When I told my wife that I did not want a society where Donald Trump was a political thought leader she asked, “Yeah, but what can you do about it?”
It’s a good point. Even though my Twitter followers are legion (give or take a legion) and my blog is occasionally read by important influencers (hi mom), my ability to affect public opinion is limited.
But this morning, I found my answer to Trump. More on that in a minute.
The way I see it, the danger of The Donald is not that he will become president (thank you Electoral College), but that he creates an environment where the options he sets are the only ones available. As Scott Adams insightfully noted yesterday, Trump’s mastery of the news cycle and his reactionary opponents’ desperation for attention result in his thought leadership on any issue he cares to raise. Combine that with our own short attention spans and Trump’s ideas — however unreasonable, unconstitutional, or just plain offensive — become the only ones on the table.
What I Can Do About It?
As NBC — in practiced tones of gravitas and credibility — lead this morning’s broadcast with The Donald’s latest nonsense, I turned the TV off. It felt great — a little hit of dopamine just from pushing a button.
It felt so good, in fact, that I made a resolution then and there: I will turn off Trump. Tweets mentioning him will be ignored, links will be left unclicked, stories unread, and TV punditry unwatched. The decision makes me deeply happy as I realize I won’t have to waste any more of my precious time thinking about Trump. The feeling is so good that I am sure I can stay Trump-free through the rest of the campaign.
Being a responsible citizen and consumer of media, you might ask me two important questions:
Won’t this result in you and your family being uninformed about the man who might be president?
- Yes, but since there isn’t a lot I can do about him, the value of being informed is very small while the cost of being informed is very high.
What if everybody took this irresponsible approach? What if nobody were paying attention to the man who might be president?
- Ask that question out loud and listen to yourself.
What would happen if nobody were paying attention to The Donald?
Trump controls the message because The Donald is a much more interesting character than The Hilary, The Marco, The Bernie, or The Ambien. He is easy to cover by the reporters, bloggers, and comedians who fill our TVs, browsers, and feeds.
Many of our content providers know that giving Trump so much more exposure than they give the “credible” candidates is wrong. But like the dieter facing that holiday gift basket full of weird and expensive once-a-year treats, they are powerless in the face of competitive pressures and high workloads to not lead with the latest easy sound bite from The Donald.
So, what would happen if everyone clicked away from coverage of The Donald? It would stop.
Content providers know that when we leave their site, their channel, their stream, we probably won’t be back soon. Anything that causes us to leave is a very, very bad thing. I haven’t gotten around to turning the TV back on because, you know…Facebook. Our short attention spans could finally be a force for good as Trump turns from link bait to link repellent.
I’ve made my decision to go Trump free and I feel great. Here’s my proposal for you: do a cleanse. Go Trump-free for the next 48 hours and share your cleanse with others suffering from toxic Trump buildup. See if you don’t feel better. You may decide to make a Trump-free diet a part of your healthy 2016 lifestyle.
You can’t stop Trump from talking, but you can stop listening to him.