Donald Trump's outrageous call to ban Muslims from entering the US is part of a cynical strategy to manipulate the media into giving him more coverage, just hours after he got bad polling news.
And as this tweet from Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone shows, it's working like a charm:
Trump calls for banning Muslims, then gets to call into four networks: pic.twitter.com/SidPfqxodW— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) December 8, 2015
Part of this media focus on Trump is perfectly understandable. He really is leading in the polls. There really is a portion of the electorate that likes what he says. And he really has made a proposal that is different from what the rest of the GOP field is offering.
But another part is more cynical. Coverage of Trump gets better ratings, so there's always an incentive to put him or his image onscreen when it can be justified — and even sometimes when it can't. (The networks' repeated willingness to let Trump do phone-in interviews, when most other politicians have to appear in person, has raised many eyebrows, and Calderone has a run down of this morning's coverage here.)
But you don't have to trust me on this. Ask Donald Trump, who said the following during a September campaign rally:
You know, on television, on FOX and CNN, they call it all Trump all the time. Can you believe it? All Trump all the time.
And by the way, their ratings are through the roof. If they weren't, they wouldn't put me on. I`ll be honest with you. It's a simple formula in entertainment and television. If you get good ratings — if you get good ratings — and these aren't good, these are monster — then you'll be on all the time, even if you have nothing to say.
If you come up with a cure for a major, major horrendous disease and if you don't get ratings, they won`t bother even reporting it. It's very simple business. Very simple.
A similar dynamic is at work in online media, too — stories about Trump are much more likely to be clicked on and shared on social media.
Of course, ratings and click-throughs measure actual interest from actual people. The general public is just far more interested in Donald Trump content than it is in content about any of his rivals.
And, be honest, you probably are, too — you're reading this post, after all.