– Photo: Donald Trump in 1985, shortly before the publication of The Art of the Deal. Image Los Angeles Times.
I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks. -Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal
The stunning win by Donald J. Trump in the November 8th U.S. presidential election took many by surprise, since Hillary Clinton was the chosen candidate. Everyone seemed to think that Clinton would win – either legitimately or in a rigged election. News coverage favored Clinton by a wide margin, and the only major network to give Trump a break was Fox News. Most polls predicted that Clinton would win the presidency, with her odds of winning put as high as 85% and Trump’s as low as 35%. The pundits are now asking how they all got it wrong.
– Photo: Journalists at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan before Donald J. Trump appeared early on Wednesday to celebrate his surprise victory.
Blame is being placed on “the e-mail scandal,” with James Comey’s letter of October 28 to the U.S. Congress refocusing attention on Clinton’s private e-mails just 11 days before the election. FBI Director Comey continued the investigation after another 650,000 e-mails were found, this time on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The laptop was confiscated by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and turned over to the FBI. On November 6, Comey, perhaps, caved to pressure, announcing that no charges were warranted, but some said the damage had been done.
Election night was a long, drawn-out affair, with final results not in until 2:40 am on Wednesday. The television networks “called” the electoral vote in the states, a notoriously undemocratic way of deciding U.S. elections before all the votes have actually been counted. Fox News ran consistently high vote counts for Trump, as opposed to the lower numbers predicted at CNN. Dramatic coverage continued into the wee hours, with a number of states said to be “too close to call” – including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, all of which eventually went to Trump, who won by a landslide.
– Photo: Blame Clinton, Not Comey, for Email Woes
Although many states were “called” earlier in the evening based on partial results and exit polls, the last few states were agonized over by the networks, with Fox anchor Megyn Kelly walking back to the desk of experts twice to ask them why they could not call these key states – and when they might be able to do so. According to Kelly, she thought Fox would be able to call the election around 11 pm. She said she expected Clinton to win, until there was an abrupt shift, when “the real vote” started to come in. She ascribed the dramatic turnaround to
“a hidden Trump vote…It was a resounding victory. I have never seen anything like this. You will never have a result this shocking where people got it shockingly this wrong.”
A return to Anthony Weiner’s laptop may provide an explanation.
Anthony Weiner. Image Washington Times.
Unnamed but highly-placed sources, including NYPD detectives and prosecutors, revealed that the laptop contained “enough evidence to put Hillary (Clinton) and her crew away for life.”Also reportedly involved were Huma Abedin, Bill Clinton, Jeffrey Epstein – convicted pedophile, as well as members of the U.S. Congress, the Saudis, and other interests in the Middle East. Epstein and his “Lolita Express” have been associated with numerous well-known people, such as Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, and Bill Clinton. The NYPD reportedly said that if the FBI and Department of Justice did not issue indictments against “Clinton and co-conspirators,” they would go public with the e-mails. According to an NYPD chief:
What’s in the emails is staggering and as a father, it turned my stomach…There is not going to be any Houdini-like escape from what we found. We have copies of everything. We will ship them to WikiLeaks or I will personally hold my own press conference if it comes to that…People are going to prison.
This being the case, what better way to stanch the blood than to give Trump the presidency?
Although Comey let Clinton off the hook, it seems clear that forces within the government had decided she was a liability. Should she be elected, the emails would come out, and she would be indicted along with many others. And Trump had vowed to investigate “crooked Hillary” with chants from supporters to “lock her up.” Inconveniently, as it now turned out, the election had been fixed in favor of Clinton. Clearly it was time to make a deal with Trump.
The best thing you can do is deal from strength, and leverage is the biggest strength you can have. Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without.
-Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal
Let’s say that Trump was approached by government insiders and told he could be president – if he agreed to certain terms. Let’s say that the deal was this: Trump gets a win on November 8th and becomes the nation’s 45th president; he lets all allegations against Clinton and her foundation drop; he respects Obama’s “legacy”; and he agrees to partner with Israel. This deal was struck after Comey’s letter of October 28. Clinton was given notice as Election Day approached (although she may have held out hope that she could win). And the news teams were informed during the course of the election.
