Almost every morning Americans wake up to yet another Trump tweet storm that sends MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' hosts and guests into an absolute frenzy that begins with modest expressions of 'outrage' and ends with Joe Scarborough once again offering up his 'professional' medical opinion on Trump's mental health just before calling for his immediate impeachment.
Of course, as Axios points out today, that daily 'Morning Joe' meltdown is all part of Trump's simple 5-step plan to manipulate the media into covering precisely what he wants them to cover. Here's how it works...
Step 1: Throw an early morning Twitter bomb, usually but not always timed to "Fox & Friends" fodder or reinforcement. The Tweet-bomb frequently hits "fake news" or some social topic with racial undertones.
- Within minutes, thousands of Trump's Twitter followers retweet it, and the sparks fly in response. Trump knows this and has bragged to staff about the storm he's stirring as he hits "publish."
- The data: As president, Trump has tweeted about fake news 124 times, mostly before 9 a.m., and his tweets about fake news average more retweets and likes.
Step 2: The outrage machine kicks in. The first hour of "Morning Joe" is consumed by reaction to either that morning's or yesterday's tweet bomb. But the real action unfolds on Twitter, with scores of journalists and activists howling in protest.
- "He exerts a deeper level of control simply through his ability to bait hostile media at will with his every seemingly nutty utterance," conservative columnist Bret Stephens smartly noted Thursday in the New York Times.
Step 3: The cable beast awakens. MSNBC/CNN/Fox are basically 24/7 politics now, and the reporters who uncorked on Twitter sit alongside the hosts to dissect/condemn the Twitter bomb. They tweet the highlights. The rage builds. The cycle speeds.
- One result: "A political opposition that is exhausting itself — and much of the public — with its perpetual state of moral apoplexy," Stephens writes.
...meanwhile, by mid-afternoon 'Morning Joe's' outrage has been countered by numerous online media outlets that ramp up the rhetoric to a whole new level just in time for Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity to offer their final remarks late in the evening...
Step 4: The fringes foment. Breitbart belts out a stream of stories, usually supporting Trump or mocking cable hysteria on the left. It pumps its greatest hits through Facebook, where both sides game the algorithm to play to their team's emotional response. Twitter wars usually ensue.
- The data: Many of the most engaging politics and news pages on Facebook in October were hyper-partisan political pages, according to social analytics company NewsWhip, and the most popular reaction to them is the "angry face" emoji.
Step 5: Opinions fly. By nighttime, MSNBC goes hard left, Fox hard right, peaking with their highest-rated champions (Maddow on the left and Hannity on the right) tucking like-minded people in with soothing stories of why they were so right today.
- The data: Hannity averages more than 3.1 million viewers a night over the last two months, and Maddow averaged 2.6 million.
...then we all sleep, rinse and repeat.