Outrage Fatigue and Distractions in the Media

Trump the “Master” Manipulator and Distractor Extraordinaire

Since well before the 2016 presidential election, numerous parties have floated claims that Donald Trump is a master of manipulation and an expert at distraction. That his tweets are intentionally brazen; that he intends to turn heads away from Mueller and Russia probe, or Mar-a-Lago activities, or what-have-you; that there is any minute amount of method to his madness. These suggestions, most commonly mouthed by understandably frustrated left-minded folks, are off-kilter in my view.

Everything the president and his administration does is plastered all over Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every major and minor news outlet that takes itself half seriously. All-out Trump supporters appear to have dropped in numbers. Longtime GOP members are throwing in the towel because they can read the writing on the wall. And meanwhile, Democrats are sweeping up special elections across the country.

And at its core, the fervor drummed up by Trump and the GOP’s actions owes itself most to one factor: that Donald J. Trump is a Fucking Moron™.

And that’s to our favor in terms of getting him out. He can’t shut up; his narcissism won’t permit it. He makes the ultimate case against himself every single day, with every single tweet. He torpedoes his and the GOP’s own objectives by bragging about them incessantly and without regard as to how he intends to actually reach them. He declares success right before he fails. He lies and denies, and then is made out as the liar he is in the inevitable breaking news headlines that refute him — and he then denies those. The executive orders he’s so proud of will be swept away as swiftly as he tossed out Obama’s. Their consequences will still need to be dealt with, but that’s completely doable – at a mortal expense.

He’s not a mastermind of manipulation or distraction. His actions are being noticed and the masses are being notified. He isn’t so critically watched by everyone, and that’s an unfortunate fact. But more people have taken notice to Trump’s offensive reign as POTUS than I suspect many realize. I don’t know what people mean when they say he’s distracting from “everything” happening. He isn’t. He’s magnifying and amplifying every scandal that breaks because he can’t help himself — narcissists are going to nar-persist, after all — and anything damning that he doesn’t tweet himself is still picked up elsewhere.

“But the media!” some of you are sure to think. “They are focusing on the wrong things!”

Well, yes and no.

Media Coverage and Outrage Fatigue

I have mixed feelings on the overall coverage of the election cycle(s) and the Trump administration. On one hand, I think that all (or at least most) of the scandals that have surfaced deserve air time. Mar-a-Lago golf sessions, a naive strategy for North Korean denuclearization, a sex scandal with a porn star called Stormy. Even if it stirs up a lot of volatility, people are being informed of national activities, events and policy decisions — and that is vital.

On the other hand, however, one would be correct in stating that some other news gets pushed to the sidelines. How often is the Democratic platform of a given region discussed in preference over the latest dig at Senator John McCain? Ignoring positive news — news or reporting relevant to an incumbent’s voting record, or a candidate’s policies– can create problems such as the spread of misinformation, the development of warped perspectives, the inflammation of outrage and the subsequent outrage fatigue.

Personally, I’ve fatigued a bit in that I don’t read every article about, for example, Trump-Russia, anymore. I don’t not because I’ve lost interest in the subject, but because there is always something to read about it, and an inevitable summary will show up on Washington Post, the New York Times, or both. I’ve fatigued on the gun control debate, but not in that I’ve lost interest in the issue — just in the sense that I’ve lost interest in debating it with Fucking Morons™.

(Disclaimer: second amendment supporters are not Fucking Morons™. People such as Oliver North, who suggest that guns should be distributed to grade school teachers, and those who believe such nonsense, are Fucking Morons™.)

The fatigue that I do carry stems not from losing interest in issues themselves, but from losing interest in debating said issues with Trump supporters, because I know by now that they are unequivocally wrong and are, at best, utterly uninformed.

But I haven’t fatigued on those issues themselves. I still call my State representatives. I still try to be educated on new developments, and I will still talk Trump with supporters and those on the fence in person if they are willing to have an actual dialogue. Many who I know that were gung-ho for Trump in 2015 and 2016 no longer exhibit the same raw excitement for the man, his administration or his policies. Anecdotal, sure, but I suspect that the constant outrage surrounding the Trump family and Republican Congress plays at least some small role in abating the passion of those who voted for them.

I think that the outrage facet that so many are concerned with — even sick of — effects various people differently. I think those over the outrage are right that it can be counter productive, to an extent. But I think I’m right in saying that it’s beneficial to Trump’s opponents to an extent as well.

I think that while the Democrats’ platform has not been intimately discussed in the media, people should still have a reasonable idea of things that they want to accomplish. The next four to eight (and likely much, much longer) years following the end of this administration / GOP rule will almost certainly be dedicated to cleaning up this mess. Getting us back to “breaking even,” is probably the best thing that Dems could run on, with additions like electoral college reform and single payer health care nailed to the docket too (EC reform is a big maybe, though I think it would be an effective item if dems actually embraced it).

Circling back to media coverage, I’m impressed with NYT, Reuters, Politifact and WaPo reporting (to name some big ones, at least), and am incredibly disappointed with NYT’s opinion column along with sites such as Salon.com, sometimes The Hill, and etc., who post clickbaity bullshit that is the heart of the manufactured outrage that I think many have identified.

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