When Donald Trump was merely a presidential candidate--when nobody thought he’d win--many of the media wise guys predicted his next move would be to start the Trump News channel. A brilliant strategy! It would arrive with millions of Trump fans.
When he was elected president, that talk all ended. But why? The president has an existing Web site with a dynamite URL that could be everything the Trump Channel could have been, though (I suppose) absent the advertising. It’s called WhiteHouse.gov — and it’s just squatting there on the Internet, ready to be exploited.
Under previous presidents, WhiteHouse.gov looked and felt like it still does--a subdued repository of presidential speeches, initiatives and wonky policy points -- published with reserved Times Roman label headlines. It still seems dignified. Bor-ing!
For example, on Saturday, when Sean Spicer, the new press secretary, went ballistic on the press about their alleged under-reporting of the inauguration crowds, it resulted in this less-than-boiling headline on WhiteHouse.gov: “Statement by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.”
“That’s it????” you could easily imagine the president exclaiming when that was all his own site made of that grand enema Spicer administered to the lyin’ media.
Why not something like, “Spicer Knocks The Smile Off Those Kiss-Ass Journos.”
Would it surprise anybody if WhiteHouse.gov is remodeled to become not just the official voice of the White House, but something like the official news and analysis and venting site for the president, his policies and his minions? With a little investment, add an OTT app and you're in millions of living rooms and mobile phones.
If you’re going to have a propaganda site, why be shy about it?
Big bold headlines, cool video, red hot copy, regular sniper shots at the most detested journalist of the moment, and maybe aggregated content from conservative sites. That’s the stuff. One stop shopping. WhiteHouse.gov would approximate what the once-imagined Trump channel was going to do.
Everything seems to be in place. Trump has the experts on board. On his staff is Jared Kushner, married to Trump's daughter and formerly the publisher of the New York Observer. But even more directly, Stephen Bannon, the former Breitbart big cheese and presumed shaper of Trump’s populist rhetoric, is the president’s counselor.
Just the other day, Julia Hahn, described on a conservative site as one of Bannon’s “more ferocious protégés at Breitbart News” joined the White House. She also is a former TV producer for right-winger Laura Ingraham.
You may have noticed Breitbart’s view of Trump’s opening act: “Fake News: Three Mainstream Media Lies On Trump’s First Day.” Now that’s a read!
Already, WhiteHouse.gov has unplugged the Spanish version of the site, consistent with Trump’s distaste for Spanish language assistance in a country where English is the way we roll, hombre.
At his press conference Monday--the one where took questions--Spicer was asked about the Spanish take-down and suggested a new version is still in the works.
"We are continuing to build out the Web site, both in the issue areas and then that area," Spicer told a Univision reporter who asked. “But we've got the IT folks working overtime right now to continue to get all of that up to speed. Trust me, it's just going to take a little bit more time, but we're working piece by piece to get that done."
Much of the piece by piece work so far has been to dismantle, to repeal and replace so to speak.
The Website Inverse reported that “At 11:23 a.m. Eastern on Friday, this is what WhiteHouse.gov looked like, as captured by the Wayback Machine, the Web page recording service done by the people at archive.org. The 'ISSUES' column is the longest, with 29 individual issues broken into sections and ranging in subject from 'Rural' to 'Women' to 'Cuba' to 'Technology.' The sitemap also includes at the bottom an 'En Español' option. In all, it contains 114 links.”
It goes on: “As of right now, 1 p.m. Eastern Friday, the sitemap for WhiteHouse.gov looks much, much shorter with just 38 links. Gone is the ‘En Espanol' option, which given Trump’s opinion of Spanish-speaking people, doesn’t immediately seem like an oversight. While shorter, Trump’s branding and policy positions do show up: There are links to pages titled 'America First Energy Plan,' 'America First Foreign Policy,' 'Bringing Back Jobs And Growth,' 'Making Our Military Strong Again,' and so on.”
Even in its boring state, natural foes of Trump noticed.
“This is what we’re up against,” fumed Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director in an email to supporters titled “Deleted.”
Obviously, different presidents, different issues. My point is that ideologically, WhiteHouse.gov can be a go-to place for friends and foes. For a president with such animosity toward the press — though a lot of that is just schtick — it would be easy for him to sell his adoring public on the idea that WhiteHouse.gov is pure alternative truth.