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26th Sep 2017

COMMENT: Donald Trump’s star-spangled distraction tactics have nothing to do with patriotism

Jerk knee reaction

Nooruddean Choudry

He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Whenever Donald Trump starts making a big noise about something, start wondering why. If he is at the centre of any criticism or debate, the chances are that his reaction is genuine. Conversely, if he is kicking up a fuss about something or someone else, it is almost certainly because he desperately wants you to focus on that instead of a far more pertinent issue. It’s all part of the Trump playbook of distraction, deflection and deceit. Think of him as a shit magician with sleight of (tiny) hand.

He takes an emotive, controversial issue, hijacks it, and thrusts it to the top of the news cycle. And of course we all happily oblige. Take the whole NFL brouhaha. He doesn’t give a shiny shit about due deference to the flag, anthem, or anything else. It’s all about creating a shitstorm of divisive hysteria that steals attention away from his failures as President, stops people talking about Russia, and gets the worst dickheads amongst his support riled into a U-S-A frenzy.

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He uses the abstract notion of patriotism in much the same way he exploits religion. He has zero concern for either, as a lifetime of indifference proves. Indeed there is no way his ego would allow for anything – be it deity or nation – to take precedence over his own self-interest. But he knows and appreciates the power of both to elicit blind faith and absolute adherence. To Trump, Christianity and country are merely useful tools he can use to manipulate the unthinking masses.

In many ways the current controversy around American footballers ‘taking a knee’ during the national anthem is a perfect storm for the vindictive man-toddler with fascist tendencies. Not only does it appeal to the lowest common denominator of his core demographic – those who shout ‘freedom’ at every chance but actually want nothing of the sort – but it settles old scores with a sport that has previously spurned him. Hell hath no fury like an insecure despot spurned.

He gets to use salty colloquialisms like ‘sonofabitch’ towards flashy young millionaires, and it utterly delights those who get their news shat upon them by Fox News. There is also the bonus racial element to a movement born of Colin Kaepernick’s brave show of defiance against the unfair treatment of black people. Trump can half-heartedly insist that his crass attacks have nothing to do with race, whilst at the same time giving an exaggerated wink to his red cap/cream chino twat brigade.

Taking a knee is an important and noble expression of solidarity and anger at the societal inequalities that thrive in Trump’s America. It deserves attention and coverage. But the President’s vulgar interventions are nothing but a crude attempt to highjack a legitimate movement for personal gain. This isn’t all about Trump; it wasn’t all about Trump. Kaepernick first knelt in silent protest during Barack Obama’s tenure. But Trump has now ensured that he is at the centre of it all.

It’s easy to see why. It deflects from the ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the US democratic process. There is an obscene irony to Trump accusing others of being disloyal to their country whilst serious constitutional questions are being asked of his own allegiances. Those who quietly exercise their first amendment rights are being painted as unpatriotic brats, with Trump acting as the ringleader of the tormentors to avoid detection as a Putin pawn himself.

We spend all week talking about the likes of Dolphins’ Michael Thomas and Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, rather than special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Trump’s links to Russia. The unseemly and unnecessary beef with NBA stars LeBron James and Steph Curry overshadows the fact that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, both advisors as well as relatives of the President, have been using their private email accounts to conduct government work.

Trump plays the media like a fiddle. He yells his “You’re fired!” catchphrase at kneeling sportsmen, and instantly relegates to the inside pages the fact that Facebook have provided congressional committees with details of approximately 3,000 Russian funded ads during the US election. Meanwhile, revelations that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was wiretapped by the FBI due to concerns about his links with Moscow are eclipsed by bullshit about flags and anthems.

Deflect, incite, distract. It’s a play that continues to buy the President time, and avoids him the awkward questions he’d rather not answer. Trump is acutely aware that there is far greater value in the perception of truth than truth itself, and so he attacks the questioner instead the question, confuses the issue with ridiculous tangents, and creates a tabloid friendly media circus that’ll play well to his deplorables and generate the flurry of clicks that news outlets crave.

But in spite of all the smoke and mirrors, Mueller’s investigation still rumbles in the background like closing thunder. It could potentially have huge ramifications for Trump’s Presidency and he knows it. Perhaps that’s why he is acting more and more like he’s already campaigning for reelection. Increasingly bullish, extra incendiary (with Kim Jong-un the perfect heel), and more desperate than ever to wrap himself up in a star-spangled impunity cloak of patriotism.

Be in no doubt that Trump is consolidating the cultish support amongst his Pepe-loving crazies and preparing the rouse the rabble if needed. His administration has become even less about achieving things and more about distraction and subversion. The most farcical POTUS in living memory may be more opportunist than ideologue, but in a way that makes him more dangerous. If the threat to his power is big enough, he is capable of going nuclear in every sense.