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How Donald Trump Skillfully Taps into Twitter’s “Ocean of Emotional Chaos”


Doug Rushkoff
By Doug Rushkoff
Rushkoff

Posted: Feb 5, 2017

Author Douglas Rushkoff, who coined the term “viral media,” reveals how POTUS successfully pushes buttons on the social media site, which “rewards those who can generate an immediate response.”

Read this article at Hollywood Reporter.

Donald Trump is no more the master of Twitter than Twitter is the master of him. And while Twitter elevated an upstart, attention-seeking candidate, it may not prove as friendly an environment for a president who may actually want to get stuff done.

Twitter may let people do an end run around the media’s traditional gatekeepers, but it does so at a price. Social media platforms make money by tracking the flow of posts and reposts. They are selling the currents of influence and the data that can be gathered about each user. More tweets and retweets mean more data and more money, so the whole platform is optimized to trigger impulsive sharing and resharing. It rewards those who can generate an immediate response. If a tweet doesn’t generate that instantaneous call to action in the two seconds it took to read, it won’t get retweeted and will scroll out of sight, forever.

Both the algorithms driving Twitter and the culture that has grown on the platform are driven by impulsiveness. Stars who succeed in provoking a broad response tend to do so by breaking accepted rules or just breaking down: the human equivalent of those car crashes that force us to turn our heads.

That’s why the most successful personalities on Twitter are less significant for the content they’re creating than for the emotions they are tapping. It’s not tweets but retweets that tell the story. They’re like a direct feed from the collective cultural unconscious. An ocean of emotional chaos. This is more true on Twitter than on Facebook, which has home pages and some semblance of geographical landmarks and categories. Twitter is just a fire hose. It is the standing wave of culture at any given moment.

Charlie Sheen was the last figure to get the sort of national attention that Trump has been garnered. And it wasn’t because he was saying anything so brilliant or entertaining. He simply jumped into that standing wave of culture and surfed it for all it was worth. Then he wiped out.

Likewise, Donald Trump didn’t do anything particularly creative or substantive on Twitter. He simply recognized the undertow, threw himself into the current and surfed it all the way to the presidency. In that sense, Trump served more as a vessel for Twitter’s agenda than Twitter served as a vessel for his.

As an acting president rather than a contentious upstart, however, our Tweeter in Chief may have a problem. Twitter favors the underdog, the one tilting at windmills. The crowd can’t help but retweet a grenade thrown from the bottom up and against an established power. They’re likely to feel differently about a president lobbing insults down at his lessers. At the very least, he’ll have to choose between giving his 22 million Twitter followers the sensationalist car crashes they will retweet or the good governance they’ll ignore.


Douglas Rushkoff is a fellow of the IEET, author of a dozen books and comic books, producer of two award-winning Frontline documentaries, and his essays have been published widely.
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Ocean of Emotional Chaos

Emotional Toxic Waste. And today, a conventional morality is being preached that few actually subscribe to. Numerous factors; merely the Web alone provides too many temptations for a true morality to exist. Today’s situational ethics are an analog to a Soviet aphorism:

“you will pretend to work,
we will pretend to pay you.”

The morality of Now:

“you will pretend to be virtuous,
we will pretend to be your moral compass.”

The above is far more crucial to comprehending Trump than anything else.

Charlie Sheen was the last figure to get the sort of national attention that Trump has been garnered. And it wasn’t because he was saying anything so brilliant or entertaining. He simply jumped into that standing wave of culture and surfed it for all it was worth. Then he wiped out…Likewise, Donald Trump didn’t do anything particularly creative or substantive on Twitter. He simply recognized the undertow, threw himself into the current and surfed it all the way to the presidency

Precisely. Trump matches the soul of the American male of all races: epitomized by the loudmouthed anti-hero found very frequently in cinema—sometimes violent cinema. (‘Death Wish’. ‘Die Hard’. ‘Dead Reckoning’, etc.)
The potty-mouth comedian.
The violent-sports mania of American males. The cult of the loudmouthed football anti-hero whose private life is at odds with a widespread conservative idolization of him.

Trump has the mouth and the demeanor of a cinema anti-hero and also a sports anti-hero.
In 2016, Antihero Culture rose to the surface, to the very top of the heap. And since the Opposition did not carefully consider how Hillary’s baggage (as distinct from her much more solid politics) might tip the balance in Trump’s favor, the outcome was so predictable it was almost inevitable.





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