By George Lakoff & Gil Duran
Sacrament0 Bee (1/4/18)
President Donald Trump’s use of social media has radically transformed presidential communications. His short bursts of text move markets, disrupt diplomacy and inflame political anxiety almost daily.
His smartphone has become one of the most powerful weapons in political history. As a result, there’s a growing pressure campaign by many Democrats to force Twitter to ban him. But kicking Trump off of Twitter would fail to address the real problem.
For one thing, Trump also uses Facebook. And if Facebook banned him, he’d simply jump to another social media platform like Gab, a Twitter copycat popular with white supremacists. His “tweets” wouldn’t miss a beat. They’d just be thumbed into a different platform.
“With investigators closing in on Trump’s possibly treasonous Russia dealings, think of him as a trapped rat with a Twitter account. His attempts to distract will only intensify, but we must stop falling for them.”
Trump’s tweets are irresponsible and un-presidential. Yet the real problem is not Trump’s addiction to social media – it’s ours. Trump uses Twitter to control news cycles because the press, the political class and his Democratic opponents continually empower him to do so.
Every time Trump tweets, he can count on an instantaneous reaction. His tweet fixation fuels a parasitic economy in which people compete to ride his digital coattails. Reporters, Democratic politicians, and social media influencers fall for it every time. They obsessively retweet, analyze and attack. This helps Trump tremendously.
First, they ensure that he dominates the airwaves – and the brainwaves. By focusing massive attention on Trump’s antics, they make him seem larger than life. This produces a cognitive effect called the “focusing illusion,” and it helps explain how Trump ascended from political clown to the presidency. He turned the media into a Twitter news service.
Second, they spread his message. Constant repetition of Trump’s words allows him to set the agenda. Like clockwork, his fellow tweet addicts – including his opponents – repeat every word. They enable him to embed his ideas and images into millions of brains, even yours. For example, which former presidential candidate comes to mind when you see the word “Crooked”? Trump got into your brain.
Third, the continual anti-Trump outrage bolsters his credibility with his base. He can play the victim of the “establishment” he promised to disrupt. He acts, but his opponents only react. He maintains heroic control.
What to do
The reasons why it works this way can be found in the cognitive sciences. By allowing Trump to constantly activate his ideas in our brains, we strengthen the neurocircuitry for those ideas. This allows Trump to dominate on a subconscious level – and 98 percent of thought is subconscious.
Trump isn’t a genius. He’s a super salesman, and has been for most of his life.
Now he’s president, and our gullibility to his antics threatens our democracy …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )