Donald Trump works the Internet better than you do (whether he knows it or not)

Disinformation’s favorite cyberculture pundit Douglas Rushkoff brings his usual insight to what’s going on with politics and the media in an op-ed at Digital Trends:

Earlier this month, Donald Trump spewed a string of enraged non sequiturs for two hours straight on a stage in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Donald Trump. Photo: Jamelle Bouie (CC)

Donald Trump. Photo: Jamelle Bouie (CC)


He suggested castration or the death penalty as the only appropriate remedy for the self-admittedly “pathological” Ben Carson. He claimed the U.S. plans to accept 250,000 Syrian refugees even though the Obama administration put that number at 10,000, citing “a pretty good source.” He insisted that in time, “I’ll be right,” as if the truth were some kind of interactive guessing game.

What reality TV did to network television, Trump is doing to network news.

There was no throughline; no coherence; no reality. Even the crowd standing behind him seemed bored and fidgety through the contradictory mash-up of paranoia, wishful thinking, opinion masquerading as fact, and dehumanizing insults. It looked like a campaign implosion. Instead, Trump’s poll ratings went up a couple of points after the speech.

That’s because he’s leveraging a medium that is also, largely, a mash-up of paranoia, wishful thinking, opinion masquerading as fact, and dehumanizing insults. Donald Trump is the ultimate Internet candidate, in not just style but substance. He owes his success to more than just his keen ability to leverage the political economy of a digitally disrupted media space. His rhetoric and positions — such as they are — are also consonant with the underlying biases of the digital-media environment.

More than shares and retweets

No, Trump is not a particularly adept Internet candidate — not in the sense that he is utilizing the organizing capability of the net. Join his campaign online and you get a simple thank-you email. Join Clinton’s or Sanders’ and you are offered the opportunity to notify your friends on social media, donate to the campaign, or attend meetings of volunteers in your neighborhood. There’s no great network of Trump Meetups or series of Reddit exchanges.

Yet Trump is an Internet spectacle nonetheless — a political Charlie Sheen who seems to know exactly how to ride the crest of trending topics, or even create them. On television, his speeches are incoherent mashups, without a clear story or theme. As clickbait, though, they are perfect: short, angry slogans, each more explosive than the last.  With Sheen it was tiger blood and winning; with Trump, it’s Jersey City Jihadists and also, possibly, winning…

[continues at Digital Trends]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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