(This is a version of the post I wrote here, re-written in a more formal manner in the hope someone might like to publish it. Anyone know where I could send it?)
Few would argue that the 2016 US presidential election went as planned. It was supposed to be a straight contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, both fully endorsed by their respective parties on the grounds that it was their turn. Bush would have been denounced as a Nazi early on, as happened to Mitt Romney and John McCain, and like his hapless predecessors he’d have spent the entire campaign issuing clarifications and grovelling apologies. Clinton would have been feted by the media as the natural successor to Barack Obama, ideally suited to continue his good works in taking the country in a more progressive direction. She would win by a handsome margin becoming the first female president, thus striking a blow for women everywhere. Eventually the Democrats would concede Bush wasn’t really a Nazi, but not until long after Hillary’s inauguration.
Only it didn’t work out quite like that. Nobody knows why Donald Trump decided to run for the Republican nomination. Was it because Obama mocked him at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner? Or did he simply want the publicity before launching a new series of The Apprentice? It doesn’t matter now. Shortly after entering the primaries, Trump found himself at the head of a political movement no-one knew existed. The alt-right, as they became known, liked what he had to say particularly around topics nobody else would mention: immigration, Islamic terrorism, and the plight of blue-collar America. The more he spoke the more outrageous he became, and the more the media and his Republican rivals reacted with righteous indignation. But at the same time his popularity grew because of, not despite, his willingness to ignore the established rules of political discourse. Before we knew it Trump had won the GOP nomination; party favourite Jeb Bush had withdrawn weeks before with less than 1% support. I suspect nobody was more surprised by this outcome than Trump himself. He had entered the race as a joke figure and emerged as the unwitting leader of a powerful, grass-roots movement he knew little about. But he quickly learned how to speak to them, and they listened, and so did he.
Against all expectations, the forces which secured Trump the Republican nomination propelled him into the White House, defeating Clinton in the November presidential election. Here we had a novice outflanking experienced politicians with the backing of both major parties to become president of the United States. His victory can be ascribed to one simple thing: when it came to voting, he had the numbers.
Since then there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Trump is a Russian stooge, a misogynist, a white supremacist, a danger to the world. Perhaps, but what matters is enough people voted for him. Trump showed that simply by saying certain things, millions of disaffected people sick of the status quo and sense of entitlement among the political elites who dominate both parties will vote a maverick into the highest office in the land. Note Trump didn’t have to tell outrageous lies and make too many unrealistic promises, but it wouldn’t matter even if he did. All he had to do was speak to the masses on issues which the established political classes refused to address.
Given how easy it was in hindsight to wrest the presidency from the grasp of America’s complacent political elites, we should perhaps reflect on how fortunate we are that it was a 70 year old multi-millionaire New York playboy that stumbled upon the gaping hole that led straight to the levers of power. Nothing Trump has done – or intends to do – should cause alarm among ordinary, sane people who accept that politics is a broad tent which needs to accommodate many people and sometimes your side doesn’t win. Yet we are subject to a loud and continuous refrain that Donald Trump is without doubt the worst and most dangerous president the United States has ever seen. His presidency is under attack from all sides, including what is supposed to be his own, in the hope that one way or another they can force him from office and things will go back to how they were. Most people in the world would cheer if this were to happen, as would many Americans.
But let’s take a step back a moment. So far, Trump’s main activities in office have been overzealous, ill-advised Tweeting, muddle-headed speeches, fighting with Republicans, and backtracking on his campaign policies. With what he’s up against I doubt he can achieve anything other than slow the decline for a few years at most. The few policies on which he has made progress consist mainly of rolling back Obama’s EOs and other instances of blatant executive overreach. If this is what has the entire world squealing in terror and applying epithets recently reserved for those who had actually committed genocide, they are woefully ignorant, lacking imagination, lying, or a combination of all three.
Consider for a moment who might have got in. What if it had been a young, charismatic unknown who harboured greater ambitions than Trump and a far more ruthless streak that appeared on stage and said all the right things? As Trump showed, it really didn’t take much to win when up against Hillary and a thoroughly corrupt Republican party that takes its voters for granted. Such a person wouldn’t get in, you say? Well, who had heard of Emmanuel Macron before he became president of France? That’s not to say Macron will become a ruthless dictator, but few bothered to find out much about him before voting him into office largely on how he looked and who he wasn’t.
Somebody far worse than Trump could have trodden the path he took to power, and Twitter outbursts and trannies in the military would be the absolute least of our worries. Hillary really could be in jail instead of flogging her book of excuses, and the leaders of Antifa and BLM lying in hospital contemplating life in a wheelchair. If you think the decency of the American people and the robustness of the political system would prevent such an outcome, think again. In an era of Executive Orders, a weaponised IRS, politicised appointed judges, and a president with a pen and a phone, there’s an awful lot resting on the decency of Trump. Now there’s a thought.
