X Close

The media’s ‘deplatform Trump’ strategy will backfire

Teflon Don. Credit: Getty

January 17, 2024 - 10:00am

Around 10 minutes into Donald Trump’s victory speech after the Iowa caucuses, CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s voice suddenly drowned out the former president, and cameras soon cut away. Rachel Maddow said outright that MSNBC would not be airing the speech. Normally, the speech of the winner of the Iowa caucus is considered fairly newsworthy — especially if that winner is a former president.

In addition to enraging some Trump allies online, this decision offers another iteration of the relationship between the press and its ultimate frenemy. Trump fuels both the coverage and the performative animus of American journalists. This relationship has gone through many phases, and the media always seems to be dissatisfied with each one.

Throughout much of the 2016 primary, the press lavished flood-the-zone coverage on Trump. They would even show live footage of an empty podium while waiting for him to speak. By the time of the election that year, press coverage turned unrelentingly hostile, with incessant coverage of his various controversial statements. This approach continued throughout his presidency. His “very fine people” remarks in the wake of an alt-Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia generated days of coverage.

After Trump left the Oval Office, however, many media outlets settled on a different strategy: deplatforming him. Trump’s Truth Social feed — his social media Elba — receives relatively little coverage. His speeches are rarely broadcast by major networks in full.

Refusing to broadcast Trump’s Iowa victory speech appears to be just another part of that deplatforming approach. Yet this strategy may — like all the others — prove counterproductive for Trump’s foes. At the core of the presumptive GOP nominee’s 2024 campaign is the message that he stands alone against the combined forces of the American elite. Deplatforming him only reinforces this message. Indeed, social media posts attacking the non-coverage of Trump’s victory speech have already notched up millions of views. The decision not to cover Trump’s speech may get more coverage than the speech itself.

In addition to playing into Trump’s preferred narrative, his media deplatforming may help him in another way, too: a lack of coverage of some of his more incendiary claims on social media might cause on-the-fence voters to feel more comfortable with him. Safely deplatformed by the press, Trump might come across as colourful rather than offensive. If public polling is any indication, voters may prefer to return a more colourful Trump to the White House when the alternative is another four years of Joe Biden.

Much media coverage of the primaries has focused on polling and negative process stories about Ron DeSantis (many originating from Trump allies). That, too, has worked to Trump’s advantage. As the general election comes into view, the press may decide to pivot once more in covering Trump and devoting more attention to his Truth Social feed and his speeches. In that case, expect even more attacks on press bias and “Trump derangement syndrome”.

With trust in the press at near-record lows, Trump could have worse foils than major media outlets. Simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to the Trump phenomenon, journalists can’t quit him. And he knows it.


Fred Bauer is a writer from New England.

fredbauerblog

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

47 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
6 months ago

Whatever one thinks of Trump personally and politically, its astounding how the media and a host of liberal/progressive institutions appear hell-bent on getting him re-elected.
They couldn’t be doing more to confirm his preferred narrative and effectively fight the next election on his chosen ground if they were doing it intentionally.

Daniel P
Daniel P
6 months ago

There are moments that I think their plan is to have Trump be the nominee so that they do not have to face a Haley or a DeSantis who lack the baggage.

But along with that comes the assumption that Trump would lose to Biden.

If this is the case, then maybe what we are seeing is the fear that they screwed up and Trump might actually win.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

That was their strategy in 2016 to get Clinton in the White House. It didn’t work then yet here we go again. I suppose I can give them credit for not taking quite as long to have this epiphany the second go round. In 2016, they didn’t realize Trump could win until election night.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The problem there was that Clinton was such an awful candidate.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

DeSantis has “baggage”, namely his lack of charisma.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

The best thing they could have done from the start is just to ignore him. He feeds off the attention like all narcissists.
But then so do the media in the internet age. They hate him but love the traffic he generates.

Daniel P
Daniel P
6 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Either the democrats are smarter than I think and have been working to position Trump to be the nominee or they are just clueless as to what they are dealing with.

My guess? Its the latter.

