Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Power of Social Media

Mr. Trump, hate or love him, is truly a man of the 21st Century.  No, he isn't going to pen some great literary that captures the time nor is he likely to going to cure cancer or solve world hunger.  But what he is doing, and something Hillary never did, is leverage social media to get his word out and rally his supporters.

In the last week or so, Mr. Trump has taken to Twitter (his preferred medium) to go after Boeing for its $4 billion price tag on the new Air Force one replacement.  Boeing was completely caught off guard and fumbled some long-winded, rambling reply.  Most tellingly, their stocks took a hit.

Mr. Trump then followed with a slap to Lockheed Martin for its ridiculously overpriced F-35.  Their stocks immediately dropped by 2 percent.

The litany of names Mr. Trump has been called by his detractors during the election and his since his victory are legion.  But what they and even many of Mr. Trump's supporters miss is he successfully uses social media (and by extension the mainstream media) to get within the decision circles of his opponents.  In 140 characters or less, Mr. Trump continues to put politicians, media pundits and now military corporations on notice leaving them flapping in the wind as they try to cobble some sort of counter.  Too late, Mr. Trump has struck and moved on.

The F-35 is perhaps the clearest case of why this works.  The F-35 was begun in 1996 and perhaps represents the clearest case of "an elephant is a mouse built by committee".  The entire F-35 program has been nothing but committees all brining their requirements to the table with no adults empowered to say "NO!".  Rather than forming his own committees to counter the corporate committees, Mr. Trump is bypassing the whole thing and going right after the juggler.

It is brash, it is theatrical, and so far it has worked.  The committees are too large, to awkward, and too slow to react to Mr. Trump's mastery of social media.  But what's odd is how everyone thinks this is something new.  Mr. Trump's favored way of communication is merely an update to the something that harkens back to FDR….the President's Weekly Radio Address.

FDR needed a way to reach out to voters and convince them to support the New Deal.  He used the then modern technology of radio to conduct essentially a nationwide fireside chat.  It worked!  People felt as though FDR was sitting in their living rooms talking to them personally.

Mr. Trump is doing the same thing but both his personality and his choice of medium (Twitter) eschews the warmth and homespun folksiness of FDR in favor of a brash, just the facts approach of a New York businessman.

Political pundits and critics alike will most likely doubt (in reality, hope) that Mr. Trump will be able to keep this up for 4 years.  However, how many of us believed that a brash, loudmouthed, New Yorker with a bad hairdo could get elected?

Those same critics may be worried that the F-35 is just too big to cancel.  And that's where Mr. Trump's brashness may just pay off.  Who is to say something is too big to fail?  The F-35 won't do what its supposed to do, it was dumb-downed a longtime ago by all of the competing committees from the various branches of the service and the Pentagon.

But if cancels the program, what then?  For starters, Mr. Trump could simply increase production of the F-15E Strike Eagles to fill the void of the legacy fighters that are coming to the end of their lifecycle.  He can also increase the use of stand-off munitions to strike enemy air forces before they even take-off. Finally, he can unitize cyber warfare to shutdown enemy command and control networks and power grids.  So no Virginia, there is no such thing as something too big to fail.

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