When the counter-fix went live, the networks experienced the turnaround – the “hidden Trump vote” referred to by Megyn Kelly. Around 10 or 11 pm, the anchors began to refer to Trump as the winner, frequently correcting themselves or qualifying their statements: “I mean, IF he wins,” or “that is, presuming he is elected.” This included Anderson Cooper and his cronies at CNN, who suddenly turned conciliatory toward Trump after months of abuse and slander. The consolation prize went to Clinton: winning the popular vote. Even this was predicted by the networks, with no surprise or consternation.
It’s strange how things can turn around.
-Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal
Was this the deal of a lifetime? Or did Trump really win the election?
How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds.
Open your Facebook feed. What do you see? A photo of a close friend’s child. An automatically generated slide show commemorating six years of friendship between two acquaintances. An eerily on-target ad for something you’ve been meaning to buy. A funny video. A sad video. A recently live video. Lots of video; more video than you remember from before. A somewhat less-on-target ad. Someone you saw yesterday feeling blessed. Someone you haven’t seen in 10 years feeling worried.
And then: A family member who loves politics asking, “Is this really who we want to be president?” A co-worker, whom you’ve never heard talk about politics, asking the same about a different candidate. A story about Donald Trump that “just can’t be true” in a figurative sense. A story about Donald Trump that “just can’t be true” in a literal sense. A video of Bernie Sanders speaking, overlaid with text, shared from a source you’ve never seen before, viewed 15 million times. An articlequestioning Hillary Clinton’s honesty; a headline questioning Donald Trump’s sanity. A few shares that go a bit too far: headlines you would never pass along yourself but that you might tap, read and probably not forget.
Maybe you’ve noticed your feed becoming bluer; maybe you’ve felt it becoming redder. Either way, in the last year, it has almost certainly become more intense. You’ve seen a lot of media sources you don’t recognize and a lot of posts bearing no memorable brand at all. You’ve seen politicians and celebrities and corporations weigh in directly; you’ve probably seen posts from the candidates themselves. You’ve seen people you’re close to and people you’re not, with increasing levels of urgency, declare it is now time to speak up, to take a stand, to set aside allegiances or hangups or political correctness or hate.
Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the United States each month, out of a total population of 320 million. A 2016 Pew study found that 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. These are approximate exterior dimensions and can tell us only so much. But we can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.
During the 2012 presidential election, Facebook secretly tampered with 1.9 million user’s news feeds. The company also tampered with news feeds in 2010 during a 61-million-person experiment to see how Facebook could impact the real-world voting behavior of millions of people. An academic paper was published about the secret experiment, claiming that Facebook increased voter turnout by more than 340,000 people. In 2012, Facebook also deliberately experimented on its users’ emotions. The company, again, secretly tampered with the news feeds of 700,000 people and concluded that Facebook can basically make you feel whatever it wants you to.
The Facebook product, to users in 2016, is familiar yet subtly expansive. Its algorithms have their pick of text, photos and video produced and posted by established media organizations large and small, local and national, openly partisan or nominally unbiased. But there’s also a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed.
These are news sources that essentially do not exist outside of Facebook, and you’ve probably never heard of them. They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands.
Using a tool called CrowdTangle, which tracks engagement for Facebook pages across the network, you can see which pages are most shared, liked and commented on, and which pages dominate the conversation around election topics. Using this data, I was able to speak to a wide array of the activists and entrepreneurs, advocates and opportunists, reporters and hobbyists who together make up 2016’s most disruptive, and least understood, force in media.
Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created.
Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.
In 2006, when Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to run his rapidly expanding start-up, Mark Provost was a student at Rogers State University in Claremore, Okla., and going through a rough patch. He had transferred restlessly between schools, and he was taking his time to graduate; a stock-picking hobby that grew into a promising source of income had fallen apart. His outlook was further darkened by the financial crisis and by the years of personal unemployment that followed. When the Occupy movement began, he quickly got on board. It was only then, when Facebook was closing in on its billionth user, that he joined the network.
DNC Silence Bernie Delegates:
Now 36, Provost helps run U.S. Uncut, a left-leaning Facebook page and website with more than 1.5 million followers, about as many as MSNBC has, from his apartment in Philadelphia. (Sample headlines:“Bernie Delegates Want You to See This DNC Scheme to Silence Them”and “This Sanders Delegate Unleashing on Hillary Clinton Is Going Absolutely Viral.”)He frequently contributes to another popular page, The Other 98%, which has more than 2.7 million followers.
Clinton delegates have consistently been granted access to the convention hall before Sanders delegates, allowing them to sit at the front of the delegation and use their position to block media cameras from showing protesting delegates behind them in addition to not letting Bernie delegates in the door.
