Future journalists and media historians will look back on this time in our history and cite this era as when one man, Donald Trump, broke the mold on an entire industry, to wit, political reporting. The media has never known how to report on Trump and this has been not only to the media’s detriment but to the country’s detriment, more importantly. The media had a hand in Trump getting elected in 2016 and they have a hand in him staying in the game.
Trump was a phenomenon back in 2016. He was brash and outrageous and networks gave him “publicity he couldn’t buy for a million dollars,” to quote the movie Network. Simply, the system was not set up for one such as Trump. The Dallas Morning News said, “It was like trying to photocopy inches of cardboard. The machine wasn’t designed to do that, so the machine broke.”
The media machine took quite a hit just yesterday. Trump got on Truth Social and went into complete, all-caps, screaming meltdown. He raved about a Tuesday arrest, arising out of the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation. Later on in the day different outlets began to actually examine the facts, and came to the conclusion that Trump simply guessed that he would be arrested Tuesday. But the damage was — again — done. Trump punked the media once more, like he always does. Today, all the Sunday shows are raving about this non-event, that Trump created yesterday, out of thin air, to benefit himself and to fundraise.
Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel explains it perfectly:
When we left the mainstream Trump press corps on Friday afternoon, they were all focused on the decision by Beryl Howell to rule that some of Evan Corcoran’s testimony in the stolen document case was crime-fraud excepted. Sure, there were journalists using wildly exaggerated descriptions for the uniqueness or surprise of the development. But, on Friday, reporters covering Trump’s legal woes were providing factual descriptions of actual newsworthy developments.
At the time, there was a general awareness that an indictment from Alvin Bragg may come next week, but the focus was the stolen documents investigation, in part because some journalists appear to believe that the crime-fraud ruling was some new sign that Jack Smith believed a crime had been committed.
Then, on Saturday morning, on his failing social media platform, the former President tweeted out incitement that included the following, in all caps:
- An unsubstantiated claim about illegal leaks probably based on Fox News reporting about efforts to prepare for potential violence as a response to a Trump indictment next week
- An attack on Alvin Bragg’s record on crime
- A claim Bragg is funded by George Soros, the kind of coded antisemitism Trump is including in virtually all his communications these days
- An assertion that he would be charged on something that “numerous other prosecutors!” had debunked as a fairy tale
- An overstatement of the degree to which he is leading in polls and an admission that he is the “former” President
- A day, Tuesday, when he would be “arrested”
- A call to “protest,” invoking one of the same cries used to incite a coup attempt on January 6, “take our country back”
The response was almost instantaneous, with one after another journalist screen-capping the tweet in its entirety, some like Kyle Cheney adding no other commentary other than, “🚨 Trumps says he expects to be arrested Tuesday,” with the siren adding to its inflammatory nature. Jonathan Lemire repeated select newsworthy bits — while still including the full screen cap — without mentioning the coded slur on Soros or labeling the entire tweet as obvious incitement; Lemire parroted Trump’s all caps for the purported timing and quoted the incendiary line also associated with January 6.
NEW: Trump is suggesting that he will be ARRESTED ON TUESDAY due to Manhattan DA probe
This is historic: he would be the first former president to be indicted
He urges his supporters to “Protest, take our nation back!”
The absolutely most hysterical tweet magnifying Trump’s words unfiltered came from Jared Holt, a supposed expert on radicalization online, who introduced Trump’s full tweet onto Twitter (where Trump has not tweeted under his own ID since being permitted back on) with the following:
It will be hard to think of a bigger tech moderation failure than if Trump uses the platforms he’s been allowed back onto (FB, YouTube, Twitter) to incite protests again.
As of this morning, Holt’s tweet, along with the screen cap of Trump’s tweet unfiltered, had garnered 230,000 views on Twitter, over 300 RTs and almost 1,700 likes. Lemire’s had garnered 300 quote tweets, almost 600 RTs, over 2,000 likes, and 1.3M views. Cheney’s had garnered 770 quote tweets, 1,200 RTs, 7,400 likes, and 2.6M views.
