Whenever I see a politician speaking to a group of people, it seems like there’s always a herd of people behind the politician, as well.
And I always wonder, “Who are those people? And why are they crowded around the politician like sheep around a feeding trough?”
- Are they tourists who wandered by and are waiting for a selfie op?
- Are they the politician’s close personal friends, promised cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres if they’d hang around and look interested?
- Are they staff from the politician’s office who were told, “Attend this and look enthused or you’re fired”?
Well, now I have the answer to why one of those people was standing behind one of those politicians.
Meet Tyler Linfesty, a young (17) man with no ax to grind. He’d simply heard that President Trump was coming to Billings, MO on September 6 to speak at a rally, and Tyler wanted to see the President of the United States.
No story there until…
There was an incident at the rally.
It involved Tyler.
In interviews after the incident Tyler comes across as an articulate, informed guy – so informed that he lost me when he talked about a “Democratic Socialist” vs. a “Socialist Democrat.”
Or maybe it was the other way around?
Anyway, because Tyler was clearly tuned in to politics and had formed some opinions, he wanted to see the president up close and personal, so he got tickets for himself and two friends.
Tyler had no idea how up close and personal he’d get.
The morning of the rally, says Tyler, he got an email saying that he’d been selected for VIP status, which meant that he’d get to meet the president and have access to premier seating. Tyler says he hadn’t applied for the status and figures he was chosen by chance.
Rally day arrived and Tyler happened to be wearing a plaid shirt. His VIP status entitled him to take a quick picture with the president before the rally. As long as he was on a roll, Tyler asked organizers whether he and his friends could sit together behind the stage.
Rather than simply behind the stage, they were put right behind the president.
Now, Tyler is a guy with integrity, so when the organizers instructed the crowd to clap and cheer, Tyler knew he’d clap and cheer only when he agreed with the president’s remarks. He wasn’t there to protest or even be noticed, but he wasn’t going to perform on command, either.
Or, as requested, wear a “Make America Great Again” baseball hat, like several others did.
Tyler didn’t realize that his position on stage put him directly behind the president’s shoulder – and directly on camera. If Tyler smiled or nodded – on camera. If Tyler looked skeptical or baffled – on camera.
Viewers noticed and quickly dubbed Tyler the “Plaid Shirt Guy.”
At some point someone somewhere made a decision, and a woman sidled over to Tyler and told him she was taking his place. Tyler looked confused but left the stage without argument. Shortly afterwards, his friends were replaced, too.
Local police and Secret Service agents walked Tyler over to a chair outside the arena, told him to sit and asked to see his ID. After 10 minutes they asked Tyler to leave and not come back.
“I had to be honest to myself,” he said in one interview. “I wasn’t going to change my views just to please the people at the rally.”
And somehow – because this is what we do – video of Tyler and the president went viral. There was a veritable Twitter storm, with new fans of “Plaid Shirt Guy” from the U.S. to Canada, Australia and Europe:.
The media clamored for interviews. Tyler took it in stride, knowing that Internet fame is fleeting, indeed.
Tyler Linfesty did not have an agenda. He was not “making faces” as some media claimed, or “trolling,” which was also bruited about.
Tyler is just a kid who hasn’t learned to prevaricate, dissimulate, and dissemble…
Like we adults do.
If you’re going to cluster around a politician, best be prepared to perform regardless of what you believe.