How politicians troll the media

How politicians troll the media

You probably imagine anonymous internet commenter, or a shock jockey, or a partisan hack. You probably don’t imagine the Senate Majority Leader,
or the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Chairman of the
House Intelligence Committee. But maybe you should, because if the past few
months of batshit political coverage have shown us anything… “Bombshell accusations”, “missing text messages”, “secret societies”, “secret memos”, “one hell of a conspiracy”, “that does go deeper than Watergate”. “Deeper than Watergate?” It’s that trolling is now the work of serious politicians. We begin tonight
with the unraveling of a conspiracy theory – this one was created and promoted
by elected officials on Capitol Hill. Trolling has been used to refer to a lot of
different bad behaviors, but at its heart it means deliberately provoking someone
in order to bait them into overreacting. Milo Yiannopoulos does this all the
time. He says something he knows is ridiculous. and then smiles as the audience freaks out. Because I don’t want to spend a whole
video talking about Milo, let’s use a different example. Let’s use Charlie Brown. What?! Let’s just go with me. You’ve watched this scene a million times, right? Lucy promises to let Charlie Brown kick the ball, Charlie tries to kick it, she
pulls it away and he falls flat on his ass. This scene is basically trolling 101. The troll baits their target “I’ll hold the ball and you kick it”. The target gives
the desired reaction, “this time I’m gonna kick that football clear to the moon.” And then the truth is revealed the troll was just leading
them on. “what does this have to do -” “I’m getting there!” So how would this formula work if you’re
trying to troll a major news network? First you’d need the bait. Promise reporters you have some big bombshell they have to pay attention to. “Republican lawmakers claiming they have documents, classified memos, secret memos,
to prove widespread abuse by the FBI”. “What I read it is as bad as I thought it
was. The entire Mueller investigation is a lie.” Then you get a reaction: days of
wall-to-wall news coverage about what might be in your super secret memo. “The secret memo at the center of an extraordinary plan. We don’t know what’s
in the memo. As a journalist I want to see what’s in the memo. Should that be
released to the public? Have you decided if you’ll release the memo? Why not allow people to look at it? You’ve read the memo? I read the memo. And? Well obviously I can’t tell you what’s
in the memo. So I can’t discuss what was in the memo, but I can tell you the
American people need to see it.” And then the reveal: your big bombshell turns out
to be a dud. “The memo has now been released, this memo is a dud, a complete
dud. It doesn’t say anything it calls into question the wider Mueller probe. It
over-promised and under-delivered, the revelation is precisely the opposite of
what they wanted to reveal.” And news networks have to explain to their
viewers that the scandal they’ve been following for days, was actually nothing. “They build it up, they build it up, and then it’s about nothing.” “This is what all the hype was about?” Now at first glance this story has a happy
ending, right? The truth eventually came out. But if you view this story as a
giant troll, it looks very different. News networks spent days telling audiences
that a huge scandal could be brewing. Millions of people read headlines about
the FBI potentially being corrupt and Republicans got to go on TV and tell their
supporters that they’re right to be suspicious of the Mueller investigation. “I’m good with a memo coming out because it exposes the FBI coming after a
political opponent. Uh, okay it’s not an answer to my question.” The beauty of trolling is that the truth doesn’t actually matter. When Lucy says “This time you can trust me. See? Here’s a signed document.” She knows she’s lying. And she knows she’s going to get caught lying. When Charlie tries to kick the ball she is
literally fact-checking her, but the point isn’t to be honest. It’s to provoke
a response, to get Charlie to try and kick or in the case of the Nunes memo, to
get the media to overreact. “The juice better be worth the squeeze on this one,
this is like six news cycles now. “Well I’m excited to find out what’s in the
memo” And though we typically think of trolling as something people do for fun,
in politics it has way scarier consequences. For one it’s a great way to
distract the news cycle away from serious stories. The same week that Nunes started talking about the memo, the New York Times reported that Trump
had seriously considered firing Mueller. Look at which story dominated cable news
chyrons. But it’s not just a focus problem, this kind of trolling works
because audiences remember negative information even when it’s been debunked. Political scientist Emily Thorson ran an experiment where people were exposed
to a piece of negative political information and then saw a correction.
And she found that people’s attitudes towards the target of the lie got worse
even after the lie was debunked. She calls this “belief echoes” and that’s when
people are given a full clear correction. Most casual news consumers won’t get
that or if they do, they’ll see headlines like this. “Republicans released secret
memo accusing investigators of bias.” “Memo released alleging FBI cover-up.” Or chyrons like this. “Memo says FBI abused surveillance power.” Even after the lie is
revealed, it’s repeated in news coverage. The result is a news environment that
incentivizes bad faith, that rewards politicians who are willing to commit to
a lie. And so you’ve seen more and more pseudo scandals following the same
formula. There’s the bait, missing text messages, a secret society in the FBI, “it’s one hell of a conspiracy and people at the top levels of our government were
involved in it. A secret society, there’s anything more about that? No, we have to
dig into it. That’s that’s this is not a distraction.” There’s the reaction. “The startling allegations of a secret society, is there any basis to that claim?
Is there a secret society? Those things are troubling.” And eventually there’s the reveal. “Republican lawmakers are left
empty-handed, when the texts are found and the secret society is revealed to be
a joke.” On their own, none of these stories hold water but together, they
help sow doubt in the minds of voters. Help build a vague but persistent belief
echo. are we seriously still talking about the secret society Ben? Which helps explain why so many Republican voters are now suspicious of the FBI. A trend that’s gotten worse over the past year. Unsurprisingly, Nunes is already
promising to release more memos in the future. “He told Brett Baier tonight that
more memos are coming, stay tuned. Tick-tock.” And the sad thing is he’ll
probably generate the same media circus when he does. What politicians say is
newsworthy. “I’m shocked to read exactly what has taken place.” Networks can’t just ignore
them, the way that we might block an internet troll. And what makes trolling
in politics so effective is that it’s almost impossible to prove while it’s
happening. Charlie could never be sure if Lucy is gonna yank the ball away. The audience can never really know if Milo means what he’s saying, and journalists can’t know if the next Nunes memo is actually a bombshell until he releases
it. But what they can do is practice more restraint, to treat these stories not as
potential bombshells, but as potential bait and to be aware of the way that
their coverage might be playing into the hands of a troll. Charlie may never be
able to resist trying to kick the ball, but if he holds back a little bit, if he
avoids kicking quite, so hard he can at least avoid falling flat on his ass.


