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How Trump Uses Deceit And Propaganda To Shape Perceptions

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How Trump Uses Deceit And Propaganda To Shape Perceptions

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Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits help shape the media and public narrative about his administration, which is why his record of retweeting and quote-tweeting accounts with suspicious bot or sock-puppet activity raises concerns.

Media Matters study of an archive of Trump’s Twitter account revealed that over the past year, Trump has on a handful of occasions propped up praise from accounts that feature suspicious bot activity or that have since been suspended or deactivated. If he’s unintentionally promoting bots, it shows gullibility and a lack of basic due diligence on his part that is terrifying in someone as powerful as the president. And if he’s promoting such tweets intentionally, that shows how shamelessly Trump resorts to propaganda in an effort to bolster his image, set narratives, distract the public from damaging news, spin stories in his favor, and provide talking points for far-right media networks with no regard for reality.

Trump’s history of using deceit to manipulate the media and project self-advantageous messages indicates that there’s perhaps nothing accidental about his tendency to retweet bots. For three decades, starting in the 1970s, Trump infamously pretended to be a fictional publicist named John Miller and used that pseudonym to plant pro-Trump stories in the media. In June 2015, Trump paid actors to cheer for him during his announcement that he would run for president, during which he called Mexican immigrants rapists. Trump has said that he retweets for a reason and that the retweets are an endorsement “to a certain extent.” This doesn’t leave much room to question the intentionality behind his insidious strategy.

Automated social media accounts are said to have played a role in the 2016 presidential election, an issuethat the Senate is still investigating. During Trump’s campaign, his digital operations — many aspects of which were manned by the recently reinstated head of Breitbart.com Steve Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica and Jared Kushner’s and Brad Parscale’s Project Alamo — focused on building a loyal audience that was mostly isolated from anti-Trump narratives and was predisposed to distrusting the press and any unfavorable media coverage. For this loyal audience, Trump’s retweets of praiseful bot or sock-puppet accounts reinforce what they already feel; it’s like reading the positive blurbs of a book they know they like. So they enthusiastically endorse him by retweeting them, thus becoming important magnifiers in the propaganda loop.

Even when he’s not retweeting bots, Trump has provided a platform to right-wing media trolls via his retweets, regaling them with a veneer of legitimacy that eclipses their awful records of propagating conspiracy theories, engaging in attention-grabbing stunts, and leading their followers in harassment campaigns against journalists. Others in Trump’s orbit have taken a similar approach on social media, as evidenced by Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, who has access to Trump’s account. Scavino has repeatedly used his own account to smear and attack Trump’s political and media opponents. In one instance, he violated the Hatch Act by engaging in political activity as a federal employee.

While Trump’s Twitter habits provide entertaining fodder and endless material for headlines, they should also give some insight into the terrifying — yet transparent — ways the administration is manipulating reality. And this manipulation is consistent with the way Trump has consistently drawn on chicanery to shape perceptions about him.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters



  1. FireBaron August 23, 2017

    Perfect fit for a Fake Administration. Sorry, but even Woody Allen couldn’t have come up with a farce like this one. Had Aaron Spelling proposed this to CBS, he would have been laughed out of Les Moonves’ office!

    1. Angelacratliff August 24, 2017


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  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth August 23, 2017

    Trump’s narcissism is beyond alarming—the man is doomed to go down in flames, whether in this world or beyond. Trump is drowning in a sea of Conceit, and Self-Adoration. Therefore, he must use whatever guile and subterfuge to bolster a diseased personality, an exercise he has become addicted to repeating for 40-plus years now.
    Kelly and anyone else should have the sense to have recognized this basic fact by now.

    What does Kelly hope to achieve with a stark raving narcissist? And is Paul Ryan still foolishly expecting this madman to become “Presidential? The people assembled at that rodeo/circus performance last night must think this is the meaning of being moral and noble. Little wonder the country as a whole has no semblance of being a nation founded on Christian principles—no more than the Taliban and ISIS represent the true spirit of Islam.

