presidential campaign through the lens of the election reporting of eight news outlets--CBS, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

"Trump's coverage was worth millions in free exposure"--the paper estimates $55 million during this phase alone--and which the paper describes as "an unprecedented amount of free media." Additionally, despite the candidate's best efforts to demonstrate his unfitness for office, the majority of his coverage was favorable:

20170213-favorablecoverage.JPG

What happened on the Democratic side of the 'invisible primaries'?

Over the course of 2015, the Democratic race got less than half as much news exposure as the Republican race.

Less coverage of the Democratic side worked against Bernie Sanders' efforts to make inroads on Clinton's support. Sanders struggled to get badly needed press attention in the early going. With almost no money or national name recognition, he needed news coverage if he was to gain traction.

"Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump," the paper observes, "it helped tear down Clinton:"

Trump's positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton's negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.

Here, for example, is the consistently negative tone of Clinton's coverage:

20170213-negativetone.png

Perhaps we should be investigating the Trump campaign's collusion with domestic media outlets, and not merely with Russian oligarchs.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 13, 2017 9:26 AM.

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