Is he a man? Or is he a muppet?
One thing is certain: everyone is talking about Donald Trump's run for President. Having opened up his campaign with a few mildly xenophobic and logic-defying statements, he's cranked up the outrageometer to 11 with his recent comments calling for a "complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States".
To all reasonable observers, his outbursts and policies have been bordering on the utterly ludicrous (or indeed, getting its certified-insane passport out and being waved through border control) yet it seems that Trump could have been playing a game with us all.
Some of the oldest maxims in showbusiness include the phrases "all publicity is good publicity" and Oscar Wilde's classic, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about". Political observers have recently been drawing attention to Trump's own versions of these, which he states clearly in his 1987 business memoir Trump: The Art of the Deal.
One reads “One thing I've learned about the press is that they're always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better... The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you... I’ve always done things a little differently, I don’t mind controversy… The result is that the press has always wanted to write about me.”
In addition, he talks about featuring in the press: “I’m not saying that they necessarily like me. Sometimes they write positively, and sometimes they write negatively. But from a pure business point of view, the benefits of being written about have far outweighed the drawbacks.”
He also admits to "bravado" and playing up to people's fantasies, writing “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.”
There's absolutely no doubt that winding people up, garnering their outrage and then using that to attract people who themselves are wound up by perceived 'liberal outrage' is a key part of his strategy. Every time he has said something controversial, he's picked up attention - usually bad, from the left-leaning Twitter crowd and media - but has seen his ratings go up.
It was ironic seeing Boris Johnson's (admittedly hilarious) comments after Trump claimed that, "police in London are afraid for their own their lives" because certain parts of the city have become so radicalised. Johnson replied with the brilliant quip "The only reason I wouldn't go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”, yet his strategy is not a million miles away from Trump's - play the bumbling fool, get yourself in the news with some unusual quotes and get people talking about you. Of course, he's not said anything like as bad as the patently-offensive comments from Trump, but there is a definite similarity in playing the media and getting himself in the spotlight.
The question, of course, is whether Trump has gone too far this time - much like Nigel Farage's ill-judged election comment ("I was asked if a group of Romanian men moved in next to you, would you be concerned? And if you lived in London, I think you would be") seemed to be a point where he crossed the line to outright racism, putting off prospective voters in the process. His party subsequently failed to do as well as expected in the election while he himself came nowhere near winning a seat in Thanet.
So, is Trump playing us all? Is he knowingly stoking the outrage machine to get himself heard?
Or is he simply an ignorant idiot whose views happen to be so outrageous they gain publicity anyway?
You can decide for yourselves.