Postmortem Of A Trump Sound Bite

This past weekend, Donald Trump was campaigning in Dayton, Ohio. This should come as news to no one. You’ve all probably seen various blips come across your social media radar. And, as often happens, what Trump said has been picked up in the mainstream press.

Now, I am quite probably the last person in the world that would ever come to Donald Trump’s defense. But I did want to take this one example of how it’s the media, including social media, that is responsible for the distortion of reality that we often see happen.

My first impression of what happened is that Trump promised a retributive bloodbath for any and all opposition if he’s not elected president. And, like many of you, that first impression came through my social media feeds. Joe Biden’s X (formerly Twitter) post said “It’s clear this guy wants another January 6.” Republican lawyer and founding member of the Lincoln Project George Conway also posted: “This is utterly unhinged.” 



There was also retweeting of ABC coverage featuring a soundbite from Trump that said, “There would be a bloodbath if he is not re-elected in November.” This was conflated with Trump’s decision to open the stump speech with a recording of “Justice for All” by the J6 Choir, made of inmates awaiting trial for their roles in the infamous insurrection after the last election. Trump saluted during the playing of the recording.

To be crystal clear, I don’t condone any of that. But that’s not the point. I’m not the audience this was aimed at.

First of all, Donald Trump was campaigning. In this case, he was making a speech aimed at his base in Ohio, many of whom are auto workers. And the “bloodbath” comment had nothing to do with armed insurrection. It was Trump’s prediction of what would happen if he wasn’t elected and couldn’t protect American auto jobs from the possibility of a trade war with China over auto manufacturing.

But you would be hard pressed to know that based on what you heard or read on either social media or traditional media.

You can say a lot of derogatory things about Donald Trump, but you can’t say he doesn’t know his base or what they want to hear. He’s on the campaign trail to be elected President of the United State. The way that game is played, thanks to a toxic ecosystem created by the media, is to pick your audience and tell them exactly what they want to hear. The more you can get that message amplified through both social and mainstream media, the better. And if you can get your opposition to help you by also spreading the message, you get bonus points.

Trump is an expert at playing that game. He is the personification of the axiom, “There is no such thing as bad press.”

If we try to pin this down to the point where we can assign blame, it becomes almost impossible. There was nothing untrue in the coverage of the Dayton Rally. It was just misleading due to incomplete information, conflation, and the highlighting of quotes without context. It was sloppy reporting, but it wasn’t illegal.

The rot here isn’t acute. It isn’t isolated to one instance. It’s chronic and systemic. It runs through the entire media ecosystem. It benefits from round after round of layoffs that have dismantled journalism and gutted the platform’s own fact checking and anti-misinformation teams. Republicans, led by House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, are doubling down on this by investigating alleged anti-conservative censorship by the platforms.

I’m pretty sure things won’t get better. Social media feeds are, if anything, more littered than ever with faulty information and weaponized posts designed solely to provoke. So far, management of the platforms have managed to slither away from anything resembling responsibility. And the campaigns haven’t even started to heat up. In the 230 days between now and Nov. 5, the stakes will get higher and posts will become more inflammatory.

Buckle up. It promises to be a bumpy (or Trumpy?) ride!

5 comments about "Postmortem Of A Trump Sound Bite".
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  1. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, March 19, 2024 at 2:33 p.m.

    I see what you are getting at but think in this case bloodbath was correctly positioned. Trump is using lots of similar language to convince his base that if he doesn't win the country is literally doomed. That anyone still believes this professional liar is the conundrum. G

  2. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment replied, March 20, 2024 at 11:14 a.m.

    Well Kudos to at least one member of the MP staff who still has objectivity while covering politics.  Trump says enough stupid things in context that it's totally unecessary to take his remarks totally out of context.  In this case, many of the headlines were totally irresponsible and have potential to cause more harm.

    @George - over the last 2 years, there are many politicians and media personalities representing the left who refer to bloodbaths - Biden himself referred to a bloodbath against Bernie Sanders in 2020, Pelosi recently remarked about a bloodbath, as did Joe Scarborough, and let's not forget Maxine Waters who was very vocal about inflicting violence against conservatives during Trump's presidency.

    All sides need to turn down the rhetoric.  Everyone keeps saying they want adults back in the room to run things, but responsible adults seem very hard to come by these days in politics and the media.

  3. Jay Goldstein from Gamut, March 20, 2024 at 2:44 p.m.

    Only one person oversaw a bloodbath, leading to the death of 5 on 1/6/21. One would think that person would stop using terms around bloodshed and retribution.  Tone, context and history matter. 

  4. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, March 20, 2024 at 4:24 p.m.

    Jay and George - I get that Trump is a lightening rod candidate and that his actions are reprehensible - believe me when I tell you you're preaching to the choir here. But that wasn't the point of the post. The point was that the coverage was inaccurate given what he said and that is symptomatic of the issue when you rely on media for information. Yes, Tone, context and history matter. But none of those things are license to misreport and misrepresent. That's squarely on the media and platforms. Worse, by doing this, you're actually helping Trump spread his message. 

  5. Ben B from Retired, March 25, 2024 at 10:54 p.m.

    I agree with Dan both sides need to tone it down. In 2020 I voted 3RD party as both Trump & Biden were the 2 evils I'm never voting the 2 evils ever again I was hoping there wasn't going to be a rematch from 2020 I'm voting 3RD party once again come Nov. I did vote Nikki Haley in the Michigan primary a few weeks ago, I'm anyone but Biden, Trump, & RJK JR.

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