Clinton delegate – “If you see them holding signs, please stand and block them with your signs”#SeatFillerSitin
Occupy got him on Facebook, but it was the 2012 election that showed him its potential. As he saw it, that election was defined by social media. He mentioned a set of political memes that now feel generationally distant: Clint Eastwood’s empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention and Mitt Romney’s debate gaffe about “binders full of women.”He thought it was a bit silly, but he saw in these viral moments a language in which activists like him could spread their message.
Provost’s page now communicates frequently in memes, images with overlaid text. “May I suggest,” began one, posted in May 2015, when opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership was gaining traction, “the first 535 jobs we ship overseas?” Behind the text was a photo of Congress. Many are more earnest. In an image posted shortly thereafter, a photo of Bernie Sanders was overlaid with a quote: “If Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more provide tuition-free college,” read the setup, before declaring in larger text,“we should be doing the same.”It has been shared more than 84,000 times and liked 75,000 more. Not infrequently, this level of zeal can cross into wishful thinking. A post headlined “Did Hillary Clinton Just Admit on LIVE TV That Her Iraq War Vote Was a Bribe?” was shared widely enough to “merit” (as if) a response from Snopes, which called it “quite a stretch.”
This year, political content has become more popular all across the platform: on homegrown Facebook pages, through media companies with a growing Facebook presence and through the sharing habits of users in general. But truly Facebook-native political pages have begun to create and refine a new approach to political news: cherry-picking and reconstituting the most effective tactics and tropes from activism, advocacy and journalism into a potent new mixture.
This strange new class of media organization slots seamlessly into the news feed and is especially notable in what it asks, or doesn’t ask, of its readers. The point is not to get them to click on more stories or to engage further with a brand. The point is to get them to share the post that’s right in front of them. Everything else is secondary.
While web publishers have struggled to figure out how to take advantage of Facebook’s audience, these pages have thrived. Unburdened of any allegiance to old forms of news media and the practice, or performance, of any sort of ideological balance, native Facebook page publishers have a freedom that more traditional publishers don’t: to engage with Facebook purely on its terms. These are professional Facebook users straining to build media companies, in other words, not the other way around.
From a user’s point of view, every share, like or comment is both an act of speech and an accretive piece of a public identity. Maybe some people want to be identified among their networks as news junkies, news curators or as some sort of objective and well-informed reader. Many more people simply want to share specific beliefs, to tell people what they think or, just as important, what they don’t. A newspaper-style story or a dry, matter-of-fact headline is adequate for this purpose. But even better is a headline, or meme, that skips straight to an ideological conclusion or rebuts an argument.
Rafael Riveor is an acquaintance of Provost’s who, with his twin brother, Omar, runs Occupy Democrats Facebook page, which passed three million followers in June. This accelerating growth is attributed by Rivero, and by nearly every left-leaning page operator I spoke with, not just to interest in the election but especially to one campaign in particular: “Bernie Sanders is the Facebook candidate,” Rivero says. The rise of Occupy Democrats essentially mirrored the rise of Sanders’s primary run.
On his page, Rivero started quoting text from Sanders’s frequent email blasts, turning them into Facebook-ready media and memes with a consistent aesthetic: colors that pop, yellow on black. Rivero says that it’s clear what his audience wants. “I’ve probably made 10,000 graphics, and it’s like running 10,000 focus groups,” he said. (Clinton was and is, of course, widely discussed by Facebook users: According to the company, in the last month 40.8 million people “generated interactions” around the candidate. But Rivero says that in the especially engaged, largely oppositional left-wing-page ecosystem,Clinton’s message and cautious brand didn’t carry.)
Because the Sanders campaign has come to an end, these sites have been left in a peculiar position, having lost their unifying figure as well as their largest source of engagement. Audiences grow quickly on Facebook but can disappear even more quickly; in the case of left-leaning pages, many had accumulated followings not just by speaking to Sanders supporters but also by being intensely critical, and often utterly dismissive, of Clinton.