    1. Independent1 August 23, 2017

      Ann Telnaes captured pretty well that narcissism in a cartoon.

      Her caption: The president’s continuing need for idolatry is dangerous to the country’s health.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker August 24, 2017

        The reality of Trump is the Republicans OWN this POS. It was THEIR Party that allowed him to run as a Republican. It was their party who took his $100 million for his campaign as he said himself in the 2nd presidential debate. It was THEIR party that knew who Trump was and still allowed a money laundering fraud to run for the highest office in the country.

        Don’t wonder why now already the GOP is losing in solidly Republican states in local elections their Russian hackers have yet figured a way to overturn.

      2. The lucky one August 27, 2017

        A novel I read recently made an interesting, and I think accurate, observation about narcissists. They are equally content with being loved or hated because either way they are the center of attention. What they fear and hate is to be ridiculed or ignored.

  3. ivory69690@yahoo.com August 24, 2017

    ‘I don’t know how it got this bad’: Trump supporters and protesters meet in Phoenix !! it got this bad and is only going to get a lot worse with DUMPSTER DONNY at the wheel . he is best at bankrupts and screwing as many people as he can . THATS HIS TRUE TRADE MARK ! he crying like the child minded baby he is . cussing out every body that cant see things through the dirt bag eyes . yells and screams when he things any should be what he says protecting and defending him . but he can do and say as he the fool wants about any and every body . to defend or protect the KING CLOWN only puts people on the wrong side . and if thy do that thy can and more then likely will get in trouble and go down in the DUMPSTER DONNYS sinking ship (row boat or raft ) this DUMPSTER CLOWN thinks he can do what ever he want and thinks he is right . he is so wrong . he trying to make every one think he is crazy . its just the DUMPSTERS act . he is just plain evil . he knows just what he says and dose . no mistakes he is just a evil hateful butt hole always talking crap and BULLSHIfT . again anyone that may side with DUMPSTER DONNY is more then likely to go down to his sewer filled swamp his favorite place to be . all’s best move is to stat as far away from him as thy can ! anywhere close to the evil dirt bag is dangerous

  4. Eleanore Whitaker August 24, 2017

    The right wing actually believes they will force all of us to their will. No they will NOT. It’s one thing to be a righ winger and keep it to themselves. It’s another to try and ENFORCE right wing BS on everyone else so they can play their Game of Thrones on our tax dollars.

    First off, all you have to do to prove what Trump’s real motivations are and have always been, is to read the NY Daily News interviews back in the early 90s from his first wife, Ivana. She told Liz Smith, a Daily News reporter “The Donald goes to sleep at night reading Mein Kampf. He keeps it by his bedside.”

    How the right wingers ever thought for one second, intelligent people would allow them to turn our democracy into a Hitlerian dictatorship under the rule of 1% of the world’s richest white males is absurd.

    Now, Trump follows his Mein Kampf Bible by massing a small group of extremist nuts like Hitler did in his earliest days and then like Hitler, he’ll send these morons out armed on public streets ..on wait..he already did that. When Hitler’s brown shirts took to the streets like Trumpfler’s boys, they were on the hunt for Jews. Then, it went to anyone who wasn’t pure Aryan. Find a single 100% pure white male today. Then, put him in a glass display case in a museum because he’ll make it to Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

    1. Dapper Dan August 24, 2017

      I need some clarification on your post. Is it sarcasm or does 45 actually have a copy of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf by his bedside ? First thing I’m thinking is he doesn’t even read books. Now he’s got a copy of the Fuhrers book ? If true I’m now even more afraid of him than ever. Of course the irony here is his son in law Jared Kushner is a devout Jew which is perfectly fine. But then his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism. Where do his loyalties lie ? With his family or the Nazis he’s defended ?

