Striking similarities in communication styles

In the United States, as in much of Europe, extracts have emerged from the controversial new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by journalist Michael Wolff, and have been pasted across newspapers and television screens most of this week.

With a few exceptions, and beyond its racy and sensational headlines, the Turkish media is not paying much attention to the already bestselling book.

Michael Wolff’s book was due to be released next week on Tuesday, but when Mr. Trump’s lawyers tried to stop its publication, the publisher brought forward its release to Friday this week.

I, too, was able to buy a digital copy this afternoon.

I cannot wait to read the book and make my own mind about it; but for now, I am more interested in valuable insights that it has provided into the presidential communications from White House.

President Trump’s attempts to block the book from publication are not likely to be successful. No other president has ever taken such a step prior to publication. It would constitute a violation of the US Constitution’s first amendment.

Mr. Trump could go ahead and sue the writer for defamation, but unlike the United Kingdom, the burden of proof in the US rests with the person who brings the claim.

An American court would expect a public figure to be open to greater public scrutiny and stand up to harsher opinions as they have greater access to channels of communication to respond to offending views than private citizens may have.

President Trump has shown little regard for institutional tradition and much contempt for the news media but this time, he may be stepping into dangerous territory.

His shrewd, diversionary tactics, so effective on social media, may not be so useful in a court of law, where he may be trying to curtail freedom of speech.

In fact, this latest controversy over Michael Wolff’s book has greatly intensified analysis of Trump’s communication strategy.

George Lakoff, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at University of California, Berkeley, has explained very succinctly Trump’s use of social media as a tool to distract from what he is actually doing.

In an interview with MSNBC, he listed methods used by President Trump to control public opinion by using the gullibility of the media.

“Trump isn’t a genius. He’s a super salesman, and has been for most of his life. Let’s take away his power”, Professor Lakoff said.

Pre-emptively shaping debates, diverting attention from embarrassing news, mounting a deflective attack and testing public reaction are communication tactics that are not unfamiliar to my readers in Turkey.

But unlike the United States, there are not independent mainstream news organisations to expose these tactics to wider public, nor there is a judiciary to test their compatibility with the country’s Constitution.

Freedom of speech and the rule of law – that’s where the comparison ends.

This post is also available in: Turkish

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