Have we started the year off ugly and angry?

Politics seems to have kicked off early this year, largely because of the attention being given to Donald Trump (New Zealand politics is only slowly emerging from holiday time).

Anger and affront – whether real or an activist tactic – is one of the more visible aspects of political discussion, so naturally some people have started the year angry.

An unusually perceptive post from Martyn Bradbury looks at this – Glitterboobs, tinned tomatoes, racist menus and golliwogs – have we started the year off angry?

I tend to want to follow politics, economics and the political process because with an untested left wing Government, a looming economic crash and an orange fuckwit on the nuclear button, the shit storm that is about to hit demands our full attention.

But sometimes things happen and people say things that are so ugly and ignorant you need to pause and just say, ‘Oi. You. No!’

Have we started the year in an ugly and angry way? I think we have and I think some of the ugliness in our dialogue has been fuel injected by social media platforms where vilification and maximum emotional outrage have rendered us too fried and bitter to even bother checking the better angels of our nature’s twitter feed.

Social media has enabled an overdose of ‘cry wolf’ outrage. It has become difficult to see the issues that really deserve attention amongst the plethora of petty attacks.

I’m still not sure whether Trump is a reactive self obsessed idiot, or a carefully staged act to mask what he or his handlers are trying to achieve quietly. I suspect it’s a mix of both.

I look at the four issues that have recently erupted on social media and some of the things I see people saying is woefully stupid and just misplaced fear and anger that is being spouted by wounded and insecure individuals.

If a woman is walking naked in public, you don’t have any right whatsoever to touch her. Yes, self-defence law doesn’t cover her chasing the dickhead who did this down and hitting him four times in the head, but that’s a side salad to the initial issue of him sexually assaulting her in public in the first place. There’s no defence in the world where it’s justifiable to grope her. None. Zip. Why the Christ are you still trying to justify that?

If you are getting indignant about being told what food to donate to women who are escaping domestic violence, perhaps you need to appreciate that charity isn’t pretty. It’s ugly and real. If you are offended that women in a state of shock from domestic violence require comfort food as opposed to a Jamie Oliver ingredient list, then perhaps you need to check who this charity is actually for, you or the person you are donating it to.

If you think racist menus are funny because they make fun of the way people speak, it not only demeans the food you are cooking, it demeans you as a person. The needlessness of the spite and the joy in revelling in the ‘naughtiness’  of being politically incorrect speaks to a pretty base level ignorance that is childish and beneath everyone. How can an asian restaurant do justice to the spirit of the kai when that restaurant is mocking and humiliating the culture that kai comes from?

(If your main concern was me throwing in the word ‘kai’ in that last sentence, you’re either someone who thinks this menu is hilarious or Don Brash.)

Talking of Don Brash – Golliwogs.

I appreciate you might have had a Golliwog when you were a kid. I appreciate you cuddled up to the Golliwog and I appreciate that you aren’t racist. I get that. However the Golliwog is a crass caricature of the very racist Black and White Minstrels and just like the n word, it’s not really something white people get to claim. And yes, unfortunately sensitivities to many centuries of slavery and racism do in fact outrank your childhood memories.

This last one is a tricky one. I get that we should all be more sensitive to what may offend others. But should we sanitise our pasts and presents in case someone might be offended by something?

Sometimes people are quite justified in being offended.

But sometimes – increasingly via social media – people use ‘offence’ as an excuse to attack or to shut down valid debate.

In each of these four examples,  the Glitterboobs, tinned tomatoes, racist menus and golliwogs, people are wanting to be wilfully offensive to one another. It’s not a case of ‘forgive me I didn’t realise that’, it’s a case of, “Fuck you I don’t care”.

That’s correct – to an extent. Some people are deliberately offensive to attract attention – Cameron Slater is a good example of this.

But some people deliberately claim offence when none was intended. Just about any time I comment at The Standard people (a small number) pile in claiming offence, deliberately misrepresenting and making false accusations. This is a widespread problem in social media – ‘offence’ is used as an attack weapon.

Perhaps it’s because the first reaction is always, ‘you racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/xenophobic heteronormative patriarchal redneck…’ that people’s heels dig in as deeply as they do. Social media has bypassed gatekeeper media, but it’s also unleashed a cacophony of resentment that removes compassion in favour of online assassinations.

