Reviews | Trump’s new medium will follow the path of his steaks and mattresses
Trump has been dreaming of a fancy set-up at the media table for some time. In 2016, he and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were planning to cast a Fox News contestant when they assumed his presidential bid was toast. In November 2020, he was reportedly again considering a new news network to fight Fox or buy an existing one. Last February, he reportedly negotiated to take a 40% stake in social media site Parler in exchange for an exclusive post on it. None of these proposals have been launched. Then came the blog disaster Trump, who died earlier this year after just 29 days, finding a permanent resting place in the Trump cemetery buried next to his steaks, coffee pods, ties and vodka bottles.
Trump’s new media startup will soon teach him that the public sees him as more of a Glenn Beck than an Oprah Winfrey. Beck, who proved he could hold millions of viewers captive with just palaver and a blackboard on CNN and Fox News a decade ago, launched his own media company in 2011. He didn’t exactly failed. It’s still streaming. But his ambitions outstripped his appeal, necessitating regular layoffs and retrenchment. America still loved Beck, but not enough to build a whole network around it. Even to people who loved him, Beck was like Tabasco. Stimulating, maybe in small doses, but retching with every sip. Kind of like Trump. Winfrey, on the other hand, has never played in a single political niche. She appealed to the wider segments of the population with her kindness and chameleon-like quality of reflecting their best qualities to her audience. When it came time for her to establish her eponymous network, she had no trouble maintaining it because she is a confident and reassuring performer and not the fearmonger that Beck plays on TV. People can and have built entire worlds around Winfrey, and she’s now a billionaire thanks to those talents.
Americans still love Trump. After all, he got 74 million votes. But does America love Trump enough to embrace a whole new media universe based on him, or is he more like Beck – better when taken in small portions as part of a larger meal? ? Will enough people go through the steps of signing up for a new social media app just to get a taste of Trump’s ideas? His blog’s inability to garner little attention tells you two things: Trump’s audience gets their minimum daily requirements of regular media coverage of Trump, and nothing he created on his blog has sparked a queue for more of the same, not to mention a scramble. Trump was successful on Twitter partly because he was unique, but mostly because Twitter had already summoned an audience to entertain him. There is no evidence that he can summon such an audience on his own.
Plus, are we really supposed to believe that a media and tech startup with $293 million in the pot and overseen by a 75-year-old man can top Fox, CNN, Disney, and Microsoft? According to this Reuters report, the financier who led the merger that created TMTG has an uninspiring track record of major deals. (For more on the formation of TMTG, see @BillSPACman‘s uplifting thread.) When Trump dies, the Trump cachet will accompany him to his graveyard. Does anyone really want to invest long term in a company so identified with a person, who is not getting any younger?
Clearly, Trump will attract a few followers. It is just as obvious that it will make news. But it’s not like Trump has any exclusive information that will make him the must-have Baby Yoda of 2022, when Truth Social is set to begin. Ben Shapiro sells the same wares, as does Dan Bongino, Tucker Carlson and the entire right-wing mediasphere.
For most of his career, Trump has often been branded in the press as a con man, someone who preys on people for a living. It’s a bit unfair. Trump’s reputation for milking consumers with shoddy products and bamboozling investors has been so well established for so long that anyone buying or investing with him must first ignore the overwhelming evidence against doing business with him. It’s too early in TMTG’s history to call the company a scam, though, as the Washington Post he says, TMTG appears to be little more than “a loosely defined corporation headquartered in Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach club.” From TMTG’s public statement, there is no indication that the company has a ready-to-sell product, unique technology, or even name recognition to trade on. (You can download the Truth Social app, though, but the beta site won’t go live until November.) The fact that Trump can’t start something so small to tackle companies so big indicates that his reputation for commercial failure eventually caught up with him. Billionaires and other truly wealthy people must not have returned Trump’s calls. It’s an old story: eventually, every scammer runs out of people to scam.
My old editor deserves a streaming show on TMTG. Send your TMTG show ideas to [email protected]. My email alerts consider themselves a social network. My Twitter is moving to Truth Social in 2022. My RSS the power supply remains old school.