By publishing such an inflammatory tweet on Truth Social, Trump was rightly calculating that even people like Holt would help to make his unfiltered words go viral on Twitter, as Trump has consistently done during the period when he still remained banned on Twitter.
It’s like Pavlov’s dogs, pure reflexive behavior at this point: The more incendiary Trump’s tweets, the more quickly journalists rush to disseminate them unfiltered on Twitter.
Remarkably, neither Lemire nor Cheney noted the import of the fact that a habitual liar like Trump was only claiming that he expected to be arrested Tuesday, not that he knew he would be.
Trump removed the emphasis of the news cycle from a story he didn’t want it to be on. He didn’t want his lawyer, Corcoran, to be leading newscasts. He didn’t want people talking about the crime-fraud exception. So he went bonkers and captured the news cycle. With ease.
Every journalist knows that Trump’s a pathological liar, but still they picked up his social media post and got it running viral. And that was a good thing, because it showed Trump’s state of mind. The bad thing is that it didn’t get the story in context and now all the world believes that Trump will be indicted on Tuesday, despite the fact that people are still testifying in the case. I’m not saying he won’t be indicted Tuesday, merely saying there is no certainty, because all the time it was only Trump guessing — unless he has some informant at the D.A.’s office and that’s possible, too.
Wheeler continues, “CNN described that the tweet was just a political ploy based off a guess about timing.”
The former president has been agitating for his team to get his base riled up and believes that an indictment would help him politically, multiple people briefed on the matter told CNN.
Joe Tacopina, an attorney for Trump, later said the former president had based his claims on press reports.
“No one tells us anything which is very frustrating. President Trump is basing his response on press reports,” Tacopina said in a statement to CNN.
In other words, the most newsworthy detail in Trump’s tweet (beyond the incitement) — the day he would be charged — was just made up, a guess based off the same information all the rest of us have. It was nevertheless treated as newsworthy by a slew of journalists needing an excuse to disseminate unfiltered incendiary speech on Twitter. And no one has since gone back to amend their original tweets to note that Trump’s claims to know the date of his arrest were a lie.
Trump’s team simply guessed what day he’ll be charged so as to make a call to fight newsworthy enough for kneejerk journalists to help it go viral for him.
It works every single fucking time Trump does this.
Every. Single. Time.
Trump’s playing golf and asking people for money, while the media does his dirty work for him. Now there’s a sense of anticipation that MAGAs are ready to pour into the streets, once again, to defend their cult hero against an unfair system which is out to get him.
And this is almost comical. Heather Cox Richardson reports
Some of Trump’s radical supporters have taken to social media to make a plan for surrounding Mar-a-Lago and protecting Trump with firearms, but others appear to be more eager for someone else to show up than to do so themselves.
Ali Alexander, who helped to organize “Stop the Steal” rallies to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election, wrote to his supporters today: “Previously, I had said if Trump was arrested or under the threat of a perp walk, 100,000 patriots should shut down all routes to Mar-a-Lago…. Now I’m retired. I’ll pray for him though!”
HAHAHAHA! On of the big bad perpetrators of the insurrection is offering thots and preyers in lieu of action.
Donald Trump is a big nothing burger. He’s never been anything but. But he’s also an idiot savant. He understands television and the press and he plays them like a maestro.
Who knows what will happen? Here are the wags on Twitter.
I blew the whistle on January 6th in the days & even weeks leading up to it. The amount of calls for violence & terrorism I’m seeing from Trump’s base regarding his arrest far exceed what I saw leading up to January 6th. I’ve seen hundreds of calls to execute law enforcement! 😳
— LeGate🤠 (@williamlegate) March 18, 2023
It’s so hard to know what’s going on nowadays. We really do live in a world where there are at least two narratives going on any given day. The press is supposed to report reality, not make it. Trump doesn’t know the difference. What he knows is that he needs to use the tools at his disposal on any given day to get what he wants. Unfortunately, the media has always been used by Trump. As I’ve said before, a sea change needs to happen in political reporting. Report him, yes. Get whatever he says in the proper context, absolutely.