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Here’s a fun fact: The best training for understanding the president’s media strategy is to have studied internet trolls for years and years.

Okay, maybe that fact wasn’t so fun. Maybe it’s incredibly depressing.

At any rate, Whitney Phillips did exactly that. She was one of the earliest scholars of online trolling (yes, that’s a job). She was studying trolling when it was a tiny sideshow. And she was there, studying it, as online trolling got amplified by algorithmic platforms and a click-hungry media. As Gamergate made it a political movement. Then, most importantly, she was there, watching, as the media manipulation tactics that she had seen perfected by the trolls became the playbook for how Trump controls the media’s agenda, and the national conversation.

I’m in the media. I’m inside this machine looking out. It can be hard, from inside, to understand what the hell is happening. But Phillips is outside the machine looking in. And she understands, better than anyone I’ve talked to, what’s gone wrong, and how hard it will be to fix.

Recommended books:

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble

Custodians of the Internet by Tarleton Gillespie

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