The new reality, in which billions of people are able to interact and converse via social media about anything and everything, has undergone an evolution that has enabled order to emerge out of chaos.
A hashtag is an essential linguistic element in the new media discussion, which is being used to relay a message and establish a meme surrounding an issue, opinion, and even a desired action.
The use of hashtags on Twitter began with the placement of a number symbol (#) in front of a key word or phrase for the purposes of gathering together posts from different users into a single category. Posts with matching hashtags are jointly aggregated and then viewed simultaneously by a large number of people.
The idea of using media to focus public attention on a singular topic is in no way new. However, the scope of this particular digital phenomenon is. So, too, are the capacity and speed at which a hashtag can potentially influence public opinion. A carefully honed one oftentimes has the power to move individuals en masse from one side of a debate to another.
In 2008 then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama held a digital advantage over GOP rival presidential candidate John McCain, due to Obama’s deeper involvement with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media online platforms. Social media missives and hashtags became commonplace means through which campaign messages were propelled through cyberspace.
In the 2012 presidential election, GOP standard bearer Mitt Romney stepped on to social media territory when he purchased a hashtag as part of his campaign efforts. Through his acquisition, #RomneyRyan2012 became a trending topic. Romney’s campaign was reportedly the first to buy Twitter advertising in the form of a hashtag.
In the 2016 election cycle, then-GOP candidate Donald J. Trump was making a run for the presidency, and his campaign bought the following trending hashtag: #GetYourTrumpGear. The nexus between social media and politics was further established and so was a new virtual rubric.
Fast forward to the present. President Trump is the first occupant of the Oval Office to truly understand and fully embrace the digital universe in which we all find ourselves immersed. And many people who are acclimated to the digital climate, yes, even captivated by the virtual experience, are loving it.
It comes, then, as no surprise that his enemies do not share the same sentiment, and they continue to try to discourage the president from fully participating in social media activity. The digital debate continues to escalate as does the virtual war.
Most notably, a recent four-page memorandum that has been circulating in Congress, which reportedly reveals alleged United States government surveillance abuses, has been depicted in the following manner by legislators who have had the opportunity to preview its contents: “shocking,” “troubling,” and “alarming.”
The memo reportedly details the Intelligence Committee’s oversight work for the FBI and Justice Department, including FISA surveillance. Sources close to the committee indicate that it references text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, which appear to verify that the dubious Trump dossier was used to justify and obtain FISA warrants.
A recent vote by the committee to release the memorandum to lawmakers broke down along party lines, with Democrats voting against making the memo available to all members of Congress. If the committee votes to do so and there are no objections from the White House within five days, the memo can additionally be released to the public.
The hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, which calls for the memorandum to be revealed to the public, has gone viral. WikiLeaks has added an additional dimension to the hashtag initiative by offering a reward of up to $1 million to anyone who can send them a copy.
Meanwhile the government shutdown is resulting in a tug-of-war for the very minds of social media users. This is occurring via a hashtag battle of the epic kind. At issue is who is to blame for the failure in the Senate to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government up and running.
Both sides have lined up their hashtags, with Democrats brandishing the #TrumpShutdown in their tweets and Republicans wielding #SchumerShutdown in their social media posts.
Both hashtags are trending high, but #SchumerShutdown has the edge as the most memorable and effective. Its double alliteration makes the phrase roll off the tongue, and it has the distinct ring of truth.
Because it deals with an individual who has also earned the brand of “Cryin’ Chuck,” imagery tends to float to the forefront in the minds of listeners, viewers, and/or participants in the Internet fight.
Democrats have traditionally controlled the narrative, when it comes to government shutdowns. One of the problems that they presently have is that although the objective may be to lay responsibility for the partial government shutdown on President Trump’s shoulders, they and their mainstream media allies have already used up an inordinate amount of digital capital trying to pin the blame on the elephant instead of the donkey.
The Democrats have another serious impediment to winning the narrative wars this time around. It is none other than the president himself, the duly elected outsider who has the power to bypass traditional news outlets with his social media savvy.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders employed the #ShumerShutdown language when she tweeted an official statement from the White House. And President Trump used his Twitter account to point out who was responsible for causing the government shutdown. His tweeted response read: “Democrats are far more concerned with Illegal Immigrants than they are with our great Military or Safety at our dangerous Southern Border,” followed by the hashtag #WeNeedMoreRepublicansIn18.
In another tweet, the president celebrated the one-year anniversary of his presidency by posting the idea that in creating the shutdown “the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present.” He followed the tweet with the hashtag #DemocratShutdown.
In a digital punctuation mark, President Trump tweeted out one of the primary themes of his presidency, which has never failed to stir the hearts of his supporters.