Alarmingly, the political classes haven’t learned anything and seem determined to compound their mistakes. If they succeed in their efforts to force Trump from office by fair means or foul, what lesson do you think future political leaders will draw from it? They will assume the game is rigged and merely winning an election is not enough to hold power, and will do everything they can to ensure they cannot be unseated in a similar manner. If you conspire to get rid of a fairly elected president simply because you dislike him, expect the next guy to be a lot more savvy and interested in self-preservation over and above everything else.
In 2016 Americans dodged a bullet they never saw coming, and are fortunate it’s Donald Trump that now occupies the White House instead of someone much worse. If they have any sense, they’ll allow him to see out his term and leave office peacefully. If they don’t, historians may come to view this supposedly dangerous white supremacist as one of the most benign presidents of the 21st century.
Via bobby b in the comments at Samizdata, I find this rather comprehensive report on the failures of the American Red Cross in their response to hurricanes Sandy and Isaac.
The report highlights a catalogue of failures including spending more efforts on PR and fund-raising than actually helping people, e.g. by driving empty trucks around for the benefit of news crews:
Top Red Cross officials were concerned only “about the appearance of aid, not actually delivering it,” Rieckenberg says. “They were not interested in solving the problem — they were interested in looking good. That was incredibly demoralizing.”
Allow me to scan the article in search of a possible cause. Ah, here we are:
The Red Cross has endured patches of trouble in the recent past. It faced allegations of financial mismanagement after Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina and a series of chief executives were forced to resign. Congress forced an overhaul. The Red Cross recruited [Gail] McGovern to the top job in 2008.
McGovern had spent her career as an executive at AT&T and Fidelity and was teaching marketing at Harvard Business School. “This is a brand to die for,” she said in an early interview as the Red Cross’ chief executive.
A failing organisation recruits as their CEO a telecoms marketing power-skirt now working in academia. What could go wrong?
While often praised as a stabilizing presence by those outside the Red Cross, McGovern initiated a series of changes inside the organization that roiled the venerable charity. She executed layoffs and reorganizations that closed local chapters and centralized power at national headquarters in Washington.
With the glaringly obvious exception of fundraising, would you like to take a punt on whether McGovern was more interested in processes or outcomes?
But this was a few years ago now. How are things today? Well, McGovern is still in charge, and Bayou Renaissance Man points us towards this report:
Residents across Texas are expressing their outrage at The Red Cross after Hurricane Harvey victims and relief volunteers witnessed mismanagement and apathy from Red Cross workers … At Wednesday morning’s Houston City Council meeting, Councilman Dave Martin, who represents flood-ravaged Kingwood, had a very clear message to prospective donors of The Red Cross.
“I beg you not to send them a penny,” he said. “They are the most inept unorganized organization I’ve ever experienced. Don’t waste your money. Give it to another cause.”
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was also uncomplimentary of the organization. Judge Emmett admitted that he asked a local nonprofit to manage the shelter at NRG Park, because he didn’t trust The Red Cross to do a good job.
And government officials are far from the only ones voicing their disapproval. We’ve seen story after story of Red Cross mismanagement expressed by both evacuees and volunteers across Texas. In fact, we’ve been hard pressed to find a positive story. When we do find one, we will update this article.
This comes as absolutely no surprise. The major charities long ago became vehicles for the ambitious middle classes to climb the greasy pole and enrich themselves while basking in the virtue which comes when people assume you’re working for a good cause. Why anyone still donates to them is a mystery to me.
The BBC are so busy bashing Trump they overlook what is actually happening in American politics. Here’s their headline:
Bannon on Trump’s worst mistake ‘in modern political history’
Jeez, what mistake is this? Invading Iraq? The Bay of Pigs? Giving Hillary the nomination?
Ex-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says President Trump’s firing of the FBI’s director was the biggest mistake in “modern political history”.
Mr Bannon told CBS News if James Comey had not been sacked, a special counsel would not have been appointed to probe alleged Russian election meddling.
Oh, right. If you say so. But it’s not the BBC’s repeating hyperbolic nonsense that’s so bad, it’s this:
Steve Bannon says he’s “going to war” with the Republican political establishment. For conservatives – and even President Donald Trump – that should be very concerning.
Why should conservatives be concerned that Bannon is going to war with the Republican political establishment? It’s hardly like the latter has any interest in the former, is it? Anyone who didn’t have their head buried in the sand could see that Trump’s election was in large part due to conservatives being fed up to the back teeth with establishment Republicans going along with Democrat policies and doing nothing to conserve anything. Since the election these feelings will only have got stronger, with establishment Republicans being more interested in scuppering Trump than representing their voters’ interests. Nowhere was this better demonstrated than their utter failure to repeal Obamacare, or even come up with an alternative having moaned and bitched about it from the opposition benches for seven years. I’d imagine most genuine conservatives are absolutely delighted somebody is going to war with the Republican political establishment.
