No, Trump isn’t a propaganda genius

Sean Spicer's unintentionally hilarious press conference
I follow a number of US journalists of twitter, and a recurring response every time Donald Trump says something unhinged and daft is: ‘What a propaganda genius – he’s clearly saying this to distract us from this other damaging story that’s unfolding.’ Parallels have been drawn with the propaganda of the Third Reich, Stalin’s Russia, and Orwell’s fictional 1984.

But the truth is that this is just the media’s excuse to keep on reporting what Trump says. He’s good ratings, after all. Even for those of us that hate his politics with a passion, the man is very entertaining to watch. You would laugh at him if the situation wasn’t so horrifying. But since the media clearly know what his game is, their excuse falls apart. The only thing stopping them from ignoring Trump's lies and concentrating on the important stories are themselves. Perpetuating this con on the American people is a choice they're making.

Trump is no master propagandist. He’s no Machiavellian operator. He has all the nous of a bull in a china shop. He lies a lot, but with the sophistication of a five-year-old child. Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press conference yesterday was the final proof of this. The line between effective authoritarianism and comedy is very thin, and he somersaulted over it like an Olympic gymnast. I watched the press conference on C-Span and the assembled journalists were actually *laughing* at the end.

It’s possible that, after years of gradually brainwashing the population, cracking down on dissent, and locking us all up in room 101, Trump’s White House could claim that the sky is orange and the that they’re holding up four fingers when they’re actually holding up five. But to attempt to claim that Trumps’ inauguration was the best attended ever, ‘period’, when most people had either watched it live or seen the pictures of the measly crowd in front of Capitol Hill, wasn’t sly or clever, it was just utterly stupid. Even Trump’s die-hard supporters on Twitter had come up with a reasonable excuse, which is that it was difficult for Trump’s rural voters to travel to Washington.

Trump isn’t going to be a good President. Any politician can whip up xenophobia and divisiveness as a cheap ticket to power, but once you’re in charge you need to deliver. It’s difficult to appreciate this now, as we rightly remember them for their despicably evil actions, but Mussolini and the Nazis were genuinely popular with their base in the years before WW2 because of improvements such as the Autobahns and ‘making the trains run on time’. Trump comes into power with approval ratings in the 30s, and he’s only President at all because of an archaic and undemocratic electoral college system. Nothing he has said or done since winning the Presidency suggests that he knows how to transform America’s economy in a way that will benefit the white working class voters who have pinned their hopes on him. It’s likely that he will simply clock off and allow the more traditional conservatives such as Pence and Ryan to run the country. If he’s too much of a distraction, they may simply impeach him.

The only thing that can save Trump’s presidency from running out of steam in the next year or so would be a war. It would have to be a big war – one that would whip up mindless patriotism, necessitate a clamp-down on individual freedoms, serve as justification for a police state, and reinvigorate the rust belt with factories making bombs and munitions. I really hope I’m wrong about this, but it would not surprise me if Trump attempted to goad China into some kind of confrontation. Being a bull in a china shop, it’s the one task he’s certainly suited for.