  1. Don't be naive about the fact that the media will continue with any story, as long is it is still bringing in the ratings. I don't think the media got trolled as much as I think the media trolled the public, as they often do.

  2. When the Democrats are in power you have censored news and fake Fox News. When the Republicans are in power you get Fox News. Pick one.

  3. There is something else going on. Enough lies being spread frequently enough is going to make people think that they can't really trust themselves, that trying to follow what is going on is a waste of time because whatever you think is probably wrong.

  4. Trolling in America is not new. We've been doing it since 1619. Two of the latest most stark examples are: the "Obamacare" smear campaign and the NFL kneeling equals hating flag and troops lie.

    I say again, trolling is not new.

  5. OK Vox, please stop putting high pitched noises in the background of fox and other sources that usually lean on the other side of the political spectrum. It is noy only annoying but takes away attention from the quotes and proof that you are using to "Ow my ears".

    Sincerely Me

  6. CNN was the first 24-hour news channel and everyone said news cannot inform for 24 hours as there is not that much news. But entertainment works especially when there is competition but not for news just entertainment. WWE is not wrestling and honestly proclaims itself to be entertainment. They make up fake wrestling moves and fox makes up fake scandals.

  7. Does anyone know why videos I’ve watched (and/or liked) months ago, YouTube resets it as not watched and also resugguested? It happens constantly- all of these videos I’ve liked in the past come up unwatched and unliked ?

  8. They're a bunch of parasites… and the worst thing is, they're in on it.
    It's a game.
    They don't want the truth, they just want their fat check and and to be on TV.

  9. Politicians are supposed to be public servants revealing their intentions through the media. When they are trolling the media they are not doing an important part of their jobs.

  10. This is a tough one. Because the data would suggest that a commonly held axiom is totally false — that truth will out, integrity wins, and staying above the fray is the way forward. I want to believe these axioms. A million triquadgazillion times over I want to believe these things. But the data suggests otherwise, and to be perfectly fair, in a universe governed by ever increasing entropy, it only makes sense that ever increasing degradation of truth would also occur.

