NY Dispatch Day 138: One of the key talents of illusionists is the ability to trick their audience into believing what they see. They can achieve this with slight of hand and distraction. They may not claim to be magicians, but it feels like magic. The best illusionists must practice for years to perfect their tricks, and so has our president. Whenever he wants to change the subject all he needs to do is take to Twitter and say something ridiculous, typically misspelled, and the media takes is seriously. Every. Single. Time.
After more than 4 years of using the same tactic, you think they would have caught on. There have even been reports about how he does this to his benefit, and yet yesterday they all fell for it again. With COVID-19 related deaths exceeding 150,000 and no end in sight, with unemployment benefits and eviction protection ending, with the economy at the brink, and no plan to deal with any of those critical issues, and a woman who was more than just his acquaintance, Ghisalaine Maxwell, who stands accused of procuring children for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually exploit, the president tweeted about the possibility of delaying the election. Political leaders and the media took the bait and had a meltdown. They trotted out experts to confirm, once again, that he has no authority to postpone the election. 45 is a master of owning the news cycle and he did it. Again.
He is a master illusionist who can distract us from real problems with his imagined ones. Administration mismanaging the pandemic and economic crisis? Intelligence that Russia offered bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan? Impeachment investigation dragging on because he blocked witnesses and evidence? Social protests against police brutality? The destruction of environmental legislation? Self-dealing through the CARES Act? Money laundering through his campaign funds? Paying off adult actresses? A bookshelf of tell all books detailing his incompetence, narcissism, and arrogance? All he needs do is tweet to take control of the conversation. Why don’t we inject COVID-19 patients with disinfectant? White nationalist are good people. The media is the enemy of the people. Obama was spying on me. Everyone likes Dr. Fauci better. The list is endless.
Can we agree to stop paying attention to his misspelled tweets? Stop racing to fact check him and spending the week dissecting what he means. He doesn’t mean anything except to distract us. Just ignore him, which is the one thing that he fears most. His megalomania is only being served by all the attention we give him. Let him fall into the background and lets reclaim reality.
Today I am grateful for Penn & Teller. The entertainers, Penn Jillette and Teller, have partnered together since the late 1970s and combine comedy and magic. What makes their brand of magic controversial is that they inform the audience how their tricks are executed while performing them; they are somehow no less magical when looking behind the scenes. Other magicians intentionally try to trick the audience to maintain the illusion. The duo has appeared on Broadway, in films, and have the longest running act in Las Vegas. They used their show, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, to advocate skepticism of pseudoscientific ideas and the paranormal through a libertarian lens while employing their distinctive brand of sarcastic humor. It ran on Showtime for seven seasons, becoming their longest running series.