Habermas’s Public Sphere versus Trump’s Twittersphere

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  • Title: Habermas’s Public Sphere versus Trump’s Twittersphere: Citizenship in a World of Social Media
  • Author(s): Michael Hofmann
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Communication and Media Studies
  • Journal Title: The Journal of Communication and Media Studies
  • Keywords: Public Sphere, Citizenship, Neoliberalism, Globalization, Twittersphere
  • Volume: 3
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2470-9247 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2470-9255 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2470-9247/CGP/v03i04/1-19
  • Citation: Hofmann, Michael. 2018. "Habermas’s Public Sphere versus Trump’s Twittersphere: Citizenship in a World of Social Media." The Journal of Communication and Media Studies 3 (4): 1-19. doi:10.18848/2470-9247/CGP/v03i04/1-19.
  • Extent: 19 pages

Abstract

This article analyzes how Trump’s shrewd use of TV and Twitter in the 2016 election could manipulate “Rust Belt” workers who for thirty years had been marginalized in the neoliberal policy-making about globalization. It argues that Trump’s “Reality TV Presidency” could have been avoided, if global media conglomerates had not ignored long-term damage to the American Democracy in order to reap short-term profits from Trump’s TV ratings. By drawing on Habermas’s precise distinctions between the economic imperatives of the market and the political responsibilities of the rational-critical public sphere, the article explains that even the “New York Times” could inadvertently contribute to this privileging of the consumer over the citizen, because the “Times” was beholden to its Free Trade ideology. These findings indicate that reducing political debates to commercial TV spectacles and practicing politics as consumption might threaten the democratic legitimacy of the 2020 election.