If you read establishment or left-wing political news this weekend, you know the big story is that Donald Trump obviously made a big mistake by tweeting an anti-Semitic meme — an iconic Hillary Clinton campaign photo in front of piles of cash, next to a Star of David. He’s under fire from the press, Republicans have nothing to say in his defense, and he’s sending out erratic statements denying that the shape is a Star of David.
But what if that’s not what happened at all?
What if Trump sent out something patently offensive to a couple hundred journalists who are Verified on Twitter — so they would blow up its reach to an audience that might not take such great offense?
He’s done it before.
Right now, the Clinton campaign is boasting of spending money to define Trump with advertisements in battleground states. But where are those ads going? Television, where ads are increasingly irrelevant thanks to Netflix and DVR? Radio, for the people who don’t have an aux input in their cars?
Trump, whether intentionally or not, instead sent out an attack ad to social media, where most voting-age people get their news. And he did it without spending a cent.
And Trump prolonged the story by deleting the original tweet, reposting the tweet with the star changed to a circle, tweeting about the media reading too much into the star shape, and then putting out a press release not only attacking the media but also comparing this “scandal” to a scandal about Hillary Clinton’s FBI investigation. This kept these news organizations sharing the “Crooked Hillary” meme all through the weekend and the Independence Day holiday.
On Facebook, these publishers all posted the story with the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” Hillary image:
(Tellingly, one left-wing outlet that refused to disseminate the picture on its Twitter or Facebook accounts is The Huffington Post. HuffPo doesn’t like to spread news that might hurt Hillary Clinton.)
Ask any friend or relative if the message of this image is: A) “Hillary Clinton is corrupt,” or B) “The Jews own Hillary Clinton.”
Odds are, you’re going to get a lot more people picking “A,” as they aren’t in metropolitan journalists’ social circles and don’t think alt-right shitposters in journalists’ Twitter mentions are a Big Scandal on the same level as, say, Clinton foundation donors processing the transfer of uranium to Putin’s Russia.
So, if Trump got this image widely disseminated, and the main takeaway for people outside of Hardcore Political Junkie World is “Hillary Clinton: Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” … then he just manipulated the media outrage machine to define his opponent for an even wider audience than she’s spending millions of dollars to reach.
*Note: This take was pretty directly ripped off from Scott Adams. He’s offline for Independence Day, it seems, but his analysis of Trump and the 2016 race has been invaluable — not just to understand the candidates but to understand how short-sighted our “professional” journalists are — and getting in the habit of asking “What would Scott Adams say about this situation?” led to this interpretation.