      1. Eleanore Whitaker August 24, 2017

        I believe when Ivana first told Liz Smith that, she mistook Mein Kampf for Trump’s keeping Hitler’s speeches at his bedside. Not sure why. But she later clarified it (I’m sure at Trump’s demand). Here is the Business Insider’s report Ivana clarified: http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trumps-ex-wife-once-said-he-kept-a-book-of-hitlers-speeches-by-his-bed-2015-8.

        Trump has never really been thrilled by Jews per se. He uses them like plantation owners use free slave labor.

        When Iskanka married Jared Kushner, the only saving grace for Trump was that Jared’s father was every bit the crook Trump is. Charles Kushner was an American real estate developer. In 2005, he was convicted of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering, and served time in federal prison. So the connection to Kushner’s father for Lard Ass is real estate. This is also true of his connection to another shadowy figure: Carl Icahn, who is already being investigated for getting in on a deal he could only have had access to by agreeing to being Trump’s advisor.

        Icahn as you know bought the NJ Trump Casinos and hotels when Trump had to close them for money laundering. But, Trump did the same thing with NJ government he did in NY with the Commodore Hotel he bought by promising NY City a percentage of the profits. In NJ, however, Trump was supposed to pay back $2 million in tax exemptions when or if he sold the NJ casinos and hotels. Those NJ casinos were nothing more than Trump’s front for money laundering through the Deutschebank forex bank in NY. They also got a $325 million fine for laundering Russian money in the same year Trump got his $25 million FinCEN money laundering fine at the Taj Mahal.

        Now, Icahn is in a legal pickle because of the deal he struck while a member of Trump’s advisory cabinet. CFR regs don’t allow any member of a presidential cabinet, while in office, to earn a profit from insider information. But this wouldn’t be the first time Icahn got himself in trouble with insider information, not unlike Trump.

        1. Dapper Dan August 24, 2017

          Thanks for the info and link. It’s very eye opening on where 45’s thoughts are coming from. Suddenly it’s quite appropriate to feel paranoid with this racist Nazi loving nutjob sitting in the Oval Office making life and death decisions affecting everyone in this country. Sen McConnell who’s not on speaking terms with 45 doesn’t think this Presidency will last past September. Let’s hope that prediction proves to be true

          1. Eleanore Whitaker August 25, 2017

            Prediction: The GOP is waiting out Mueller’s findings so they don’t have to admit they are as guilty as Trump of rigging the 2016 election.

            There is no way the RNC will allow Trump to run on the GOP ticket in 2020. They are not that stupid. But, what few know is how close the relationship is between former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

            My guess is Priebus and Ryan are rubbing shoulders since both come from WI and are well now mechanics for the Koch’s Tea Party, Ryan will run against Pence. Ryan has it out for Pence’s state for removing the only major industry that kept WI’s economy from failing. And Pence, in the view of the GOP Tea Party, would be a reminder of Trump since Pence served as Trump’s VP.

            You can see already Trump is going after McConnell and Ryan will be next. Not that it will do Trump a whit of good. Trump is in the toilet and there isn’t enough GOP support to get him out. They are just too cowardly and guilty of election rigging to flush him. So they’ll let Mueller do it for them.

  5. johninPCFL August 24, 2017

    So Putin’s puppet uses sock puppet tweets? What a surprise.

  6. Richard Prescott August 24, 2017

    The real seriousness is the GOP’s continuing to back Trump. They constantly enable him and his total and utter bullshit.
    Trump could be stopped in his tracks if the GOP so choose. They have not so far. So in my eyes they are just as guilty as he is.
    What he did and said in that Phoenix rally (really, a newly elected president holding re-election rallies when he has NOT even been in office 1 year out to wake people up) shows just who and what he is. Even there he managed to violate the Hatch Act with the introduction of HUD director and one of the seven dwarves Ben “Sleepy “Carson. He benefits from using his properties off his “Presidential” name, another violation.
    And the GOP allows all this.
    I hope Mueller can hand down indictments and not simply a recommendation for impeachment.


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