The US election was historical but in a very sense because allegedly Russian influence was high from propaganda media to foreign intelligence. News offices have revealed that Donald Trump’s campaign was in contact with the Russians, and Trump even encouraged to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
General Michael Flynn was sacked from his position as the National Security Advisor because he was in contact with the Russian Embassy. However, Vice-President Mike Pence confirmed the United States commitment to NATO at the Munich Security Conference, and this was a relief for European allies. Still, Trump’s net is unravelling and there is more to come.
There has always been some foreign influence in the US campaigns, and it has increased during the years because every citizen around the world can join discussions on social media channels. During the 2004 campaign people from around the world were blogging for Senator John Kerry who was competing against President George W. Bush. In 2008 people were cheering for Senator Barack Obama on social media channels, and this continued in 2012. Especially on Facebook. Same thing happened in 2016 elections. Every candidate gained support from abroad. Obama is the first “Digital President” who used big data and other digital marketing techniques in his campaign in both elections. Is Trump the first “Digital Propaganda President”?
2004, 2008 and 2012 campaigns were peaceful and civilised. Some people use quite harsh language during the campaigns but 2016 was totally different. It was the election of propaganda lies. Fake news sites spread false claims, which distracted the Clinton campaign. The US has a long tradition of conspiracy theories and fake news sites only fueled these believes, and people who were against the society and in despair believed lies.
Trump had two campaigns – the official and the unofficial
People are saying that Trump’s campaign succeeded because it used big data to target voters individually. There is actually nothing new about using big data because Obama’s used it in 2008 and 2012 but in a very positive way. Obama’s campaigns were about hope and progress. When Trump’s campaign was about dividing the nation and scaremongering. Trump was able to activate passive voters, and this has been the secret of success of populist parties in Europe. It is about scaring voters with a dark future but at the same time providing an alternative future. Populist parties have gained victories but they have lost their support when they have been able to gain power – there are no alternative universes and they have made things only worse. Therefore, voters have felt disappointed.
In 2016 the Trump campaign was backed with fake news, which were spreading like wild fire on the internet. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were the main channels because these channels are popular and most effective. Trump’s campaign used the same methods, which large business brands are using online.
It was a mix of content marketing, inbound-marketing, outbound-marketing, re-marketing, social selling, bid data and marketing automation. But we must remember that there was the official Trump campaign and the unofficial campaign (fake news, extreme supporters, trolls, useful idiots, automated bot profiles on social media).
Inbound-marketing has a one goal. Its aim is to create some action, hence, to share fake news publicly and privately. This is how fake news have created their online influence. It is said that sharing is caring but sharing can also damage societies.
Fake bot profiles are programmed to share the same news over and over again. Some bot profiles will start to follow on Twitter if your tweets have certain words. Some people do not know that those are bot profiles and become intimidated, for no reason. Ignore them or block them, and just continue with positive updates.
Social selling means that private persons express their opinions online and participate in conversations. The major principle is that people like to follow people, not brands. Here is an example, Selena Gomez has 46.1 million Twitter followers when Coca-Cola has 3.3 million. This means that individuals can make a huge impact.
How populist parties are abusing voters?
Trump’s campaign and European populist parties have some similarities. Image Magazine made a comprehensive list of points of how these parties behave. Here are the points:
- Declare a war against the media
- Exploitation of internet citizens (useful idiots)
- Be the leader of discussion topics
- Be the victim
- Create (fake) enemies
- Abusing use of history for political purposes
The main principle is basically the same, which Policy Advisor Karl Rove created for President George W. Bush. Rove’s strategy was “Attack! Attack! Attack!”. A very aggressive strategy indeed but it is also a very exhausting one for those who are practicing it. It can also alienate supporters who do not like negative campaigns.
Trump’s continuous attacks on media are hurting every single media. Even Fox News, which is a vocal supporter of Trump and his policies. One of the basic principles of the free press is to rely on unnamed sources, which have to be protected from personal retaliations. It is a basic principle and a human right in free democracies. However, Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has criticised media from using unnamed sources but at the same time he is personally using unnamed sources in his public speeches. How contradictory?
The future is not bright for Trump
Clinton was attacked all of the time from all sides. She was also an easy target because of her private emails and lack of clarity around The Clinton Foundation. For some reasons she was quite unpopular amongst Americans even tough she won the popular vote. Gates were also opened for Trump’s campaign because Democrats did not solve their social and unemployment challenges in industrial areas, which have been hit hard by globalisation. Obama’s administration did not bring enough change, and Trump voters have the belief that Trump will. Well, Trump is ripping Obamacare apart, which will only make things worse in those areas. Without work and affordable care it is hard to cope. The future will tell if Trump succeeded or not but the pressure is very high.
Geostrategist Parag Khanna writes in his article Forget Trump’s “First 100 Days” – think about the next generation that Trump’s political lines do not match with Millennials who are becoming a very important voter group in 2020 elections. Senator Bernie Sanders and Clinton were favourite candidates, not Trump. Millennials are also digital-savvy, and they have seen how important it is to defend values of freedom. If people are looking for a positive side in the US election. It has united and activated Americans for the next elections. Campaign teams also know how to fight back.