Love him? Dislike him? For Donald Trump, attention is attention

In the currency these days’s attention economy, Donald Trump is the world’s wealthiest male.

His media-engulfed arraignment in New York was an out-of-court Exhibit A. In going back to the no-business-like-show-business city that moved him to tabloid-fodder popularity a lot of years earlier, the previous president likewise went back to the very phase where he flourishes one of the most. As he did so, even in an atypically sedate way, he showed the strange method he comes across the world– as star and aggrieved celebration rolled into one.

Love him? Dislike him? Do not care? Does not matter. Much like throughout his presidency, he commands notification. Still. Countless New York City policeman, the U.S. Secret Service and swarms of reporters released throughout lower Manhattan can all vouch for that.

It was a procedural court look, the low called of drama in a criminal case, however it was a full-on phenomenon. And calling it that, evaluating it because method, does not lessen it– not in today’s world, where phenomenon and all its by-products drive the attention economy and the cultural discussion.

There was something about Tuesday, and about the 5 days that preceded it, that was in some way both familiar and deeply unusual.

For the a lot of part, Americans had actually left the all-Trump, all the time principles that governed our days in between 2016 and, state, mid-2021. That Trump-flavored thrum that has actually dominated given that news of the indictment emerged Thursday was barely brand-new. Familiar, too, was the anxious accident of exhibit with severity, of the mannered machinations of federal government with the anything-goes rhetoric of reality-TV-inflected, 21st-century populism.

Simply as throughout the Trump presidency, you saw the monoliths that Americans construct to assure themselves that their effort to administer a democratic republic is a Very Serious Endeavor. Prior to, it was the Washington erections of the executive and legal branches; on Tuesday it unfolded in a court house made from heavy masonry set up into the enforcing architecture that preserves the guideline of law.

All that familiarity obscured what was something really brand-new under the American sun: the moment-by-moment chronicling of an ex-president leaving for court, getting in court, charged with felonies in court, leaving court in a motorcade headed for the airport to board his personal airplane, the one with his name extremely openly painted on the side.

“Otherworldly is the best method to put it,” Dana Bash stated on CNN.


We got to see it all, as has actually become our method. Inside the court house, we saw the cinema-verité design of news video cameras behind barriers, frantically looking for– and getting– a peek. Outdoors, whatever was tracked from above by 4 news helicopters, a tableau with echoes of a previous slow-motion journey that echoes through the years: that of the white Bronco driven in 1994 by O.J. Simpson– somebody likewise implicated of a prominent criminal offense.

3 years different those 2 chopper-chronicled scenes. Those years saw the climb of truth tv, the surge of the web and social networks, and the basic supremacy of tools and state of minds convenient for obscuring truth and making American life feel– in some cases intentionally– increasingly more like a motion picture. Trump, obviously, has actually been a popular engine of this total change, both as performative civilian and, later on, as president.

That American fixation with huge, loud stories was on complete screen Tuesday as anchors, experts and sources talked and talked and talked. You heard it baked into the language at every turn.

— There was a primary character you can’t avert from: A Newsmax anchor waiting for Trump’s court look called him the “star of the program.”

— There was a metaphorical musical arrangement: “His legal cases will be a soundtrack of his governmental project,” CNN’s Jeff Zeleny stated.

— There was industrial power. “Donald Trump has actually made one hell of a brand name,” among his lawyers, Joe Tacopina, stated after the arraignment.

— There was disinformation constructed to offer item: Though no mug shot was taken of the previous president throughout his time in court Tuesday, individuals raising funds on his behalf rapidly ginned up a phony one and blasted it out to rally the soldiers and lighten their wallets.

— And there was a constant stream of material, led by Trump himself, who published on his Truth Social account right up till he approached the court house and resumed right as he left it. “America was not expected to be in this manner,” he stated at one point, another of those declarations he adjusts completely to make his individual adversities into nationwide ones.


For a lot of his life, Trump has actually been a storyteller, managing image, message and, frequently, his chosen variation of the fact. With the presidency, he made that method nationwide policy. On Tuesday, as guidelines and laws wrested that sense of control from him, he discovered himself not the storyteller however the narrated. Even with all the attention and criticism throughout all of the years, that’s a position to which he is deeply unaccustomed.

And from the appearance of the pictures and quick video, it’s not one he liked. As those mournful pictures of him in court flashed throughout nationwide screens, anchors and experts utilized words like “reduced” and “swaggerless.” Not things that Donald Trump normally abides.

“At that minute, that is not a conqueror. That is a granddad having an extremely bad day.” analyst Van Jones stated on CNN after viewing the previous president’s dejected facial expression as he left Trump Tower prior to the arraignment.

Those very same anchors and experts have actually stated those precise things previously, through his project and presidency and post-presidency. They’ve attempted to tell for Trump. In some way, over and over, he reemerges as the master teller of his own story– nevertheless much fabulism it includes.

By nightfall he was house at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, backed by American flags, speaking with numerous fans at a rally-style event and unspooling sundry complaints in prime-time television. In doing so, he was attempting to take back that story in the method he has actually constantly done finest: prior to a crowd carefully picked to excite without doubt and boo right on hint. “I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating spouse and household,” he stated.

His intent was apparent– to reveal that in the arena of the American attention economy, where the combating permanently raves, Donald J. Trump stays a powerful force. Commanding attention has actually been his world, and politics is a world of attention. Whether the legal world, which he has actually effectively prevented previously, will be anywhere near the exact same for him might be another truth completely.


Ted Anthony, director of brand-new storytelling and newsroom development for The Associated Press, has actually been discussing American culture given that 1990. Follow him on Twitter at

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