Twitter is Trump’s preferred medium for spreading propaganda, artificially inflating his popularity, creating confusion, undermining traditional media sources and igniting culture wars to rile his base. His tweets are an effective strategy of distraction from criticism of him, his policy failures and the investigation into his ties with Russia. Even though reports suggest that 55% of Trump’s followers are fake and many who comment are bots, journalists and the public also amplify his message by sharing and repeating his words. The more shocking, offensive and unconventional he is, the further his message spreads, and the more effective his efforts are to divide and conquer the electorate. But it’s not just Trump’s words that have been weaponized. Ad tech firms regularly engage in “micro targeting”, aiming inflammatory clickbait directly at populations they seek to influence on both the left and the right, with the aim of widening the chasm between them.
What can we do about it? Actually, quite a bit.
NEVER share, quote, or directly reference anything Trump posts or says. Any attention, even negative, serves to increase his audience and spread his propaganda.
INSTEAD: Control the narrative by crafting your own post that amplifies a progressive message and/or clearly counters lies, misinformation, or distractions. Instead of saying “Trump says he’s doing a fantastic job in Puerto Rico, but it’s not true!”, say “85% of Puerto Ricans are still without clean water and power, and 5 people have died of leptospirosis as a result of drinking contaminated water.”
NEVER click on the clickbait! And never EVER share that stuff! If the title is outrageous and makes you angry before you’ve even read the story, chances are good that you (or your friend who shared it) are being micro-targeted. We know you really want to read that story from hotbubbles.com titled “Mike Pence Announces Plans to Add Conversion Therapy to Public School Curriculum”, but you must resist. Just as important, avoid those loops of video showing some jerk lady having a racist rant at Walmart.
INSTEAD: Turn away from the shiny lure. Stick to reliable sources of news that invest heavily in skilled reporters, fact checkers, editors, and legal teams. Instead of sharing ranting Walmart customers, focus factually on current cases of police brutality, and post your own commentary on that. Tag media outlets and call them out when their reporting is unsatisfactory.
NEVER feed the trolls! Never ever EVER reply or react to a Facebook comment made a by a ranty Trump supporter, troll, or bot. Doing so drives these comments to the top, making them the most visible, and allowing them to control the narrative.
INSTEAD: Craft your own witty comment on posts to earn likes and responses, and help drive the trolls to the bottom of the page. Reply and react to comments that you agree with to help make them more visible, even if it is just to say “thank you” or “old 45 is numb as a hake”.
NEVER repeat right wing words or catch phrases. When we repeat “GOP tax reform plan” (dang it!) we normalize the phrase and give it power. Just hearing things repeatedly, even if you disagree with them, makes the brain more able to accept them as true.
INSTEAD: Create your own catch phrases and punch-lines. “Trump tax scam” is a far more accurate and memorable description of the GOP’s efforts to gift the 1%. When commenting, be sure to focus on failures of Trump and his administration to live up to GOP ideals, especially with regard to fiscal conservatism, terrorism, and patriotism. For example, remind others often that the tax scam will add trillions to the deficit, that the Trump administration has failed to protect Americans’ health care, and that Trump still has not made a public statement about soldiers killed in Niger 2 weeks ago.
NEVER allow yourself to be pulled down into that gutter with Kellyanne. It’s hard to resist unleashing a tirade of attacks on the intelligence of Republicans as a whole or waxing poetic on the shape of Trump’s rump, but there are far more serious and scary facts to shout about.
INSTEAD: Feel free to liberally use factual examples that demonstrate Trump’s incompetence, bigotry, lack of empathy, lack of understanding of complex issues, or erratic behavior. Keeping the focus on Trump’s failings instead of those of Republican voters could provide just the opening they need to finally turn their backs on that guy. Just keep his butt out of it.