Last night over at Slate, Jamelle Bouie had an excellent piece on how Trump is defying every political norm. Not the ones where he is winning despite not having a campaign, or any idea of anything going on anywhere in the world, and being completely unlikeable, but rather that where any indecency is not only excused, but expected, and largely ignored. His argument is that the political class, including the media, really has no idea how to deal with it.
For now, it suffices to say that it’s happening—that the Trump campaign is a superhighway for an organized horde of hate that defines much of the pro-Trump grass-roots presence online. Rooted in online communities like Reddit and 4Chan, these supporters—who often identify as “alt-right,” a current of conservative politics on the internet where racism thrives and anti-Semitism flourishes—are virtual shock troops against journalists who criticize Trump or scrutinize his campaign and its personalities. Jewish journalists, in particular, face the worst abuse.
…If political media exists to do anything, it’s to reveal this flow from the fringe. To educate audiences on what these ideas mean, to give context for symbols like the one we saw on Saturday. Thus far, the media seems ill-equipped for the job. For every display of “pro-truth” bias, there are a dozen examples of mindless coverage, as reporters present racist rhetoric as simple “controversy” or frame anti-Semitic propaganda as a “he said/she said” dispute.
…In short order, the boundaries of political speech expand to include outright bigotry. Right now, Trump is showing his dedicated following of white supremacists that you can deny the humanity of other people and still thrive in mainstream politics. If this all feels dangerous—like the beginning of a new, more frightening kind of politics—that’s because it is.
He’s absolutely right. This has happened stunningly fast, the mainstreaming of his hate, and that of his followers. Trump knows, somewhere in his jackal heart, that everything he does will quickly be placed in the framework of normal political discussion. “Well, he did take a meme from a noted racist/anti-semite site, and tweeted it out, and lied about it, but on the other hand, he says he didn’t, so discuss the controversy.” It’s remarkable, and terrifying. We should be marching in outrage against it, but most of us, at best, just sort of blog about it. The more elite talk about how he is “breaking the rules.” The worst and most gutless still back him.
The question I have is if Trump is the destroyer, or just the outcome of how we’ve destroyed ourselves. He seems to me to be the logical (and completely irrational) culmination of a million trends: our idiot media with its constitutional inability to recognize that one party has gone completely insane, its addition to “both-sides-do-itsm”; the way that social media has amped up all our tendencies toward hatred and loudness; our addiction to pseudo-reality spectacle and personality over character and intelligence; our national inability to reflect on mistakes; and more. The system is broken, and we’re huge and unwieldy and angry and bitter and dispossessed. It seems almost impossible that a barking mad know-nothing wouldn’t appear, especially one who already embodied a lot of those trends.So is Trump Gozer, who is creating the destruction, or is he merely the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, who is the avatar of our destruction. Choose and perish, right? The
So is Trump Gozer, who is creating the destruction, or is he merely the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, who is the avatar of our destruction. Choose and perish, right? I personally lean more toward Gozer, because this galumphing ball of hate and artifice is who he has always been: a racist, misogynist strongman with a pea-brained sense of the world and a galactic idea of a deserved destiny. He’s helped to create the media and cultural environment in which he thrived.
But then, it wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t let him come in, if we didn’t, on some level, choose to accept this. To keep accepting things until they became inevitable, and suddenly we’re saying it is “too PC” when we condemn him for retweeting outrageous and inflammatory racist stats from a white nationalist website.
The Ghostbusters thing is not an accident. This summer, we’re having a new Ghostbusters movie, with an all-female cast. This is: fine. They are all funny actors, and it could be good, or it could be bad. It probably won’t be as good as the first, but it might be better than the second. But the fact that they are females sent a certain sector of dickless morons into a frothing frenzy. Men’s Right’s Activists, who are literally the worst, conspired to make the trailer the most “disliked” of all time. Because, as we know, it is emasculating and a symbol of PC run amok for females to bust ghosts. That’s a man’s job, and has, throughout American history, been the traditional prerogative of men. Busting ghosts. This is all Shillary’s fault. People actually believe this.
That’s the culture which Trump has come to dominate. People who see aggrievement in everything, and who believe that everything the have is being taken away, and who can, with the strength of like-minded people online, convince themselves that they care even more than they actually do, until it becomes a reinforcing circle of amplified anger. That circle is where Trump lives. He’s not just Gozer, and not just Stay-Puft: be built the circle. He’s our own Ivo Shandor, and his buildings keep going up.