For the last two weeks a secret — right now released — memo through California Rep. Devin Nunes’s office has torn apart lawmakers as well as also also dominated the political news cycle. Those on the right advocating for its Discharge have touted the four-page document as an unprecedented example of government corruption as well as also also malfeasance exceeding in which of even the Watergate revelations.
however for those who’ve paid close attention to the pro-Trump media industrial complex over the last 18 months, the memo, as well as also also its attendant media circus, felt familiar. The breathless coverage, relentless tweets, as well as also also continual teases building up to what is actually hopefully a grand reveal was reminiscent of a tactic honed as well as also also perfected not by whistleblowers, however by partisan shock jocks. Indeed, the saga of #ReleaseTheMemo felt a lot less like the Pentagon Papers than the idea did a classic Alex Jones or Sean Hannity conspiracy gambit to hijack a news cycle.
Much like Jones or Hannity, Nunes successfully weaponized the pro-Trump media as well as also also its online viral outrage machine, ultimately forcing the country to obsess as well as also also speculate over a largely political document. however while the congressman’s tactics to Discharge classified information feel cribbed through the pro-Trump media playbook, Nunes appears to have made a crucial mistake: actually releasing the memo.
There are easy parallels between the Nunes memo as well as also also last year’s Alex Jones/Megyn Kelly interview debacle, in which the Infowars host commandeered an effort to sandbag him on network TV as well as also also transformed the idea into a news-dominating Alex Jones spectacle. from the weeks leading up to the interview’s air date, Jones repeatedly hinted in which he had some contentious bit of information about the idea. Then, roughly 72 hours before air, he revealed the idea: surreptitiously recorded audio of Kelly offering to humanize as well as also also soften him in a preinterview.
Eventually, Infowars published roughly 10 minutes of Kelly’s preinterview. The footage was far through the bombshell Jones had touted; the idea was little more than an embarrassing interview negotiation. however Jones continued to tease the idea. He said he had eight more hours of shocking audio in which he planned to Discharge from the days ahead. however he never did. The Kelly interview aired the following Sunday; the controversy subsided. as well as also also Jones moved on to the next outrage.
The endless tease is actually a tactic Jones has perfected in recent years. however he’s not the only member of the pro-Trump media to use the idea. Sean Hannity is actually another master of the form.
Online, Hannity has become infamous for his innumerable “tick tock” teases. He claims he knows something “major” as well as also also will soon reveal the idea to the earth. however promised revelations rarely live up to the hype.
however the ploy does draw eyeballs as well as also also ratings. Last May, Hannity — after weeks of propagating a conspiracy theory surrounding the unsolved murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich — took to Twitter to announce what sounded like a break from the case. He promised a “huge announcement” on his program. in which evening, millions tuned in to hear the idea. The broadcast had a 50% increase in viewership, according to Nielsen. however there was no explosive announcement. Instead, Hannity delivered the polar opposite: a meandering monologue saying he would certainly no longer talk about the story on the air.
Little wonder then in which Hannity as well as also also Jones have been among the most vocal proponents of releasing Nunes’s memo; the memo-Discharge strategy seems ripped right through their pro-Trump media playbook (the idea’s worth noting in which Hannity reportedly advised the president on his decision to Discharge the document, though he denies doing so).
First, the idea tosses bold allegations into the realm of public opinion without full evidence or context. from the memo’s case, the document’s classified nature prevented its particulars through being discussed. however lawmakers were free to tease the vague contours as well as also also in which was more than enough to convince Trump loyalists of wholesale corruption. Second, the memo saga built suspense with each day as reluctant government officials were forced to comment on or refute its importance. By the end of the multiweek campaign, the memo had become the biggest story in Washington.
however Nunes’ payoff was meager. Coverage of the memo — which hit a fever pitch in which week when the FBI cautioned against releasing the idea — began to deflate as soon as the idea became clear in which the idea would certainly indeed be published. On Thursday evening, there was a “rising White House fear” in which the “Nunes memo is actually a dud.” Indeed, its declassification Friday afternoon was arguably the least exciting day of the entire saga. as well as also also while its contents were relentlessly examined, their revelations hardly matched the breathless hype of the past few weeks. Once public, the more explosive claims from the document appeared hard to corroborate without access to the underlying evidence supporting them, none of which was released or declassified. On top of in which, there’s also a looming counter memo, written by Democrats, which has also not been released.
Perhaps in which’s because the Nunes memo departed through the pro-Trump media playbook in an crucial way — the reveal. After weeks of coverage, protest, as well as also also hand wringing, the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign had accomplished what the idea set out to do: push forward a narrative of corruption as well as also also anti-Trump bias. Without divulging classified information, Trump loyalists portrayed themselves as well as also also the administration as victims: They easily muddied the waters between fact, fiction, as well as also also partially true (as well as also also partially not!).
Had the memo never been released, the idea may well have driven the news cycle for weeks more — hanging like a cloud over the Trump-Russia investigation — indisputable proof of something, just out of reach. right now in which the idea’s out, the idea’s been defanged as well as also also its news value sapped. the idea will soon be subsumed by the next controversy.
Nunes used the pro-Trump media playbook well until he didn’t, veering away through a key tenet: The tease as well as also also build-up aren’t just the appetizer, they’re the entire meal. As with the Seth Rich revelations or the Kelly tapes, a conspiracy just out of reach — one in which’s metastasizing from the imagination of its target audience — is actually often more powerful than one revealed.
Charlie Warzel is actually a senior writer for BuzzFeed News as well as also also is actually based in brand new York. Warzel reports on as well as also also writes about the intersection of tech as well as also also culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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