Support 100 years of independent journalism.

Whack-a-Mole: is Trump’s Game of Thrones meme meant to distract us from a brewing cabinet scandal?

Yes.

By Media Mole

If there’s one thing the internet likes, it’s dank memes. If there are two things the internet likes, it’s dank memes and Game of Thrones. If there are three things the internet likes, it’s dank memes, Game of Thrones, and political trolling.

President Donald Trump hit all three of those bullseyes on Twitter this morning when he posted a faux-Game of Thrones poster of himself as a meme, with the slogan “Sanctions are Coming: November 5”.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Predictably, the internet lost its collective mind. Will there actually be sanctions? Sanctions against whom? Saudi Arabia? Honduras? Canada? And why Game of Thrones? Whaaaaat is haaaappenniiiing &c &c?

But your mole is nothing if not a public service, and wants to help you get behind all this tomfoolery. Hilarious and silly though the whole thing may be, there is a deeper question that always should be asked: Why now?

The answer is easy. Donald Trump is adept at distraction tactics. Like a camp stage magician, he throws down an outrageous or viral tweet or pronouncement in order to distract from some real story that’s affecting him negatively.

Trump may not know much, but he knows one thing: that, no matter what the problem is, the solution is always to take control of the cycle. The memory of the news media is short, and their attention easily distracted. But we have to stay strong, people, which is why we are instigating a new series: Whack-a-Mole. Whenever Trump throws the media a shiny thing, instead of focusing on that, we’re going to ask: what’s he trying to distract us from?

So, what’s the threat that has led Trump to throw a showbiz smoke-grenade into our collective consciousness? To fill the town square, metaphorically speaking, with concealing mists and razzmatazz?

There are a couple of possible candidates, but the main one is a scandal brewing above the head of Ryan Zinke, the former Navy Seal and right-wing congressman currently serving as Interior Secretary. Zinke was referred yesterday to the Justice Department for investigation into alleged misconduct surrounding a deal for development of federal land in Whitefish, Montana.

The White House is growing increasingly concerned that Zinke could have broken the law with the deal, according to the Washington Post, and are worried about the impact of yet another high-profile corruption scandal just before the crucial midterm elections on 6 November (clearly, that’s why Trump’s meme said that these mysterious supposed sanctions were “coming November 5”.)

Zinke has long been followed around by the faint but pungent musk of scandal. There are already four investigations into his conduct by the office of the Inspector-General, it was reported in October, including looking into whether he tried to bend the rules around getting departmental transport for his wife, Lolita, and for two possibly-dodgy deals involving new casinos in Connecticut. Zinke denies wrongdoing. 

He’s a pretty amusing character in his own right, in fact. He arrived at the Department of the Interior on his first day wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse called Tonto. But he’s also done some serious damage, dissolving protections for public lands from developments by mining and oil industries, and has proposed dismantling the Endangered Species Act.

So, instead of falling for the distraction tactic, maybe hit Trump with a cabinet corruption joke instead of a Game of Thrones one. There might be something in “Zinke/winter is coming?” Come on. Your mole can’t do all the work for you.