The Politics of Distraction

Mark Leibovich in The New York Times:

CatWe begin, as many discussions about politics today should, with an analogy to pro wrestling. Consider the ‘‘foreign object’’ routine: One combatant produces a concealed item, usually from under his tights — a pointed stick or some hand-size tool of menace — and proceeds to jab his opponent with it. He perpetrates this atrocity in full view of everybody except the referee, who remains oblivious because a complicit third party (perhaps a tag-team partner or a manager) is distracting him. Now consider our current Republican primary battle royale. Foreign objects might not exist literally in modern campaigns. But there are figurative devices, known as ‘‘shiny objects,’’ that rely on the same principles of distraction, outrage and misdirection. They also involve a hapless dupe in the middle of it all — in this case, us.

…Writing in Esquire, Charles P. Pierce said he had expected that Scott Walker would be doing better with the Republican electorate at this point. ‘‘What I did not anticipate,’’ Pierce wrote, was “the rise of the shiny object that is The Man Called Trump.’’ Pierce added that he also did not expect that Walker himself ‘‘would turn out to be such an unimpressive lump of cheese.''

Donald Trump ‘‘is the brightest and shiniest of all the bright, shiny objects,’’ said David Axelrod, a longtime Obama political adviser. Trump is like a one-man meteor shower of this genre. He sprays exhilarating antagonism upon all manner of Megyn Kellys, Mexicans or whoever his ‘‘loser’’ target of the day might be. He tweets around the clock, rides around in a shimmering helicopter and has that noggin of shimmering hair. He hurls us into the ropes until we find ourselves disoriented, careening against a turnbuckle: Where are we? How did we get here? The shiny-­object metaphor is not confined to the realm of politics. Business ­strategy, technology and marketing consultants have all referred to ‘‘bright, shiny objects’’ (or ‘‘B.S.O.s’’) to describe the fickle tastes of modern life. Urban Dictionary identifies ‘‘S.O.S.’’ (‘‘shiny-­object syndrome’’) as ‘‘a condition which causes an inability to focus on any particular person while online dating.’’ (By the same token, a number of commentators have dismissed Trump’s recent success in the polls as ‘‘just a summer fling.’’)

More here.