Two Weeks In
Two weeks since election day. Let’s get to it. Again, in the format of a Q and A, as this piece will contain questions I have been asked by others. Ready? Let’s begin.
Fucking Nazis, man!
That’s not really a question, though, is it.
Where are these fucking Nazis coming from?
If you mean the “alt-right” people, they’re coming from the Internet, and they’re under the impression that now that Trump is president-elect and Steve Bannon will be in the White House whispering in his ear, it’s their time to emerge from the Breitbart comment threads and go wandering around pretending it’s become cool to be a racist little shit in public. They’re pushing really hard to get people to believe that casual acceptance of their bigotry is the “new normal.” I suspect they’re going to be surprised by, and fundamentally unequipped to deal with, the response from the large majority of people for whom open racism and other bigotries are in fact repulsive and horrible.
There are also the actual KKK and actual “just call us Nazis” Nazis, who are delighted that the alt-right children are now venturing into the real world, the better to act as soft and easily thumped-upon shock troops while they do their thing in the background, as they have for a while now. The “alt-right” are basically those assholes from your college dorm who were always “just playing devil’s advocate” about the topics of slavery and women’s rights. The KKK and Nazis are the ones cooking meth and beating the shit out of people they don’t like. I’m guessing the latter groups are happy the former is out there being useful idiots for their ideology. I’m also guessing the latter would be happy to curbstomp the former if they ever got in their way.
But we’re clear that the “alt-right” really are fucking Nazis, yes?
Yup. I mean, let’s also be clear that the alt-right nonsense isn’t merely confined to the anti-Semitism that we typically (and erroneously) solely ascribe to the Nazis. They’re also broadly racist, sexist and homophobic, and before someone trots out the fact that one of the alt-right’s biggest celebrities is a gay man, let’s grant that every movement of bigots has its quislings and Röhms, or more charitably, those who believe that they’ve got a tiger by the tail rather than being in its teeth. But no matter how you define it, the alt-right are bigots and white supremacists and assholes, the whole lot of them. Call them “Nazis,” it’s shorter.
However, I wouldn’t worry about the phrase “alt-right” being a cover for these little turds’ white supremacist stylings. I think it’s becoming pretty clear what “alt-right” means, and quickly. It’s not actually fooling anyone.
Can I take a moment here to complain about the complicity of the press in normalizing these alt-right assholes by calling them “stylish” and “dapper” and also not just calling them fucking Nazis?
You may, and I would like to add that personally I’ve found that the bar for “stylish” and “dapper” is being placed pretty low here. A shitty bigoted youngish white dude puts on a pair of sunglasses and leans up against a wall, and suddenly he’s “dapper?” Reporters, please take a consult from your paper’s fashion staff, if such still exist. The one argument I can see for calling these assholes “stylish” is that typically bigots here in the US are not very fashion-forward; the bigot look has been locked into “skinhead punk” or “rural flannel” for a while now, with occasional forays into Ed Hardy t-shirts. Relative to that very low baseline, the ability to pop the collar on your Men’s Warehouse camelhair sports coat looks like the height of urbanity.
With that said, let me point out something less than entirely popular in some circles, which is that reporting on the alt-right (and the fact they don’t appear to entirely dress out of a dumpster) is not exactly the same thing as “normalizing” them. Look, these assholes are emerging out their collective basements to loiter in public places. They are under the impression they have the ear of the incoming administration and that their interests will be heard in the halls of power. And — acknowledge it, please — they’ve made not insignificant headway in attracting young white assholes and cultivating them, in no small part because they don’t look like Oxycontin cowboys or skinheads with swastikas tatted onto their foreheads, the universal symbol of “I will never have a white collar job.”
Their “dapperness,” relatively speaking, is part of their story. It doesn’t not make them assholes, or bigots, or Nazis. Reporting on it is not normalizing it. Writing a story along the lines of “Sure they’re bigots, but who can hold it against them when they look so great!” would be, not in the least because they don’t actually look great, they just look like they aren’t dressed like extras from Road House.
