The Big Standoff: Trump’s Handshakes and the Limits of News Values

  • Ben O’Loughlin


After an Obama administration committed to ‘unclenching fists’ in diplomatic affairs, global media have reported President Trump using his hands to greet leaders with vigour and aggression. These diplomatic encounters are conceptualised as standoffs: moments of uncertainty when nobody knows what will happen, including the people shaking hands. As subjunctive encounters, witnesses hypothesise about likely outcomes. Their speculation is tinged with emotion—doubt, hope, fear—that is personal, national and geopolitical. Against diplomatic norms, Trump seeks to ‘win’ each standoff. Journalists have shifted from amplifying, panicked shock to containing alarm through humour and pleas for serious diplomacy. But Trump is merely exploiting news values. Journalists must reflect: their news values are what enable Trump to maintain a standoff with the world system itself.


News Values Standoff Handshake Diplomatic Encounters Diplomatic Affairs 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben O’Loughlin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEghamUK

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