Jack’s Write: Media-Jamming is Trump’s Alpha Play

December 28, 2017

Writing this week from his perch at Politico, Jack Shafer’s analysis of Donald Trump’s Fourth Estate feud is a perfect primer to the plays of this 45th presidency and the purpose of this blog: Crack the code of the unconventional POTUS and the games he plays with the press.

Perhaps Jack’s been studying the Playmaker’s Taxonomy. His idea, that Trump is “media-jamming,” is explained by the influence play that, sure enough, we call the Jam. It’s the toughest for targets to discern, and while it’s a high-risk play, it’s also hard to solve, particularly because, as Shafer observes, the principal player is flanked by a surrogate the size of FOX News.

There’s more to Shafer’s apt breakdown as he describes Trump’s “powers of deflection.”  This of course maps to the deflect, one of three diverting strategies among the 23 core plays. Trump derides the mistakes of enemy reporters, and that’s a strategy, too, of the provocative type, the call out. And he uses pressing plays, most obviously the label when he casts them as liars and their reports as fake news.

But if jamming is Trump’s master play, the most urgent question facing mainstream media is how to un-jam it. Here’s where  Shafer and his reporter brethren might need some schooling.

The answer is generally not in traditional plays, such as the bait (…isn’t it true, Mr. President, that…) and reflect (…but the President tweeted just last week that…). The key is not to fight Trump but as described here to encourage him or generally play a counter-intuitive game. When diverted, for example, media might better pass on the oft-tossed red herrings. When labeled, media might laugh off the insult, even own it by way of a decoy. And when accused, they might best concede their ostensible shortcomings, even when the president is dead-wrong. After all, admitting wrong-doing when nothing wrong’s been done would be an entertaining tease of the president’s ego.

A really big show is what Mr. Trump wants and as detailed by Jack Shafer resistance of the fake news media is currently how the president sells the tension and tickets to his daily reality production. For everyone’s sake, particularly the Fourth Estate, it might bed better for journalists to give him nothing at all or more than he’s bargaining for. That’ll jam the jammer.

Post by Alan Kelly