Hacking the system: how Trump took the lead

Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtryEight about how Trump hacked the system.

As is usual with Nate Silver there is plenty of data and explanations before he gets to his conclusions:

Most of the media’s self-criticism of its Trump coverage has focused on whether Trump’s dominance of the news cycle reflects a craven desire for higher TV ratings or Web traffic numbers. It’s fine to debate that — although these criticisms are sometimes being evinced through crocodile tears given the record ratings and traffic Trump is bringing to news organizations of all kinds.12

But this critique avoids some thornier questions. For instance, with his ability to make news any time he wants with a tweet, news conference or conveniently placed leak, Trump has challenged news organizations’ editorial prerogative. Should the press cover a candidate differently when he makes trolling the media an explicit part of his strategy, on the theory that some coverage is almost always better than none?   

That’s not the only problem. Trump also challenges the media’s notion of what it means to be “objective.” Among other things, Trump has frequently invoked misogyny and racism; he has frequently lied, and he has repeatedly encouraged violence against political protesters. As far as we’re concerned at FiveThirtyEight, these are matters of fact and not opinion and to describe them otherwise would make our reporting less objective. Other news outlets will bend over backward to avoid describing them in those terms, however.

An underappreciated problem is that Trump’s candidacy is relatively lacking in precedent, which means we’re all trying to figure this out as we go along. Traditional journalists have had trouble covering Trump, but so have empirically-minded ones like us here at FiveThirtyEight. We laid long odds against Trump getting this far, in large part because no similar presidential candidate has done so since primary and caucus voting became widespread in 1972.

Put another way, Trump has hacked the system and exposed the weaknesses in American political institutions. He’s uncovered profound flaws in the Republican Party. He’s demonstrated that third-rail issues like racism and nationalism can still be a potent political force. He’s exploited the media’s goodwill and taken advantage of the lack of trust the American public has in journalism. Trump may go away — he’s not yet assured of winning the GOP nomination, and he’ll be an underdog in November if he does — but the problems he’s exposed were years in the making, and they’ll take years to sort out.

All the media did by attacking Trump is legitimise him. They are now reaping what they’ve sown.

Trump hacked the system, and proved the system was broken. Not everyone can do this. You have to have very good communications skills, and the hide of rhino to ignore the barbs and attacks and just keep on going.

But then, I think we all know that modern media is broken.

 

– FiveThirtyEight.com


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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