The Art of the Spectacle

Matt Ford in The New Republic writes of Donald Trump’s one skill―marketing himself and in turn defining himself in the context of a made up reality. Trump is quite Orwellian in his truth are lies bit, but really obscuring truth with theater” is his bread and butter.

Trump, like many authoritarian figures, understands the value of spectacle. In some ways, this is the defining trait of the president’s life. Trump captured the presidency by casting himself as a successful businessman whose vast personal fortune would insulate him from Washington’s corruption. His career, however, displays no extraordinary business acumen or particular skill at dealmaking. An exhaustive New York Times investigation earlier this year found that Fred Trump, the president’s father, used his own wealth to keep his son afloat as Donald bounced from one failed venture to the next throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

What the president truly excels at is marketing himself. Even as his father kept open a spigot of cash to prop up his son’s enterprises, Donald Trump cultivated a public image of wealth, extravagance, and success. In recent years, his image became an asset of sorts that he burnished with a reality-TV show and leased to hotel properties owned by savvier entrepreneurs around the world. Trump University, his defunct business seminar program, was the ultimate expression of this strategy. While it promised to reveal Trump’s unique insights into real-estate investing, the program often amounted to a predatory scheme to extract tens of thousands of dollars from financially troubled students.” In a way, they learned the secrets to his success better than most.

Don’t be distracted. Don’t be a rube.

November 28, 2018