And why should this concern Trump? He’s barely a Republican, let alone an establishment one.
Mr Bannon seeks to tap into the same anti-Washington resentment that has fuelled the grass-roots Tea Party movement since the early days of the Obama presidency.
The Tea Party’s contribution to the Republican cause, however, has been decidedly mixed.
While it helped sweep Mr Trump to the presidency, and brought new energy to a moribund political hierarchy, the scalps the movement claimed were as likely to come from the right as the left.
What? The Tea-Party helped sweep Trump into office? This was written by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News North America reporter. I can only assume he suffered a major head injury just before campaigning started and woke up from his coma last night. The Tea Party popped up in the early stages of Obama’s first term around 2010, and was quickly infiltrated by establishment Republicans who pretended to listen but only wanted their votes. By 2016 they’d been largely forgotten. If anyone can be credited with sweeping Trump into office it is the much-maligned alt-right.
The former White House chief strategist also turned his fire on Republican congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.
He accused them of “trying to nullify the 2016 election”.
“They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented,” Mr Bannon told 60 Minutes.
“It’s obvious as night follows day.”
Well, yes. It’s telling that the BBC appears to have learned this last night when Bannon told CBS.
There is an infuriating but effective method of political campaigning employed by the British left which goes as follows:
1. Labour wins election in 2005. Raises spending on X in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
2. Labour lose power in 2010, Tories come in.
3. Tories propose cutting spending on X in 2012, which would take spending back to 2008 levels.
4. Lefties scream that spending is being slashed to where it was in 1882, conjuring up visions of starving children in Dickensian workhouses.
It’s known as the ratchet mechanism whereby spending can only ever be increased but never, ever reduced. The middle classes – who are enormous beneficiaries of state expenditure – suck it up without question, not even realising the expenditure will drop only to 2008 levels (and things weren’t that bad then).
There’s a similar thing taking place now in the US, only it’s not to do with spending. Yesterday I came across this superb video explaining the phenomenon of Mattress Girl, the Columbia University student who falsely claimed she was raped and responded to his non-prosecution by dragging a mattress around campus. It is 47 minutes long but worth watching if you wish to understand the Title IX row that’s going on in America.
For those who can’t be arsed to watch it, I’ll summarise:
1. Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, had a friends-with-benefits arrangement with a fellow student, Paul Nungesser. They’d had consensual sex once or twice and, if her text messages are anything to go by, she fell for him pretty heavily. He wasn’t interested in a relationship with her, and she threw a wobbly and claimed he raped her. Anyone sane reading Sulkowicz’s text and Facebook messages to Nungesser after the alleged rape would conclude the sex was consensual and her actions thereafter were of a jilted lover seeking revenge.
2. She didn’t go to the police for various rather convoluted reasons, but complained – quite a while later – to the university authorities. They investigated (as best they could) and concluded Nungesser didn’t rape her.
3. She then begins a campaign claiming sexual assaults and rapes are rife on college campuses, and she is but one of thousands of “survivors” whose ordeals are being brushed under the carpet while the rapists are allowed to roam free to rape and rape again.
4. Feminists seize on her story and amplify Sulkowicz’s campaign, giving it national prominence. Article after article pushes her version of events uncritically, and unanimously refer to her as a “survivor”, implying Nungesser raped her. The campaigners set about digging up other rape “survivors”, and claim there is an epidemic of sexual assault and rapes going unpunished across America’s college campuses. According to their figures, Ivy League campuses present a greater risk of rape than the worst African war zones. The campaign gains the attention and support of feminists in or close to the Obama Administration – particularly New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand – who takes up the cudgels on behalf of Sulkowicz, swallowing her story whole and inviting her to the State of the Union address.
5. The feminist campaign, which is based on unalloyed fabrications, targets Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, which says:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
In response, in 2016 the Obama administration – which is stuffed full of deranged feminists and headed by a man who lacks the balls to control them – issues a 19-page Dear Colleague letter which contains the following instruction:
We recognize that sexual harassment represents unacceptable conduct, and those found responsible should be appropriately sanctioned. Some of us have witnessed the injustices resulting from institutions that downplay or ignore sexual harassment on their campuses, and we commend OCR for taking a proactive approach to this problem. In pursuing its objectives, however, OCR has unlawfully expanded the nature and scope of institutions’ responsibility to address sexual harassment, thereby compelling institutions to choose between fundamental fairness for students and their continued acceptance of federal funding.”
In other words, the Obama administration bought into the rape-on-campus hysteria driven by the feminist movement, and effectively instructed colleges to remove due process for male students accused of rape. The presumption of innocence would be removed along with other obstacles such as proving guilt. The onus was on believing the women without question and throwing men under the bus – all in the name of liberal feminist politics.
