A version of this post was Published at Huffington Post
For hundreds of years, poorly armed insurgents have used armed propaganda to compensate for the overwhelming strength of the adversary. Eventually, decisive battles and a traditional army determine victory. In Trump’s case, voters mobilized, votes counted, and a winner elected.
Armed propaganda was used by the Tupamaro in Venezuela, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam after World War II, and, domestically, by U.S. anti-Vietnam war activists to radicalize the non-violent Peace Movement. Americans used the tactic in the early days of the American Revolution.
In each case, the objective was clear. Expose the opposition’s vulnerabilities and brutality, and in the process, raise consciousness. And the operating principle: All conflicts are media conflicts. Win the media war and you win the people’s hearts and minds.
Donald Trump understands non-lethal armed propaganda. He has used it to push his major initiatives. His main adversary is not his Democrat opponent. It is the media itself.
Trump uses media jujitsu. He lets the media, and the “news” they report, confirm the validity of his main campaign themes. While at the same time, he has exposed the news media's repeated bias.
Some examples. He calls for vetting immigrants from the Middle East because of the danger of potential terrorists entering the country. Terrorist attacks are reported by the media in Orlando, San Bernardino, and New York. He calls for stopping illegal entrants from the South. The media reports that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, in 2015, released 19,723 criminal illegal immigrants, including 208 convicted of murder, over 900 convicted of sex crimes and 12,307 of drunk driving. He attacks trade agreements that encourage U.S. businesses to move overseas. Business media reports that Ford will move small car production to Mexico. He decries lawlessness in the cities. The media graphically reports on violent rioting and demonstrations in New York City, Chicago, St. Paul, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Milwaukee, and Charlotte.
From the onset, Trump knew that if his positions were sound, the news would prove him correct. He wouldn’t rely on socio-economic studies to make his case. Trump is a pragmatist. "I like to think that I have that instinct. That's why I don't hire a lot of number-crunchers, and I don't trust fancy marketing surveys.”
His instincts led him to develop his campaign focus. His instincts also told him that events throughout the campaign would bear him out.
At the same time, he has undermined his prime opponent, the media. Trump supercedes traditional media by the frequent use of Twitter, mass rallies covered live through YouTube, and he regularly attacks commentators and news organizations. As a result, he has induced the same press, which has eviscerated him, to become increasingly partisan. He has raised the public’s consciousness --- that the press is often biased, and can’t be trusted. He has diverted the media from unbiased reporting to unabashed advocacy. Gallup recently reported that only 20% have a favorable view of the news media.
Donald Trump entered this battle with the odds against him. Trump lacked campaign and government experience. As an insurgent, his knew his only path to victory would be to expose his opponent’s vulnerabilities and set out his own campaign themes. The media, not his Democrat opponent, unwittingly became his prime adversary --- and, armed propaganda, his hidden weapon.