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What could Trump’s social media channel look like?

Ex-president speaking to tech developers at Mar-a-Lago and will launch new messaging platform by summer, says adviser

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 22 March 2021 11:22 GMT
Twitter has become ‘very boring’ without him, Trump tells Newsmax
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Donald Trump’s adviser and former campaign manager Jason Miller has said the 45th US president could return to social media “in two or three months” by launching his own platform.

Speaking to Howard Kurtz on Fox News’s Media Buzz show, Mr Miller said: “This is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media.

“It’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what President Trump does, but it will be his own platform.

“This new platform is going to be big,” he continued. “Everyone wants him and he’s going to bring millions and millions - tens of millions - to this platform.”

Mr Trump was indefinitely suspended from Twitter and Facebook in January following the Capitol riot, which saw a mob of his supporters lay siege to the legislative complex in Washington, DC, in a bid to stop Congress ratifying the previous November’s election results, its participants labouring under the delusion that Joe Biden had only won the race for the White House thanks to widespread voter fraud, a claim for which no evidence was ever found.

Just prior to the attempted insurrection, Mr Trump had addressed a “Stop the Steal” rally nearby in which he encouraged this false narrative and urged the crowd to “fight” for him and march on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Five people were killed in the ensuing melee, prompting the Silicon Valley giants to act against the outgoing president, with Twitter doing so “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”.

Since losing his 89m followers on the platform - which he had used throughout his presidency to insult his rivals, sack Cabinet secretaries and reset the news agenda on a whim - Mr Trump has cut a solitary and diminished figure, leaving DC to take up residence at his private club at Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Without the likes and retweets rolling in, he has instead been reduced to issuing statements by email and calling in to Fox and Newsmax, his only significant public speaking engagement since leaving the Oval Office coming at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.

Visitors attending events at Mar-a-Lago have also tweeted pictures of Mr Trump greeting them and mingling like a retired boxer at a Las Vegas casino, many making lavish claims about the robust state of his health and inviting derision for their sycophancy in return.

The current status quo could not be expected to last long as the former president’s need for the oxygen of publicity - to soothe his own ego and to keep his global business empire of hotels and golf resorts afloat - remains acute.

While Mr Trump may have spent much of his presidency attacking the “mainstream media”, seeking to discredit unflattering stories as “fake news” and pick fights with particular outlets and journalists he considered to be hostile, notably The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, he actually owed his celebrity to tabloid newspapers and to NBC, which ran his hit reality TV shows The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice from 2003 to 2015.

His return to social media was therefore an inevitability but what will it look like in practice?

Mr Miller was extremely light on specifics in his pronouncements on Sunday, declining to name any collaborators as he told Fox: “There have been a lot of high-powered meetings he’s been having at Mar-a-Lago with some teams of folks who have been coming in, and I gotta tell you, it’s not just one company that’s approached the president - there have been numerous companies... Everyone wants him.”

Since Twitter began censoring Mr Trump’s tweets last summer at the height of the George Floyd protests and stepping up its efforts to crackdown on far-right hate speech and conspiracy theory accounts peddling misinformation, members of the American right have gradually migrated away to other apps like Parler, Gab and Telegram, where a far lighter approach to comment moderation is in effect.

Mr Trump’s new platform is likely to offer itself similarly as an unregulated safe haven for conservatives who consider themselves martyrs to the cause of free speech and who take angry exception to be scolded by left-wing “cancel culture” practitioners, a phenomenon that may or may not exist.

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In the opening months of the Biden administration, Fox in particular has fostered this particular grievance, devoting hours of coverage to faux outrage over the politically correct criticising such icons of tongue-in-cheek subversion as Mr Potato Head, Dr Seuss, the Muppets, Pepe Le Pew and Speedy Gonzalez.

Mr Trump’s new subscribers will be encouraged to speak freely and share risque memes with impunity, although the fact that it is likely to evolve into a right-wing echo chamber predominantly populated by like-minded admirers might mean lively confrontation is actually less easy to come by than it is on Twitter, where even expressing admiration for the music of Ludwig von Beethoven or posting a picture of a freshly baked Battenberg can end in fiery denunciation and acrimony.

Mr Trump himself will certainly be preaching to the converted, which might appeal to his vanity but will not help him grow his base beyond its walls, the channel also risking further ghettoising his support and deepening existing fissures within the Republican Party, which is already sharply divided between Trump loyalists and establishment conservatives keen to move in a different direction following his fall.

How the former president will seek to monetise the platform to his advantage remains to be seen, although he will surely attempt it, having previously lent his name to everything from grill steaks to a bogus university.

How innovative it will be in terms of form is also unknown but it seems unlikely the platform will navigate far from the tried-and-test instant messaging model of Twitter. Even Mr Trump’s nativist “America First” political messaging was recycled, after all.

One demographic that is certainly likely to be excited by the prospect of his next social media adventure is the press corps, comprised of the same “mainstream” journalists he claims to so bitterly despise, who will sign up eagerly en masse in morbid anticipation of his next inflammatory pronouncement, celebrity gossip opinion or “covfefe” gaffe.

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