Get ready for Trump TV

Get ready for Trump TV
Comment: Trump may be likely to lose, but his media savvy campaign has laid the foundations for his own new media empire, writes Mohamed ElMeshad.
5 min read
31 Oct, 2016
Trump is likely to exploit the gap in the market for Republican media [YouTube]

US Election polls continue to skew in favour of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Her victory in the third and final debate, and a seemingly ever-growing list of scandals and allegations of sexual abuse against her Republic opponent Donald Trump, seem to have given her a practically insurmountable lead in the polls.

Conventional indicators seemingly guarantee her victory, according to many common-sense observers. However, so far the Trump election bid has been able to defy both convention and common-sense.

My personal hunch is that, the race is not over, but her victory is the safe bet. Trump may well also now be pinning his hopes on a similar hunch. This can be the only logical explanation as to why he went into the third debate with a self-sabotaging strategy, one that seemed to cost him one of his most influential conservative supporters, the disgraced former CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes.

Skewing his campaign's focus towards the claim that there is an organised conspiracy against him, and that the media is at the epicentre. During the third presidential debate he even controversially tried to pre-emptively instigate a backlash at his probable loss by insinuating that he may refuse to concede defeat if Clinton is declared the winner next month.

Some used Al Gore's call for a recount during his 1999 loss to George W. Bush as a precedent that somehow excuses Trump's outrageous claim. In fact, what Trump was doing was not new, he was simply continuing to sow the seeds of doubt among his supporters, about the whole "system" being against him.

Trump's actions are more akin to a media mogul building an audience

For weeks, Trump has been saying that the elections are rigged against him. Lately he has become more specific about how it is rigged, by pointing the blame specifically at all "mainstream media".

Ironically, he is upset with the same media that essentially made him, by granting him billions of dollars worth of free air-time and exposure that have undoubtedly played a role in increasing his profile.

In doing so, Trump is also alienating everyone on the fence who may not enjoy his tantrums, antics or conspiracy theories. These are the very people his campaign should be targeting. Usually, at this point in an election, the nominee trailing in the polls tries to deploy a more centrist approach.

"The Donald" is instead doubling down on his existing offerings of paranoia, xenophobia, and pseudo-populism. He wants to maintain the tens of millions of followers he has accumulated, but to what end?

If it's a political aim, he has more or less lost the Republican establishment, and will have to build an entirely new movement from scratch. In fact, it seems like he is bringing the very establishments that have carried him, to ruin (or continuing their existing decline) and burning the bridges behind him. 

More than any other presidential nominee in recent memory, Donald Trump has been the least politically correct, and one of the most media savvy

As far as political manoeuvring goes, Trump is definitely not building towards a new, lasting entity. He has not put forth any proactive ideological propositions, instead he fed off the reactionary right-wing distaste for the status quo, or the direction of progressive politics.

Instead, Trump's actions are more akin to a media mogul building an audience. More than any other presidential nominee for a major party in recent memory, Donald Trump has been the least politically correct, and one of the most media savvy. When trying to imagine where the momentum of the "The Trump 2016" campaign will lead in the immediate future, we are better off looking in the media realm, rather than the political one.

It seems inevitable now that "Trump TV" or something like it, is on the table for the near future. For one, the standard bearer of conservative "news," Fox News, is in decline, after having been such a relatively dominant organisation for years.

Republicans are just not buying it as much anymore. The fall of Ailes, and the fallout among the network's major figures has not helped its case. At the same time, Trump has been aligning himself with the extreme right wing media outlets, especially through digital media.

His campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon is the founder of Breitbart News, one of the most widely followed and most thoroughly conservatively skewed websites.

The Fox News agenda will seem like a very centrist establishment compared to what Trump TV will offer

Trump's main media allies number among them the most extreme right wing, conspiratorial and isolationist radio and vlog hosts, such as Alex Jones and Tomi Lahren both of whom use their platforms to spread incredibly unhinged conspiracy theories, and far-right jingoism.

Besides priming and harnessing his followers (target media audience), Trump is attempting to dig deeper into the gap in the market for Republican media - a gap that is also mirroring the disarray and dishevelment of the GOP itself.

Trump TV, will not only allow Trump a lucrative opportunity in the available market space, it will allow him something he has never had (and perhaps sought with the presidency) a permanent place among the shortlist of political power players, with tools that surpass their pocket wallets.

For those who were irked by the Fox News agenda, it will seem like a very centrist establishment compared to what Trump TV will offer, as it will extrapolate its editorial policy from Donald Trump's utterances this year.

Millions of people cheered to these utterances, and they are likely to maintain momentum, allowing his words to echo for some time to come.

Unfortunately, we can all look forward to a few more years of anti-immigrant, pro-business, fear-mongering rhetoric, and the overriding shadow of "The Donald" on the screens of his supporters and others alike. 

Mohamed ElMeshad is a journalist and a PhD candidate at SOAS, focusing on the political economy of the media. He extensively worked in Egypt, Bahrain, West Africa, the UK and US. Recently, he contributed to the Committee to Protect Journalists' book, Attacks on the Press (2015).

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.