That’s a big statement from Bradbury, because he has been known to have some fairly over the top first reactions.

The ugly anger being spouted by many on social issues that cut to the very heart of our individual identities is a backlash long in coming. The wounds that so many are speaking from can’t be argued with, they need to heal first before they can listen and I don’t  think there is going to be a lot of listening in 2018.

He is right that some wounded people can’t be argued with, it is too emotional for them to see other points of view. Some have suffered for their lifetime.

But politics is different to a large extent.

Some of the worst arguing and not listening on political issues is not from a position of personal aggrievement, it isn’t based on personal hurt and suffering. It is based on perceptions and ideological passions that often bear little resemblance to reality.

Is there a way of separating real personal wounds from impassioned political activism? If there is it won’t be easy.

Having thought this through perhaps Bradbury can address some of this at The Daily Blog this year. Not everyone will start to listen this year, but if he puts more thought into posts like this, if he reduces his own anger and ugliness,  Bradbury may increase his audience and change political discourse for the better.

And each of us could do likewise.

Anger can be an essential safety valve, but ongoing ugliness is counter productive to making social and political progress.

Trump’s ugliness – Charlottesville and after

What happened in Charlottesville last weekend looked ugly. Protesters congregated from around the country, many of them representing ugly and extreme views. Ugliness and extremes were on display. Counter protesters stood up against this, and there was no doubt some ugliness from some of them too, but the focus was rightly on the ugly right.

Many looked to President Trump for some appropriate condemnation. He disappointed for two days. This may have been in part because the ugly right have championed Trump, and in Charlottesville they cheered Trump.

Eventually Trump read a statement condemning the ugly right. It sounded like a carefully constructed statement, delivered without conviction.

The next day Trump reverted to type in an impromptu media conference. He swung back to defending his adoring ugly supporters and spreading the blame. He disappointed many people across the political spectrum. He was cheered by David Duke, ex leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

One disturbing aspect was Trump’s use of terminology repeated often online by those promoting white ‘supremacy’ and trashing anyone deemed different in race or religion.

Trump stirred up an ugliness that has long been in America. This ugliness has voted for him and applauded him, and he has effectively applauded this ugliness back.

RCP: A Defiant Trump’s Combative Homecoming

Donald Trump returned to his famed Fifth Avenue home this week, outwardly unchanged by the past seven months at the White House or the weight of the presidency.

Appearing at Trump Tower for the first time since taking the oath of office, the president rejected calls from within his own party and administration to reset his tone in the wake of a violent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., and instead dug in his heels in vintage fashion.

During an impromptu press conference in the marbled lobby of his Manhattan property, flanked by members of his Cabinet, Trump defended his original statement on the protests—re-reading it from a paper he pulled from his blazer pocket–and criticized the “alt-left” and “very, very violent” groups that ran counter-demonstrations in Virginia. The president condemned neo-Nazis who organized the weekend protest, but argued there were some “very fine people” who came to the rally simply to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The president’s frustration with the bipartisan political pressure he faced on his response to Charlottesville was palpable. Earlier in the day, Trump lambasted chief executives who resigned from his manufacturing council in protest of the president’s handling of the weekend’s events. The previous evening, he blamed the media for the way in which his more pointed Monday comments were received. And so, the president dismissed the advice and counsel of his staff who aimed to refocus the nation’s attention on the agenda, and instead embraced his comfort with combat and impulse. New chief of staff John Kelly stood nearby, arms folded and head down.

Trump blasted the press for not covering the counter-protesters, a minority of whom represented the anti-fascist “Antifa” group that has engaged in violence and vandalism, in the same way as the white nationalist organizers. “I only tell you this, there are two sides to a story,” Trump told reporters. “I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides.”

And with that, the president erased any goodwill he established with both liberal and conservative critics with his statement from the White House the previous day, in which he singled out the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists after coming under fire for initially arguing there were “many sides” of violence in Charlottesville.

Concerns about Trump’s pandering to the ugly right have been expressed from elsewhere on the right.

While the president had previously echoed some of the grievances of the GOP base, his unplanned press conference garnered little support. Several Republican lawmakers quickly came out to out to counter Trump’s remarks. “White supremacyis repulsive,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Kansas’ Jerry Moran, a red state senator who once chaired the party committee focused on getting Republicans elected to the Senate, called out the president specifically. “No one — especially POTUS — should ever tolerate” white supremacy, bigotry and racism.

