Donald Trump may not understand science and may not care to understand science or any problems it discovers, but he’s proven that he understands how to manipulate people for self benefit.
In a world of crumbling journalism in the mass media — which may still have a mission but has seemingly lost its soul or brain — the big news sites have been one of his most fruitful puppets. All the more convenient to him that he can push them even further in his post-truth direction by claiming they are horrible, dishonest, and unfair to him. Because they won’t even stand up to lies and attacks directed their own way!
As I have written before, there are ~50 different things that you can individually claim put Trump over the edge to “win” the presidency (despite having nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton), but culprit #2 is the mass media in my book. (Culprit #1 is Republican Party “leadership” that has had a “win at all costs” and “play dirty, very dirty” approach to US politics since Nixon was president — or earlier, but my political knowledge is sketchy before then.)
If the media was a useful toy for Trump on the campaign trail, it seems that it’s now his favorite abused and humiliated toy & tool.
Exhibit A: Just one of many examples came when Trump decided to float meetings with Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio in front of the public’s eye just before nominating an extremists science denier who had sued the EPA to actually head the science-focused EPA. What do you think got more news and more public attention — the meetings with Gore and DiCaprio or Scott Pruitt and his anti-science, pro-pollution history — a complete disaster for the person in charge of the EPA?
Did Ivanka Trump — who possibly wants actual climate action — get played by her father in the process as well? Who knows — maybe. But the media and the public very definitely got played.
Exhibit B: Moving on a few days, what do we get? Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, who has strong ties to Russia and insanely obvious conflicts of interest, gets Trump’s nomination for Secretary of State. Rick Perry, with big ties to the oil & gas industry, and who claimed he would dismantle the Department of Energy if he became president, gets nominated for the … you guessed it, Department of Energy! What can a poor Trump do to get a break and convince people he’s trying and isn’t completely batshit crazy?
Well, he can bring the most popular names in the tech and cleantech industry into Trump Towers to get their advice! That includes, of course, widely loved and idolized Elon Musk. Trump tells them that his phone line is open and they can call him any time. Ah, reassuring, yeah? Maybe the world won’t bake into a burnt pile of bull shit.
Is there a chance Donald will take some piece of advice from Elon and help society in some way? Well, sure, there’s a chance. I’m hoping as much as anyone that Elon’s brilliance can somehow break through to Donald at some point. But let’s really look at what happened here: Donald deflected attention away from insane anti-EV, anti-science, anti-humanity selections by putting a bunch of the smartest and most loved tech leaders in one room with him in Trump Towers.
Donald all of a sudden looks better by association.
Let’s also remember — Donald is notorious for not listening to his advisors. Friends and top advisors kept giving up on him during the campaign — and beforehand — because he didn’t listen to them. Starting off with millions from his father and connections galore, Donald hasn’t exactly “worked his way up” in the world. People who questioned him — fired. People who thought they were smarter than him — attacked and labeled. Donald can say he’s listening to these top advisors till the cows come home, but he hasn’t put any of them in charge of anything. He has put science-denying, pollution-pushing, anti-humanity people in charge of things.
Don’t like feeling like you got played? Who does? But don’t let that feeling lead you to getting played again. And don’t let it encourage you to encourage other people to get played by these tricks.
Until something is actually done, these matters are only mental-emotional factors — which are very certainly sometimes tricks. When someone is actually put in charge of something; when a policy is officially proposed or implemented; this is when things are real.
Exhibit C: Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick are big names to some people, but let’s be honest, ask 10 people on the street who they are and most of those people probably couldn’t tell you. I’d be surprised if >50% of people could even tell you who Tim Cook is if asked. Kanye West, on the other hand. …
On December 15, Donald Trump was supposed to hold a news conference addressing how he plans to deal his business conflicts. Left unresolved, these conflicts will cause him to violate the Constitution on his first day in office.
But late Monday night, Trump, citing “busy times,” announced that the news conference will be postponed — conveniently, until after the Electoral College convenes on December 19.
Hours later, Trump announced that his choice for secretary of state is ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013, and his nomination comes days after news broke that the CIA believes Russian cyberattacks during the presidential election were aimed at tipping the balance for Trump.
All told, Trump faced a tough news cycle on Tuesday. So what did he do? Create a circus to distract people.
First, Kanye West went to Trump Tower and met with Trump — a meeting that reportedly took place at Trump’s behest. News of the summit dominated cable news. Here’s just a sampling over a two-hour period this morning.
Trump’s business conflicts and selection of Exxon’s CEO as his top diplomat quickly became blips on the internet radar in comparison to interest in his meeting with Yeezus.
E! News reports that the Kanye meeting was instigated by Trump, who’s interested in getting West involved in an “entrepreneurial leadership role” and making him an “ambassador of sorts.”
Shortly after Kanye departed, the carnival-like atmosphere at Trump Tower continued with the arrival of former NFL stars Ray Lewis and Jim Brown, who met with Trump and then talked to reporters afterward.
Ray Lewis and Jim Brown meet with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower: "We're not here because of politics" https://t.co/kENBlJmiL3
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 13, 2016
The tactic is one frequently deployed by Trump.
One of his first major decisions as president-elect was to appoint Steve Bannon, executive chairman Breitbart News, a site that caters to white nationalists, as his “chief strategist and senior counselor.”
But Trump kept people distracted by creating a reality show-style atmosphere around his vetting of potential cabinet picks, particularly Mitt Romney.
CNN and Vanity Fair spent time covering gossip that Trump was “irritated” at campaign manager Kellyanne Conway over remarks she made criticizing Mitt Romney, a rumored candidate for Secretary of State.
Despite breathless coverage of Romney’s dinner meeting with Trump, Romney never got a cabinet position and rumors of a Trump-Conway beef are a distant memory.
During a Fox News interview last month, Trump supporter Newt Gingrich explained why it’s in Trump’s interest to keep the media and public distracted.
“Candidly, the news media is going to chase the rabbit,” he said. “So it’s better off for him to give them a rabbit than for them to go find their own rabbit. He’s had them fixated on Mitt Romney now for five or six days. I think from his perspective, that’s terrific. It gives everyone something to talk about.”
On Tuesday, the discussion should have been laser focused on Trump’s conflicts and the controversial appointment of Tillerson. But the media was chasing the rabbit — just as Trump intended.
Even if you understand this, it’s easy to jump at the slim chance that a meeting with Elon Musk will lead Don the Con to an awakening. It’s easy to have a little bit of hope split through in such dark times. But be honest with yourself, and try not to get played. This man is a black-belt professional con artist.
As Aaron Ruper’s subheading stated clearly: “To cover Trump effectively, ignore shiny objects.” Even if that involves Teslas and solar power.