North America 2 November 2018 Whack-a-Mole: is Trump’s Game of Thrones meme meant to distract us from a brewing cabinet scandal? Yes. Getty "Don't look at me, look at this meme instead" - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Sign UpGet the New Statesman's Morning Call email. Sign-up 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”. pic.twitter.com/nk2vKvHuaL — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2018 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. › John McDonnell aide James Mills leaves shadow treasury post I'm a mole, innit. Subscribe To stay on top of global affairs and enjoy even more international coverage subscribe for just £1 per month!