You might have heard President Trump gave a press conference today. Its ostensible goal was to announce Alex Acosta, assistant attorney basic for the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush, as his new labor secretary. Sounds like it must have been quite mundane, appropriate?
It was not.
If you were following what somebody may perhaps carelessly refer to as the mainstream media—CNN, NBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times—you most likely saw a president who seemed unhinged, if not outright dangerous.
But if you were following the media that has coalesced about the president a lot more supportively—Infowars, Breitbart, Fox—you saw a president at the peak of his justifiable pride and understandable disdain for the media. Nicely, the media in that final paragraph.
In a pre-internet, 4-Tv-channel world, the media moved far more gradually, and with a recognizably centralized (if not centrist) voice. But that was a long time ago. The 2016 election and the Trump presidency have been both items of ever-more balkanized sources of data playing to smaller and smaller sized self-chosen audiences, all accelerated to hyperspeed by constantly-on social media and the reporters who use it as a platform. Did you watch the press conference on a network? Or on Twitter?
And all that signifies that President Trump didn’t have just one particular press conference. He had at least two—maybe dozens—all taking spot at the identical time, in the exact same location, refracted by means of a multifaceted crystal of media.
Absolutely everyone would most likely agree on the information: Trump introduced (and quickly moved on from) Acosta, spending as significantly time talking about GOP mega-donor Paul Singer, who recently switched from the “Never Trump” camp to operating with the administration. The president went ballistic on the media. He denied involvement with Russia and recommended firing upon a Russian surveillance ship. He claimed to have scored the most significant Electoral College victory given that Ronald Reagan. (He didn’t.) He insulted his opponent in the election, misunderstood a query about anti-semitism, was disrespectful to a female African-American reporter, and evaded clarity on whether former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn deserved to get ousted from his job. Proper?
But here’s how that played. The stuff about Singer was Trumpian gloating, which both the Washington Post and New York Times reside blogs criticized. CNN highlighted the way Trump bragged about his increasing poll numbers and his cable ratings, noting that “his manner is also most likely to offend or alarm [anti-Trump] voters.” And Trump’s false claim about the Electoral College was debunked in real time.
Trump is an powerful, below-praised leader of a prosperous public. Alex Jones’ InfoWars praised the president for ushering in “the stock market’s longest winning streak in decades.” Breitbart said Trump “rattled off the achievements … that the media is not reporting,” and “trashed the media” for lapses, bias, and falsehoods. On its live weblog, Fox News reiterated the President’s comments about how unbigoted he is, and picked up his criticisms of Hillary Clinton. (POTUS referred to Clinton’s attempt to “reset” US-Russian relations whilst she was Secretary of State, which was by all accounts a failure.)
No filter bubble is completely impermeable. Fox News seemed to back Trump’s (and InfoWars‘ and Breitbart‘s) contention that people leaking data about the Trump White Home are worse than the hackers who cracked the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s emails. But Fox also pushed back against Trump’s claims that the mainstream press was writing fake news and that all was well in his administration.
This is not false equivalence. The Instanceses and CNNs of the planet do not have anyplace near as explicit a political agenda as the Breitbarts and Drudges. They’re not two sides. That is what was on show in the aftermath of the press conference. They didn’t even cover the same factors. They told various stories.
So which is it? Trump’s press conference was undignified, unpresidential, and weirdly directed at the media as an alternative of the nation he leads. But his supporters saw a display of energy by a president sloughing off the manacles of coastal elitism. Thanks to the accelerated hyper-partisanship of a social media-powered news cycle, the nation is now seeing double.
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