The Trump ARG

Watching a country run through an alternate-reality game.

“Alternative facts?” Try alternate reality. Alternate-reality games are a kind of live-action game where people have to cooperate to find clues and solve riddles.

But in the context of the new administration, there’s a new kind of ARG. The Trump administration sees the world as a game. It’s right there in his obsession with the “achievement” of winning the presidency—never mind that the presidency is no prize, but a job of enormous responsibility.

To the Muralists, it is a game. Of course, it’s always been a game, and a prize, of a certain sort. All presidents have had a certain level of gamesmanship-via-bullshit, as do all politicians. But at present, whether owing to the particular disposition of the president or to the level of game-ness the administration views the world with, the limits are far higher.

The willingness to march in front of the press and chastise them for reporting the truth, along with the feints toward curtailing access, point to an administration that believes it is freed from the restraints of the past. They believe that they can do big things, which is good, but they believe to do them they must break rules, which is bad. And, the things they seek to do are quite bad, too.

Worse, they believe they are living in an alternate reality game, where the victory is not measured by real outcomes, but by their ability to spin whatever outcomes occur.

There was lackluster turnout at the inauguration. Is that a defeat? Not if they deny the fact. But they believe, according to the rules of the game, it would be a defeat. So they play the game, denying reality.

Would it be a defeat if they admitted the fact? Of course not. Yes, Trump is unpopular. He will remain so until he repents his sins. He will remain so until he can point to real accomplishments and not just a lot of bullshit. But defeat is not found at any given point in a presidency, only at the whole.

Trump can always, to paraphrase Armstrong, direct his feet to the sunny side of the street, if he so chooses. But he chooses to walk in the shade. As does his administration. In the hot sun, they would find the game is not a game at all. They would have to face the reality they are positioned to manage.

I never believed they would be equipped to handle that reality. And so far, they don’t seem equipped to even confront it, preferring their game instead.



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