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Donald Trump and the Art of Controlling Social Conversations


October 2017

Regardless of how one feels about President Trump, he is unquestioningly the absolute master of creating controversy and controlling public dialogue. There are varying opinions about his goals, motives, and even social awareness of how and why he does this. I leave those speculations alone for now. What I will say is this… Without modern social media, this could never happen. That alone should give us concern. “Going viral” opens enormous possibilities for short-term thinking, transitory values, evil tyrants, and even well-meaning statesmen and “saviors.” The web is the greatest social accelerator in human history.

President Trump’s primary communication strategy is social media. This gives him two essential things: First, he circumvents the leftist, elite, conventional media (which they both hate and fear him for); and secondly, social media allows him to go directly to the people. He has demonstrated to the younger generations that he is “in their game,” even if many despise him for his blistering antipathy to political correctness. Mr. Trump is a media player. He is also clearly driven by a need for preeminent attention and appears to hold to the old-school dictum that “there is no such thing as negative press; it means they are still talking about you.”

Our present media circus gives us another clever example of how to add fuel to social conversations: Engage issues that can be interpreted more than one way, thus adding confusion, emotional energy, and an opportunity to obscure people’s motives. An immediate illustration of this “leverage of confusion” is the current controversy over the flag and “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, which has roused divisiveness over race issues, patriotism, political strategy, the topic of ousting President Trump, expressions of political concerns in the wrong venue, etc. From a public agenda control perspective, this one is absolute genius and has many wondering, “Is President Trump really that clever or is it just a stroke of luck?”

A Three-Part Commentary on Flag-Kneeling Issues:

1.     The white population of the United States has virtually zero awareness as a whole of what it means to live as the dominant culture. While we may claim it is “not our fault,” it undeniably carries with it unconscious advantages that we are blind to. Our non-Caucasian brethren see them quickly and so would we if we lived in Nigeria, for example. There are many, many things to say about this.

2.    The issue of police brutality regarding African Americans is equally complex. Firstly, blacks’ percentage of crime relative to their percentage of the population is considerably out of balance, setting them up for profiling. Secondly, is this a race issue, a class issue, a criminal code targeting issue, an absence-of-fathering issue, or a combination of all these issues and more? Amen, and lots to say. I also add to this mess the following personal comment:
I have not been profiled like my black brothers, but I have had my own rude and challenging experiences with police as an athletic, alpha male where I had to “cool my jets.” While I very much appreciate and salute those in law enforcement, there are those who come off like fearful little gods who obviously shouldn’t have the kind of authority they do, and this is not just a “black issue” but an “everybody issue.” On the other hand, who wants to get up every day having to face off with rebellious jerks, some of them very dangerous, in an atmosphere where the public view of you has made your job even harder? There is much to say about all this as well.

3.    President Trump presents an amazingly complex array of questions and issues. While this deserves its own long essay, I will just say this for now: The POTUS is facing unprecedented levels of opposition, made no lighter by his own self-inflicted wounds; if he suffices to be the party’s nomination despite these challenges, it will be because a tidal wave of disenchanted Americans—Republican or Democrat—can no longer tolerate the establishment. Trump the “wrecking ball” is at least not more of the same and may, in exposing the swamp on both the right and the left, clear a path to a new realignment. Indeed, the new alignment is what calls to me.

Sometimes you can’t see clearly until the smoke lifts and the debris settles. What President Trump is doing in his quest for managing the public conversation is serving us all by seeing how both sides of this ugly play need to be phased out and something else phased in. And that is…