Media Trends

The Failings Of Traditional And Social Media, The Destruction Of Fact, and the Election of a Demagogue

The Failings Of Traditional And Social Media, The Destruction Of Fact, and the Election of a Demagogue

In a post-election analysis, media research firm mediaQuant calculated that Donald Trump earned approximately $4.96 billion in “free” media – compared to just $3.24 billion for Hillary Clinton, and $1.15 billion and $0.7 billion from Obama and Romney in 2012 respectively. “Free” media refers to all media not directly paid for through advertising – examples include online articles, television and radio interviews, broadcasts of campaign rallies, print articles, blog and forum posts, and social media. However, no media is truly free – in Donald Trump’s case, much of his media attention was “earned” through his bombastic remark, abhorrent behavior, and ability to incite rallying cries with racist, xenophobic, sexist, and hateful rhetoric. The media chose to give Mr. Trump air-time because he brought in the ears, eyes, and clicks of the nation – some of whom found security and comfort through his fear mongering, many fearfully seeing him as a dangerous demigod comparable to history’s most horrific leaders, and yet others finding his efforts futile and humorous.

In terms of broadcast media, Trump just narrowly outgained Clinton in “free” media. Still, in a 24-hour TV news format, Trump’s coverage was enormous. According to The GDELT Project’s Presidential Election 2016 Candidate Television Tracker, Donald Trump’s name was mentioned by TV news stations at least three times as frequently as the next candidate since July of 2015. Clinton’s mentions would eventually catch up as we neared the general election, however Trump would on average have substantially more mentions than Clinton on any given day leading up to the election. In a conversation at Harvard University back in October, CNN’s President Jeff Zucker said he had no regrets about how his network covered Mr. Trump and acknowledged that his campaign was a ratings machine. As a bit of a half-measure, Zucker admitted that if he could change one thing about his network's spotlight on Trump’s presidential campaign, he would have shown fewer Trump “campaign rallies in those early months unedited.” He added, “I think in hindsight, we shouldn’t have done that as much.” While several news outlets did work tirelessly to reveal the lies and flip-flops of Trump’s candidacy, the oversaturation of seemingly non-stop Trump coverage helped launch and legitimize his candidacy and vindicate his supporters. Despite its role in Trump’s eventual rise to the presidency, he would nonetheless grow to despise and condemn the very same attention that made his victory possible, urging his supporters away from mainstream media.

America’s Bigotry and Hate Speech Problem Can’t Be Ignored

America’s Bigotry and Hate Speech Problem Can’t Be Ignored

In an age where being politically correct and standing up for social justice are seen as weaknesses, those that are victims of social injustice are often berated with slurs, insults, and threats through social media. Twitter, which considers itself the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” has come under fire from both ends of the political spectrum (for simultaneously doing too much and too little to police hate speech on its platform).

This summer, conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos’ attacks on SNL and Ghostbusters 2016 star Leslie Jones were well documented. While Twitter decided to permanently ban Yiannopoulos for his racist and sexist comments against Jones, this response did little to slow down the hateful army of the “alt-right” - an aggressive group of conservative racist nationalists. Those informed on the incident regardless of political leaning will tell you that removing abusers and instigators like Yiannopoulos is not enough to stop hate speech. While the alt-right rally behind those like Yiannopoulos - decrying that Twitter is no longer a beacon of free speech - most decent human beings plead with Twitter to do more to combat the pervasive and overtly racist and misogynistic hate speech that runs rampant on its platform.

Hashtag Activism – Turning Whispers into Shouts and Fighting Stigma with Story

Hashtag Activism – Turning Whispers into Shouts and Fighting Stigma with Story

The concept of hashtag activism is nothing new. The term, coined by media outlets to refer to the use of Twitter hashtags for social movements and activism, first appeared in September of 2011 in an opinion piece published by The Guardian, where it was used to describe the role social media played in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Utilizing hashtags on social media sites, which originated on Twitter as a means of coordinating conversations, activists in the Occupy Wall Street Movement were able to coordinate and organize spontaneous protests. Since then, hashtag activism has taken a variety of forms and is used to describe an umbrella of online activity – moving on from simply raising awareness and coordinating marches and protests to connecting communities, fostering discussion, sharing stories, and ultimately driving social change. While there is no shortage of opinions on the effectiveness of hashtag activism – with thinkpieces abound decrying it “vanity activism, in which narcissistic pronouncements substitute for actual engagement” – there is no question that social media puts the power of narrative in the hands of anyone and everyone, giving voice to those who’ve been silenced, story to those who’ve endured erasure, and a welcoming community to those who’ve been isolated by shame and stigma.