Right here’s an incomplete abstract of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s social feeds within the final 24 hours: 30-plus tweets that embrace information articles about working-class voters; well-meaning jabs at Brooklyn residents for his or her “bespoke quiche spots;” explainers on prime tax charges; retweeted promos for an upcoming interview; creating coverage proposals a couple of Inexperienced New Deal; a sequence of tweets dunking on a CNN journalist for a deceptive comment about her insurance policies; a six-tweet thread criticizing false equivalency in media truth checking. Over on Instagram Ocasio-Cortez posted a photograph of her swearing-in with the caption, “We open doorways so others can stroll by them” in addition to a 9-part Instagram Story strolling her viewers by the expertise of watching her first ‘60 Minutes’ profile (“I’m terrified”). Arguments, information, some earnest self-promotion, coverage rationalization, and a contact of media criticism — not dangerous for a Sunday night into Monday morning.
My colleague Katherine Miller described the visceral enchantment of Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram as a enjoyable experiment in residing vicariously by the congresswoman’s rise. “She’s performing like a daily individual. She embodies this surrealist factor of, like, ‘WHAT IF…you have been elected to Congress? What would occur subsequent? What would you do?’” It’s good leisure and a intelligent approach to get 4,500 concurrent viewers to hearken to her a coverage dialogue 9 p.m. on a random Wednesday. In different phrases, it’s a refreshing, pure mode of politicking that feels completely of the second.
However for many who’ve been taking note of the brand new, on-line dynamics of our fractured and chaotic political media ecosystem over the previous three years, there’s one thing acquainted about Ocasio-Cortez’s extraordinarily on-line persona that goes properly past leisure. It seems to be instant, natural, and unfiltered. Her feeds are equal elements proactive and reactive. And, crucially, they’re relentless, retaining Ocasio-Cortez within the information cycle. She’s an rebel, internet-native political power. Which makes her an ideal foil for a special, oxygen-sucking model of political warfare: the pro-Trump media.
To be clear, these entities are removed from carbon copies — one is a sitting congresswoman and the opposite is a free conglomeration of shock jocks, media personalities, conspiracy theorists, and trolls arguing on behalf of a billionaire president with a 41% approval score and a 53% disapproval score. And whereas the tone, tenor, and endgame of their politics are vastly totally different — one pushes tax laws, the opposite Trump propaganda and tales about Clinton-adjacent pizza parlor little one intercourse dungeons — they each know tips on how to captivate and play to their audiences, leveraging the ability of their followings, deflecting criticism, and staying on the offensive in any respect prices. Which means being unafraid to get within the combine. Right here’s how my colleague described Ocasio-Cortez’s prowess on Twitter: “She argues in threads, dunks on semi-randos, and is able to mock the tried sick personal, harvesting and redirecting its energy.” Sound acquainted?
The professional-Trump media appears to assume so. Again in November, when Ocasio-Cortez was nonetheless a representative-elect, pro-Trump pundits have been already remarking on her abilities. “AOC is utilizing social media to indicate precisely what the transition to energy is like, and can give a front-row seat to her each day expertise in Congress,” pro-Trump Twitter character Jack Posobiec tweeted, calling her livestreams a type of “actuality politics” and hinting that Trump has been urged to do the identical.
“Actuality politics” echoes the “actuality information” moniker the pro-Trump media used for itself across the time of the president’s inauguration. On the time, Mike Cernovich, one other pro-Trump media character, described it as “uncooked, low-production-value/high-entertainment-value content material.” “They need it GoPro’d and Fb Reside’d — they need it unfiltered,” he mentioned. The enchantment, he and others defined, was twofold: First, this content material shouldn’t be a easy sound chew, so there’s little concern of being taken out of context. It feels real and clear, significantly when you’re livestreaming on a regular basis. Extra importantly, it’s agenda-setting. Fixed content material creation forces your opponent to answer you.
It’s a method that’s working fantastically properly for Ocasio-Cortez, who’s pulled off the uncommon Trump-era feat of dominating on-line and cable information cycles nearly every single day since she was sworn into workplace final week.
And he or she’s leveraging that protection to drift trial balloons on varied coverage matters, like a Inexperienced New Deal or a progressive tax charge. Tweets, dunks, and livestreams beget media appearances and protection; the media appearances and protection beget extra tweets, dunks, and livestreams. The cycle repeats. And it really works. As Cernovich tweeted final week, “Everyone seems to be speaking about AOC’s tax plan….and she or he’s 29 and received sworn in a day in the past. Lololol do individuals even perceive this all?”
Whereas the savvier in MAGAland perceive Ocasio-Cortez is a worthy adversary, a few of their colleagues within the pro-Trump media seem to have had their brains scrambled by the congresswoman’s sudden prominence within the political dialog. Final week, an unknown Man Fawkes–avatared Twitter account referred to as “Nameless Q” posted a decade-old video of Ocasio-Cortez dancing as a university scholar. The intent was to painting her as unserious and unworthy of workplace. It backfired — catastrophically. “Nameless Q” was rapidly ratioed into oblivion whereas Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter response racked up 5 million views in as many hours.
Equally, on Sunday night time the pro-Trump publication Gateway Pundit revealed an “unique” article claiming Ocasio-Cortez glided by “Sandy” as a substitute of Alexandra throughout her school years. The story was billed as a scandalous reveal. However just like the “Nameless Q” tweet, it was largely laughed off the web as one other bungled assault. In the meantime, extra substantive criticisms wrestle to take root — partially as a result of Ocasio-Cortez is fast to acknowledge missteps, but additionally as a result of she’s consistently shifting ahead, advancing her argument, tweaking the agenda, and in any other case antiquating these cable information chyrons that may search to belittle her. As Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson lamented on Twitter final November, “All these lame efforts to roast Ocasio-Cortez are solely making her (and socialism) look higher.”
And now the pro-Trump media, which simply two years in the past had proclaimed itself a form of new new media, is trying an terrible lot like its conventional cable counterpart — outdated and out of contact. Just like the Parkland teenagers final 12 months, Ocasio-Cortez wields her generational stance as a weapon — she’s born of the web and instinctively excels at fashionable political data warfare. She leans into battle and she or he’s fast with a quote retweet. Final November she dismissed some essential tweets from Sarah Palin as “grandpa emails.” She’s taking part in by the brand new guidelines of the web whereas septuagenarian pundits on Fox Enterprise are tsk-tsking and calling her “little woman.”
Maybe all this merely boils all the way down to “being good at social media” — Ocasio-Cortez is actually that. It’s unclear if her technique is sustainable (fixed on-line sparring is a high-risk/high-reward sport) or whether or not it interprets into the type of governance and progressive laws that made her the youngest Home consultant in historical past (although the Inexperienced New Deal she’s championed has rapidly develop into a litmus take a look at for Democratic presidential hopefuls). However as Trump and his media equipment have demonstrated repeatedly, when our political dialogue is so simply influenced by what occurs on Twitter, the power to dominate that dialog turns into the power to dictate the information cycle. And that, for higher or worse, appears to be like loads like energy.