In retrospect, Facebook’s takeover of online media looks rather like a slow-motion coup. Before social media, web publishers could draw an audience one of two ways: through a dedicated readership visiting its home page or through search engines. By 2009, this had started to change. Facebook had more than 300 million users, primarily accessing the service through desktop browsers, and publishers soon learned that a widely shared link could produce substantial traffic. In 2010, Facebook released widgets that publishers could embed on their sites, reminding readers to share, and these tools were widely deployed. By late 2012, when Facebook passed a billion users, referrals from the social network were sending visitors to publishers’ websites at rates sometimes comparable to Google, the web’s previous de facto distribution hub. Publishers took note of what worked on Facebook and adjusted accordingly.
This was, for most news organizations, a boon. The flood of visitors aligned with two core goals of most media companies: to reach people and to make money. But as Facebook’s growth continued, its influence was intensified by broader trends in internet use, primarily the use of smartphones, on which Facebook became more deeply enmeshed with users’ daily routines. Soon, it became clear that Facebook wasn’t just a source of readership; it was, increasingly, where readers lived.
Facebook, however, is also a communications medium that facilitates conversation, organization and the distribution of information among users. It does so under the illusion that users are in control of the process, but of course it is Facebook puling the strings. Facebook could definitely manipulate its service to undermine Trump.
“With Facebook, we don’t know what we’re not seeing. We don’t know what the bias is or how that might be affecting how we see the world. Facebook has toyed with skewing news in the past…. If Facebook decided to, it could gradually remove any pro-Trump stories or media off its site—devastating for a campaign that runs on memes and publicity. Facebook wouldn’t have to disclose it was doing this, and would be protected by the First Amendment.”
Facebook, from a publisher’s perspective, had seized the web’s means of distribution by popular demand. A new reality set in, as a social-media network became an intermediary between publishers and their audiences. For media companies, the ability to reach an audience is fundamentally altered, made greater in some ways and in others more challenging. For a dedicated Facebook user, a vast array of sources, spanning multiple media and industries, is now processed through the same interface and sorting mechanism, alongside updates from friends, family, brands and celebrities.
Facebook can promote or block any material that it wants.
From the start, some publishers cautiously regarded Facebook as a resource to be used only to the extent that it supported their existing businesses, wary of giving away more than they might get back. Others embraced it more fully, entering into formal partnerships for revenue sharing and video production, as The New York Times has done. Some new-media start-ups, most notably BuzzFeed, have pursued a comprehensively Facebook-centric production-and-distribution strategy. All have eventually run up against the same reality: A company that can claim nearly every internet-using adult as a user is less a partner than a context — a self-contained marketplace to which you have been granted access but which functions according to rules and incentives that you cannot control.
The news feed is designed, in Facebook’s public messaging, to “show people the stories most relevant to them” and ranks stories “so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their news feeds.” It is a framework built around personal connections and sharing, where value is both expressed and conferred through the concept of engagement. Of course, engagement, in one form or another, is what media businesses have always sought, and provocation has always sold news.But now the incentives are literalized in buttons and written into software.
Any sufficiently complex system will generate a wide variety of results, some expected, some not; some desired, others less so. On July 31, a Facebook page called Make America Greatposted its final story of the day.“No Media Is Telling You About The Muslim Who Attacked Donald Trump, So We Will..,” read the headline, next to a small avatar of a pointing and yelling Trump. The story was accompanied by a photo of Khizr Khan, the father of a slain American soldier. Khan spoke a few days earlier at the Democratic National Convention, delivering a searing speech admonishing Trump for his comments about Muslims. Khan, pocket Constitution in hand, was juxtaposed with the logo of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. “It is a sad day in America,” the caption read, “where we the people must expose the TRUTH because the media is in the tank for 1 Presidential Candidate!”
Readers who clicked through to the story were led to an external website, called Make America Great Today, where they were presented with a brief write-up blended almost seamlessly into a solid wall of fleshy ads. Khan, the story said — between ads for “(1) Odd Trick to ‘Kill’ Herpes Virus for Good” and “22 Tank Tops That Aren’t Covering Anything” — is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood and a “promoter of Islamic Shariah law.” His late son, the story suggests, could have been a “Muslim martyr” working as a double agent. A credit link beneath the story led to a similar-looking site called Conservative Post, from which the story’s text was pulled verbatim. Conservative Post had apparently sourced its story from a longer post on a right-wing site called Shoebat.com.
Within 24 hours, the post was shared more than 3,500 times, collecting a further 3,000 reactions — thumbs-up likes, frowning emoji, angry emoji — as well as 850 comments, many lengthy and virtually all impassioned. A modest success. Each day, according to Facebook’s analytics, posts from the Make America Great page are seen by 600,000 to 1.7 million people. In July, articles posted to the page, which has about 450,000 followers, were shared, commented on or liked more than four million times, edging out, for example, the Facebook page of USA Today.
