A second ingredient in his success has been populism, which rails against dominant political elites (including the Republican party) and the ‘biased’ media. Populism also rests on the notion of an ‘authentic’ people — by implication excluding ‘others’ such as immigrants and foreign powers like the Chinese — to whom the leader appeals directly. The paper makes parallels with the strength of the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigrant party which, in a similar way, has been able to appeal to its following via social media and online newspapers, again bypassing mainstream media with its populist message.
There is a difference, however: in the US, commercial media compete for audience share, so Trump’s controversial tweets have been eagerly embraced by journalists seeking high viewership and readership ratings. In Sweden, where public media dominate and there is far less of the ‘horserace’ politics of American politics, the Sweden Democrats have been more locked out of the mainstream media and of politics. In short, Twitter plus populism has led to Trump. I argue that dominating the mediated attention space is crucial. One outcome of how this story ends will be known in November. But whatever the outcome, it is already clear that the role of the media in politics, and how they can be circumvented by new media, requires fundamental rethinking.
Ralph Schroeder is Professor and director of the Master’s degree in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute. Before coming to Oxford University, he was Professor in the School of Technology Management and Economics at Chalmers University in Gothenburg (Sweden). Recent books include Rethinking Science, Technology and Social Change (Stanford University Press, 2007) and, co-authored with Eric T. Meyer, Knowledge Machines: Digital Transformations of the Sciences and Humanities (MIT Press 2015).
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Policy and Internet Blog, nor of the Oxford Internet Institute.
This blog investigates the relationship between the Internet and public policy. It covers work by the Oxford Internet Institute, and work published in its journal Policy & Internet (Wiley-Blackwell).