The Art of the News Cycle
For the past three decades the media has painted all Presidents as "savvy" at using the sound bite and the news video to shape public opinion and move the populace in the direction they wanted. Clinton was deemed "cool" after appearing on the Arsenio Hall show playing Heartbreak Hotel on the saxophone. Bush stood atop a fire truck to assure Americans "The whole world will hear from you soon!" after 911. You may remember Obama dancing the Tango at a state dinner in Argentina, and breaking tradition by wearing a tan suit occasionally during press conferences. The press treated Obama like a rock-star, and fawned over just about every public event he attended during his tenure.
Most of these occasions were highly scripted to create news and build public relations equity. It is normal for Presidents to take advantage of opportunities to be seen as a man of the people, throwing out the first pitch at the World Series or starting the Indianapolis 500 with "Gentlemen, start your engines!"
Having been an observer of these Special Media Moments of Self Promotion for six presidential administrations, I have to say, Donald Trump is in a class by himself.
DJT has an uncanny knack for making everyday events into viral tornados. Ever since he announced his candidacy in 2015, Donald John Trump has dominated the newscycle unlike any human being in modern history. We are going on four years since he decided to run for the highest office in the land, and if it were possible (maybe it is) I bet a study of computer algorithms would show that the word 'Trump' has appeared more often on computers, TV, radio and podcasts than any other person in modern history. Just when it appears a massive weather story, earthquake or political firestorm is going to be in the headlines for a week or so, Boom! Trump becomes the center of attention. And much of that attention is not self directed. He gets tons of help from the media he calls fake! They hate him but can't stop talking about him.
They say any publicity is good publicity. But Trump has masterfully learned to parlay every piece of news, antagonism or conflict, into a quagmire for his critics. The harder they hit, the deeper they sink.
I thought after the initial impact of his unexpected victory in 2016 died down, he would settle into a more normal President-esque newscycle. Like any controversial political figure he would still be very prominent in the news. But boy was I wrong! As much as the media wants to destroy the man, they keep him in the spotlight 24/7. And though they do it in a mostly negative way, Trump keeps finding ways to overcome their negativity and turn a turnip into a flower.
These past two weeks have been perhaps the basis for another book for Trump to write. He has many bestsellers (The Art of the Deal, The Midas Touch, Think Like a Billionaire, etc.) and has lived up to most of his postulations. Since the New Year Trump dodged an impeachment effort, saw the economy continue to expand at unprecedented rates, enjoyed job numbers never before reached, watched his approval numbers reach new heights despite the unrelenting attacks by Democrats and the unfriendly press. He signed the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement that will replace the unbalanced NAFTA deal, and he tentatively reached an agreement with China on Phase One of a new trade deal that should yield a $200 billion boost in exports. He also reached an agreement with house Democrats on a $738 billion defense spending bill that improves parental leave policies for federal workers and funds a newly created Space Force.
A recent Quinnipiac Poll showed that 57% of Americans feel their lives are financially better since Trump took office.
On top of all that, Trump delivered one of the most impressive State of the Union speeches ever! He masterfully spelled out his campaign promises and a checklist of accomplishments, then paraded a series of emotionally moving examples of how his policies have re-established pride in America, respect for our service members and our police departments, boosted minority educational opportunities, and put Americans back to work. While the Speaker of the House made a fool of herself by childishly tearing up her copy of the speech, the nationwide audience was reminded of how America can lead and succeed if we put our priorities in order. Trump orchestrated visuals contrasting the positive aspects of his policies while the cameras showed Democrats sitting and scowling evan when the audience was celebrating a 102 year-old black World War II veteran.
Then just a few days later, Trump buzzed the Daytona 500 racetrack crowd in Air Force One, landing just a few minutes away. He quickly appeared riding in the Presidential Limousine they call The Beast, leading a warmup parade of race cars around the infield track to rousing ovations and shouts of "USA,USA!' and "Four More Years!" while over 9M viewers watched from all around the world.
The man has mastered the Art of the News Cycle.
The Oldest Attention Getter
Yeah, I am an older, white, male fuddy-duddy. I am not considered relevant.
So how I reacted to the Super Bowl halftime show will not resonate with the average fan.
Or will it?
I have my feelings about the NFL corporate focus on Progressive values and appealing to an international audience of mostly young viewers and fans. I could be outraged by the unwillingness of the NFL to punish players that disrespect the rules, that profess hatred for America, that repeatedly abuse women, drive while drunk, and fail drug tests. I could have given up on them a long time ago when they started using the Super Bowl as a Social Justice Media Platform, thrusting alt-left performers like Black-Eyed Peas, Nikki Minaj, and the famous Big Boi onto the stage, just so the world could see how diverse (and perverse) America really is!
I love the game of football and refuse to deny myself the enjoyment I get from watching phenomenal athletes perform at very high levels, so I have put the whole National Anthem disrespect thing and the bizarre halftime shows behind me. I simply won't allow the politics of the NFL's public relations department to spoil the sport and the entertainment I get from it.
And then there are the sophomoric attempts at humor and branding during the breaks. The ads are mostly self-serving exposes on cultural diversity, the plight of minorities, women and refugees. Many of us feel like we have to endure the advertising sermonizing just so we can watch a football game.
But Sunday's Super Bowl embrace of such an obviously sexual halftime routine is perhaps a bridge too far. Remember the "wardrobe malfunction" by Janet Jackson in 2004? Rapper MIA flipping off the audience in 2012? The Black Panther Tribute by Beyonce in 2016? All were clearly designed to push the cultural pendulum to an extreme. But this show redefined disgusting...I was embarrassed by the orchestrated crotch shots, the innuendo of the lyrics, and the twerking.
At what point do all of us object to such blatant female objectification? Is this the new normal for showing "respect" for women and their accomplishments? Shakira and Jennifer were degrading themselves!
Come on, man!
Don't they know millions of kids were watching? Is the collective conscience of the NFL dead? What made them think turning the halftime show into a Gentlemens Club Strip Show would be a good idea?
The women's achievement angle is great, I am all for that. But did it occur to them that featuring women who flaunt their sexuality, who tease the audience by focusing on hip grinding and crotch thrusting, pole dancing, hair flipping and cathouse kooing may not be the best way to pay tribute to the achievement of Latino women? Then they brought kids out to support the whole thing, as if to say, "That's my mommy up there pole dancing. Isn't she strong?"
I have always liked Shakira and Jennifer as they both have amazing stories of determination and accomplishment. But I am sorry, this stuff has to stop! I want to hear from the mom's that watched the show. Did they cover their kids eyes or suggest they should aspire to be like Jennifer? I want to ask those moms, Shakira and J.Lo, would you take your 12 year-old kids into a strip club? Would you encourage your girls to pursue a career in pole dancing?
As for the artists, why do they feel the need to use their sexuallity to entertain us? It is no different than comedians using profanity when it is unnecessary to get a laugh. The singing, dancing, live orchestras, marching bands and flag twirlers, and even high tech animation isn't enough? Just what are they trying to accomplish? How does such a display of female sexual exploitation make the world's biggest entertainment event better?
The sad truth is they are not thinking about any such altruism. They are thinking about creating a sound bite, a news headline, a social media reaction. It is SuperStar one-upmanship. "We made history!" according to Shakira, which illustrates her motives. Both women appeared more interested in their own legacy than on having any positive impact on our culture. Every year the halftime performers seem determined to overshadow every halftime show that came before them.
So they resort to what always gets the most attention, to what is the most salacious and outrageous. It is beyond sad that these two talented women would resort to the oldest, and cheapest attention getter in history: Sex.