Many people, and not just white male rapists, were appalled at this development branding it a contravention of a person’s right to a fair trial under the Constitution. Once Trump got elected the feminists lost their influence over the administration, and he appointed the decidedly non-feminist Betsy DeVos as Secretary of State for Education. One of the reasons her appointment was so viciously opposed by the Democrats, especially women, was partly because they knew full well she’d roll back the more lunatic policies of the Obama era (the other was that she’s likely to upset the unions).
This week DeVos has started to rescind the Title IX guidelines issued in the Dear Colleague letter, and – predictably – the left have gone absolutely ballistic, accusing her of siding with rapists over their victims. But it’s not just demented feminists on Twitter. Consider this:
Twenty state attorneys general published a letter to Betsy DeVos on Wednesday, urging the Secretary of Education to maintain the sexual assault reporting guidelines for college campuses currently found in Title IX.
The letter was co-signed by state attorneys general from around the country including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico and Hawaii.
“We’re calling on Secretary DeVos to listen to law enforcement and trust survivors of sexual assault by keeping these protections in place and putting student safety first,” lead author of the letter Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a press release.
This is nothing to do with justice or the rule of law and everything to do with the promotion of poisonous, divisive, liberal politics. Even the BBC manages to be fairly even handed, reporting that:
During a speech at George Mason University in Virginia, Mrs DeVos called the Obama-era guidelines a “failed system” that had done a “disservice to everyone involved”.
“Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponised the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students,” she said.
She said the definition of sexual assault was too broad and that too many cases involved “students and faculty who have faced investigation and punishment simply for speaking their minds or teaching their classes”.
Mrs DeVos, however, noted that acts of sexual misconduct are “reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable”.
“Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” she continued. “These are non-negotiable principles.”
It’s clear that every piece of Obama-era legislation, no matter how wrong-headed and unconstitutional it may be and how little debate or even thought was involved in its writing and adoption, will be defended to the death by Democrats, Republicans who wish they were Democrats, activist judges, and unhinged protesters determined to override the wishes of the people and make America ungovernable. We saw the same thing earlier this week with Trump’s decision to overturn the 2014 DACA policy, which Obama signed off in his office without bothering to run it through Congress.
The good news is that I doubt most Americans are taken in by this squawking in the way the British middle classes are, in fact I think the opposite is probably happening. Like a torch shining on cockroaches, I think a lot of Americans are grateful that Trump’s actions are revealing the true nature of their political elites, and they’ll be taking a careful note of who said what come election time. The other good news is that this process is happening at all: had Hillary won, the Title IX guidelines would have probably been enshrined in law.
This article by Emily Yoffe in The Atlantic is long, but worth reading. Choice quote:
Its report for the latter half of 2015 included a new category: third-party reports in which the alleged victim, after being contacted by the Title IX office, refused to cooperate. These cases made up more than 30 percent of all undergraduate-assault allegations.
Mark Hathaway, a California attorney who has dealt with several no-complainant complaints, says that the zeal with which these complaints are sometimes handled can be wounding psychologically to both the accused and his partner. Hathaway represented a young man who was in bed with his girlfriend in her dorm room. They were fooling around but not having intercourse. In the next bed was the girlfriend’s roommate and a male student. They thought that the girlfriend had had too much to drink to be able to consent to sexual activity. They mentioned their concern to a resident adviser, who was obligated to report it to the Title IX office, which then opened an investigation. “The girl says nothing happened; it was all consensual,” Hathaway told me. “But the school still goes forward.”
I suspect, like many, he thinks Trump brought about the situation in America rather than the other way around. Let’s see:
I am white. I am Jewish. I am an immigrant. I am a Russian American. But until recently I haven’t focused so much on those parts of my identity. I’ve always thought of myself simply as a normal, unhyphenated American.
Okay, with you so far.
Last year I experienced the first sustained anti-Semitism I have ever encountered in the United States. Like many other anti-Trump commentators, I was deluged with neo-Nazi propaganda on social media, including a picture of me in a gas chamber, with Herr Trump in a Nazi uniform pulling the lever to kill me. This was accompanied by predictable demands that I leave this country to “real” Americans and go back to where I came from — or, alternatively, to Israel.
So something’s changed, I think we can all agree on that.
That’s harder to do now that the president of the United States has embraced the far-right agenda. Trump came to office vilifying Mexicans and Muslims. As president, he has praised the protesters who marched with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “very fine people” and come out against taking down Confederate monuments, symbols of white supremacy.
Well, how about that? I don’t suppose it’s occurred to Boot that his being subject to anti-semitic abuse for the first time and ordinary Americans concerned about immigration being branded as “far right” are two sides of the same coin. Sure, Boot wasn’t being told to “leave this country” a few years ago, but then Confederate monuments weren’t symbols of white supremacy then either, and it was a lot more difficult to be branded a Nazi.
