Social media helped Trump win. Now, it's empowering his opponents
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The press is enamored of the word "narrative" these days. A current favorite: How Donald Trump may live by the sword of social media, but he will also die by it.
Witness the instant demonstrations by women nationwide and over his immigration order. "The alt-majority: How social networks empowered mass protests against Trump" is one of many similar analyses.
When it came to the women's march, "it was...a protest as sprawling, diverse, and ubiquitous as the platform that spawned it: Facebook. The social media platform of more than a billion people is stunning in both its scale and specificity. It’s the world’s town square, a venue far-reaching enough to connect people of all races, religions, and nationalities and targeted enough to elevate the petty squabbles of the local PTA meeting." (Wired)
Let's wonder about the inevitable democratizing impact of technology assumed by many. There are a lot of dictators around. There's a rising right-wing movement in Europe very much fueled by the same technology. And, if New York and Washington-based reporters got out a wee bit more, they'd see that along with all that frustration, there's a whole lot of apathy despite Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, you name it.
On Friday, I tracked down Christian Christiansen, a professor of journalism and communication studies at Stockholm University whose writings include, "Twitter Revolutions: Addressing Social Media and Dissent." He's done some smart stuff, including on "Liberation Technologies" and romanticizing tech. (Irish Studies in International Affairs)
"As tempting as it is to believe or hope, those who discuss the liberating power of technology would do well to think back to the protests in Tahrir Square in Egypt, or the Occupy Wall St. movement in the U.S."
Clay Shirky, an internet expert at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and in the Interactive Telecommunications Program, says, "In any struggle between groups, the internet helps the insurgents more than the incumbents. The internet offers cheap, widely accessible tools for coordination, which benefits large, uncoordinated groups more than smaller, already coordinated ones. (Indeed, as anyone in journalism will tell you, moving from an old to a new form of organization can be far more painful than simply moving from unorganized to organized.)"
It's safe to say, Shirky argues that social media will assist protesters in their resistance to Trump. But it's "naive to say that social media will let them successfully resist all of that agenda."
Relative benefits aren't the same for insurgents as absolute ones. States can always return fire, though there tends to be a cost. "A good chunk of Trump's agenda will be realized no matter what. Whether the net result of resistance ends up counting as a victory for the protesters will depend on who is doing the counting?”
"That has nothing to do with Trump or feminism or U.S. politics," says Shirky. "That's just the logic of massive but asymmetric improvement in coordination."
Let's make note of this, too: Along with all those social media-fueled "stirrings," there's a lot of utter boredom, inattention and ignorance out in the land. The lack of civic engagement is ample, regardless of cable news' endless loop of protest videos.
Check out the next "public" meeting of the school board, town council or transit authority. That Trump backlash may be slower to come than the press so wishfully believes, Instagram or not.
The glory of losing $515 million
So Snapchat lost $515 million, according to its parent's initial public offering prospectus. All the more reason for Wall Street to love it, right?! And it promises to lose even more!
"How much risk investors are willing to stomach could be affected by a unique feature of Snap’s IPO — it could be the only listing of non-voting stock on a U.S. exchange, according to the prospectus." (Bloomberg)
And, "Based on the numbers, Snap looks a lot more like pre-IPO Twitter than it does pre-IPO Facebook, which may not be the comparison potential investors are looking for." (Recode) Nevertheless, it seeks a $25 billion valuation on The New York Stock Exchange. Nuts.
The New York Times notes the obvious: "The White House Correspondents' Dinner has gone from a hoary ritual to the apex of Washington’s social calendar, replete with Hollywood A-listers, tuxedoed television stars and live coverage on the major news networks." (New York Times)
But Vanity Fair will not co-sponsor the swankiest after-party (co-host Bloomberg is proceeding), which is one of the most desperately sought tickets in what passes for the Washington partying pantheon each year, and The New Yorker is ditching a kickoff bash.
It's all about unease with Trump. The big question remains if Trump himself shows, given his (and aides') contempt for "the swamp" and the press. That swamp is epitomized by the nexus of reporters, lobbyists and politicians found at the celebrity-filled dinner, which means there are benefits for Western civilization by this Trump-inspired collateral damage of no-shows.
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" was live in Houston for the Super Bowl, making that about 35 U.S. journalists who aren't there. They quickly segued to video of "out of control kids" at New York University protesting a conservative speaker, Gavin McInnes. Eight were arrested. (New York Daily News)
The Fox crew chalked this up less to pissed-off students than, as co-host Brian Kilmeade put it, "anarchists, the same people who showed up in Washington seemed to show up in Berkeley showed up at NYU."
CNN's "New Day" actually dwelled on foreign policy and whether tough remarks by the new UN ambassador, on "the aggressive actions of Russia," will be followed by action, especially since they seem to counter some of Trump's election rhetoric. It beckoned real, live foreign correspondents to discuss it all from afar (and, later, even offered the taped musings of political savant Howard Stern, who thinks Trump's craving to be loved won't be able to handle the criticism of the job).
"Morning Joe" on MSNBC played good cop, bad cop with the likes of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Joe Scarborough likes our getting "tough" and "consistent," notably with Russia, as we demand Russia get out of Crimea.
Tough day for Zuckerberg, good one for Slim
Bloomberg's Billionaires Index (the one that doesn't include Michael Bloomberg) says that Mark Zuckerberg lost $862 million in the last day, while Carlos Slim made $983 million, leaving their net assets at $56.6 billion and $50.9 billion, respectively. (Bloomberg)
Even with the embarrassing refusal to include the boss, this daily index is a voyeur's delight.
The new tech litigation
"Court tosses lawsuit brought by brother and sister against take-two interactive over NBA2K face scans." (TechDirt) This involved the popular game, which uses face-scanning technology to transport the player right into the game they're playing.
