Impartial talking head Kellyanne Conway. / Gage Skidmore
Chris Lehmann,  October 27, 2016

Words Fail

Facebook + Trump + a nightly newscast = spinnergy!

Impartial talking head Kellyanne Conway. / Gage Skidmore
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While media goliaths continue to merge and recombine, one plucky upstart has lately captured the imagination of the infotainment world. I speak, naturally, of the Facebook-only nightly newscast now airing at the behest of the Donald Trump campaign, “Trump Tower Live.” Since Facebook has conquered the news world without benefit of any recognizably human editing, and since the Trump campaign has made its name by sundering all vestigial ties to consensual reality, this would seem to be a textbook example of advanced media synergy.

Still, there are naysayers, as there always will be in the face of a major tech disruption. Trump himself has disavowed any ambition to found an eponymous media empire in the wake of his flailing presidential campaign, but that’s likely because his long-term business model depends heavily on deluding his hardcore supporters into thinking he’s a viable candidate, for the next fortnight at least. Besides, with a running falsehood count somewhere north of 90 percent, any Trump-authored proclamation about future business plans—or anything else, for that matter—should be taken with several licks’ worth of salt. Already, senior Trump operatives like the candidate’s son-in-law Jared Kushner are clearly positioning the Trump brand for a dramatic post-election push into the mediaverse.

Arresting content.

In any event, this is just the sort of knee-jerk, jaded outlook that the innovative nightly broadcast is setting out to upend. Trump campaign adviser Cliff Sims explains as he pulls double duty as news host that the aim of “Trump Tower Live” is to give an unvarnished look at the day’s political news without the “filter” and “spin” that the mainstream press uses to distort the plain truth. And where better to look for a spin-free news experience than in a report crafted by the raw vérité sensibility of a paid campaign operative? Talk about synergy! Indeed, the Trump campaign is so committed to offering you, the frazzled news consumer, the most unfiltered possible account of Campaign ’16 that it’s brought in no less an authority on political straight talk than Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway as interviewee. In your face, Corey Lewandowski! Yes, Boris Epshteyn of The Blaze, the online media empire founded by notorious Trump detractor Glenn Beck is also on hand, but largely as window-dressing. Sadly, the news ecosystem hasn’t yet evolved to the point where media elites can handle an entire broadcast composed of nothing but campaign apparatchiks.

But clearly that’s only a matter of time, given the arresting content that has already lent so much buzz to “Trump Tower Live.” True, Monday night’s broadcast had some typical early stumbles, as when Sims opened with a garbled account of the scandal-that-wasn’t, involving Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s almost half-a-million-dollar super PAC contribution to Dr. Jill McCabe, a state senate candidate who—Dah-DUHN—is the wife of the FBI’s now-deputy director who helped supervise the agency’s inquiry into the Clinton emails. Sims himself says that the ins and outs of the affair are “hard to follow”—and boy, is that ever the case when you omit the basic background, which includes a chronology that inconveniently has the FBI email inquiry launching after the McCabe campaign and the far-from minor consideration that a Virginia Democratic governor was keen to see a Democratic majority in the upper house of the state legislature.

Conway is frank, unskewed.

But never mind: as news wizard Kellyanne Conway patiently explains, the key is to focus on the “patterns” at play here. And yes, those patterns are largely that Bill and Hillary Clinton are “grifters and gifters,” whom the latest batch of Wikileaks-procured emails show to be ever on the make to debauch the polis in the most brutal fashion imaginable. “This is what the mob does,” faux-journalist figurine Epshteyn helpfully observes. “The mob pays off investigators, jurors, judges, and they hope for something in return.” Yes, there’s a measure of speculation here, Epshteyn responsibly stipulates—“I’m not necessarily going to connect that link”—but hey, look at the outcome: “Hillary Clinton did not get indicted” for manipulating access to her email archives.

You can see why the takes in “Trump Tower Live” are way too hot for the mainstream press to handle. And there’s plenty more where that came from! Conway goes on to assail the “widespread voter fraud” already being orchestrated by the Democratic power elite; surely it’s the liberal mob that has created chaotic early voting schedules in majority-black districts in North Carolina, and systematically blocked ballot access for minority voters in Wisconsin. (Wait, what’s that? Oh, never mind.) Conway also gives a frank and unskewed rundown of poll performance, which clearly shows Trump ahead in “six or seven” key swing states, which of course translates into the assurance that, come November 8, “we’re going to win.”

Yes, the coastal elites will no doubt carp about the Facebook-branded plain talk that comrades Conway, Sims, and Epshteyn are boldly showcasing during the “Trump Tower Live” launch. Others may note that the windowless beige backdrop of the broadcast—broken up by giant posters of the Maximum Leader himself—gives the proceedings an uneasy bunker-like feel, as though ISIS kidnappers are forcing otherwise intelligent and coherent American adults at gunpoint to shout spittle-flecked talking points nonsensically into the void. But such whingeing Popinjays forget their recent social-media history. Hadn’t Sarah Palin, after all, cannily leveraged her Facebook following into a high-profile career as a bona fide plain-folks pundit? And isn’t that why she’s one of the most revered political muses and orators of our age?

Oh, right. Never mind.

Chris Lehmann is editor in chief of The Baffler and author of Rich People Things. His latest book, The Money Cult, is out now from Melville House.

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