Were Trump’s ‘Hamilton’ tweets ‘weapons of mass distraction’? – Washington Post
Yet here he is again, back on Broadway.
Trump’s “Hamilton” tweets became the soundtrack of the weekend, widely discussed on television and in social media, and occupying prime real estate on Sunday newspaper fronts.
Some saw that as the entire point of those tweets: an effective way to change the conversation from topics Trump might not have been as eager to talk about.
“In the villainous golden lair he maintains in Trump Tower, [Trump] laughed his best Dr. Evil laugh,” wrote media critic Jack Shafer at Politico. “‘Got ’em again,’ he thought.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper called the tweets “weapons of mass distraction” in a promotion for a segment about them on his Sunday program, “State of the Union.”
Vox.com’s headline put it even more sharply: “Don’t let Donald Trump’s antics distract you from what’s really important.” (Among the “important” things Vox suggested Trump was directing attention from: the conflicts inherent in marketing his new luxury hotel in Washington to foreign diplomats.)
“It’s off-base to ascribe an intent to deflect in these ‘Hamilton’ tweets,” argues Gabriel Kahn, a journalism professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. “They are entirely consistent with the thin-skinned, petulant character of the president-elect. He clearly can’t help himself, and to think that this is part of a thought-out strategy gives him too much credit.”
Those in the news media note that it’s possible to cover more than one story about Trump at once. And the “Hamilton” story registered on several levels.
New York Times Editor Dean Baquet points out that his newspaper had four other Trump-related stories on its front page on Sunday in addition to the one about “Hamilton,”including a profile of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and an update on the transition.
The controversy over what happened in the theater “was a very powerful illustration of the different ways Americans view the world. Some saw the ‘Hamilton’ cast as courageous and others saw it as insulting. That’s a good story.”
And, he added, “when the [president-elect] tweets at the cast of the biggest play in a generation, that’s news.”
Baquet’s counterpart at The Washington Post, Martin Baron, made a similar point, saying the story didn’t push anything of importance off the paper’s front page, which included a profile of Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and a report on the president-elect’s meeting with Mitt Romney.
“The ‘Hamilton’ story was one of intense reader interest, probably because it brought into especially sharp relief the tensions in American society after this presidential election,” Baron said. “It also happened to spark a vigorous conversation about free expression.”