January 18, 2018: Vulgar Truths | Backing Aziz Ansari | Unfit Media
Good Thursday to you. We’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming Women’s March and how it feels different one year later. A year ago, we -- and many among our families and friends -- took to the streets in droves. Back then, the march felt like an all-inclusive protest against Trump. It was both unifying and cathartic. This year, we don’t feel the urgency of public demonstration. The shock of Trump is over and to us it seems that the time to protest is over and the time to roll up our sleeves has come.
The best hope for those who oppose Trump’s policies is to make a difference at the polls in November. Not everyone feels this way, of course, which is why there is an anniversary march this weekend. A recent article on the front page of The New York Times noted divisions in the movement between its founders at Women’s March Inc. and women in the South who want to take the momentum from the marches and turn it into blue wins in red states. The movement’s founders have asked them to cease and desist using Women’s March language in their organizational materials. So the women in the South have renamed themselves March On. To those sisters, let us say we are sympathetic with your point. And instead of marching this year, we will put our money where our mouths used to be and send funds to congressional campaigns. We hope that recent elections in Virginia and, now, rural Wisconsin, herald a new day. Viva 2018! As always, if you have questions or comments please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Call a Shithole a Shithole
So, this week two long-running themes of the Trump administration, immigration and racism, became explicitly entwined as the president -- changing gears during a negotiating session and suddenly playing tough on a DACA deal -- insulted nations with dark-skinned people like Haiti and African nations and lauded Norway.
We watched as the conservative media battled to defend what at first seemed indefensible. The first round of defense, as fiercely propounded by Fox Newshosts like Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters, was that Trump was just saying what people in Blue Collar bars think anyway. Round two was about semantics -- did he say “shithole” or “shithouse”? -- combined with personal attacks on Senator Dick Durbin, who reported the whole thing in the first place. By round three, the conservative press had settled on the current and most sustainable narrative: that while Trump is vulgar and uncouth there is important truth in what he has to say.
City Journal, a Neocon urbanist magazine run by the Manhattan Institute, had two articles giving intellectual heft to the president’s off-the-cuff remarks. In the first, Andrew Klavan argued that recognizing that there are shithole countries will make American entrance policies more sophisticated.:
Let’s state the obvious. Some countries are shitholes. To claim that this is racist is racist. They are not shitholes because of the color of the populace but because of bad ideas, corrupt governance, false religion, and broken culture. Further, most of the problems in these countries are generated at the top. Plenty of rank-and-file immigrants from such ruined venues ultimately make good Americans—witness those who came from 1840s potato-famine Ireland, a shithole if ever there was one! It takes caution and skill to separate the good from the bad.
For these very reasons, absurd immigration procedures like chain migration, lotteries, and unvetted entries are deeply destructive. They can lead to the sort of poor choices that create a Rotherham. Trump’s suggestions—to vet immigrants for pro-American ideas and skills that will help our country—are smart and reasonable and would clearly make the system better if implemented.
In a second article, Kay Hymowitz explained why immigrants from shithole countries are legitimately to be feared.:
Postindustrial economies create a far more challenging path to upward mobility than the manufacturing economy. Unlike during the later industrial era, when even high school dropouts could get decent employment, education is now the most likely route to middle-class comfort and relative stability. Though as a group the number of foreign-born kids graduating college has grown faster than native-born, the children of low-skilled immigrants, particularly Latinos, are struggling. Instead of climbing the income ladder, they are slipping down. Between the second and third generation, Hispanic high school dropout rates go up and college attendance declines. Canada, Australia, and several other countries have introduced a points system giving preference to skilled immigrants precisely to avoid this scenario.
The U.S. may want to welcome low-skilled workers to do the jobs “Americans won’t do” and to help them in the early years of assimilation. But the prospect of a multi-generational proletariat class, hovering near the poverty line and dependent on government help, is probably not what most Americans had in mind.
What We’re Watching:
So, the general take in the mainstream press is that Trump’s comments have angered Democrats and hurt the chances that some sort of compromise on DACA will pass. But conservative commentators, argue that Democrats really have no intention of passing DACA. They would rather use it as a cudgel, according to The Washington Examiner.:
Illegal immigrants brought to America as children through no fault of their own, the so-called "Dreamers," have never been closer than they are now to securing a lawful, permanent deal that would allow them to stay.