He has pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who became a symbol of racism and lawlessness for locking up Latinos, in defiance of a court order, simply on the suspicion that they might be undocumented immigrants.
A symbol of racism for whom? Those who want to apply a racial angle to anything and everything. Yet when people get into the spirit of things and start bringing up Boot’s race, he doesn’t like it. Well, that’s what happens when you make everything about race, like Boot is doing, and that didn’t start with Trump.
The announced end of DACA hit me particularly hard, because almost half of those affected arrived in the United States before their sixth birthday. In other words, they were about the same age I was when I came here.
My family’s case was somewhat different in that we received legal status as refugees after arriving here, and in time we became citizens.
Similarly, the execution of the Bali Nine leaders hit me particularly hard, because I too had been to Bali. My case was somewhat different because I was not smuggling heroin, and I was allowed to enjoy my holiday in peace.
Not even Trump and his nativist attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have yet figured out a way to strip naturalized American citizens of their legal status — although they’ve explicitly stated that they want to reduce legal immigration by 50 percent.
So this makes them Nazis, does it? Boot complains that times have changed and everything is so unpleasant, but he wants to make it politically unacceptable to discuss issues such as immigration – topics which were very much debated freely during this supposed golden age in which he grew up in America.
What would I do now, at age 48, if I were deported to a country that I have not seen in more than 40 years and whose language I no longer speak?
You might as well ask what you’d do if plonked in the seat of a 747 mid-flight: this is never going to happen, and you know it.
How would I work? How would I survive? In my case it would be a particularly pressing problem, given how critical I have been of Russia’s current president. The risk of political persecution would be all too real for me — as it is for “dreamers” who might be deported to repressive countries.
Hint for those who emigrate: don’t criticise the authoritarian president of your country of origin if you are in your host country illegally. But hey, feel free to slag off the president of your host country in the national press, they’ll love that.
The result of all this hate-mongering is that for the first time, I no longer feel like a “real” American. I now feel like an outcast, a minority.
No, you don’t, this is pathetic posturing. If you had outcast, minority views you’d not get to express them in the Washington Post, you’d be running an obscure blog with 500 readers per day. Like, erm, this one.
That may be precisely what Trump and his most fervent supporters intend. They are redefining what it means to be an American. The old idea that anyone who embraces America’s ideals can become an American is out.
Funny, that’s exactly what a lot of Americans think your side has done: redefined what it means to be American, uprooted conventions, opened old wounds, trashed institutions, and left millions of people feeling isolated and unrepresented. That’s why they voted for Trump.
I find myself increasingly forced to think of my ethnic identity instead of the national identity I adopted as a boy in 1976. That is discomfiting for me, and a tragedy for America.
Well, yes. But it wasn’t Trump who foisted identity politics and race onto people who for years had been content to just be Americans. That was someone else, and the establishment Republicans who Boot supports went along with it. Boot complains that Trump’s policies have made him feel like an outcast in his adopted country, but fails to understand it was ordinary Americans being made to feel like outcasts in their own country which got Trump elected in the first place. Like so many others, he’s put the cart before the horse.
Via the comments at David Thompson’s place, I bring you this televised discussion from Australia’s ABC featuring our favourite Laurie Penny. Naturally, she kicks things off by pandering to whatever oppressed minorities she thinks are within earshot…
I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we’re meeting on. I’m really hoping I’m going to say this right! The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and pay my respect to their elders past, present and future.
…before addressing the global issues of the day by talking mostly about herself. So far, so Laurie, but this isn’t really what I want to write about.
What’s more interesting is this statement made by one of the other panelists by the name of Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, an American who is the founder and editor of MuslimGirl, an online magazine for Muslim women:
I think the problem is that people are voting for Trump in the first place. You know, I think THAT’S the problem that we have to address here, not the way that we choose to respond to that. If anything, we should make it so that there’s zero tolerance for those kind of attitudes to exist within our society. There’s no room for that type of intolerance. I mean, look at what happened, right? We started giving Trump air time in the media and giving him an opportunity to present his racist ideologies as a position on a policy platform.
It resulted in him actually getting elected. And now it resulted in white supremacist rallies in the streets, Neo-Nazis going like this again. You know, we really just regressed several generations backward. All this hard work for us to get to this point to make it unacceptable to be racist? Now it’s out in the open again.
Naturally, nobody challenged her on this, with the host preferring to lob soft questions at the panelists, who were all in agreement with one another.
Leaving aside the childish, cartoonish portrayal of Trump, his campaign, and his supporters that contributed to his being elected in the first place, Al-Khatahtbeh is saying that nobody who disagrees with her should be allowed to run for office and present their policies. Sure, it’s dressed up as anti-racism but the definition of racism is now so broad it basically means anyone who isn’t a Democrat or acting like one.