Make America Great Again, which inhabits the fuzzy margins of the political Facebook page ecosystem, is owned and operated out of St. Louis by 35-year-old online marketer Adam Nicoloff. He started the page in August 2015 and runs it from his home. Previously, Nicoloff provided web services and marketing help for local businesses; before that, he worked in restaurants. Today he has shifted his focus to Facebook pages and websites that he administers himself. Make America Great was his first foray into political pages, and it quickly became the most successful in a portfolio that includes men’s lifestyle and parenting.
Nicoloff’s business model is not dissimilar from the way most publishers use Facebook: build a big following, post links to articles on an outside website covered in ads and then hope the math works out in your favor. For many, it doesn’t: Content is expensive, traffic is unpredictable and website ads are both cheap and alienating to readers. But as with most of these Facebook-native pages, Nicoloff’s content costs comparatively little, and the sheer level of interest in Trump and in the type of inflammatory populist rhetoric he embraces has helped tip Nicoloff’s system of advertising arbitrage into serious profitability. In July, visitors arriving to Nicoloff’s website produced a little more than $30,000 in revenue. His costs, he said, total around $8,000, partly split between website hosting fees and advertising buys on Facebook itself.
Then, of course, there’s the content, which, at a few dozen posts a day, Nicoloff is far too busy to produce himself. “I have two people in the Philippines who post for me,” Nicoloff said, “a husband-and-wife combo.” From 9 a.m. Eastern time to midnight, the contractors scour the internet for viral political stories, many explicitly pro-Trump. If something seems to be going viral elsewhere, it is copied to their site and promoted with an urgent headline. (The Khan story was posted at the end of the shift, near midnight Eastern time, or just before noon in Manila.) The resulting product is raw and frequently jarring, even by the standards of this campaign.“There’s No Way I’ll Send My Kids to Public School to Be Brainwashed by the LGBT Lobby,”read one headline, linking to an essay ripped from Glenn Beck’s The Blaze; “ALERT: UN Backs Secret Obama Takeover Of Police; Here’s What We Know,” read another, copied from a site called The Federalist Papers Project. In the end, Nicoloff takes home what he jokingly described as a “doctor’s salary” — in a good month, more than $20,000.
Terry Littlepage, an internet marketer based in Las Cruces, N.M., has taken this model even further. He runs a collection of about 50 politically themed Facebook pages with names like The American Patriot and My Favorite Gun, which push visitors to a half-dozen external websites, stocked with content aggregated by a team of freelancers. He estimates that he spends about a thousand dollars a day advertising his pages on Facebook; as a result, they have more than 10 million followers. In a good month, Littlepage’s properties bring in $60,000.
Nicoloff and Littlepage say that Trump has been good for business, but each admits to some discomfort. Nicoloff, a conservative, says that there were other candidates he preferred during the Republican primaries but that he had come around to the nominee. Littlepage is also a recent convert. During the primaries, he was a Cruz supporter, and he even tried making some left-wing pages on Facebook but discovered that they just didn’t make him as much money.
In their angry, cascading comment threads,Make America Great‘s followers express no such ambivalence. Nearly every page operator I spoke to was astonished by the tone their commenters took, comparing them to things like torch-wielding mobs and sharks in a feeding frenzy. No doubt because of the page’s name, some Trump supporters even mistake Nicoloff’s page for an official organ of the campaign. Nicoloff says that he receives dozens of messages a day from Trump supporters, expecting or hoping to reach the man himself. Many, he says, are simply asking for money.
Many of these political news pages will likely find their cachet begin to evaporate after Nov. 8. But one company, theLiberty Alliance, may have found a way to create something sustainable and even potentially transformational, almost entirely within the ecosystem of Facebook. The Georgia-based firm was founded by Brandon Vallorani, formerly of Answers in Genesis (AiG), the organization that opened a museum in Kentucky promoting a literal biblical creation narrative. Today the Liberty Alliance has around 100 sites in its network, and about 150 Facebook pages, according to Onan Coca, the company’s 36-year-old editor in chief. He estimates their cumulative follower count to be at least 50 million.
