Like a lot of people, I wasted much of yesterday watching the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, which, despite being trailed heavily by the UK news media, was a total snooze-fest.
Even by his own low standards, the Trump delivered a painstakingly laboured speech, and one certainly not befitting the occasion. This was book-ended by people praying for the future of America, quite literally. It was the first time I’ve watched a U.S. presidential inauguration live on television and I found it quite surreal.
Afterwards, the news switched to political and media punditry, asking how we got here and what it all means. It is worth remembering that Trump’s candidacy was initially treated as a complete joke, something the BBC’s Newsnight did a brilliant job of juxtaposing with his victory in the intro to last night’s programme – watch it here
Meanwhile, many have framed Trump’s successes in terms of 2016 being the “authenticity election
”. The idea being that, in a political era saturated by spin, image consultants and career politicians, a candidate that ‘says what they believe’ rather than 'what people want to hear’ stands a good chance of winning.
“Authenticity is everything in politics. Once you learn to fake it, you’re golden.” - George Burns
Of course, authenticity is in the eye of the beholder. I’d argue that there is nothing authentic about Donald 'drain the swamp’ Trump, but undoubtedly the appearance of authenticity is a very potent thing indeed.
That’s why I found this week’s Bloomberg expose
of Mark Zuckerberg’s image management practices quite pertinent. The report – shock, horror – reveals that “a handful of Facebook employees manage communications just for him, helping write his posts and speeches”. For almost any other CEO of a large Silicon Valley tech company, such a revelation would be a complete non-story.
However, putting to one side the fact that some believe Zuck has political ambitions of his own and that getting caught being inauthentically authentic isn’t a great start, the entire mission
of Facebook is to “make the world more open and connected” – a mission nauseatingly repeated by the company’s founder over the years at every opportunity.
Defending the accusation that Facebook helps spread “fake news,” which in turn contributed to a Trump victory, Zuckerberg (or a member of his PR team) recently posted
that more than 99 per cent of what people see on the social network is “authentic”. It’s not clear if the same can now be said of Zuck’s own posts!
Bonus: Two other media tidbits this week:
2) The founder and editor of The Register, Drew Cullen, was interviewed
on a recent podcast by the Press Gazette where he had a few choice words to say on how Google and Facebook are stealing ad dollars, and the current state of tech journalism.
“… publications value access an awful lot and mostly will play ball. We have this grotesque situation where large swathes of the tech press and general press are fawning over these gigantic Silicon Valley firms who are led by people on the spectrum who have no social responsibility and have infected the body politic.”