24 September 2017

What Would We Be Fixating on if Trump Didn't Control the Media Narrative?

Because Americans couldn't look away from Trump, they now can't look away from Trump. A question worth asking is What would Americans be fixating on if it weren't a topic that Trump pointed us towards?

For about a year, Americans (myself included) could not look away from the train wreck of a candidate who was Donald Trump. He offended everyone from veterans (dismissing McCain's sacrifice because he prefers heroes who weren't captured) to women (bragging about how he can grab anyone's pussy because he's a star) to anyone with a triple-digit IQ ("I know more than the generals," "I know all the words, all the best words"). He kept the country incredulous throughout his entire campaign. I honestly thought at one point that he'd made a bet with some friends about all the things he could get away with before finally dropping in the polls. (Of course now we realize he has no friends. He has only sycophants and people who fear him.)

We couldn't look away from the candidate and now the price we pay for our inability to simply dismiss him and move on with a normal campaign is that we now can't look away from the president. He might gut our healthcare. He may start a nuclear war. He might jettison an investigation that would prove he colluded with Putin to seize the White House. He might pardon any racist who has committed any crime. Now he is the most powerful leader in the world and the damage he can do is worse than any hurricane.

One of my beliefs about us is that what we fixate on we head towards. Like a little kid learning to ride a bike, we steer in the direction of the thing that captures our attention. It's worth being careful about what seizes your attention because - whether it's fear of being alone or poverty or looking foolish - what you fixate on could become your reality.

We're living towards the end of the information economy, a time when little seems capable of holding out attention. In every direction there is a new distraction and it seems shiny at first. Trump's genius was knowing how to seize and hold attention. Now, of course, what he does has very real consequences, whether it is failing to initiate aid to Puerto Rico, Florida or Texas or initiating nuclear war. Before we could not look away. Now we can't look away.

One thing we do know about Trump, though, is that he creates the biggest distractions when he has the most to hide. Talking about "fire and fury" with North Korea or tweeting about firing black athletes who protest are topics that are sure to horrify or embolden people and pundits. And as Twitter and the airwaves become full of these topics, less attention is paid to the mounting evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the election.

What should the American people and pundits be angrily debating? Not taking a knee in protest. Instead, they should be angrily debating whether the same rules of the Olympics hold with our elections. In the Olympics, if they discover that the gold medal winner cheated, the silver medal winner gets the gold. Once we prove that Trump cheated to win the election, the presidency should go to Clinton. That seems both obvious to me and like a topic that Americans should fixate on. This is unprecedented in our history and, it seems to me, worthy of our focus. Let's start that conversation.

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