Dave Weigel is a politics reporter for the Washington Post. Recently he posted a photo of a mostly empty arena that was used for an event with the President, with the caption “Packed to the rafters” showing that the arena was not very full. He neglected to note that the photo was taken hours before the event was to begin.
The event, in fact, had 1,000+ more attendees than seats in the arena and was filled. Weigel may have suffered from confirmation bias – and like most everyone else on social media, quickly shared his post online without stopping to verify.
Within minutes, his tweet reached millions of people.
Thin-skinned President Trump, who suffers from the verbal equivalent of diarrhea and is unable to control his own Tweeting, named the errant reporter in a Tweet, instantly spreading Dave Weigel’s Twitter feed to tens of millions of people.
Weigel responded by noting he had deleted the tweet “after like 20 minutes“.
It took “like 20 minutes” for his tweet to spread like wildfire, reaching tens of millions of people, becoming the subject of national news coverage,and being cited by the President.
Literally, a single tweet, in minutes, became a national news story and was cited by the President.
This incident illustrates the incredible power of social media for propaganda.
Weigel gave a hint as to a possible motivation for his embarrassing tweet – just 2 hours later he posted this on his Twitter account, now being visited by potentially millions of people:
Is it possible that reporters are, in fact, making sloppy mistakes because they’ve learned that all publicity, even bad publicity, is of value to their personal brand?
Weigel turned his Twitter nonsense into a sales pitch for his own book. With one simple tweet, he bought himself a whopper of an ad campaign on social media, with help from the President’s verbal diarrhea problem. In effect, Weigel staged a public relations (also known as propaganda) coup to benefit himself.