Do you find yourself resisting the urge to scream at characters on your favorite TV dramas? They seem like reasonably sane and intelligent people, but something comes up to make you question that assumption. They do something stupid.
- The hero and heroine are about to escape the Bad Guys and finally find peace. But even though they are facing a hard deadline and time is of the essence, they stop to make speeches or to kiss passionately to make sure the other character (and the audience) appreciates how happy they are to be together at this moment. And then the Bad Guys arrive on the scene.
- Speaking of kissing, a pair who should NOT be kissing because their relationship is a secret, stop to make out in a place where there is substantial risk they will be seen. And the vantage point of the camera suggests someone is, indeed, watching.
- After escaping from a dangerous place where they were previously trapped or imprisoned, they go back to that place for a last look around and to congratulate themselves before leaving forever, even though they risk getting caught and trapped again. As, of course they are.
This is the stuff of dramatic manipulation of the audience. Producers WANT you to scream at the characters, “Don’t do that, you idiot!” They want you to get wrapped up in the story because you know that you are so much smarter than the characters. You know how you would handle the problems they face, so you keep watching to see if the characters finally listen to the advice you are shouting at the screen, and start being smart (like yourself).
You get hooked on the show. You can’t miss a single episode because, without your advice, the characters will continue making stupid decisions.
The same holds true for the disgraced, twice-impeached ex-president, Donald J. Trump.
Remember how many utterly inane comments he made during the four years of his term in office? You may have noticed a pattern. He would say something ridiculously stupid early in the week, Monday, Tuesday at the latest. That would dominate the news for most of the week as reporters rehashed the stupid comment over and over again and quoted other leaders’ reactions to it. Or, if some other world news event overshadowed events, Trump would make a stupid comment late Thursday or early Friday to try to dominate the news going into the weekend and, hopefully, the Sunday morning talk shows.
And while the pundits remained focused on the latest stupid comment, Trump and his henchmen would carry on their more serious business away from the public eye.
We see the same thing happening now as federal and state prosecutors agonize whether to indict the former president for a number of significant crimes. For instance, regarding the hundreds of classified and non-classified documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago, Trump tries to keep the public focused on whether this is a “witch hunt” against him, whether the FBI agents were biased against him, or if the agents handled the documents correctly, or if they planted evidence, etc. But the focus should remain on this: Trump illegally took government documents from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, and he appears to have illegally obstructed justice when the government tried to get the documents returned.
Or how about the investigation of his attempt to commit fraud in the counting of votes in Georgia? Trump tries to distract attention with various side issues, but the fact remains. We have a recording of him browbeating the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” him enough votes to give him the victory. Same pattern with the New York case, and the multi-state investigation of Trump’s false slates of electors.
And let’s not forget his actions on January 6, 2021.
Don’t get distracted by the drama resulting from stupid. Stay focused on the facts.