With the election of Obama, the political classes and their lackeys thought the battle was won and their politics would prevail forever. They believed they’d silenced any opposing voices and they had the run of the place. Some may even have equated the silence for satisfaction, but most would be content just to keep the other side silent. As I have said many times, Trump’s election was a warning shot across the bows of the political class that there is no such consensus on the future of American politics and they’d better start listening to people. Having thought the other side had surrendered and laid down their arms, Trump’s election has shaken the likes of Al-Khatahtbeh to the core. This is why they’re lashing out with unhinged statements like the one above.
As I am fond of saying, Trump is a symptom, not a cause. And as I have argued recently, Americans are rather fortunate that the symptom came in the form of an elderly billionaire whose worst habit is shooting his mouth off. It could have been very much worse. What Al-Khatahtbeh and her ilk don’t realise is that it was precisely the shutting down of rational political discourse and putting topics such as immigration and Islam out of bounds for debate that prompted millions to vote for Trump. He said things that no-one else would, and it propelled him into the White House. If the political classes and lackeys like Al-Khatahtbeh succeed in their efforts to silence Americans, they will likely respond by voting in an absolute bastard who will ensure their side prevails in future – using exactly the same methods and laws that Al-Khatahtbeh’s lot used on them.
I’m not about to compare Donald Trump with Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan, but I still think it’s worth seeing how the latter came to power. Put simply, he had the numbers. While the Metropolitan chattering classes dismissed his supporters as uneducated peasants or religious fanatics, he slowly built a movement which catapulted him to almost unlimited power. His arguments didn’t need to be good, because he positioned himself as a man of the people, a leader of those who the elites had ignored and silenced for decades. Sure he preyed on ignorance, but which politician doesn’t? Clinton? Obama? Puh-lease.
Erdoğan’s biggest weapon was the establishment itself: they had neglected millions of rural-dwellers, they were dismissive of their concerns, and they did seem to be running things to benefit themselves in a way which could be argued (and was argued) was contradictory to the character and beliefs of the Turkish people. They also used the judiciary for political purposes: how do you think those suspected of Communist leanings fared in Turkey during the Cold War? It makes it an awful lot easier for the new guy to chuck his opponents in jail if his predecessors have been doing the same thing for years. It becomes a matter of degree, not form.
Again, I’m not endorsing Erdoğan’s policies or comparing him to Trump, I’m merely pointing out how he rose to power, i.e. by pointing to the failings of the established order, using their own techniques against them, and – crucially – having the numbers on his side. Anyone who doesn’t think a nasty bastard could take a similar route to power in the USA is woefully complacent, and people like Al-Khatahtbeh are borderline delusional. From Wikipedia:
Islam is the third largest faith in the United States, after Christianity and Judaism, representing 0.9% of the population.
That’s a rounding error. If I held such a minority status somewhere, I’m not sure I’d be on national television saying the majority should be banned from speaking their minds. I have an uncomfortable feeling that historians may come to view Trump as one of the most benign presidents of the 21st century. As I said, they’re lucky it’s him.
There was much wailing on Twitter yesterday after French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo came out with this cover:
“God exists! He drowned all the Texas neo-Nazis!”
The complaints were mostly in the manner of:
1. After this, don’t expect sympathy when your offices are shot up again.
2. How many Texans died saving you from real Nazis?
3. It’s easy for you to mock us when we don’t hit back.
That last one makes the mistake of thinking Charlie Hebdo stopped lampooning Islam after the massacre in their offices in January 2015: they didn’t.
To be fair, I didn’t read anyone saying Charlie Hebdo should be silenced over this – most of the complaints were from the political right, not the infantile left. But they kind of miss the point.
Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine, and their MO is to publish the most offensive take on whatever the leading story is that week. They do this to shock people into understanding what thoughts might be out there, and remind everyone that people are free to hold them. Anyone who looks at the front cover above and thinks “Oh my God, they think Texans are Nazis and they’re laughing at the dead!” doesn’t understand Charlie Hebdo or satire. Whereas I have no doubt most of those at Charlie Hebdo are politically of the hard-left which dominate institutions in central Paris, you’d be mistaken if you believe their magazine exists to promote their political views. They’re a scattergun, take-no-prisoners outfit proving points which most people would rather shy away from acknowledging.
In the aftermath of the attacks, I never thought Charlie Hebdo was looking for sympathy. Rather, I think they wanted the assurance that what they were doing was perfectly okay and the attack they suffered was in no way justified. Instead they got weasel words, obfuscation, crocodile tears, and people saying perhaps they deserved it. One common opinion was that publications which deliberately go out of their way to offend people ought not to complain when there is a reaction. This misses the point: so long as Charlie Hebdo can continue to do what it does, everyone else is free to speak, write, and draw as they please. Once we enter into the territory of differentiating between deliberate and inadvertent offence, it becomes a negotiation with those who don’t recognise our right to do either and would rather silence us completely.
