News & Politics

The Distractor-in-Chief: Trump Counts on Media Falling for His Off-the-Wall Tweets and Failing to Focus on What Matters

Bannon and Trump seek to undermine all experts who stand in their way.

Photo Credit: a katz / Shutterstock

One of Donald Trump’s leading roles in his new regime is to play the part of Distractor-in-Chief. And judging from the Sunday morning talk shows' ridiculous preoccupation, with his fantasy of being wiretapped by President Obama, Trump is being highly successful in steering the media away from the real story.

Every tweet Trump bangs out has three primary purposes: 1) to lure most media and pundit discussion away from critical news Americans desperately need; 2) to embolden his base; and 3) to make ordinary people throw their hands up and say, "Just turn it off, I can’t watch it anymore," or a key variant, "Just turn it off, who even knows who is telling the truth? They are all liars."

People casually, dismissively or angrily refer to Trump as a pathological liar. That seems clearly to be true. But more dangerous is that he’s a strategic liar. And in the twisted calculations of his handlers, including Steve Bannon, it doesn’t matter one iota if anyone calls Trump a liar, as long as they also come to think of all media and anyone linked to the media—such as journalists, pundits, academics, experts, and think tanks—as liars too.

Trump and Bannon’s objective is to undermine experts and scientists defending successful social policy and the role of government, just as their allies successfully undercut scientists' ability to explain climate change by relentless efforts, using highly paid fossil industry experts, to plant seeds of doubt.

Think about it: 97 percent of scientists agree on something called the climate consensus, which boils down to the fact that fossil fuels and human action are responsible for planet-altering climate change. And yet climate change was basically not discussed during the entire presidential election cycle (yeah, of course Bernie raised it, but). The strategic, well-funded efforts of the fossil fuel industry have succeeded in taking one of the more important issues of our lifetime off the table.

Now the Trump people have set out a swift course to make climate scientists out of everyone else who also actually knows what’s really going on with other crucial issues, such as: what happened to good jobs (the destruction of America's unions, not immigration); and how increased joblessness and insecurity happened (hedge funds, not immigration, helped to turn a nation of workers into a nation of independent contractors without benefits).

As with its depressingly successful strategy of debunking climate science, the new administration’s real goal is to get everyone distracted, doubting everything, all the time, and ultimately disengaging completely because even to try to discuss serious matters with someone who doesn’t already agree with you 1,000 percent feels intimidating, or worse, futile.

The mainstream media unwittingly played a crucial if not decisive role in electing Trump. If they continue to be led astray by idiotic tweets, such as this weekend’s Obama wiretap trap, they will be aiding in the destruction of American democracy. That’s not hyperbole.

Jeff Sessions is a lynchpin to the planned, systematic undermining of the right to vote, as demographic changes further threaten white supremacy. When the extreme free marketers in the corporate class team up with the cultural right-wing in war-room planning sessions, “Get the attorney general’s office 100 percent on our side” is top on their flip-chart lists. The attorney general’s office is crucial to undermine if not destroy voting rights, clean air and water, labor, civil rights, and other equally critical laws.

The attorney general also acts as the defender of the administration, and as such, will play a crucial role in protecting and defending Trump and the crooks and thieves being positioned into key agencies so they can, per Steve Bannon’s words at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “deconstruct the administrative state.” Trump and Bannon truly need Sessions, a racist, homophobic misogynist, in the position at the helm of law enforcement, as attorney general. He covers all their asses.

Yet Sessions appears to have lied under oath. This should be ample reason for his resignation and investigation for perjury. But the Sunday morning talk shows all took the Distracter-in-Chief's bait. Instead of focusing on why Sessions should be sent to the sidelines, they focused on whether Obama wiretapped Trump, all based on a fantasy tweet. More of this pathetic Pavlovian media response to Trump tweets, and our democracy will truly be at stake.

Jane McAlevey has been an organizer for 25 years. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. Her latest book is No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (Oxford University Press).

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