While browsing through YouTube the Deutsche Welle (DW) “documentary” “How Trump Won” popped up, so I decided to watch it. It didn’t take many seconds for it to become abundantly clear that this was going to be another partisan hack job, devoid of integrity or an honest yearning for truth. Debunking the claims made in the piece is easy for people that paid attention during the election, as I did. The problem with these kind of films is that they prey on low-information people. If you didn’t follow the election closely, you’re vulnerable to the selective claims made by the production team. Allowing such claims to stand pollutes the historical record. This so-called documentary is precisely what it laments in others, fake news.
The film claims that Trump was wrong to claim that three million people voted illegally in the election. While the exact number of illegal votes may never be known, partly due to it being impossible to ascertain such information retroactively and also due to the strong opposition to the voter fraud panel. Left-wingers often deny any and all claims about questionable voting by demographic groups favourable to it. Yet, we know that instances of voter fraud are real. Many videos have surfaced after the 2016 election and others concerning “bussing”. Taking literal busloads of people from voting district to district to vote either multiple times or in districts in need of an underhanded boost in order to swing the electoral outcome. Following the defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama, a now well-known video emerged of a left-wing political operative bragging about bringing in people from out of state.
Thus, directionally Trump is correct in his assertion that “millions voted illegally”. I’m not going to claim that Trump is a speaker of literal truth all the time, but his directional truth served him well in the run-up to the election and continues to do so now. People care more about the direction of his statements and the direction the country and economy is heading in than specifics.
The film goes on to claim that Politifact is independent and unbiased. That statement would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. Many instances have been uncovered by the Twittersphere where similar or identical statements have been rated differently based on whether the originator of said statement is on the left or the right. Fact-checking services are notoriously biased and sneaky in their approach to their mission. Facebook’s and other social media giants’ fact checking features have been heavily slanted in their application to political content. “Strangely” they are harsher on conservatives than liberals, go figure.
Going forward, the piece claims that there was an echo chamber on Trump’s side, completely neglecting to mention anything on the other side. DW would have us believe that the left doesn’t have an echo chamber of their own. Studies have shown that Twitter engagement is more prevalent right-to-left, than left-to-right. This means that people on the right check out and engage with left-wing content much more than left-wingers do the same with content originating on the right. The next ridiculous claim is that the media was “not used to politicians lying”. Of all the absurdism of the film, this might take the cake. What are politicians known for if not that?
Lying by omission is a fake news crime that DW racked-up several indictments for. They namedropped Breitbart as a “fake news company”, never mentioning anything on the left with a questionable relationship to facts. They go on and on about the Mercer family, conveniently not mentioning the elephant in the room, George Soros. Even if they exclusively went after right-wing billionaire funders of political operations, why not go after the left’s favorite boogeymen, the Koch brothers? Aren’t they “evil” enough for DW’s purposes? Or perhaps such an investigation would reveal that many sat on the fence, not supporting Trump or even backing the Never-Trump movement. Beyond that it is indisputable that Hillary has significantly more “dark money” than Trump did. But such inconvenient facts can’t be allowed to destroy the carefully crafted narrative.
Not content with these clearly questionable claims, the film goes on to lament the manipulation of public opinion in favor of Trump by SCL. To counter this my “exhibit A” is the entirety of the mainstream media and the Soros backed alternative media on the left. Is their skewed coverage and analysis not manipulation on a grand scale? Next in the line of selective use of data points to back up a fraudulent narrative, DW goes after Cambridge Analytica for their data mining and data point operations. Obama was famous for his use of “big data” in the 2012 election, in fact the clever and intelligent use of such information is credited with securing his victory over Romney. Famously, the GOP’s data operation in that electoral cycle crashed and burned, failing at critical junctures, for instance right before the election. Hillary also was known for her relying on microtargeting voters based on algorithms and big data. It is supremely disingenuous to go after Trump for doing something that is standard operating procedure in modern campaigning.
Apart from the plethora of factual errors, selective use of said facts, disingenuous framing of the issues and so on, the film also used manipulative aesthetics in its quest to undermine Trump. Ominous music is used at critical junctures, especially when talking about the perceived nefarious role played by the Mercer family. As if the Mercers was the first rich family to take an interest in an American election, please. What truly irks me about films of this nature is their selective bias in picking factoids and their framing. It is easy to make a case when you completely hide all mitigating circumstances and pieces of information. It would be like a criminal trial without a defence attorney, in other words a show trial, not justice or an honest quest for truth.