No doubt all the activity on Facebook and the apparent use of Facebook’s data had some impact, somewhere, on Trump’s surprise victory. But the media format that really made him president, the one whose weaknesses and perversities and polarizing tendencies he brilliantly exploited, wasn’t Zuckerberg’s unreal kingdom; it wasn’t even the Twitter platform where Trump struts and frets and rages daily. It was that old pre-internet standby, broadcast and cable television, and especially TV news. . . .Trump's real medium is television. His first core supporters were not white nationalists, but fans of the Apprentice. His showmanship gave him a gigantic share of total tv news coverage throughout election season, and still does. And once he clinched the nomination the whole right-leaning media world cast aside conservative intellectuals' uneasiness with Trump and went all in for him, because, well, that's what they do. Plus the would-be non-partisan media, especially CNN, responded to Trump's nomination by running hundreds of hours of shoutfests between Trump and Hillary supporters, which probably did as much as anything to get most Republicans to vote for him.
Nothing that Cambridge Analytica did to help the Trump campaign target swing voters (and there’s reason to think it didn’t do as much as it claimed) had anything remotely like the impact of this #alwaysTrump tsunami, which probably added up to more than $2 billion in effective advertising for his campaign during the primary season, a flood that drowned all of his rivals’ pathetic tens of millions. . . .
It’s also clear — as the economists Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro wrote in these pages late last year — that among older white Americans, the core demographic where first the primaries and then the general election were decided, television still far outstrips the internet as the most important source of news. And indeed, the three economists noted, for all the talk about Breitbart’s influence and Russian meddling and dark web advertising, Trump only improved on Mitt Romney’s showing among Americans who don’t use the internet, and he “actually lost support among internet-using voters.” In a sense, you could argue, all those tweets mattered mainly because they kept being quoted on TV.
Trump is a creature of television, and his presidency is its creation.