Charlie Hebdo is on the front-line of free speech, and they set out to prove it week after week. They don’t care about sympathy from Texans, they only want to make the point that if they can publish something as heinous as this then so can you, and if they are thinking such thoughts then so are plenty of others. Unfortunately, Charlie Hebdo is ploughing a lonely furrow. As I said in the aftermath of the attacks on their offices:
Nothing highlights the cultural gap between France and Britain more than the uncomfortable suspicion that Charlie Hebdo would not have lasted more than a year in the UK before being hounded out of business by the state and its backers in one form or another, as this article makes clear.
For all their faults, the French seem to take a more robust view of free speech than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. There is no way Charlie Hebdo could be sold in Australia or Canada, and if the past few years is anything to go by, they’d likely be shut down in the USA too. People like to imagine that the French are thin-skinned, but you don’t see the sort of hand-wringing over offensive speech and ideas here that you do in America and Britain. They prefer to ignore it and focus on more pressing concerns – like which wine to have with tonight’s dinner.
Rather than getting upset about Charlie Hebdo’s puerile and offensive front covers, we should be glad that at least someone is putting them out there. If they weren’t, how could we be sure that speech was still free? And how would we know that what we said was not going to land us in trouble? It’s startling that the French understand this and can answer these questions, but those in the US cannot.
In the comments beneath my most recent post, MC writes:
We might laugh at snowflakes, but when they are making the rules and have the power of the state to enforce their will, then we will be in trouble. We know that for them contrary opinions equal violence, so the imposition of violence on the opposition will come easily to them.
I would argue that the snowflakes are already making the rules and have large swathes of the state on their side, plus the whole of the media and academia. As Streetwise Professor notes:
[I]n some jurisdictions, law “enforcement” is ceding ground to violent individuals and organizations, which will beget violence and the Weimarization of America.
From what I can tell it is not so much the police that are ceding the ground but their political masters ordering them to. Quite what they think about that I don’t know.
Antifa is a violent organisation for the simple reason that it has tested the waters and found they can get away with violence. Much the same is true for the BLM movement, and Antifa probably learned a lot from BLM, not so much by watching them riot but by observing the response of the authorities and noting the support the violent elements had from the media and other useful idiots on the left. At the moment Antifa has no real opposition: they can outnumber any groups that meet them head-on, and know that if they started losing badly the police would step in and bash up their opponents. But this depends on their operating only in friendly jurisdictions, where they can count on the local mayor or college administration to take their side. Provided they keep to these areas, they probably won’t do much permanent damage. Antifa are easily avoided: just don’t go to protests taking place in liberal college towns or cities with mayors who want to tear down Confederate statues to score brownie points with their liberal friends. The average American simply isn’t interested in going to these protests, so they’re not directly affected by Antifa any more than the average Brit is affected by football hooligans.
What will be far more dangerous is when the movement, buoyed by their success on friendly turf, start taking on ordinary people. I suspect a quick foray into unfamiliar territory in a town where they don’t enjoy state protection would have them fleeing back to Berkeley and Brooklyn in absolute terror leaving behind multiple casualties, but unfortunately the war isn’t only being waged on the ground. Powerful campaigns are targeting providers of social media, email, web hosting, payment processing, and other services demanding they drop individuals and organisations the protesters don’t like. A combination of cowardly management and sympathy for the protesters’ views has meant the service providers have acquiesced to the demands far too readily: allegedly far-right websites have had their hosting accounts closed without warning and their domain names effectively stolen. Twitter is banning people faster than new people are joining, and PayPal has also got in on the act.
As ZMan has pointed out both on his blog and in his podcasts, people might shrug off a few fringe elements being denied access to the internet, effectively silencing them, but if ordinary people are getting caught up in it, things could get ugly. YouTube/Google has gone into full-on panic mode over the past month or so, demonetarising tens of thousands of perfectly innocuous videos with no political content whatsoever having set their automatic filters to align nicely with Antifa’s core beliefs. Ordinary people suddenly found a handy source of income has been cut off simply because the tech giants were unable or unwilling to stand up to a gaggle of hard-left thugs. It’s only a matter of time before ordinary Americans find themselves denied access to the website or payment processing platform their livelihoods depend on, without ever knowing the reason why. If that happens, people will start throwing their support behind whichever outfit professes to be on their side and against the people responsible, regardless of how nasty and thuggish they are.
I’ve long thought the authorities in Europe have demonstrated considerable irresponsibility by pandering to the sensibilities of Muslim minorities, thus luring them into a false sense of security that the state will always protect them from the native population regardless of how they behave. My fear has been that they will overreach and the much-predicted backlash will finally come to bear, and it will be devastating. The same applied to the BLM movement under Obama, and I thought there was a real danger they’d riot in the wrong city and casualties would run into the hundreds. We’re now seeing the same danger of overreach with Antifa.
