Discover more from The Racket News ™
Trump's meme god, hero treatment is worrisome
Middle schoolers don’t care about political campaigns, as a rule. But Donald Trump’s mugshot has wormed its way into their culture as a meme on Tiktok and YouTube. Of course, it’s all over Twitter, because Trump has a preternatural sense of timing, staying off that platform since two days after January 6th, 2021, until posting his own mugshot. It’s almost like he knew this day would come. Which means it’s almost like he did everything he could to make it come.
In 2016, Trump accrued $2 billion in earned media—free coverage by networks and newspapers—by his antics like ejecting Univision reporter Jorge Ramos from a news conference; mocking journalist Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that affects his joints; or in his campaign kickoff speech, referring to immigrants as “rapists.”
In case you have forgotten, he got elected.
Thanks for reading The Racket News ™! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
Faced with dozens of felony counts in four separate indictments, something was different about the Fulton County rendition of Trump’s booking. He arrived like a head of state, with a motorcade that shut down major traffic arteries around the busiest airport in the nation in a city choked with traffic. Trump’s visit to the Fulton County Jail did not take him past his supporters (and foes) on the Rice Street side of the facility; he came in through the secure sally port on the Jefferson Street side.
Inside the jail, supposedly Trump was treated like any other intake. Of course he wasn’t. His height and weight were reported as 6’3” and 215 lbs. They didn’t even try to measure or weigh him, reported some supporter porn-version of his vital stats. His 2020 annual physical by the White House listed him at 244 lbs. Clearly, some of the staff at the jail—including the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office—were starstruck. Some of them may even be Trump supporters, part of the MAGA core.
Trump’s mugshot was lit like a movie promotion head shot. He had clearly practiced his pose, and his lawyers didn’t object to the photo. The timing of the daily mug shot releases (4pm) by the FCSO, versus the time that Trump negotiated for his own surrender, guaranteed that Trump would get maximum juice from releasing his own mug shot. It seems like everything that happened in Atlanta was designed to maximize the media value of the event. This was much, much different from Trump’s other surrenders, which were muted, even understated, affairs.
We might blame Fulton County DA Fani Willis for the media circus. But if she planned this for maximum coverage, I’m going to say it backfired. Trump’s media star power simply overwhelmed any solemnity or seriousness of the situation. Nobody’s seeing memes of Fani Willis flying around the internet; you are seeing wall-to-wall Trump.
This kind of media saturation in the meme space cannot be bought. If virality was commodified, Google and Facebook would have long ago cashed in on it. Trump’s virality is actual, and his posed mugshot with the caption “NEVER SURRENDER” on Twitter was an example of what Elon Musk called “next-level” meme godship.
It’s troubling to me that this has occurred. The level of cooperation and coordination involved in the timing, treatment, and execution of Trump’s booking in Atlanta makes me question if he can get a fair trial here. And by “fair trial” I don’t mean that he’ll be railroaded—it means he’ll be fêted, and treated to a jury pool subject to starstruck nullification. A public trial is a hugely different thing than a secret grand jury meeting with a prosecutor. The jurors will be known. They will be on television day after day. Their lives will be forever altered. They will, for a short time, be stars in their own right.
I think Trump’s team wants to disrupt the legal process here to the point that there may never be a trial. I think their client’s treatment in Atlanta works to their advantage in this respect. Trump may well be convicted of something—more likely his federal document handling charges—in the next two years. However, I’m less and less convinced this will slow down, never mind stop, his campaign and media juggernaut.
Trump is sucking all the oxygen out of our political process, and doing it with his usual cruelty, inflammatory speech, and ability to drive the news cycle.
You might say he’s unelectable. I think it’s almost reflexive that people say it. But even unelectable people can get elected, given the right set of circumstances. Trump isn’t trying to be electable. He never has. But the circumstances—they trouble me. The hero god treatment in Atlanta is troubling. The meme lord treatment online is troubling.
What should be done about it? I don’t know. I suppose the Senate should have done it in 2021, but they didn’t, and now we have this problem. I don’t have any answers, but I do believe we have a lot of questions to answer, many of them directed at the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.