What they have failed to figure out, or perhaps are just incapable of doing, is that ignoring Trump is how you beat him. You just cannot be seen to be doing it precisely TO beat him.

Had they not gone after him after he left office we would not be here today.

When they kicked him off of social media they did him a favor. It was his tweets that always got him in the most trouble so they should have let him keep doing it. But it felt better to spite him.

They could have realized that using lawfare against him was gonna backfire, particularly when they are using novel theories of the law to do so or are going after him for inflating values of his properties (kinda standard in that business) for loans that were paid off, and all the people doing it are democrats. They should have seen how that was gonna look and how it would play out. They should have realized they were playing into his narrative and the fears of his voters.

Had they not done those things, I would bet you anything that either DeSantis or Halley would be the nominee. Trump would be back playing golf and making crazy statements on social media.

If the democrats have a major weakness it is that they act emotionally rather than strategically. It felt good to kick him off social media. It was satisfying to see him in court. But is was DUMB politically. But I think part of that is that they live in bubbles and that they think they are smarter than everyone else.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Trump is nothing but a hype man and an attention seeker, always has been. The complete and utter incompetence of the media and the establishment, particularly the neocon wing of the Republican party, has made him into a political force. What’s worse for them is that the movement that coalesced around him won’t go away when he does. They’re going to be stuck with a hostile, confrontational, anti-elite, and openly populist Republican party for the foreseeable future. Were Trump not in this race, I think it would be two horse race between Desantis and Ramaswamy. Haley is the establishment candidate, and most of her support is coming from RINO types. The only reason she’s doing well in NH is because everyone can vote in the primary, including Democrats.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Democrats: coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago

Or they could be confirming his narrative is true

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
6 months ago

Absolutely. There is this very weird sort of spiral dynamic going on and it cannot end well.

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
6 months ago

*Eye roll*
They ARE doing it deliberately.
Look, this Democrat team are no slouches. They successfully maneuvered the 2020 election so that Biden, a senile gaffe-prone politician without a single commendable stance in his 47-year history, was elected, from his basement, over Trump, who broke records with 74 million votes.
The Dems pulled it off in 2020. They are NOT stupid. They control the news media and 90% of social media, who are lockstep with Democrat talking points.
This is playing out exactly as they want. They control the narrative. If it looks like the Republican base is getting fired up by their antics, then that is the desired outcome. This is totally a theatrical performance. The Dems could care less that Biden looks goofier by the day, and is hovering at 30% approval. (That fact by itself is extremely fishy.) They want the GOP nominee to be Trump, and it doesn’t matter how popular Trump is with his base, because this Democrat team doesn’t care. Trump won’t win. He won’t win against a yellow dog or a man with advanced dementia or a lamp post. Why?
The Dems are sitting with pocket Aces in the poker game. They know exactly what they are doing. We just have to figure out what their plan is, because it’s a doozy.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon Templar

If they are so smart, how come they can’t come up with a better candidate to run against Trump than Hillary Clinton or Senile Joe Biden?

They cannot control who wins the GOP nomination, but anyone competent would beat Trump easily. I’m sure there are competent Democrats I haven’t heard of. Not the VP or Newsome, obviously.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Point of Order: Biden did win in 2024.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I think they will pull someone out of the bag, an “October surprise.”

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Simon Templar

Oh. For a minute there, I thought you were going to tell us what their plan was.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
6 months ago

Wrong!!!!

If they wanted him elected they would report on Biden and the Democrats, the insane warmongering and wars, the destruction of USA by the debt (growing one $Trillion a Quarter (3 months), open border, destruction of the cities, decaying Military and the Bio-Pharma Industry’s crimes against humanity, and on and on – obscene Wealth held in the Elites hands keeps this shut up.

