For the past few months, we’ve seen a common trend emerge. It goes something like this:
Trump says something bombastic, offensive, jaw-dropping, terrible, dangerous, horrific, stupid, false, or — as is most often the case — all of the above.
Social media, as it’s designed to do, goes berserk. Mainstream media picks up on the moment as well, and covers it ad nauseam.
Then, across all forms of media, the backlash occurs. Social media rips mainstream media for being distracted by Trump’s follies, instead of focusing on the real story. Similarly-themed thinkpieces appear in publications right next to the stories still covering the distraction. And on cable news, pundits interject into their realtime coverage of the distraction to self-flagellate over their own failure to change the subject back to the real news (which they once again seem unable to do even as they critique their own failure to do so).
How can we be talking about tweets concerning Pence’s trip to Hamilton when there’s a more important story about the $25 million judgment against Trump University? How can we be focused on a slapstick press conference when we should be digging into the ties between Russia and the Trump team?
Stop beating yourself up.
The distraction is the story.
When Mike Pence goes to Europe, anxious leaders there need to be assured that their relationship with the US is still secure and can still be depended upon. The same goes for Mattis, Tillerson, and other members of Trump’s team. Trump’s erratic behavior, crazy statements, and horrible lies are precisely what we should be focused on; because the world is watching, and that’s exactly what they’re focused on — and deeply concerned about. Our allies have been offended and unnerved. Our enemies have been buoyed.
That’s no distraction. It’s a crisis.
When it comes to international relations, personalities matter. They can change history. And there’s almost no clear-thinking leader in the world who thinks Trump’s will change history for the better.
And the so-called distractions matter at home too. When Trump attacks the media or refuses to acknowledge the racism, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semetic words and acts his recklessness has inspired, it matters. A lot. When Trump calls the media the enemy of the American people, it’s worth your focus. When he debases American intel agencies, it is the story.
When someone qualified for the position of national security advisor turns down the position in part because he just watched Trump’s press conference, he’s sending you a pretty clear signal. When a CIA agent quits a career he expected to maintain for life, it’s a clear message. The distractions are worth your attention.
To some, these elements of Trumpism might seem like the harmless baggage that comes with a reality-show president. That’s just not true when such recklessness is coming from the Oval Office.
Is Trump an evil genius who expertly uses the art distraction to drag our attention away from the shrewd moves taking place behind the scenes? Or is he an insecure lunatic who finally achieved what he wanted in life and now can’t help himself from pissing it down history’s drainpipe?
Either way, the behavior is the story. The distraction is worthy of your focus.
→Dave Pell is the Internet’s Managing Editor. Get NextDraft Here.