Moving forward: RQ5. Who sets Trump’s agenda?


In my post on media effects, I mentioned that Donald Trump himself had essentially become a media outlet as far as news information flows were concerned. He both creates and distributes content (specifically his rallies and Twitter feed), which has significant intermedia agenda setting effects on both traditional and non-traditional news sources. At the same time, there’s ample evidence that those same sources have significant agenda setting effects on Trump:

Several seemingly out-of-left-field tweets by Trump, both during and after the campaign, have later been connected to the times that cable news aired a story on that topic. He’s also apparently responded to a variety of online stories, such as Vanity Fair‘s thorough trashing of the steakhouse in Trump Tower. Of course, we also know that Breitbart and its coterie of white nationalist ducklings have his ear as well. All of these things contribute to setting Trump’s agenda, while he, in turn, contributes to setting the agenda of the mainstream press and political social media.

Since Trump tweets fairly often but almost never talks to the press (remember, he’s a media outlet, not a source), we have access to a pretty good representation of his agenda. Comparing the topics he tweets about with a timeline of cable news topics and the Twitter feeds of big online publications (including traditional outlets) would provide a good sense of where his moment-by-moment agenda — which will ultimately be filtered through to the traditional press — is coming from. This could also offer a pathway to resistance of a president that will be uniquely concerned with media and appearances. Taking a cue from his response to Vanity Fair, understanding where his agenda is built could allow for an organized campaign of, to be blunt, insults and disrespect centered around places he is most likely to see them. Trump is working with a margin of about 80,000 votes in three states, no established networks of political allegiance, and a hair-trigger temper; sowing dissension along the edges of his coalition by provoking a negative agenda could be a successful form of asymmetrical guerrilla politics.

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