Donald Trump is touring Japan at the moment, and within record time, his trip has already produced its first viral scandal. A photo of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a koi pond quickly rocketed around the media yesterday, purportedly capturing Trump as he upended his box of fish food like a bored toddler chucking an entire bread loaf at ducks. The outrage and mockery was swift and, in some cases, scientific; many were quick to point out that overfeeding is a serious issue with koi, and that Trump’s carelessness had surely led them to gorge themselves to death. Others mourned the “poor palace employee” who would likely be dispatched to clean up the damage before these other, floundering orange creatures with zero self-restraint completely imploded. Obvious parallels were drawn, and everyone had a good morbid chuckle at this first meme-able blunder in President Griswold’s Japanese vacation. Except it didn’t happen that way, and reporting that it did is only making things worse.
As you can see from the full, unedited video, Abe was the first to empty the rest of his fish food into the pond, meaning Trump was simply following his host’s lead. Was Abe’s toss comparably gentler—a gesture of respectful communion with the animal locally regarded as a symbol of strength and steadfastness in the face of adversity—while Trump just seems to be carelessly dumping it on their heads like so many paper towels for hurricane survivors? Of course. But the fact that the story was reported as “Blundering Asshole Kills Fish”—and outlets such as CNN even edited around the video to make Trump look like an impetuous buffoon—is exactly the sort of petty bullshit that fuels the “fake news” narrative that Trump and his supporters so depend on to foster blanket mistrust of the media. Great.
Hey, here’s another one! In a meeting with Japanese automakers, as both CNN and Business Insider reported, Trump suggested they “try building cars in the United States”—which, as many analysts haughtily pointed out, they already do, by the millions. Ha ha! What a maroon!
Only, once again, this has been taken completely out of context, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out, with the full text of Trump’s remarks showing clearly that Trump is aware that they’ve been doing it “for a long, long time,” while also singling out Toyota and Mazda for just that. By deliberately omitting that, you’ve thereby given a million American flag emojis on Twitter two more “lies of the anti-Trump media,” which they can append to every legitimate criticism you’ll ever write, in between ranting about uranium.
And, you know, we’re not exactly hurting for minor gaffes to latch onto if we’re looking to paint Trump as the diplomat equivalent of a Steelers-jersey-wearing tourist humping a Buddha statue. You need tiny slip-ups and minor though telling examples of self-centered behavior for the content mill? Here:
In a joint news conference, he took a condescending, ad-libbed dig at Japan’s economy, while Abe just had to stand there and grin.
After the two played a round of golf together—which Trump was also an asshole about—Abe presented Trump with a pair of gold-embroidered trucker hats that read “Donald & Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater.”
Adding to the humiliation, Trump signed his name in his usual garish scrawl across the entire brim, forcing Abe to meekly add his off to the side.
Trump then dined on his prix fixe menu of well-done steaks and American beef burgers, patriotically closing his own pipeline to Trans-Pacific trade.
And so on! Look, we’re only two days into a 13-day trek across Asia, an entire continent filled with culture Trump can shun in favor of golf course beef and tricky etiquette he can ignore. There will be plenty of petty non-stories the media can seize on to portray Trump as the kaiju manifestation of every ugly American stereotype, providing us with the hollow laughs that will briefly quell our omnipresent dread that he’s just going to start riffing at some state dinner and kick off nuclear war. We don’t need to invent new ones, especially when doing so only dilutes any actual, major catastrophes you’re attempting to warn us about. Tiny little spoonfuls are fine, guys. Don’t try to dump this shit out all at once.