    I just realized that means we are in the Mirror Universe. Dammut dammut dammut…

  11. Haha. Laughing at self now. I've been baited into doing thousands of ideas for the elite and politicians, probably them, who knows, wherever the internet ends up.., as do many people in same position.., and they always hold everyone who did idea to crappy internet feeds or feeds the way they want more ideas. Laughing now so much. Been fooled I have been. Oh well. Been trolled me

  12. Fabricating a threat in order to stoke fear and further political goals. That's not just trolling, it's terrorism.

  13. Ohhhh I see, Most of mainstream media was just trolling, phew and i thought it was just another bullshit conspiracy theory they come up with designed to turn the public against him and question his legitimacy

  14. Even in the realm of meta physics, no 2 Stones are alike. Oliver may have presented US with some perhaps unappealing facets of our society, whereas Roger seemingly made a career of of bringing those into fruition!

  15. The idiots in the mainstream media keep falling for the same tired stunts. Fool you once, shame on me. Fool you twice, shame on you. They should fire all journalists who hype these questionable stories as well as everyone who gave Trump free publicity in 2016!

  16. Politicians and journalists that regularly appear on
    televison in dyed hair, if they suddenly stopped this frequency, hair dye companies
    would soon go out of business, it’s as if their integrity is tied to this duplicity.

  17. “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors is an American television
    series of one-hour specials that premiered on December 21, 2014, on PBS SoCal.
    Hosted by Jenelle Riley, the show features various actors discussing the most
    popular television shows and films”. Excerpted from Wikipedia… This televison
    program in its conception is very interesting, held a viewing promise for me
    until I watched only two episodes, then realized its in the nature of the
    occupation discussed, bathed in deceit, by way of self-marketing and promotion,
    which I now believe has bled into the political and television journalistic
    arenas as a new kind of ‘show business’. What politician or journalist has not
    altered their appearance, seemingly to cut a more perceived pleasingly appearance?
    As they go about marketing themselves or as a representive of their employer.

  18. That's why talk show hosts are smart: They can call out "THAT"S BS!" while the big news argues over it as if it was an existential philosophy. I want to see how much longer can the administration "call wolf" until the news realize they were being played all along, or will there be a real wolf, in the end, to rip those senators, reps, and spokespeople into pieces.

  19. McCarthyism right? A far right politician in post-WW2 America kept saying how he has a list of hundreds of politicians that were in power and were secretly communists. The red scare started and it helped conservative politicians a ton, even though this 'list' of his never was released and over time it went from hundreds, to tens, to dozens, and so on. Yet it was too late and even though in the end it was realized this list was fake, it had already hurt so many political careers and even actors in Hollywood too when the blacklist was made

  20. I am a democrat but seriously. Don’t ever show MSNBC. They are so left biased. And I support left. I want accurate and unbiased news like the Washington post or Politico

  21. They all know better but want the clicks. They can’t let someone else get it…. so I must write about that too so that other “news” person doesn’t get the view instead of me! That’s the problem. 24 hour news and begging for clicks

  22. The GOP is FULL of NOTHING but NARCISSISTS! & their SYCOPHANTS! If YOU are a US Congressman or A US Senator & YOU’RE PROMOTING Conspiracy Theories-then YOU are ALSO a DELUSIONAL NARCISSIST who believes in BULLSHIT & PROPAGANDA & LIES! You never hear that coming from ANY OTHER PARTY but the GOP!

  23. the bigger political troll was the two years of Trump-Russia. wouldn’t you undermining Nunez report, by claiming it is a troll, actually showing you are also a troll? pretty sure it is. Strike Through is created to troll

  24. Honestly, I'd like your vid's and view on politics ( except maybe your Antifa – Video )
    but I totally disagree in your usage of hi frequency sound on TV footage's.
    I ask myself if you're may using such tools for some kind of subconscious emphasizing your particular sight and control your audience in a way you're complaining about your target's

  25. Doing a Progressive Tax on (Just) the “Greedy Part” of Wealth & Conservatively Spending (Just it) on Social Programs gets us a “Stable Society” (the “True Creator” of All Wealth!!) AND we do it with “Direct Democracy” where WE Directly Propose, Enact & Enforce “Merit Based Standardized” Laws & “Money” isn’t a factor!! – "Like" this so we all See & Do this!!

  26. If I were Charlie, the second time Lucy offers me to kick the ball, I'd kick her instead. TROLL THE TROLLER AND MAKE SURE THE REACTION THEY MAKE IS TWICE AS WORSE TO EVEN OUT KARMA.

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