By Christopher Hooton of the Independent News:
“What’s going on?” Republican strategist Boris Epshteyn asks at the top of Trump Tower Live. He’s referring to a production screw-up, but it’s an apt opening line for a TV show no one could have predicted five years ago: a nightly chat show broadcast live on Facebook about Donald Trump’s bid to become President of the United States of America.
In a show seen by many of us in the “left-wing, crooked, total disaster” media as an embryo of a future Trump network, the Republican candidate's “war room” will be funnelling about an hour and a half of hyperbole into the news feeds of his 11.7 million followers every night until election day, when he’ll probably spontaneously combust (or, if he’s elected, the world will).
Before you ask, yes, Trump Tower Live is absolutely something worth reviewing. With MSNBC and CNN ratings dropping to 656,000 and 651,000 respectively in September, Trump’s new web show holds power, even if Facebook view counts (the first instalment is currently on 1.3 million views) notoriously overestimate.
The idea, according to Ephshteyn and fellow adviser Cliff Sims, is to give it to people straight, “bypassing” the media which “skews everything”. Essentially, it’s built on the assumption that propaganda, in being direct from the source and pure, is somehow better than reportage through a prismatic media.
Despite its grandiose name, Trump Tower Live is an extremely low/no-budget affair (as most Facebook Lives are right now, though expect this to change), largely taking place in what looks like the dev team room of a small social media start-up that everyone, including the staff, knows isn’t going to catch on. Harshly lit and struggling to be heard thanks to a dodgy boom operator, Sims and Epshteyn kick off with a chat with Trump’s campaign manager Kerryann Conway, who joins them at a very sad little table, the kind you find in a scaled down branch of a coffee chain in the terminal of a domestic airport.
Five minutes in they are likening Hillary Clinton to “the mob”, and seem convinced that the Democratic candidate has somehow orchestrated every setback that Trump faces. In the eyes of this trio, secret emails are the tip of the iceberg, and Hillary is assumed to have secret groups of mercenaries she dispatches to Trump rallies, much like a character with decent longevity in Game of Thrones.
After an interminably long opening chat, we’re promised a break, and I find myself looking forward to one of those campaign commercials that look like it was made in the image of a WrestleMania promo. Sadly, though, the intermission is a highlight reel from Trump’s most recent TV debate with Clinton, specifically the bit where he calls for Obamacare to be repealed and promises an immensely vague “new system” to replace it.
We then go back to the war room, and about 11 minutes in we hear the mysterious ring of a Skype call. A couple of minutes later it transpires this was from The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren, whose segment, the most vitriolic and substance redundant of the episode, is kind of undermined by the Skype chat box showing on screen at its opening.
“Should be the last night we have to do this,” a producer/handler has typed, presumably about the method of satellite link-up, but I prefer to think they’re predicting the conclusion of the campaign. “You should see us but our mic is muted”. “It wasn’t lol”. This is highly professional stuff. Make social media programming great again!
An interview with the RNC’s Sean Spicer then follows, before we cut to a stark juxtaposition that could easily have been dreamed up by a postmodern installation artist: an empty ’TRUMP PENCE 2016’ podium with half a verse of The Backstreet Boys' “I Want It That Way” playing over the top. The camera then slides down to floor, as if the operator has fallen asleep, before eventually pulling up and lurching into focus for the arrival of Trump, who it transpires is about to speak at a rally in Tampa.
A very well-rehearsed, perfunctorily impassioned speech then follows, ending, perhaps presciently, with Trump shouting into the microphone but there being no audio alongside the video. His mouth is moving, but no one can hear; no one’s listening anyway.