But they hide all that and try to keep Trump out because he will expose their wickedness. The thing is the truth is coming out so they get crazier and crazier.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
6 months ago

The incompetence is what I find truly staggering. From the start his narrative has been that he’s the only one the people can trust, the only one not part of the establishment, and he’s being persecuted by the establishment and the media because they’re afraid of him and by extension afraid of the people. People were already skeptical of the government and the media because of Iraq, Katrina, 2008 bank bailouts, etc. Trump took advantage of that suspicion and set a trap for the media where the harder they go after him, the more it fits his narrative. Like an internet troll that says something extreme to get an extreme reaction, discredit both sides, and derail the discussion, Trump set a trap for the media that they rose to the bait again and again and again. He dared them to fight on his level and they did, so now they’re all rolling around wrestling in the mud with him. At this point, that looks like a perfectly appropriate venue. It is a foolish general who lets his opponent choose the battlefield and the media found this out. The media has now lost what little remained of their credibility, their respectability, and their dignity, and for what, exactly? None of their tactics have worked. They’ve only made him stronger. De-platforming would be a good strategy… IF they could go back to 2015 to use it discreetly. Now it just makes them look scared of him and reinforces his narrative further, especially when they’re so blatant about it. Just complete, utter, galactic, terminal stupidity.

Daniel P
Daniel P
6 months ago

When Twitter and Facebook blocked Trump all I could think of was SunTzu’s advice about not interfering with your enemy when he is making a mistake.

How did Trump get into trouble all the time? Twitter.

Where did he say his most outrageous stuff? Twitter.

Where did he alienate so many people? Twitter

They protected him from himself.

How is Trump leading now? Two things.

First, his appeal grows with every passing day as people think back to their lives under Trump and compare it to their lives under Biden. That is just a fact and without Trump stepping on himself daily on social media it is harder for people to remember the crazy stuff.

Second, and this is really two parts, the media and the left tied every voter who ever agreed with him or who voted for him to Trump. They insulted, mocked, ruthlessly criticized and then said that these people were fascists and racists who must be “purged”. They put those people in a position where they see their fate tied to that of Trump. The second part is all of the lawfare. Trump voters see that all the indictments, all the suits, are being brought by democrats and they see that some rather novel legal theories are being used to do it. If they want to purge Trump and they say they want to purge those who agree with him or supported him, then their fates are tied to Trump.

Then, just toss in how badly Biden has governed?

The media and the left have NEVER understood that the best way to beat Trump is to ignore him. If they wanted him gone then they should never have mentioned his name again after he left office and just let him go off and play golf. But they could not resist. They had to pursue him with lawfare.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
6 months ago

This beggars belief. America must wake up.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
6 months ago

Many of us are wide awake. The media just won’t tell you about it.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

How many people are watching CNN and MSNBC? These networks will have zero influence on the election. Virtually no one is watching and the few who are, will never vote Trump anyway.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Many more people will know that they refused to broadcast him than would have watched him on their networks.
That kind of supports the thesis of this article.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

That’s true for sure

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I’m 65 and haven’t watched TV “news” since 2001. Stopped reading the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal even earlier. The only time I hear about these people are from podcasts or articles like this.
Same with political polls. I had a friend who was a Quinnipiac pollster. He said they were all heavily weighted to create outcomes by depressing or encouraging impressions in the electorate.
it’s all a scam.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago

Where do you get your news from then?

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I watch them on satellite from Australia, but I obviously don’t get to vote in US elections. I watch Fox too, although I find a lot of its presenters quite off-putting.

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Who watches? Middle-aged women who day drink box wine and get their political views from the mean girls on the view. They love Maddow and voted en masse for Biden.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
6 months ago

They’re past middle age now actually. More like 60 and over. Ex. A: my mother who is 75 and just adores Maddow. The lefty female Bill O’Reilly. Ugh.

Sensible Citizen
Sensible Citizen
6 months ago

True! The youngest boomer turns sixty this year. But 50 is the new 40 (I’m hoping)!

Alexander Dryburgh
Alexander Dryburgh
6 months ago

I believe that Mr. Trump follows that old trope that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’. His detractors don’t seem to have clued into the fact that their attacks (and the multiple court cases brought against him) only confirm what he’s telling his followers with regard to the ‘swamp’ and ‘elites’ aligned against both him and them.
The way over the top coverage of Trump on Certainly Not the News during his presidency only played into that narrative. (My wife and I had ongoing bets as to how long it would take for Trump’s name to be spoken when we changed to that particular channel. It was never beyond a few minutes.)
They still don’t understand that obsession only played into Trump’s approach.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago

It may be that the multiple legal actions that Trump is facing are not going to go anywhere, but I do think that the pressure they are placing on him will take its toll. He looks a lot more stressed recently.