What about that fucking CNN chyron yesterday?
You mean this one?
Yes, I mean that one. How is that not normalizing fascism and anti-Semitism?
Well, a couple things here. First, Matt Viser, the fellow pictured in this image, is a reporter and not the “alt-right founder” noted in the chyron, so please don’t be angry at him (when this picture started going around Viser felt compelled to put up a tweet to clarify). Second, should CNN not note that this alt-right asshole, in a speech given to his followers in DC, following the election of a racist president who is appointing anti-Semitic and bigoted people to his administration and who has a noted homophobe as his VP, “wondered” if Jews were actually people, as opposed to “soulless golems”? I don’t know, that actually does seem to be the very definition of news to me. It doesn’t appear that CNN is endorsing the view, simply by reporting it. It’s not even putting it into a horrible question format (“Are Jews people?”). That asshole alt-right dude did question whether Jews are people. I’d rather have CNN covering that than not.
Again: Reporting is not the same thing as normalization, and I think folks need to have a conversation about this, because it’s going to get in the way if they don’t. The fact of the matter is, Trump’s been elected. He’s a bigot, he’s grifter, and he’s emotionally twelve, he surrounds himself with bottom-shelf bigots and hangers-on, and he got himself elected in no small part by appealing to both the active and latent bigotries of white people, and all of that is a fact, too. Whether you like it or not, what he does, and what his people do, and what the people who elected him into office do, is news. And I think people need to ask themselves which is more normalizing: Reporting on this stuff, or not.*
But the mainstream press has been generally terrible!
That’s painting with a wide brush, but I’ll allow it because it’s not wrong. The press, no less so than most of the rest of us, got complacent to a greater or lesser extent. It’s also had the compounded issue that the last decade has been horrible for it, economically speaking, and this election cycle, primarily thanks to Trump, has been a financial windfall for them. Make no mistake that Trump’s election has also been good for the mainstream media’s bottom line, in no small part because people in a panic have suddenly realized that a robust adversarial press is something this nation might actually need in the next four years, and rushed to get subscriptions. So, you know, that’s good for them.
Now the press, no less than anyone else, has to pay the piper. It’s time for the press to genuinely be adversarial. What we’ve already seen about the incoming administration is that it is likely to be opaque and mercurial and hostile to the press. Well, fine. That should make the question of whether to be adversarial an academic one. But even as it (hopefully) takes an adversarial stance, be aware that the press, which is not nearly the monolith you may think it is, is still going to disappoint you. This will be a combination of its needing to work hard to exercise flabby muscles, having to do more with less because of its economic realities, having to choose what things to prioritize, needing to do long-term strategy for access and reporting, and so on. You will likely never be happy with the press, and that’s fair, and it’s fair to criticize and complain. We need them anyway. This incoming administration is going to test this nation in ways it’s not been tested in a while. We need them, and we need them to be better.
It’s also fair to say we need to be better, too, in what we read as news and in calling out the fake news when it happens. It’s easy to think of the fake news sites as being part of a larger propaganda apparatus — and some of it is! You’re not wrong! — but a lot of it is also a bunch of people realizing they could get money by making shit up and getting credulous people to click. Yes, blame Facebook all you like for not catching up with the fake news sites until after the election (i.e., after they’d made a bundle). Again, you’re not wrong. But as long as the economic and/or political desire is there, the fake news isn’t going away. It’s up to each of us to do a better job of evaluating what we read that asserts to be news, even if it makes us happy, or gloriously angry. Especially if it makes us these two things.
Do you have any additional thoughts on Trump right now?
Not on Trump, precisely, because the only thing he’s done in the last week is to confirm what we already knew about him, i.e., he’s a thin-skinned narcissist who probably didn’t actually want to win the presidency (or more accurately, wanted to win the presidency but didn’t want to have to be president), easily swayable by flattery and distracted by slights, deeply incurious, and planning to leave the actual running of the country to others while he does other things. The only new thing, really, is I think it’s finally sinking in for him that he’s not going to be loved and adored, and it’s pissing him off.