If Antifa start to disrupt the lives of ordinary people, either online or in the real world, they are going to make some very dangerous enemies. People will realise that tackling Antifa head-on won’t work, given the support and protection they enjoy from the state, so they’ll have to be more creative. A thousand years of guerrilla warfare has shown that if you can’t beat the main force you pick off the stragglers sending fear through the whole group. The Antifa warriors are brave when ten of them are beating the shit out of some bloke on the ground, but probably less so when walking home alone from the bus station that night. They’ve declared war and are more or less in uniform complete with a flag, so they’d not be hard to spot.
If the American authorities don’t get a handle on this situation soon, we’re going to be reading stories of youths with Antifa hoodies in their backpacks being brutally beaten or worse in alleyways far from any protest. One of the remaining adults in Washington DC ought to take the Antifa leaders (and those who fund them) to a quiet room and tell them that war is unpleasant and rarely works out in favour of those who start them.
After the election, I made the point that Trump was a warning shot to the ruling class. They had to reform and Trump was that opening for them. If not, the next guy was not going to be as easy to deal with as Trump.
It’s been almost 10 months since Trump’s election and still the ruling classes and those who support them, on both sides of the Atlantic, haven’t yet worked out why.
Last week, the German magazines Der Spiegel and Stern ran these on their front covers:
If social media is anything to go by, a lot of people out there claim to believe Trump is a white supremacist Nazi. The logic goes something like this:
1. Some Nazis protested the removal of a statue in Charlottesville.
2. They were joined by the alt-right, some of whom are Nazis, some of whom are rather unpleasant right-wingers, some of whom are perfectly pleasant right-wingers and some of whom are just ordinary people who want to express their dislike of liberal politics.
3. People who hate Trump demanded he condemn the entire alt-right as Nazis, i.e. to tell a barefaced lie about one of his main political support bases. Trump declined, and condemned the idiots on both sides.
4. Trump is therefore a Nazi.
Apparently this New York property developer with a Jewish daughter, a TV celebrity who has been a household name since the eighties, is a Nazi. Who knew?
Of course, nobody believes Trump is a Nazi: if they did, they’d not be writing articles in papers using their own names calling him a Nazi, they’d be shitting themselves with fear. The Nazi label is simply the latest attempt to pin something on Trump which they hope will bring about enough pressure to get him to resign or be forced from office. We’ve had misogyny, taxes, and collusion with Russia and none of them worked, so they’ve gone with Trump’s a Nazi. Trump’s opponents are simply lurching from one baseless accusation to another in the hope the American public will at some point agree on one of them and turf him from office. They then assume everything will go back to how it was, with nice Republicans like Mitt Romney losing elections (while being called a Nazi) to an exotic Democrat who will focus on transgender bathrooms and global warming.
The way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if they succeed in preventing Trump seeing out his term. If this happens, many people will be absolutely ecstatic because they genuinely think this is all about Trump. It still staggers me the number of supposedly intelligent people who claim to follow politics and think that Trump is responsible for the social disintegration we’re seeing across America. Almost nobody from the chattering classes has bothered to identify and understand the political forces that plucked Trump from the primaries and propelled him to the White House, nor the rot that has set into the established political parties in the US which played an equally important role.
The chattering classes in Turkey had no problem ridiculing Recep Erdoğan during his slow rise to power either, confident they could contain him while dismissing his supporters as backward reactionaries that could be defeated by sophisticated discussions among themselves. At no point did the elites in Ankara and Istanbul listen to his supporters to figure out why they were voting for him, and look at ways to persuade these millions of people to come on board with their own policies. Perhaps they believed that beating him at the ballot box wasn’t necessary and they could just remove someone who didn’t do their bidding by other means? And look how that worked out.
Personally, I think Americans are incredibly lucky to have someone as benign as Trump being the one who stumbled on enough populist anger to get himself elected. If remarks about pussy-grabbing and over-zealous tweeting are their biggest concerns, they’re getting off rather lightly. The trouble is, the established order seems determined to ignore their good fortune and roll the dice again. Rather than trying to find out how Trump got elected and why, i.e. by identifying with those who voted for him and persuading them to vote differently, they think the answer lies in getting rid of him unfairly and installing someone else more to their liking. Trump’s successor, whoever he may be (and I don’t mean Pence), will quietly note that the rules have changed and will enter the arena far better prepared. If Trump does not see out his term, American politics will have changed forever, and not in a good way.
People like to compare Trump with Erdoğan, but they probably know little about either beyond what they read in their social media bubbles or the hysterical mainstream media. The irony is that by trying so hard to depose Trump instead of understanding who elected him and why, America’s ruling classes and their useful idiots abroad are making it far more likely that his successor will indeed have much in common with his Turkish counterpart. If they had any sense they’d quit trying to get rid of Trump and let him complete his term, because if they don’t they will – as my mother used to say – really have something to cry about.