Over the past months I’ve explained the “maze” theory of Donald Trump’s communication strategy. At the G-20 meetings in Europe, once again we have a classic example of misdirection and smokescreens to cover real, serious achievements.
Again, if you haven’t followed this, the assumption at the Trump White House is that
a) the fake news media will never, ever give positive coverage to any Trump program, no matter how successful or badly needed.
b) contrary to the old saw, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Team Trump has decided that in fact no publicity is better. Let the programs and policies get implemented and people will see the results for themselves.
c) therefore, drawing attention away from the real policy objectives and achievements is a key element of success.
Hence, “covfefe” “PsychoJoe,” and the wrestling video.
The G-20 meeting offered a new, perfect example of how Trump’s Twitteronomics works. Among the administration’s central goals for the meetings were (as always) new trade policies—including liquid natural gas deals with Poland—and a frank discussion of areas of agreement and points of difference with Vladimir Putin and the Russian delegation.
So what does Trump tweet about almost immediately?
“Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!”
And the fake news media fell for it. The predictably ever-offended Washington Post asked “Everyone? Really?” Of course not everyone. Indeed, in Europe, 95% of the delegates probably never even heard of John Podesta and even of those who had, only a tiny handful were likely aware of his problems with the DNC server and the phishing expedition that landed Hillary’s e-mails in the public discourse.
And Trump knows that.
It was a classic two-fer: in a single “cheese in the maze” tweet, Trump set the news cycle yet again with the American fake news media—which began exactly as the Post did, questioning the accuracy of the term “everyone.” Yet, there it was: Trump somehow got Podesta and Hillary’s e-mails back in the public eye months after they (supposedly) had disappeared.
There is a maxim that the Bible is written for different audiences—that the Old Testament and the Law were written for Jews, and really had no relevance to anyone who wasn’t a Jew or didn’t want to convert. The New Testament was written for Christians, and the admonitions therein only applied to believers, not to Hindus or Buddhists or followers of other religions. Then there were the parts of the Bible written for all (“For God so loved the world . . . .”). But not everyone is bound by the Jewish law, nor is everyone bound by the instructions to Christian believers. Those parts of the Book aren’t for everyone.
The same applies to Trump’s tweeting. He’s like a super deluxe Westinghouse refrigerator: his supporters have the instruction book. They know when he’s speaking to them; they understand his phrases and, yes, his humor. But people working off a GE instruction manual or some other brand won’t have a clue. The instructions will be meaningless, all the more so because they lack any sense of humor about themselves at all.
Trump is a true culture warrior in the Andrew Breitbart mold, who understands how messages get through to ordinary people (70% of whom got their primary election information from the web in 2016!)
Most of Trump’s daily tweets are about real achievements, including meetings with foreign dignitaries, laws signed, executive orders issued, and so on. Those are for the “believers”—they are the daily achievement updates. Haters often don’t even both to read those, let alone understand their significance, for to that group nothing Trump can ever do will be positive.
But then there are the “PsychoJoe” and Podesta tweets. While Trumpers may get a chuckle out of these, everyone knows they are the cheese for the media to follow and that the real stuff is in other tweets.
There is, however, usually another ulterior motive for the “cheesy” Trump tweets: they usually signal some strategic movement, such as the delegitimization of CNN, or the possibility that some agency has “tapes of Comey’s meeting with Trump (even though Trump may not have them), or that the next phase of the Justice Department’s activities will involve a serious look at the lack of cooperation between the DNC and the FBI.
And that won’t be cheese, but a wasabi snooter, right up the Democrats’ noses.
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WINNING: How President Trump’s ‘Cheese In The Maze’ Strategy Worked
About a year ago I noticed Donald Trump had developed an amazing strategy to keep the fake news media totally engrossed on meaningless stories while he did “real work” assembling his administration, getting the economy roaring, and feeling out his enemies. I called this “cheese in the maze.” It included everything from stories about feuds between various members of the administration to odd tweets from Trump himself that seemed to have nothing to do with his agenda.
It dawned on me this was all by design. Newt Gingrich had said of the media, “they are going to chase a rabbit, so you might as well give them a rabbit to chase.” And he did.
For month after month, the fake newsies pursued the most astonishing array of stories that all seemingly had one endpoint—showing that Trump’s team was in “chaos” or “collapsing” or “fighting among themselves.” Trump loved it. Even if there was genuine chaos, he is a master of navigating through waters where only he knows where he’s going. But for the most part, Trump’s “cheese” kept the fake news media rats chasing a plethora of leads from “sources” that came from the White House itself, most often deliberately.
That was not to say everything was perfectly smooth or harmonious in Trump’s White House. After all, he brought in fairly high level (and high-ego) people, including H. R. McMaster, Steve Bannon, and Rex Tillerson. It was inevitable that after a while, some, or all, of these personalities would be gone. And so they were.
But by late 2017, a different pattern began developing. As Trump stabilized his administration, purged the leakers and GOPe loyalists, and remade the government in his own image, the stories more or less stopped. Instead what took over was . . .
Trump’s policies took on a life of their own—almost all as he had predicted—and suddenly the economy was booming, judges were getting confirmed, enemies were coming to the negotiating table, and taxes were being cut. Although the fake news media often tried to avoid covering these stories, the fact was Trump no longer needed to generate anything for the rabbits to chase. Instead, the news cycle began to be filled with Trump news (in reality, Trump friendly news, even though the fake news media attempted to spin it differently).
So take the past week. Trump did two rallies, the Supreme Court handed him four victories, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement . . . and it’s only Wednesday! Trump’s activities and his constant stream of winning have replaced the “cheese,” feeding off their own momentum. During the campaign, Trump promised “You’ll get tired of winning.” it seems as though the Trump news that his supporters would see as positive is now falling like rain. On a single day, the Supreme Court gave him a major victory in the Janus labor union case, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement—whereupon Mitch McConnell announced that he would ensure Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy would be confirmed—and Trump held a rally in North Dakota.
In. One. Day!
But there is something else largely hidden at work. Trump has gone from making seemingly disconnected tweets to making short announcements that, once again, the fake news media pays little attention to. These announcements are viewed as off the cuff remarks, such as when Trump announced he was planning to reform and reorganize government, or rebuild the nation’s space capability. Then, virtually nothing is said about the subject of that announcement for weeks, even months. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Mick Mulvaney emerges with a full-blown plan to . . . reorganize government. This has now become an almost reverse “cheese in the maze.” Trump is quite openly telling everyone what he plans to do, but the fake news media ignores him until it appears months later as a fully developed policy.
This was largely the story of the tax cut bill. Be honest: How many had heard most of the details of the tax bill even one week out from it being voted on? Trump has said in a comment largely ignored that we would send a manned mission to Mars. You can bet someone in NASA is working that plan right now. “Cheese in the maze” is a thing of the past. Today’s news is winning. And more winning.
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