Saturday, September 16, 2023


I'm sure you remember this story from the spring of 2016:
Donald Trump has earned close to $2 billion worth of free media attention during the 2016 campaign, eclipsing the total value of media attention given to all of his Republican competitors combined, a new study finds.

The findings show that Trump earned more than six times as much free coverage as his closest competitor, Ted Cruz, and more than two-and-a-half times as much free coverage as Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.

The study, which was conducted by The New York Times using mediaQuant and SMG Delta data, offers evidence that the American news media has given vastly more coverage to Trump's campaign.

The report will fuel arguments that media coverage has played an instrumental role in Trump's rise to becoming the Republican presidential frontrunner.
That was before the general-election campaign. In November 2016, mediaQuant announced that Trump had received a total of $4.96 billion in free media -- "more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio combined," according to The Street. (Clinton's total was a mere $666 million.)

Will this happen again? Is it already happening? It probably is, but not in the same way.

The mainstream media isn't mesmerized by Trump speeches anymore. CNN and other outlets are unlikely to cover the 2024 Trump campaign's rallies from beginning to end, and certainly won't routinely park a camera in front of Trump's empty podium, in breathless anticipation of his arrival.

But Trump will still get more free media than Joe Biden, for the simple reason that he's on trial all over the country. I acknowledge that justice requires holding Trump to account for his crimes. However, the process of bringing him to justice plays right into his hands as a candidate.

Here he is, making the news again:
Special counsel Jack Smith and his team have requested a federal judge in Washington, D.C., impose a "narrowly tailored" order restricting former President Donald Trump from making public statements that they argue could "present a serious and substantial danger of prejudicing" his 2020 federal election interference case.

In an extraordinary filing released Friday, Smith's office accused Trump of engaging in a sweeping campaign of "disinformation" and harassment intended to intimidate witnesses, prosecutors and others involved in the prosecution he is facing.

"Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, the defendant's recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution -- the judicial system -- and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals --the Court, the jury pool, witnesses, and prosecutors," the filing says.
Maybe Trump will eventually be convicted and imprisoned. But for now, he's playing these people for fools. He engages in harassment and intimidation, and that becomes news; the system tries to rein him in, and that becomes news; he whines that he's being censored, and that's news, too -- and then, if there is a limited gag order, he'll really complain about censorship (news again) and then defy the order (also news). And the court probably won't have the courage to do the one thing that might stop the harassment and intimidation, which is to jail him for a few days, but either way he wins: either he beat the system or he's a political prisoner.

And this is just one of his cases. They're all going to be like this as the trials approach (and then there'll be the trials).

Trump shouldn't be allowed to get away with the things he's done, obviously, but I wonder if the legal system has guaranteed his nomination (and possibly smoothed his path to another general-election win) by rallying right-wingers and right-centrists to his cause. Would he have been easier to beat in the primaries if he'd never been indicted? I think he still would have won the nomination, though I'm not sure. It's obvious that he's coasting to a primary victory because he's up on charges. Let's hope he doesn't coast to a general-election victory for the same reason -- because he's rallied more voters to his side than the lackluster Biden.

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