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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Opinion 'Let's not pore over Melania's facial expressions and pass it off as political engagement'
When we saturate social media with this bloodthirsty salivating, we only help to distract from the real political issues, writes Brian O’Flynn.

DURING THE US presidential campaign, the global public revelled in coverage of Trump’s personal life and character flaws. While obsessively detailing Trump’s bizarre, erratic and asinine behaviour has always been indulgent voyeurism on our part, it did at one time have an overarching purpose.

It was a legitimate means of discrediting Trump. During his election campaign, it was in every left-leaning person’s interest to shine a light on Trump’s weirdness. It was useful to magnify his hypocritical, contradictory and confusing babbling, his zany and disturbing behaviour, and his murky private life, because it was a compelling method of convincing the electorate that this man was incapable of governance. His ham-fisted, incoherent fumblings painted a damning portrait of an unelectable fool.

However, the tabloid-esque fawning over Trump did not end with the election, as it should have. The cult of personality around him persists, but it desperately needs to die.

Trump is now in office

Thanks to a regrettably immutable presidential system, far removed from the parliamentary system in the UK whereby a party leader can be disenfranchised by means of a simple vote of no confidence, virtually nothing can unseat Trump short of an impeachment or an assassination.

This sustained personal attack on Trump’s laziness and ineptitude is akin to a childish beating of fists against a brick wall. We might delight in getting in a few sly digs at the abominable orange balloon animal, but we will not deflate him.

What’s worse, our spiteful self-indulgence actually serves Trump’s aims. We are aiding and abetting him.

We are falling into his trap

When we retch at Trump’s leery comments about his own daughter, when we obsessively speculate about Melania’s facial expressions at the inauguration, when we screech scornfully about how Trump allegedly watched Finding Dory while his immigration ban was being implemented, we play into Trump’s hands.

When we saturate social media with this bloodthirsty salivating, we only help to distract from the real political issues. We only aid and abet Trump’s goal of obfuscation and contribute to his culture of “alternative facts”. It is a poor excuse for political engagement, and it reeks of reality TV culture.

Trump might be a reality star, but that doesn’t mean we should let him play us like one – we should cast this pettiness aside and take Trump seriously. Because as much as we loathe to admit it, Trump is deadly serious. He is the most powerful man in the world, and every executive order he signs brings new turmoil to the lives of people around the globe.

shutterstock_425118295 Shutterstock / Sarunyu L Trump allegedly watched Finding Dory while his immigration ban was being implemented. Shutterstock / Sarunyu L / Sarunyu L

Giving him a smokescreen

Fetishising Trump, his relationships, his flaws, and his arrogance, provides the perfect smokescreen for the abhorrent policies he continues to implement. It shouldn’t shock anyone if Trump did indeed watch Finding Dory while countless Muslims were detained at airports around the US.

It shouldn’t shock us that Trump is a callous, flippant, uncaring monster. His policies reveal that unequivocally. We don’t need to dig into his bedroom to discover his nature.

Trump actively diverts our attention toward the mundane and the unwholesome

If we obediently run after every stick he throws, we are little more than his pawns. He hopes that we will be the sycophantic, shallow, voyeuristic, reality TV, tabloid audience he believes us to be. He hopes we will be impotent and self-pitying, and continue to throw our toys at him.

Let’s disappoint him. Let’s stop talking about what Trump watches on TV. Let’s stop obsessing about his weird relationships with his wife and daughters. Let’s stop craning our necks over the White House fence in the hopes that we might catch a glimpse of him peeing on a bed through a gold-curtained window.

Instead, let’s focus on putting every political obstacle we can in his way. Let’s focus on every action he’s taken that could constitute a crime, and let’s get him impeached before he can do more damage. Let’s share articles about his horrific policies and the havoc they are wreaking in real people’s lives. Let’s share petitions and protest groups.

But let’s not pore over Melania’s facial expressions and pass it off as political engagement. Trump is in office. As good as it might make us feel, reminding everyone what a despicable, aggressive, narcissistic monster he is won’t help anyone now.

Vilifying and cartoonising Trump is simply moral masturbation

Reminding ourselves that this man is a pig and sharing articles with one another analysing how festering and grotesque he is from new angles is nothing less than a worldwide circle jerk that will change nothing. We need to get our hands out of our pants.

Convincing yourself you’re superior to Trump won’t snatch the nuclear codes out of his grubby orange paws. We need to get serious. Because he is a serious threat.

Brian O’Flynn is an internationally and nationally published freelance writer focusing on social justice and political issues. 

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