By Barnard Law Collier
1. Discard all attempts to make jokes and jibes at President Trump’s expense. Don’t call him contemptuous names—that’s easy and cheap. Those Americans who believe in Trumpismo have endured barbs, sneers, and slurs from their “betters” much of their private, educational, social, and political lives. When smirking feculence is flung, those Americans become soulfully united with him, the heroic outsider with a flamethrower in Washington. There are many millions who know how it feels to be outsiders. Every insult that insiders whip up is a mac ‘n’ cheese for almost half of voting Americans.
2. Cut to the chase. Spike all except the least predictable anecdotal leads. Make your points and discuss the story’s implications from the beginning. Be humorous, but not with scorn or ridicule.
3. Whenever you produce the character of President Trump, see his surfaces and look beneath. Trump strives to play the scary clown. He is not humiliated by being told how wonderfully well he does it. Yet in actuality he appears soft, flabby, weary, quite possibly running on 24/7 uppers, and he is clearly slowing down.
4. Examine Trump’s ability to differentiate right from wrong in the real world. He lives in altTrumpworld, where the basics of behavior are learned in the mean and smelly pig pen of real estate dealings. Is there a writer who can accurately describe that world?
5. Are you making accurate observations about Trumpismo or are you echoing political and psychological warfare propaganda and perpetuating preconceptions?
6. Treat “Authority” as a multi-dimensional character, not as a sacred source. A good writer’s job is to question, describe, and evaluate the integrity and scope of Authority; to honor it but not to bow to it.
7. Refuse to believe that any politician will tell a truth because you ask for it. Stop wasting time tossing “hard ball” questions at Trump or his agents and surrogates. Public interrogation by the “press” only sharpens their perjury skills.
8. Trump is not a politician and is in fact a self-proclaimed procurer of politicians. He operates by The Procurer’s Code. (You don’t want to know.) He feels no need to please anyone besides himself. Those writers who most accurately describe Trump’s actions and behavior in truthful terms may help counteract some of his more destructive powers.
9. Like any chief executive, Trump will do damage, intentionally and not. But pathetic puppy eyes are cheap scams. To show pain and victimhood is easy, which is why so much of it appears. But the suffering of those whom his decrees hurt will not unsettle Trump or his officers. What will disturb Trump is a deadly sense of humor based on truth, not revenge or ridicule.
10. Look at America’s so-called one percent, in the USA and elsewhere. The very rich are under-reported upon. The very rich and the politicians they procure believe that they are genetically better than others, even when they fail. Add the very rich to your beat. Resist the temptation to be either fawning or snarky. The very rich are influential, insecure, and in-charge. (Reread F. Scott Fitzgerald and General Dwight Eisenhower.)
11. “Freedom of the press” is the same order of Constitutional right as the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Both are dangerous in shaky hands. At the same time they are the foundation and savior of a fortunate nation.
12. Trump’s rambling speaking style is not necessarily the sign of a simple or addled mind. If you read what he says in transcripts, he is hypnotic and cunning in his delivery. The techniques include his carnival barker’s repetition of trite slogans and mottos. His seemingly disconnected patter offers insights about how he thinks. His messages are larded with grimaces, gesticulations, arms, head, and body gestures, and a certain undercurrent of sotto voce, self-directed remarks. Check into how often and in what contexts Trump uses select words, most particularly “love” and “lies.”
13. Don’t write angry. Anger means you’ve been scared by his approach: to be scary. Cool off. If you disagree with what he says, do the reporting to verify or debunk. That’s how you’ll earn the power of trust.
14. Don’t believe that Trump is a congenital liar. In altTrumpworld he is the Truth Teller. Notice the bits and bytes of “common wisdom and local knowledge” (oft taken for “truth”) in the ideas that he preaches. His scripts are filled with over-the-top, fear-stoking allusions (e.g., carnage and gravestones). They are at times viscerally apt. Trump and his writers scatter truthlets like chocolate chips in a muffin.
15. Pay attention to those Trump gathers round him. Fine comb their private, public, and political lives with understanding and as much generosity as you think any official deserves. (Read about Jack Ma, a far outsider who has become the richest man in China. On January 9, 2017, Jack Ma talked with Trump about how to create US jobs.)
16. Read as much as you can about Roy Cohn, a gifted and lonely child (he obtained his Columbia Law School degree at age 20) who became Trump’s amoral mentor and personal lawyer. Trump testified as a character witness in the judicial proceeding that disbarred Cohn (on his deathbed) for “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.” Cohn is the Mohammad of altTrumpworld.
17. The self-applauding song the Trumps danced to at his inauguration was “I Did It My Way.” Almost everything he says or does will be his way, and purposely unpredictable, so listen. He drops subconscious clues.
18. Don’t get down and dirty, no matter what freedom of the press and bad taste may allow. American capitalism was Trump’s playpen. He knows the territory better than any politician or journalist does.
19. His employees may peddle “alternative facts” to those outside of altTrumpworld, but he may tend mostly to act upon the best available real world facts. Address and explore this tendency.
20. Sort out your personal feelings about respect and disrespect because they are the poles of psychology Trump swings between. For Trump the rule of the game he plays is simple: If Trump’s enemies disrespect him more than his close associates do, he wins.
Barney Collier describes himself as cultural anthropologist, writer, former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief, and publisher.