Ciaran Rooney
Ciaran Rooney
6 months ago

“His “very fine people” remarks in the wake of an alt-Right march in Charlottesville”
Is the author a journalist?

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
6 months ago
Reply to  Ciaran Rooney

Clearly not.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Ciaran Rooney

That “alt-right March” was pure theater by the feds.

AC Harper
AC Harper
6 months ago

While we are perhaps faintly alarmed at the media shenanigans in America might I also point out that Farage has had a mixed history with the media. Initially ignored, then frequently played as an amusement, then feared and less well reported. It seems that some people are alleged to be ‘populists’ and then are condemned on that basis.
That cycle seems to be repeating. I watched a bit of a Have I Got News for You 2023 compilation and Farage was being roundly mocked.
If Farage stands for election as an MP I wonder how the BBC will respond? Perhaps Garry Lineker will issue a ‘mistaken’ tweet?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago

“In addition to playing into Trump’s preferred narrative, his media deplatforming may help him in another way, too: a lack of coverage of some of his more incendiary claims on social media might cause on-the-fence voters to feel more comfortable with him.”
The MSM will just make the stuff up anyway

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

The MSM will just make the stuff up anyway
Indeed. See: “Russian collusion, Hunter’s laptop has all the hallmarks of disinformation, insurrection!, he took classified documents like other presidents did but his case is somehow different.”

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

The fear they have of this man is palpable. Having tried repeatedly to misquote him and then get busted for it, the media’s new ploy is to ignore him. Maybe the left should have done that from the start. Instead, the relentless “we’re gonna get him” campaign has done nothing more than fuel him.
Here’s a tip for leftists out there: he likes this sort of thing. Trump loves this kind of combat. And he’s very good at engaging in it. Better than most who oppose him. Every single attempt at dragging him down has only succeeded in increasing his popularity. In retrospect, Biden should have given him some award, thanked him for his service to the country, and moved on. But he couldn’t. And the media couldn’t. Because Trump is their oxygen.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

You can’t blame them for fearing him, given that he sent his goons to trash Congress.

Mrs R
Mrs R
6 months ago

You can always rely on the Trusted News Initiative to do the wrong thing.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
6 months ago

This is a pretty good take by the author. A lot of the Trump coverage is simply flat out lies – which people tend to believe – so less coverage may help him. I also wonder what they are going to do when it is just him and Biden. I personally find watching Biden painful – my mother died with dementia and he clearly has it. I get anxious every time he opens his mouth. I am sure millions of other people feel the same way.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
6 months ago

This is a media strategy, but not THE MEDIA’S strategy. It is the media doing what the Democratic Party wants it to do. If the Dems changed strategy to expose Trump and denigrate him, the media would comply in minutes.
They did that in 2016 and it didn’t work.

Martin M
Martin M
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

It didn’t work in 2016 because Trump’s opponent was Hillary.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

Whatever the reasoning,Trump supporters will find a way round the leftist boycott. May he succeed.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago

Well, Trump certainly wasn’t wrong about “fake news”. Of course, it takes one to know one.
He also seems to have the knack – like Boris Johnson did – of bringing out the absolute worst in his opponents.
Trump or Biden ? Just grateful I don’t get to vote. You’re better than this, America.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I’ll take Donald Trump. Yes, he irritates his opponents. But he also constantly seeks to deal with them. He is a master at compromise, at the art of the deal. His taunts and insults are part of that.
Strong people have strong weaknesses, Peter Drucker said. If you pick people because they have few weaknesses, like Joe Biden, you end up with mediocrity at best and incompetence at worst.
The late Steve Jobs said: “I’m disappointed in Obama, he’s having trouble leading because he’s reluctant to offend people or [tick] them off.” Steve Jobs added: “Yes, that’s not a problem I ever had.” Neither has Donald Trump.