A dozen or so of the sites are published in-house, but posts from the company’s small team of writers are free to be shared among the entire network. The deal for a would-be Liberty Alliance member is this: You bring the name and the audience, and the company will build you a prefab site, furnish it with ads, help you fill it with content and keep a cut of the revenue. Coca told me the company brought in $12 million in revenue last year.
(The company declined to share documentation further corroborating his claims about followers and revenue.)
Because the pages are run independently, the editorial product is varied. But it is almost universally tuned to the cadences and styles that seem to work best on partisan Facebook. It also tracks closely to conservative Facebook media’s big narratives, which, in turn, track with the Trump campaign’s messaging:Hillary Clinton is a crook and possibly mentally unfit; ISIS is winning; Black Lives Matter is the real racist movement; Donald Trump alone can save us; the system — all of it — is rigged. Whether the Liberty Alliance succeeds or fails will depend, at least in part, on Facebook’s algorithm. Systemic changes to the ecosystem arrive through algorithmic adjustments, and the company recently adjusted the news feed to “further reduce click-bait headlines.”
For now, the network hums along, mostly beneath the surface. A post from a Liberty Alliance page might find its way in front of a left-leaning user who might disagree with it or find it offensive, and who might choose to engage with the friend who posted it directly. But otherwise, such news exists primarily within the feeds of the already converted, its authorship obscured, its provenance unclear, its veracity questionable. It’s an environment that’s at best indifferent and at worst hostile to traditional media brands; but for this new breed of page operator, it’s mostly upside. In front of largely hidden and utterly sympathetic audiences, incredible narratives can take shape, before emerging, mostly formed, into the national discourse.
– Trump’s following on the major social media networks absolutely blow Clinton out of the water.
The article cited a litany of social-media statistics highlighting Trump’s superior engagement numbers, among them Trump’s Facebook following, which is nearly twice as large as Clinton’s. “Don’t listen to the lying media — the only legitimate attack they have left is Trump’s poll numbers,” it said. “Social media proves the GOP nominee has strong foundation and a firm backing.” The story spread across this right-wing Facebook ecosystem, eventually finding its way to Breitbart and finally to Sean Hannity’s “Morning Minute,” where he read through the statistics to his audience.
Before Hannity signed off, he posed a question: “So, does that mean anything?” It’s a version of the question that everyone wants to answer about Facebook and politics, which is whether the site’s churning political warfare is actually changing minds — or, for that matter, beginning to change the political discourse as a whole. How much of what happens on the platform is a reflection of a political mood and widely held beliefs, simply captured in a new medium, and how much of it might be created, or intensified, by the environment it provides? What is Facebook doing to our politics?
Appropriately, the answer to this question can be chosen and shared on Facebook in whichever way you prefer. You might share this story from The New York Times Magazine, wondering aloud to your friends whether our democracy has been fundamentally altered by this publishing-and-advertising platform of unprecedented scale. Or you might just relax and find some memes to share from one of countless pages that will let you air your political id. But for the page operators, the question is irrelevant to the task at hand. Facebook’s primacy is a foregone conclusion, and the question of Facebook’s relationship to political discourse is absurd — they’re one and the same. As Rafael Rivero put it to me, “Facebook is where it’s all happening.”
The mainstream media (msm) doesn’t just decide what stories to cover, they decide what stories to cover up!
And as much as the ‘Sandernistas ’ attempt to disarticulate Sanders “progressive” domestic policies from his documented support for empire (even the Obamaite aphorism “Perfect is the enemy of good” is unashamedly deployed), it should be obvious that his campaign is an ideological prop – albeit from a center/left position – of the logic and interests of the capitalist-imperialist settler state.
I agree with pretty much everything he is saying. He is articulating a Marxist critique of American empire and its justificatory narratives (the ‘civilizing mission’ and/or Orientalism). The origins of this country and its western expansion is basically the definition of settler colonialism and the brutality that the Native American population suffered shouldn’t be ignored as a necessary consequence of liberalism’s teleological mission. And yeah, Sanders never distanced himself from the status quo of American foreign policy and its interests, which are dictated by capitalist accumulation and demands that American military power insure the centrality of market capitalism. Actually, it’s my intellectual agreements that makes me so outraged because his presentation of what it means to be a ‘leftist’ doesn’t involve a nuanced critique of power relations and global inequality.
