Good soldier Schweik was a character invented by Czech author Jaroslav Hašek in the 1920s:
Through (possibly feigned) idiocy or incompetence [Schweik] repeatedly manages to frustrate military authority and expose its stupidity in a form of passive resistance: the reader is left unclear, however, as to whether [he] is genuinely incompetent, or acting quite deliberately with dumb insolence.
The character of Schweik became famous in Eastern Europe during the Cold War because he was seen as an example of the oppressed undermining their oppressors. But the question was, Is Schweik sly?
Now that Donald Trump’s unusual approach to politics (to say the least) won him the nomination, election, and inauguration as President of the U.S., people are wondering whether or not his approach is a matter of insolence or strategy. Is Trump sly?
The answer is unquestionably, Yes. Here are some reasons why:
(1) George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist who has written and talked much about political speech. He is a progressive and an opponent of Trump, but he considers him an effective speaker (and tried to get the Clinton campaign to take note).
Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants… George Lakoff, Understanding Trump, July 23, 2016.
Without knowing it, many Democrats, progressives and members of the news media help Donald Trump every day. The way they help him is simple: they spread his message.
Think about it: every time Trump issues a mean tweet or utters a shocking statement, millions of people begin to obsess over his words. Reporters make it the top headline. Cable TV panels talk about it for hours. Horrified Democrats and progressives share the stories online, making sure to repeat the nastiest statements in order to refute them. While this response is understandable, it works in favor of Trump.
When you repeat Trump, you help Trump. You do this by spreading his message wide and far.
Nobody knows this better than Trump. Trump, as a media master, knows how to frame a debate. When he picks a fight, he does so deliberately. He tweets or says outrageous things, knowing they will be repeated millions and millions of times. When the news media and Democrats repeat Trump’s frames, they are strengthening those frames by ensuring that tens of millions of Americans hear them repeated over and over again. George Lakoff, How to Help Trump, Dec. 15, 2016.
(2) Scott Adams is an author and creator of the Dilbert comic strip. In his blog he talks about Trump’s persuasion skills and systems thinking.
You’re probably seeing the best persuasion you will ever see from a new president. Instead of dribbling out one headline at a time, so the vultures and critics can focus their fire, Trump has flooded the playing field. You don’t know where to aim your outrage. He’s creating so many opportunities for disagreement that it’s mentally exhausting. Literally. He’s wearing down the critics, replacing their specific complaints with entire encyclopedias of complaints. And when Trump has created a hundred reasons to complain, do you know what impression will be left with the public?
He sure got a lot done.
Even if you don’t like it. Scott Adams, Outrage Dilution, Jan. 26, 2017.
If you see the world in terms of goals, you might think President Trump has failed at every important goal so far. …
But in any case, as I often say, goals are for losers. Systems are better. As I describe in my book, a good system is something you do every day that leads you to better outcomes, not specific objectives. For example, going to college is a good system even if you don’t know what job you might later want. Any time you learn something valuable, that’s a system. Networking with important people is a system. And so on.
Trump seems to be a systems thinker. I doubt he knew he would jump from real estate developer, to author, to reality TV star, to president. At least not in that order. Instead, he systematically accumulated money, persuasion skills, and personal connections until he had lots of options. Being president was one of them. Scott Adams, How to Evaluate a President, Feb. 16, 2017.
(3) Trump acts in accord with the idea that the press is the opposition by trolling the press and putting out red herrings to get them off the track.
Now that he is president, reporters assigned to Mr. Trump are in a tough position. They have to pay close attention to what the White House says, but they know the White House may give them garbage and dare them to spend an entire working day trying to verify or debunk it. Barton Swaim, Wall St. Journal, Jan. 23, 2017.
(4) Trump’s background and inclination includes the “positive thinking” and speaking of Norman Vincent Peale and Paula White. His negotiating tactics include hyperbole:
In Art of the Deal Donald Trump calls one of his rhetorical tools “truthful hyperbole.” He both defends and praises it as “an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.” As a promoter, Trump made extensive use of this technique. Trump & Truthful Hyberbole, Mike LaBossiere on December 4, 2015.
Yes, Trump is sly.