Stop Treating Trump's Fantasies As If They Have Some Merit
Since the Republican primaries in 2016, Donald Trump has learned how to manipulate the press better than any politician of his generation and as President he demonstrates that skill regularly. The latest example is his "spygate" fantasy in which he accused the FBI of planting a spy in his campaign to acquire dirt in order to assist the Clinton campaign. In making the accusation he employed two strategies that he knows have worked in the past.
1. Its the perfect example of his "the best defense is a good offense" strategy. In a normal world the story would be about why the FBI thought it necessary to investigate his campaign's close ties to Russia and their plans to interfere in the election. But, Trump understands that he has to derail that narrative because it supports Mueller's investigation, so he concocts a fantasy of the FBI acting as the "deep state," which pictures him as the victim of a conspiracy.
2. Once he has created the lie, he then creates a catchy name, "spygate" in this case, and talks [tweets] about it as long and loud as is necessary to drown out the real story. He also knows that his version will be picked up by the usual suspects, Hannity, Rush, Fox and Friends, etc and for his base become "the truth."
For their part, the media feels that it has to give his fantasy some credence because he's the President, so they dutifully report what they know to be fiction and note each instance that he repeats it. When, like on Thursday, the conspiracy theory is debunked, the press reports it and moves on. But, for the President's fans, Trump's fantasy was the story and it's what they hang onto, and talk radio continues to hammer on it like it had merit.
“This reveals the absurd pattern we’ve fallen into. It goes like this: President Trump makes a ridiculous accusation that almost everyone immediately understands to be false. Then we in the media, because it’s the president, treat that accusation as though it’s something that has to be taken seriously. Then governmental resources are mustered to deal with the accusation. Then Republicans try to twist the mobilization of those resources to give them the answer they’re seeking. But because it’s all based on a lie, they fail once Democrats force some measure of truth to be revealed.”
At this point, you might be asking how we can get off this merry-go-round. That is easy; make the lies the story. The headline on Friday morning should have been, "Trump's "Spygate" Lies Debunked." And then explain in detail that the President concocted the story to undermine the Mueller investigation and that the FBI acted properly in investigating a threat to our democracy. Then follow that up by explaining how this lie falls within a pattern of falsehoods the President has used to obscure evidence of wrongdoing.