I am still amazed that anyone was under the impression that Trump would be anything other than what it’s clear he’s been for decades now. Reading online, apparently people were still believing that there was a “pivot” in there somewhere. There’s not. I’m not blaming Trump for that one; that’s on those folks. I do think that if anyone is still waiting for the pivot now, or is hoping that Trump all of a sudden has a personality replacement, they’re a fool. Believe Trump is Trump, motherfuckers. Because he is. All his little party pals are exactly who they are too. None of the people who loiter in Trump’s wake are hard to figure out; they’re precisely as awful as they appear to be. The same can be said about his most ardent fans, i.e., the racists, the homophobes and the Nazis. Plan accordingly.
I blame the Democrats.
This is also not a question, but, okay. And?
Well, I have many theories about why they should have won!
This is where I once again remind folks that Clinton’s popular vote tally is significantly higher than Trump’s; indeed, she got more votes as president than any white man ever, including Donald Trump. If your theories are predicated on points that do not include the weirdness of the electoral college system, perhaps consider that first.
Also, look: The majority of Americans who voted were on board with Democratic policies and plans. I don’t think they are the problem. I think the Democrats do have problems, but their general message isn’t one of them. Its effective distribution may be. This may also be related to the fact that Democrats seem to have gotten complacent about state and local elections, which is why the large majority of state houses in the US are Republican-owned at the moment.
Do you think the electors are going to dump Trump?
Do you think audits of voting in battleground states should happen and will they show evidence of fraud?
Sure, and no.
What about —
You know, any scheme that involves Trump somehow not actually making it into the White House on a technicality I’m pretty sure isn’t going to happen. I think you need to reconcile yourself to that reality, or at the very least just plan for it.
But the whole point of the electoral college was to keep people like Trump out!
It didn’t keep out Buchanan or Grant or Harding or any other number of less than impressive presidents. I don’t think you or I disagree on the subject of whether Trump should be president. He shouldn’t. But if the electoral college decided that he shouldn’t be president, I would indulge in about ten seconds of maniacal laughter before I headed down to the basement to hide from a level of sustained white person rioting unseen since the days of Fort Sumter. The sort of person who can be swayed by fake news sites created by Macedonian stoner kids is not going to understand or accept the intricacies of the voting privileges of the electoral college.
You could be wrong.
I could be. I don’t think we’ll be in a position to find out. It’s my official position that Trump will be in the White House on January 20, 2017 and that everyone should plan accordingly.
What about that emolument clause?
Did you know what the “emolument clause” was before a couple of days ago?
What does that have to do with anything?
Probably nothing. But again, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. This article from yesterday’s Washington Post explains why.
Gaaaaaaaaah I just hate Trump sooooooo much.
You’re not alone. But he’s going to be president, so you should work with that.
Do you think he’ll last all four years?
I think it’s prudent to assume he will. Alternate scenarios are possible, but you should plan on him having at least one full term.
Seriously, you’re just going to make yourself unhappy — well, unhappier — hoping for a deus ex machina to take Trump out of commission. As much as I hate to say it, I have to say it: It’s time to get over it. He’s been elected. Assume four years. If it makes it any better, know that the next four years are likely to be the most miserable of Trump’s life. So at least you have that going for you.
Fucking Nazis, man.
Again, not a question. But yes.
* Update: Some folks have said to me via Twitter that the alt-right asshole was wondering if reporters were not people, not all Jews per se. I personally read the criticism as pertaining to Jews, both specifically and generally, so I continue to think the chyron was fair, but I also think there’s room for interpretation on that score, so if one finds the Chyron was off, it’s fair to ding CNN for it. But even without that, inasmuch as the alt-right asshole was also maintaining that the reporters were protecting Jewish interests and using Jewish-related terms to negatively portray the reporters (many of whom are known to be Jewish!), there’s still a whole lot of anti-Semitism going on in there, and that’s still worth being reported on.