Instead he just wants to emphasize how not enough people are appropriately outraged by the status quo, which is informing his definition of white supremacy as well. Him calling the vigils for the Charlie Hebdo victims a ‘white supremacist rally’ is because those same people aren’t mobilizing and expressing their moral outrage when Iraqis are slaughtered by the French government, for example. And that’s just such an ugly way of arguing and it isn’t actually trying to articulate or realize a political alternative, or any potentially hegemonic political project to imagine a different future, which is the biggest problem with the contemporary Left, besides maybe its tendency towards jingoism.
I could write an essay expressing my anger and if anyone wants to keep talking about this just send me a PM.
Because Hillary Clinton is white and no longer young, a strain of political thought holds that she might lack Barack Obama’s inherent appeal to new and minority voters and thus that she won’t be able to ride the Democratic party’s demographic advantages to easy victory in 2016.
Writing for the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein ably sketches the nightmare scenario for liberals. “If Hillary’s performance among black voters retreats to more typical Democratic levels,” he writes, “it will hinder her efforts in swing states such as Ohio and Florida, where Democrats need to rack up huge margins in urban areas to make up for their weaknesses in other parts of the states. … It’s questionable that young voters will flock to vote at historically high levels for a 69-year-old white woman who has been a national political figure since before many of them were born.”
The nightmare for conservatives is a complementary scenario in which Clinton holds the Obama coalition together without issue and simultaneously increases Democratic margins among women and whites. In that world, she defeats her opponent by greater margins than Obama defeated John McCain and Mitt Romney. But there’s no reason to assume that outcome is any more likely than the one Klein alluded to. And there’s also no reason Democrats should tinker with a winning formula. If Clinton can turn out Obama’s voters, she will win.
The challenge, then, is to make sure Clinton’s age and ethnicity don’t discourage Obama’s youthful, diverse supporters from turning out in November 2016. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make sure that doesn’t happen. Clinton simply has to select Barack Obama as her running mate.
LOL, you might be thinking. Obama can’t be the vice president. That would place him at the top of the line of succession, and the Constitution limits him to two terms. Clinton would end up in court before she ended up in the White House if she pulled something like that.
I’ll grant that if Democrats nominate Barack Obama to be their vice presidential candidate next year, it would be somewhat controversial. But here Democrats can borrow tactically from the literal-minded conservatives who have seized on syntactic oddities to unravel Obama’s domestic agenda. As a purely textual matter, the Constitution merely prohibits Obama from being elected to a third term. It doesn’t necessarily prohibit him from actually being president again, should Hillary Clinton no longer be able to serve. And were he on the ticket, Clinton’s potential liabilities with Obama loyalists would disappear.
There are three sections of the Constitution that prescribe limits on who can be president and vice president: Article II, the Twelfth Amendment and the Twenty-Second Amendment. While the former two limit who is “eligible” to serve—natural born citizens, 35 or older—the Twenty-Second Amendment begins “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”
Whether its adopters intended it or not, the plain language of the Twenty-Second amendment doesn’t prohibit a former two-term president from succeeding a sitting president and serving out the remainder of her term. It merely prohibits him from running for a third. By using the term “elected” instead of “eligible,” its authors created a loophole large enough for a Clinton-Obama ticket to coast to victory through.
Clinton and Obama couldn’t pull this off without some awkwardness. The last time this issue surfaced, in 2007, it generated enough buzz that Bill Clinton had to pop the speculative bubble on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
There are some people who believe it can [happen], and they have contorted readings of the amendment, the Twenty-Second Amendment. But I believe as a matter of general interpretation, you’re supposed to read all the Constitution including all the Amendments as if they were almost written on the same day at the same moment, so they’re consistent with one another.
And the Constitution says the qualifications for Vice President are the same as those for President. Now you can read that to mean “to serve,” not “to run for.” But I just don’t believe that it’s consistent with the spirit of the Constitution for someone who’s been President twice to be elected Vice President. I just don’t think it’s Constitutional. However, it is certainly possible.
Frankly, though, it would be a great opportunity for Hillary to establish her independence from Bill. The media won’t let her to run an entire campaign without breaking ranks with him over something. Why not her running mate?
I gather Republicans wouldn’t be terribly happy about all this. The Supreme Court’s five conservative justices might even disallow it. But they’d have to abandon their textualist predilections to do so. Reince Priebus v. Barack Obama would become the Bush v. Gore of our time, except in this instance, the Court wouldn’t be able to frustrate the will of the voters outright.