Trump uses social media as a weapon to control the news cycle. It works like a charm. His tweets are tactical rather than substantive. They mostly fall into one of these four categories.
The tweets either get his framing established first, knowing that whoever frames first tends to win. Or when things look bad for him, he diverts attention or attacks the messenger. And when he wants to test public opinion, he puts out an outrageous trial balloon.
Each tweet gets his message retweeted so he dominates social media. Reporters, social media influencers, and many others fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Every time. They retweet, share, and repeat his messages ad infinitum. This helps Trump tremendously.
They may think they’re negating or undermining him, but that’s not how human brains work. As a cognitive scientist, I can tell you: repeating his messages only helps him.
First, it focuses all attention on Trump’s antics. This makes his nonsense seem like the most important thing in the world. It’s called the “focusing illusion” – and it’s a large part of why he got elected in the first place. It makes him larger than life.
Second, constant repetition of his Trump’s messages embeds them deeply in the brains of millions of people. Whether it’s locking up his opponents or threatening nuclear war, he has the power to control tens of millions of brains via tweets. He focuses them on his chosen topics.
Third, the constant attacks and outrage increase his credibility with his base. He can portray himself as a victim of the “establishment” – under constant attacks (which he provokes with tweets). He acts, his opponents only react. He is in heroic control.
I understand the desire to portray Trump as childish or deranged. But do you deal with a child or a deranged person by sinking to their level? Do you mock and scorn them, or trumpet their ridiculousness on the front page? No.
Imagine if we took a different approach to Trump’s social media antics. Imagine if we put them in a small, quiet corner of the newspaper. Imagine if they were only a minor throwaway item at the end of the newscast. Imagine greeting them with calm clarity, not instant outrage.
Imagine keeping a steely focus on what actually matters: the dismantling of our government; Republicans robbing the middle class and poor to pay off the rich; Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into the Trump Organization’s betrayal of America.
Imagine if we took back OUR power from this disgraceful man. Imagine if WE decided what was important, rather than dancing to Trump’s tune. Imagine if a tweet were just a tweet (or evidence in a criminal case), rather than the dictator of our reality.
We have the power stop him. But we must stop letting him control our media -- and our minds. It’s time to give Trump a Twitter Time Out. Let’s shrink him down to size. Let’s take this weapon out of his hands.
Think of Trump as a puppeteer, his tweets as the strings,
and anyone who retweets/shares him as the puppet. Cut the damn strings!