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.