It appears that institutions that serve to disseminate information from the government to the general public is incredibly important. President Trump himself has demystified the norms of sharing and releasing specific information from the White House by circumventing traditional media organizations and instead disseminating information via Twitter. In some respects, it can be argued that by using his personal online microphone, Trump is doing the American public a favor to ensure that what he says is not misconstrued. However, what is far more dangerous is when President Trump decides to release false information or “alterative facts” through his own volition. I specifically argue that by using Twitter and forgoing the traditional Press Secretary, President Trump is conducting a disservice to the United States people. This is because it does not allow institutions such as the media to correctly check his information and contrary opinions are unable to voice their own side.
Specifically, Twitter allows Trump to declare anything on his mind. One of the more peculiarities of Trump’s social media behavior is his desire to send out tweets during the middle of the night. It cannot be proven that Trump purposefully does this but it does bring up the possibility that he tweets during these odd hours to ensure that the media does not immediately disprove his claims. However, it is important for the media to be able to offer what the truth is. As noted in a recent working paper Richard Gunther of the Ohio State University, sending out false claims is quite detrimental.  Gunther looked at the effect of false claims made by President Trump in the 2016 presidential election and found that if an individual believed the inaccurate information made by Trump, he or her was substantially more likely to vote for Trump. This experiment only looks at the effects of the presidential election in 2016; however, it could potentially be inferred that this will continue in the 2020 presidential re-election. These results that Gunther has provided is unsettling given that President Trump may be employing these media tactics to ensure that his voters remain resolute with his viewpoints. This research further corroborates the argument that Trump’s tactics to spread false claims is a disservice to society. This is because by limiting the ability for the media intervene and provide accurate information, American citizens will continue to believe the statements made. By using Twitter, President Trump is able to directly release false information. On the other hand, with traditional news outlets, they are directly able to hold the White House accountable through press conferences and immediately negate false information before it being released to the public. However, this entire process is completely ignored when Trump uses his Twitter.
What is also worrisome is the fact that fact-checking institutions that debunk alternative effects does not produce the intended results. In a study published by Rodriguez from the Paris School of Economics, it states that based off of information collected in the 2017 French presidential election, individuals who receive information that their favored politician stated alternative facts still will continue to support that politician.  The logic is that the individual will recognize that the politician made an incorrect fact or statistic, yet that additional knowledge does translate into a change in his or her opinion of the person. This is because the individual will still believe that the narrative that the politician crafted in the first place with the false statistic. When applying the results of this research onto President Trump, it appears that his calling out of the media and stating that the media is the enemy of the people only probably exemplifies these effects to a much larger extent. This evidence further demonstrates the argument that President Trump’s ability to craft the narrative surrounding the false information is worrisome. His supporters will continue to buy into that narrative and operate under the notion of the false statistic but still support his policies even if the media is able to provide factual information.
These two results and indicators demonstrate the disastrous effect that spreading false information has on the public. Not only that but it appears that there are no immediate solutions to stop the propagation of misleading information. Gunther, Richard et al. 2018. “Fake News Did Have a Significant Impact on the Vote in the 2016 Election.” Working paper.  Rodriguez, Barrera et al. 2017. “Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics.” Working paper.
“*Photo by Jose (The Microphone), Creative Commons Zero license.”