On Saturday, The New York Times published a long, comprehensively researched investigation on Donald Trump’s possible conflicts of interest around the globe. It had photos, videos, maps, half a dozen bylines—real journalism! It addressed, with the Times’ characteristic probity, the very real concerns many have about the president-elect’s ability to lead fairly, and with the public’s best interests at heart, while also maintaining his family’s real-estate empire. Trump did not respond. He chose, rather, to tweet, citing nothing, that he would’ve won the popular vote if millions of people hadn’t voted illegally. The New York Times ran a story on that, as well. One story was unglamorous and required a real investment in the reader’s attention; the other required almost nothing but a willingness to be outraged. (Trump has since said he would separate himself from his business interests, but it’s unclear how, given their complexity and his lack of transparency.)
A new video for Nerdwriter draws a parallel between Trump’s ability to misdirect the public like this to the magician David Blaine, who appeared on The Tonight Show recently to make Jimmy Fallon do the little Jimmy Fallon cackle thing. It’s a stretch, at first, but the video makes the case cleanly, extrapolating Trump’s penchant for misdirection to presidents before him.
It’s easy to view Trump as an unhinged loose cannon, firing off tweets impulsively. But as this video points out, he’s also practicing the magician-approved trick of “selective attention”: It’s difficult to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. For every Twitter attack on the Hamilton cast or unasked-for statement against flag burning, there’s likely a greater sleight-of-hand that’s getting played.