To The Editor:
It seems likely that Donald Trump will continue to send out Twitter messages during his presidency to dominate the news cycle and to influence or deflect news stories he does not like. To give the public an accurate idea of how Trump frames his messages, George Lakoff (a cognitive linguist) suggests the press should categorize them using labels he has developed and talked about during media interviews. Four of those labels appear below (next to each label is an example of how Trump has employed it.)
1. Diversion: Trump diverted attention from the issue of his business conflicts of interest by tweeting that Meryl Streep is the most overrated actress in Hollywood.
2. Deflection: Rather than answer a CNN reporter in a press conference, Trump said CNN dealt in fake news.
3. Trial Balloons: Trump tweeted we need to pay more attention to nukes. When there was no outcry he doubled down on the issue.
4. Pre-emptive Framing: Instead of responding to the serious charge of a hack and a “weaponizing” of the stolen information to sway an American election by the Russians, Trump tweeted that the hack was the fault of the DNC for being lax in their website security.
In this “post-truth” era, it is important for the press to go beyond conventional reporting of the “facts” and show how “the news” gets shaped. In our opinion, labeling Trump’s tweets through Lakoff’s taxonomy would be a good step in that direction.
Martin H. Levinson, PhD,
Katherine Liepe-Levinson, PhD