On Wednesday afternoon a man, reportedly referred to as “Steve From Virginia,” climbed more than one dozen floors on the outside of Manhattan’s Trump Tower before being pulled inside by New York City policemen. Once again, this demonstrates both the brilliance of Donald Trump’s understanding of human psychology and the weakness of the general public, which Trump is merely exploiting.
Trump is a master at publicity – particularly at redirecting the news cycle. You think it’s just a coincidence that a man scales Trump Tower the day after Trump hints at violence with the phrase “2nd Amendment” and “Hillary” in the same sentence? Or, that on the same day it’s reported the campaign got a visit from the authorities? Donald Trump is working the culture. He deflects attention away from bad news – particularly his own indiscreet comments – but, he also recognizes something crucial and unremarked.
Trump knows that today’s era is one of over criminalization, which features a dangerous tangent towards the criminalizing of disfavored speech on the grounds of either disfavored content or disfavored speakers. Additionally, Trump grew up rich and privileged. In the rest of the world that makes you a target.
We Americans hold on to an illusion that we are not an envious people. Except, we are.
Trump grew up as a target, thus he quite likely realized at a very young age that manipulation, deception, and shrewdness were not tools of the con as much as they were tools of survival. By this reading, Trump’s apparent manipulation is not sordid; instead, it should be viewed as a way to lessen his enemies’ desire to bring him down.
The strategy to elude prosecutorial scrutiny and outright intimidation is simply the tactic of reducing the amount of mass news media and social media attention on the outrage of the day. Hence, the push to create new news. The fact that it could be contrived is irrelevant; except perhaps to the increasingly narrow sliver of society containing the opinion leaders who have increasingly lost their influence and gained the derision of the common man.
Bad news cannot be hidden forever, not on an internet with no eraser (and for that we should be thankful). However, bad news can be buried underneath an avalanche of feel-good news, powder-puff nonsense, and clickbait – wait, isn’t that cute – screen shots of kittens and puppies. Trump didn’t invent this strategy.
The explosion of data through the internet was accompanied by the dismantling of traditional barriers to information. Sadly, the trend towards fake, poorly-sourced, and the National Enquirer-ization of discourse followed. After all, on the internet no one knows you’re a fraud.
So Trump is no original. He is just the best known practitioner of the art of ginning up attention to redirect a news cycle away from “bad” news and towards anything else, whether it be the outrageous, vulgar, or simply clickbait of the present hour. And far from encouraging the fakery, Trump may simply have recognized he cannot fight the tidal wave. Instead, he has adapted. Perhaps he’s been doing this all his life. Perhaps just to survive.
One should not be surprised if we learn in coming hours, or days, that “Steve from Virginia” has a connection to Trump or one of his consultants. The connection may be attenuated, perhaps several degrees of separation removed from anyone provably connected to Trump, but its existence warrants probing.
It is just far too much of a coincidence that this redirecting event occurs the day after the arguably worst day of Trump’s campaign, in which the candidate may have exposed himself to criminal charges.