President Donald Trump has been fooled by right-wing media into believing that his outrageous provocations and nasty nicknames would lure Americans into an echo chamber where his voice drowned out his opponents, and amplified his lies and distortions.
But instead, his constant attacks from Twitter and shouting over the whirring blades of Marine One have repelled millions of potential voters, rather than draw them into his web of propaganda, according to Columbia University professor Todd Gitlin in a column for USA Today.
"He was so nasty, it seemed but a short step to the assumption that his propaganda was irresistible," Gitlin wrote. "Because he spends so much time watching Fox News, he might well have thought so."
"But it’s likely that the right-wing media have led him into a trap," Gitlin added. "Precisely the qualities that rouse his base repel a larger base. His taunts ignite not only fervor but also at least as large a measure of disgust."
Gitlin, a journalism and sociology professor, said a similar phenomenon played out in 2016, when suburban white women and other traditional Republican voters deserted the party and were instead replaced by an unusual coalition of voters who simply liked what Trump promised.
"Trump’s inability to boost his approval ratings even as he claims economic progress could tell the tale," Gitlin wrote. "The fixity, even stagnation of his ratings might be, in part, a consequence of the fact that the public hears him all too well, and that a majority do not like what they hear. His every crescendo of bombast reminds them why they don’t like him or trust him, why he embarrasses and frightens them."
Trump has long lived by circus owner P.T. Barnum's maxim that there's no such thing as bad publicity, but he's proving it wrong in the White House -- and Fox News is insulating him from that damaging truth.
"Instead of encouraging hope, Trump doubles down on fury," Gitlin wrote. "But he still misjudges the country."
"His very harshness incites, in response, massive disbelief and horror," he added. "When he thunders several times a day from his bully pulpit, he keeps reminding a larger public that he is, in fact, a bully."