News & Politics

Lara Trump Is Building a Propaganda Empire on Facebook

Remember Trump TV? It’s still very much a thing.

Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

Given the numerous and frequent ways in which President Donald Trump runs over political norms and traditions, it becomes easy to forget some of the more outrageous ways in which he does so. One particularly salient example of this is the fact that Trump has been officially running for re-election since Jan. 20, the day he was sworn into office. (It's amusing to re-read the conservative Weekly Standard's tut-tutting against then-president Barack Obama when he filed for re-election in April of 2011.)

Trump's disturbingly early filing has allowed him to continue holding campaign rallies from the beginning of his presidency, something no other president has done before. It has also allowed him to continue making campaign commercials in the Trump team's favorite medium: Facebook.

Some of the Facebook clips have been conventional political spots, but others have been something very different, essentially state-sponsored propaganda videos glorifying the president while pretending to be an actual newscast. They also appear to be tailored to Facebook's admitted strategy of favoring video content, in the hopes that doing so will keep people from leaving the cesspool of misinformation that dominates the social network. Given Trump's long history of lying, and lashing out at journalists for pointing out his many deceptions, it's unsurprising that the clips in question are released to Trump's Facebook fans as "Real News Updates."

The series received some media attention after they debuted in August, but since then, the only people watching have been Trump's 22.8 million devoted Facebook fans. And they seem to love them, watching many clips more than a million times and leaving thousands of worshipful comments.

Unsurprisingly, in an administration known for its love of nepotism, the president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is the host of the series. According to the Daily Beast, she is also the head producer, drawing on her past experience as a producer on the TV show "Inside Edition."

In the series' first video, released July 30, she told viewers what to expect: “I bet you haven’t heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week because there’s so much fake news out there," she said. "We wanted to give you a glimpse into his week."

In an August interview with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Lara Trump defended her project as being something other than propaganda.

“The reality is, if we had a fair shake within the regular news cycle, we wouldn’t feel the need to post this sort of thing,” she said. “It’s not propaganda because it’s true.”

But instead of providing accurate reporting to the president's fans, "Real News Update" has been filled with questionable and untrue statements. With Trump having yet to sign a single piece of major legislation, the series has resorted to frequently labeling his attendance at award ceremonies or military anniversary events as presidential accomplishments.

Lara Trump and her guest anchors -- all of whom have been women made-up in the Fox News glam style -- have been particularly fond of lying about the Republican tax cut proposals, repeatedly claiming that the various plans being debated within the GOP do not favor wealthier taxpayers, despite several government analyses indicating that this is the case.

"Americans deserve a raise, and President Trump is finally putting the American worker first," former CNN pundit Kayleigh McEnany said during an August 6 clip.

Guest-host Madison Gesiotto tried to wax lyrical in her praise for the equality of the GOP tax proposal on September 21: "This is not just for the rich, this is for every single American, from sea to shining sea," she claimed in a related segment that urged viewers to call their congressional representatives. Lara Trump echoed that exhortation in an October 20 video. "Call and remind your representatives and senators to support the president's middle-class miracle today," she urged.

"Real News" also regularly features hyperbolic statements about how nearly everything Trump does is "historic." Lara Trump and her colleagues also routinely quote Trump's statements via such superlatives as "the president said it best." They also speak about him in glowing language.

"Under President Trump, crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways, gleaming across our beautiful land," his daughter-in-law pronounced on August 18.

After discussing a campaign rally that the president held in Arizona, Lara Trump was exuberant: "Now more than ever, the president believes we can do anything, build anything, and dream anything," she said.

Trump's great strength and leadership qualities are also routinely praised.

"He lets us know that the future of America is in safe hands," guest host Joy Villa pronounced on September 5, as Trump tried to stir up trouble with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. "I know that anyone who tries to attack us has to back down because our president will not back down," Villa told viewers.

While the "Real News Update" posts don't appear to block people from making critical remarks, overwhelmingly, the comments that are most popular are rapturous in their adoration for the president.

"We praise President Trump everyday for his work at Making America Great Again," wrote one supporter a November 18 clip.

Another person heaped praise on the same video: "This is [a] great way to reach more people and get the news out and curtail the lies!" she wrote. "Our president has been working so hard and has accomplished a lot! It is too bad there are still people that are believing the mainstream media! We stand behind our president who was chosen to drain the swamp!"

A popular comment left by a Facebook user named Sal Cimorelli on an October 6 video apparently expressed the reaction of many "Real News Update" fans.

Let's thank God as often as possible to have had Donald J. Trump elected to be our POTUS. He's the best possible person who could have been available to Drain the Swamp in DC, and Clean out the Vermin.

Donald J. Trump, has done more in 8 weeks to start subduing the terrorist mussies, than BO did in 8 years. Actually, BO funded and supplied the terrorist mussies with weapons and equipment for 8 years.

And most people who can't see how much good, our POTUS, Donald J. Trump, has done for us, especially small businesses and Industry in general, by reducing EPA restrictions, really might need a nice decent pair of open minded glasses.

If you've ever watched "Fox & Friends" and wondered if televised propaganda could get any more explicit in its leader-worship, you haven't watched "Real News Update."

 

Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media and technology for Salon. Email him via [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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