First, that word: "schtick." I would have chosen the spelling "shtick." But I'm looking at the OED, which gives the main spelling as "shtik," validates both walter's and my spelling, and also accepts "schtik." So basically, you can do anything you want with "c"s in that word.
According to the OED, "shtick" (which is U.S. slang with a Yiddish origin (meaning "piece" or "play")) has 2 meanings. The first is "An act or stage routine; a joke, a ‘gag’" or "a patter, a ‘line’; a gimmick or characteristic style." Example: Saul Bellow, "Herzog" 1964, "‘Let's cut out all the shtick,’ said Gersbach. ‘Let's say you're a crumb.’"
The second meaning is less derogatory and surprisingly bland: "A particular area of activity or interest, a sphere or ‘scene.’" (Hey, nobody says "that's my scene" anymore.) Example: 1976 Publishers Weekly 15 Mar. 55/2: "A husband trying to puzzle out his woman, women-God-bless-them in general, and the whole female shtick."
So I accept "cruel neutrality schtick." It's my scene. I have to check the material under the tag to remember everything I've done with it. Here's the best recent examination of the phenomenon, from last January: "Why I quit watching the debate halfway through and woke up the next morning identifying strongly with Cruel Neutrality."
That explains a lot more than I'm in the mood to spell out now. I'll just say that those of us in the Cruel Neutrality scene are not forswearing all opinion. And it's certainly not abstention from cutting attacks. How else could it be cruel? The neutrality part is my instinctive, lifelong point of view — distanced and averse to everything political.
And yet I keep looking. I'm a rubbernecker. And part of what I'm cruelly neutral toward is the press, and my opinion of the story about the 25-year-old "John Miller" phone call was, indeed, that it was a ludicrous distraction. It takes us back to a much younger Donald Trump, prankishly putting on a reporter who figured out it was him and published her story under the title "Trump Says Goodbye Marla, Hello Carla . . . And a Mysterious PR Man Who Sounds Just Like Donald Calls to Spread the Story." The reporter, Sue Carswell first thought "It’s so weird that Donald hired someone who sounds just like him," and then she consulted the big gossip columnist of the day, Cindy Adams, who said, "Oh, that’s Donald."
These days, Carswell says: "This was so farcical, that he pretended to be his own publicist. Here was this so-called billion-dollar real estate mogul, and he can’t hire his own publicist. It also said something about the control he wanted to keep of the news cycle flowing with this story, and I can’t believe he thought he’d get away with it." But he did get away with it! He got away with it the way Andy Kaufman got away with Tony Clifton. We knew it was him but he kept doing it, and continuing, with commitment, when everyone already knows, is part of the... shtik.
From the comments at that YouTube, from 2 months ago: "Donal Triump is Tony Clifton!!!" Yeah, I know. Spelling. Back to the spelling topic. But you see my point. There is a lot of comedy happening through Donald Trump. He's been an entertainer for a long time. The extent to which the entertainment is interwoven with the love life, the real estate moguling, and the politics is a big, crazy, unfathomable mystery. The most ludicrous thing about the WaPo story is that it seems to think it's getting the better of Trump, bringing him down, but it's inflating him, blowing him up, as he's sending us up.
I mean, read the transcript. It's hilarious:
John Miller: He was so set up with that. You know, Madonna called and what happened -- I mean, I don’t know if you want to listen to this.To my ear, that's prodding the interviewer to laugh and say "Come on, Mr. Trump, I know it's you." She didn't do that, I suspect, because she was seriously interested in extracting the story, the gossip about Madonna that would serve her interest. And WaPo is telling the story to serve its interest. But the whole damned thing, going back to the 1980s, has served Donald Trump's interest.
Interviewer: No, I do.
John Miller: Do you? Do you have a second?
Interviewer: Yeah, obviously.