Democrats, however, are doing their darndest to prevent it.
The reason won't be discussed on CNN or Univision. It is much easier to point to President Trump's crude comments on immigration than it is to handle the truth, which is that his opponents want an argument rather than action. In an election year, immigration is far more powerful for Democrats as a political issue than it is as an accomplishment in the rearview mirror. They know this just as they have always known it, and so they're digging in their heels and throwing obstacles in the way of a solution.
We’ve noticed that some on the Right don’t even condemn Trump for being vulgar or indelicate, but actually praise him for being “authentic.” The Right is especially gifted at co-opting terms favored by the Left and shifting their meaning. In this new interpretation, politicians who stick to niceties are phonies while Trump’s straight-talking speech is part of a brave new non P.C. world that is coming. To read the argument see yet another City Journal article, this one with the headline, “Trump to P.C.: No More! However crudely, Trump explodes Shibboleths.”
Or check out Jerry Fallwell Jr. @JerryFallwellJr on Twitter.:
Complaining about the temperament of the @POTUS or saying his behavior is not presidential is no longer relevant. @realDonaldTrump has single-handedly changed the definition of what behavior is “presidential” from phony, failed & rehearsed to authentic, successful & down to earth
Also Worth Noting:
Meanwhile, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey took a pounding from all sides for his rough handling of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Booker called Nielsen a liar when, at a judiciary committee hearing, she claimed not to have heard the shithole comment even though she was in the room. Slate complained that Booker was “laying it on too thick” with his righteous indignation. But the Right-wing media once again usurped a liberal term and accused Booker of “Mansplaining” -- that is talking down to -- Nielsen because she is a woman. Here is David French in The National Review for the prosecution:
Talk to any conservative woman and she’ll tell you that all too often the Left’s “respect for women” stops the instant a female pundit, politician, or activist slides just to the right of moderate. The human capacity for rationalization and self-justification is nearly infinite, and it was on display yesterday.
It was right for Booker to tear into Nielsen, his apologists said. After all, everyone who doesn’t condemn Trump’s infamous “sh**hole” comment is “complicit” in racism. Nielsen was lying to Congress. That wasn’t misogyny, you see, it was righteous anger. Are you, Mr. Conservative, telling me that Nielsen isn’t tough enough to handle a tongue-lashing? Are you telling me that she needs to be protected, to be coddled by Senator Booker? Oh, and don’t talk to me about “values,” Mr. Conservative. Not when that man is in the White House.
We’re now entering the Iran–Iraq War phase of our conflicts over civility. The only norm left is hypocrisy. Many of the same Democrats who simply can’t believe the words that come out of Trump’s mouth once cheered Joe Biden’s claim to a Virginia crowd that Mitt Romney would “put y’all back in chains.” They spread far and wide claims that Romney had callously let people die just to make a buck. And now, even as they lament the decline in discourse under Trump, they claim that conventional conservative policies are going to kill Americans by the thousands.
2. Aziz Ansari Should Thank Conservatives
Like any revolution, the #MeToo movement was bound to make a mistake one day and to dragoon innocents into a net of of accusations. Last week, a feminist website called, yes, Babe, published a tale of a woman who went on a date with the comedian Aziz Ansari some years back. They went back to his apartment, according to her titillatingly detailed but anonymous account, and despite giving him “non verbal clues” that she wasn’t into penetration, he pressed forward. Until, however, she finally verbalized objections. Then he stopped.
After much righteous flame-throwing on Twitter, those with common sense on both the Right and Left now seem to think that Ansari was guilty only of not reading minds. But the Right’s anger at this story had a decidedly this-has-gone-too-far vibe.
This piece in The Federalist, interestingly argues that the victimhood of so many apparently helpless women in the #MeToo movement actually shows that conservatives -- for whom the danger wrought to women by the sexual revolution has long been a defining pillar of the movement -- are the ones more in touch with women’s needs when they talk about modesty and sexual restraint.:
The thing that really struck me about the response to this story is that many young women are proclaiming that it rings true to them, that it is an accurate reflection of the current dating culture, such as it is. If so, then the rules and expectations for dating and sex are totally broken. Maybe that’s the real story of the current sex panic. The sexual revolution threw out all the old rules—not just those that were puritanical or overly restrictive, but all of them, including any expectations about chivalrous behavior on the part of men. Which turns out to be a problem.
