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Valley Voice The Trumpification of the Internet

Journalists get the blame for anything today – including the rise of Donald Trump. But does the sleep of journalism really lead to the Trumpification of the internet?

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Every Tuesday, Handelsblatt technology reporter Britta Weddeling writes about the trends and oddities of Silicon Valley from a German perspective.

Dating is complicated. There was this guy my friend really liked. But could she really go out with someone who doesn’t know who David Foster Wallace was? Certainly, the persistent rain here influenced the tone of our conversation. It was pouring down as if the end of the world was near.

It never rains in California. But when it does, it seems like mankind is threatened with immediate extinction. Sometimes I imagine what Californian drivers would do to Berlin.

We also talked about the future. I said that I really had to inform my landlord about the water leak in my kitchen. She said she was thinking about changing jobs. I was very surprised, as my friend works for one of the million dollar tech companies. “I think I might become a journalist”, she said.

That came quite unexpected. It is mostly journalists who want to switch profession; they want to be a media professor, a PR strategist or a sales rep for water filters. For them, being a reporter is as much desirable as a barefooted endurance run over broken glass. Today, journalists get blamed for many things, including the tech bubble, global warming and the rise of Donald Trump.

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    My friend had a different opinion. “I think the problem with Trump is exactly the opposite, that we don’t have enough filters online”, she said. “If he’d lie in an interview the way he does on Twitter or on Facebook, somebody would correct him. Online, he can talk to his audience directly. He has his own newspaper that sends out all this trash on social media.”

    But do all the intelligent people on the web really believe what Trump puts out there? “Even if not – they spread his news anyway while mocking him”, said my friend. “My timeline is full of Trump videos and pictures, because he is so entertaining.”

    I later found out that over some weeks Trump received four times the attention on Twitter than all the other candidates. But what does that mean? Does the sleep of journalism produce the Trumpification of the web? And journalists are the good guys? Only in the movies.

    But maybe I’m just slightly depressed. Look outside, it’s still raining! David Foster Wallace would have understood all that.

    Es gibt auch eine deutsche Version dieser Kolumne.

    Britta Weddeling is a technology journalist with Handelsblatt, Germany's #1 business daily, based in San Francisco. She is author of a weekly English tech column called "Valley Voice" and contributes every week to a podcast at a major German radio station (Deutschlandradio,"Was mit Medien").

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