"It's that face-scanning feature that was the subject of an attempted lawsuit by a brother and sister in Illinois, however, who argued that Take-Two was violating the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act, which seeks to ensure that businesses that store biometric data for their customers are protecting that data and not using it in ways the customer had never intended."
A heartland columnist waxes personal on immigration
After I called her Sunday to ask about being an immigrant covering Trump's immigration order, Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu decided to write about the whole experience. Near the end is this:
"This new America is a far cry from the one many of us swore oaths to. That makes it imperative for those of us who can to stick around and fight for real American values. I'm going to use the journalism skills honed in American academic and media institutions to tell the stories of those shut out by Trump’s America. I owe my country at least that much for all it has given me." (Des Moines Register)
Spicer as Howard the Duck
Brianna Edwards of The Root had pool duty yesterday at the White House. If Sean Spicer is at all wary of assisting her, you might understand after this cogent, nuanced, searing analysis from colleague Michael Arceneaux that surfaced during her pool labors:
"Sean Spicer often looks guilty of something. He looks like the person who went into the work refrigerator, saw the juice with your name on it and drank it anyway — and put it back with not the slightest ounce of shame. Spicer also seems like the driver you end up cursing out on the freeway because he sees you trying to get over to make an exit but speeds up to block you from doing so. For no other reason than he can and he likes to inflict pain on others. The man looks salty as hell at all times." (The Root)
A giant Obama payday beckons
Simon & Schuster announced it will publish a new group of Hillary Clinton essays. (New York) The far more obvious book industry story is how much Barack Obama gets for his presidential memoir. Where do you figure the bidding goes? The C.W. is around $20 million.
Gorsuch on the First Amendment
At first blush, media groups don't seem too concerned with Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, when it comes to press issues. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press notes that "the opinions he authored or joined during his more than 10 years on the Tenth Circuit that do touch upon those issues reflect the application of well-established First Amendment principles in a consistent way."
Katie Townsend, the group's litigation director, says, "I don't think anything in his record gives us concern on the First Amendment/free press front, but his record on those kinds of issues is pretty thin. We don't have a lot of opinions to go on. And he's never had a FOIA case! Very different than (Merrick) Garland in that respect."
Trump and Islam
If you missed it, read, "Trump pushes dark view of Islam to center of U.S. policy-making" by Scott Shane, Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Lipton. (The New York Times)
But there's also an interesting blog post by University Chicago Law professor Eric Posner regarding connections some people are making between Trump and Richard Nixon.
"Nixon mastered an effective demagogic tactic: He not only portrayed reasonable security policies in place at the time as inadequate in light of an exaggerated threat; he argued that the inadequacy of those security policies served as evidence that government officials were indifferent to public safety and indeed sympathized or even collaborated with the enemy."
"Replace communism with radical Islam, and Nixon with Trump, and the story seems familiar." (Posner)
The local angle
Forget about groundhogs in Pennsylvania. Check out Betsy DeVos' hometown paper, which was rather less concerned with her Education Secretary nomination than "Turnip the skunk predicts early spring on Groundhog Day at John Ball Zoo." (Grand Rapids, Michigan Press)
Marvin Gaye and the Super Bowl
The Undefeated is worth a look for "How a pair of former Detroit Lions helped inspire one of Marvin Gaye’s most defining records." (The Undefeated)
It's about his classic, "What's Going on" and its link to his trying out for the Detroit Lions at age 31. But what's notable is this: The story originally ran in August, 2015. It deems the piece relevant on Super Bowl week, all the more so since Gaye's song was sent to radio stations on Jan. 17, 1971, the same day the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V.
Good idea. I never saw it originally, glad I have now. When I asked Kevin Merida, the editor, about the gambit, he said there are multiple reasons to run a piece again. "In this age better to give readers/viewers multiple opportunities to discover and share your journalism. We want to be more and more strategic about that."
Fear of the Aurora Beacon News
Linda Girardi of the Aurora, Illinois Beacon News reports, "A group of 16 constituents that arranged to meet with staff members at the West Chicago district office of U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Wednesday about their concerns with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act were abruptly told they would have to reschedule after staff realized a member of the press was present." (Beacon News)
The constituents decided to hold the meeting in the lobby without the presence of Roskam's staff.
Breitbart had a hissy fit over the fact that the University of California at Berkeley, where protests kept noxious Breitbart star Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking, gets lots of research money from the federal government. (Breitbart) Yes, more than 50 percent.
Unmentioned is how that's par for the course. The general figure is about 60 percent nationally. (Association of American Universities) With the big cuts in many state budgets, the federal dollars are even more important.
At Boston University, "whose researchers study an enormous range of subjects, from the birth of frogs to the birth of planets, about 80 percent of the roughly $350 million for sponsored research received in FY 2014 (down from a 2010 peak of $407 million) came directly from the federal government." (Boston University)
Delicious news you can use
"Here's where you can eat cuisines of countries in Trump's refugee ban." (DNAInfo New York) It's the handiwork of Nicole Levy in the DNAInfo section that covers the Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook neighborhoods)
5 things to know about Milo Yiannopoulos
Well, you don't need all five from The Onion. Here are three:
"Is this the neo-Nazi who got punched in the face? Not yet."
"What are his beliefs? He will stand for anything Americans will click on."
"What consequences has he faced for inciting widespread racism and bigotry? A six-figure Simon & Schuster book deal."
Well, those 5,000 journalists at the Super Bowl — sheesh, imagine if you actually reassigned them to actual reporting on state legislatures — might be envious of Milo, our newest free speech hero.
And, oh, get this: he plans to surface at Friday's White House press briefing. (Yahoo)
Knock on wood I have a 7-year-old's parent-teacher conference. Enjoy the weekend.