I don’t need to say which President do I?
Jokes about President Trump have so filled my Facebook timeline that they have become boring and I can’t bear to open the website just to see another meme about something he said. Talk shows are filled with digs at him and Twitters squarks with ridicule.
Why I say that the continual wall of jokes about him is not right, has nothing to do with whether I think he is a good or bad thing, it had nothing to do with any support or lack of support for him. As an objective journalist, I have no relevant views on the matter.
My point is purely an observation about political strategy and its effectiveness. We make fun of those we wish to ridicule and undermine. Those that are poking fun at Trump may believe they are doing that, when in fact they’re doing the opposite. In a very unusual way, I believe Trump wants his detractors to make fun of him. Creating jokes about his mis-use of language, his inaccuracies or his general behaviour, means his critics are not concentrating on what he is doing.
When Bill Clinton ran for office he tried to concentrate minds with the phrase it’s the “economy, stupid.”. In 1984 Vice President Walter Mondale asked “Where’s the beef?” to try and concentrate minds about the supposed lack of content in his rival’s campaign.
The constant jokes about Trump does two things.
First it means people don’t concentrate on what he is doing. Secondly it reinforces Trumps supporters view that they are faced with a wall of liberal elites who not only don’t understand their concerns – but make fun of them, which provides them with “evidence” of the need for Trump to combat the political establishment. In this Trump has something akin to the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un. To justify hardship and oppression within the country Jong-Un finds it useful to say it is a necessary evil, faced as he is with such an aggressive USA.
The so called foreign threat justifies his domestic impression. The high handed snide jokes justifies Trumps view that the media commentators don’t take the concerns of the millions of his supporters seriously. The concentration on the form of what the President has said detracts from the attention to the substance. The jokes and snide remarks rather than undermine the president provide constant proof of the need to have someone who comes from the other side if the tracks.
Millions of honest and decent people voted for Trump. To make him just about the laughs undermines the serious and important role that journalists should now play. They make it look as if the jokers doesn’t respect the views of those who continue to support him and feel that they have been ignored for too many years.
To appraise the work of this President as we appraise the work and priorities of all leaders, we must understand the appeal they have to their supporters. We must give the politician and the voters respect by subjecting them to the full serious glare of our serious attention.
Sometimes humour helps do that but sometimes it can get in the way and be counter-productive. It’s not just the USA or North Korea where this is relevant. After Brexit, Nigel Farage told MEPs. “Isn’t it funny? When I came here 17 years ago and I said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the EU, you all laughed at me but you are not laughing now,”
Satire has a long and noble tradition but sometimes the laughs drown out the serious conversation. Whether that be about the millions of Americans who feel abandoned by an “elite” in centres like New York and Los Angeles or millions of British who feel abandoned by the beaurocrats of Brussels – whether you support Trump or want him gone, perhaps it’s time to put the jokes aside get more serious about understanding what put him in power and what he is doing with it.