by Radical X
“Social Media: Like Owning A Newspaper but without the losses.” – Donald Trump
Behind the schoolboy rhetoric and dandelion fuzz lies an unlikely GOP front-runner whose populist anti-immigrant rhetoric and ‘All American’ free market thinking have divided the Republican party and re-ignited the race to the Whitehouse.
Trump began his improbable political rise to fame working for his father’s company. As one of the most ruthless and controversial property barons in modern history, Trump successfully ‘survived,’ bankruptcy, rent stabilization programs and a slump in the real estate market to emerge as a golden phoenix of the American Dream. His celebrity status was sealed when he became the face of NBC’s ‘reality’ TV show The Apprentice, beaming him into people’s living rooms all over the world. The hit show resulted in a variety of lucrative spin-offs and the cult persona of TRUMP was born .
Despite NBC pulling ties with Trump after his derogatory remarks about Mexicans, the fire had been lit. Latterly, following his incredulous edict banning all Muslims from entry to the USA, the Robert Gordon University in Scotland stripped him of his honorary degree, and Muhammad Ali has been forced to speak out, while foreign dignitaries and heads of state have publicly denounced Trump’s comments as ‘divisive, and ‘laughable.’ So, how has the self acclaimed Svengali of the corporate world, with no coherent political philosophy to speak of become the leading GOP candidate for President of the United States of America?
Is he, as some stalwart Trump supporters claim, an anti-establishment hero or dangerously narcissistic with self-deluded convictions. He brags he can make his country ‘great again’ and be the ‘greatest jobs president ever.’ Certainly classic traits of the clinical disorder manifest themselves in his trademark bravado: lack of empathy, self-superiority, and the continuous need for grandiosity. His company track record boasts not two, not three, but four bankruptcies. One has to admire the tenacity of his can-do spirit. He appears invincible.
Serious political pundits have dismissed his rising appeal but largely ignored his social media savvy. Some might say his stats are even more impressive than a playboy centerfold: Over 4.5 million Facebook fans, over 5.5 Twitter listeners, and high-ranking followers on You Tube, Vine, and Instagram. So you can’t escape him, Trump is everywhere. Dan Pfeiffe, the social media wizard largely responsible for Obama’s cyber presence, claims one of the simple reasons behind his mass popularity is he’s ‘goo,’ at social media. Justin Mcconey, the man credited for Trump’s Instagram videos, hailed as the future of American political campaigning, ensures Trump is ever-present. Who needs outdated TV ads when 15 minutes on Instagram will do the trick? Lo-fi, cheap and easily accessible, they cost virtually nothing to produce and are often picked up by mainstream news media. Trump’s clever use of social channels earns him free publicity and a dominance on social media compared to other Republican candidates.
The Trump media team also produce short, sharp videos with ‘judgement day’ music and selective soundbites. Surprisingly, the Trump Channel has in excess of 1.3 million views. Like a real President in waiting, Trump has announced a regular Q and A session on Periscope.
He’s not the first political candidate to embrace new media to galvanise public support. Leni Riefenstahl’s movies used by Goebbels to puff up Hitler are famous, and the TV candidacy of JFK is well documented, many viewing him as the “First TV President.” What is intriguing, however, is Trump’s condescension of mainstream media. He doesn’t need them, want them or trust them. He plays the game, breaking the rules. “You can kiss my fat ass,” he seems to say at the conventions, red tape and etiquette of political campaigning. And this is the root of his popularity.
Real or Fake ?
There are signs online media is reacting to this popularity. One Twitter Audit study revealed that only 64% of his followers are ‘real’ as opposed to spam bots spanning from, ironically, Muslim countries like Malaysia. And Anonymous and other hacktivists have targeted him for attack. Following his outrageous comments on Muslims, an online petition calling for a ban to his entry to the UK netted 360,000 signatures in just 24 hours. There are now apps to remove all trace of him from the web and even an online poo emoji from Chrome.
Despite impressive polling figures and warning cries from the likes of Arianna Huffington and Buzz Feed’s Ben Smith, Trump may be a victim of his own anti-politician, reality TV fame and go down in the annals of history as the tango-tanned people’s clown who became victim of his own celeb hype because Trump is pure fantasy, a product of the zeitgeist fame train. Without salacious sound bytes, inflammatory spitballing or manipulating the media to work for him, Trump’s straight talking red-faced flame throwing would be exposed for what it is: a glorious sham.