Meanwhile, Conservative Review insisted that Ansari, despite his own liberal politics, would likely have been eaten by his own if conservative pundits hadn’t come to his rescue first.:
[He] had to rely in large part on the conservative punditry he likely wouldn’t lend a hand to if they were drowning. Column after column was written to bail him out by insisting that not only did nothing remotely close to sexual assault happen in Ansari’s encounter, but that the true victim is actually Ansari himself — and at the hands of a weaponized social justice crusade that refuses to make women responsible on any level for the logical consequences of their own choices and actions.
That means that significant differences in views on matters of sex and politics were set aside by those coming to Ansari’s aid in pursuit of higher truths that can’t afford to be held hostage to “two legs good, four legs bad.” Yes, that’s still possible, folks. And I hope progressives are taking notes.
What We’re Noting:
So,The Wall Street Journal published a story that Trump paid off a porn star who was going to reveal their affair. CNN further revealed that Fox News had the story during the election and chose not to air it. The Mainstream Media barely blinked. The rest of the conservative press hardly blinked. Where does infidelity rate as a moral issue in an era of #MeToo? Very far down the list of important topics, if it rates at all.
3. Media: Unfit for Duty
When Dr. Ronny L. Jackson gave the president a clean bill of health both mentally and physically, some in the Mainstream Media could barely contain their disbelief. After all, talk of Trump’s instability and possible senility had become an open topic of discussion on networks like CNN. The conservative media were, as you might expect, reveling in the skeptics' repudiation. For Rush Limbaugh, it all seemed the perfect moment to ram home his alternative theory: that the press is unhinged and unfit for duty.:
But this is way beyond partisanship. This is way beyond bias. We’re dealing with unhinged instability. Jim Acosta yesterday had to be thrown out of wherever they were, the Roosevelt Room, and Trump shut him down with one word: “Out!” So yesterday, Acosta said, “I never thought this could happen anywhere but an authoritarian country.” Today Jeff Flake compared Donald Trump to Stalin! Right, Jeff Flake compared Donald Trump to Josef Stalin, who was a mass murderer, in the old Soviet Union.
The true Stalinists today are the American left. “Stalinist” defined as someone who demands that you think as they do and love it, demands that you agree with them and love it and love them. They will brook no discord and they will accept no intolerance. You believe them or you will be destroyed. The media, this current crop — and, by the way, not all of them, obviously. But the vast majority of the White House press corps and the big names at cable news are actually what they accuse Trump of being. They are unfit for their jobs.
4. Fake News Awards
Late yesterday, Trump finally dumped his fake news awards. Top place went to the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for predicting the stock market would never recover after a Trump election. We expected the conservative media to glory in the awards, so we were surprised to see this editorial by a former NBC executive producer Mark Macias inThe Daily Caller saying the awards resembled the tactics of dictators.:
The “Fake News Awards” might sound like innocent fun to many Trump supporters, but don’t be misled. The concept is more closely aligned with a tactic Stalin, Castro and Hitler used.
At its root, an awards ceremony for fake news is pure propaganda designed to discredit the media and lower the public’s trust in journalism. Its sole intention is to discredit the media and, as an American, you should be concerned that our president is moving to discredit the fourth branch of government. Even if many Americans dismiss the Fake News Awards as quintessential Trump hype, the ceremony will inevitably ebb the public’s trust in the media, albeit subconsciously.
It’s similar to when President Donald Trump said Mitt Romney walked like a penguin. We might have laughed and dismissed the comment as fun fodder but it got into your mind as you watched Romney walk across the room. Regardless of which journalists or news outlets are “honored” with this award, a seed of doubt will be planted in the institution of journalism.
5. What We’re Reading
So, there are various and assorted threads out there worth perusing in case you missed them. The New York Times did something very much in the spirit of Red for the Blue. It turned over the editorial page for one day to letters from readers who support Trump. The Times is taking a lot of heat from its readers, but, naturally, we approve. Also, this article on Vox about the alt-Right’s new affinity with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche offered helpful refresher points about the uses and misuses of his writings. And in case you saw President Trump’s tweet claiming his approval rating among African Americans had doubled, here is a Washington Post article explaining how that bit of fake news got started. Finally, for those of our readers who seemed to have not cottoned on to the whole Gorilla Channel hoax even at this late date, enjoy!