In a series of tweets, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio raised concerns the president’s statements would further fuel hate groups. “Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame,” he wrote. “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win.”

But pointedly…

David Duke, former KKK grand wizard, applauded the president’s remarks.

The ugly right may be all Trump has left to applaud him.

NY Daily News: Both Bush Presidents, McConnell horrified by Trump’s Charlottesville response: ‘There are no good neo-Nazis’ 

The only two living Republican ex-Presidents joined a growing chorus of conservatives criticizing President Trump’s Charlottesville response and denouncing extremism.

“America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms,” former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush said in a joint statement Wednesday.

In offering prayers for the Virginia city, the politicians invoked its most “prominent citizen,” Thomas Jefferson, quoting his words in the Declaration of Independence: “We are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — responding to Trump defending Charlottesville white nationalist protesters as “fine people” — emphasized “there are no good neo-Nazis.”

NY Post: Trump’s horrifying ‘take three’ on Charlottesville

On Tuesday afternoon, we learned yet again that the president of the United States is against neo-Nazis, which is nice. They’re “very rough,” he said at an impromptu Trump Tower press conference — by which he likely meant some of the people he saw on TV in Charlottesville this past Saturday had beards and leather jackets and swastika tattoos and were overweight.

The night before, by contrast, Trump said there had been some “very good people” rallying with “a permit” by a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Maybe he thought so because the photographs we all saw showed clean-cut young men in Polo shirts and Dockers.

The rest of us also saw them engaging in Nazi salutes and carrying torches.

Those images seem to have eluded the president.

Trump did not note that they were not locals with aesthetic concerns but rather had been summoned from all over the country under the slogan “Unite the Right.”

The ad promoting the “Unite the Right” rally, which ran on far-right websites all week, did not even mention the statue. It was designed to evoke a fascist poster with birds similar to the Nazi eagle in the sky over the marchers and Confederate flags taking the place of swastikas.

It invited people to join speakers like Mike Enoch, who hosts a podcast called “The Daily Shoah.” And Augustus Invictus, an alt-right figure who once said, “I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself.” And Christopher Cantwell, who calls himself a “fascist,” along with Johnny Monoxide, who just labels himself “fashy.” And Michael Hill, an ex-professor who said, in 2015, “Never underestimate the perfidy of the organized Jew.” And Matt Heimbach, who says only 27,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

The march’s own organizer, Jason Kessler, described the view of those who wanted to move the statue thus: “You don’t give a damn about white people. You people are implementing policies which are displacing us in our home countries, and we will not be allowed to survive.”

As David French writes, “When Trump carves [the alt-right] away from the Nazis and distinguishes them from the neo-Confederates, he’s doing exactly what they want. He’s making them respectable. He’s making them different.”

This has been ugly from America’s right, and it has been ugly from Trump.

Even Fox sees this.

WSJ:  Trump Loses Corporate America

There is no point in taking brickbats for a president who does not deliver.

Mr. Trump’s administration is turning out not to be the administration they were hoping for, though probably the one they realistically expected.

Especially he has not made headway on corporate taxes—the issue that bought him whatever benefit of the doubt America’s CEO class was willing to give him.

Now a handful are fleeing his advisory council because he didn’t say the right words over Charlottesville, or didn’t say them quickly enough. This is big news because the media can’t get enough Trump. He insists on making himself the lightning rod. That’s one problem.

If the president or a scraggly someone close to him in the West Wing is soft on white supremacists because he thinks these groups are a vital bloc, this would be the miscalculation of the century. Their adherents couldn’t swing a race for dogcatcher. It is precisely the left’s fantasy of the right that these people constitute a useful electoral base.

None of the departing CEOs likely believe Mr. Trump is a white supremacist or Nazi sympathizer. They just see no upside to being associated with him.

The Charlottesville protests, which included an attack by vehicle that killed one person and injured many others (similar looking attacks in Europe have been called terrorism), has looked ugly, and Trump’s response has been uneven and increasingly ugly.

It looks like Trump is becoming toxic to Republicans, and toxic to corporate America.

And with Trump remaining defiant it is likely to get uglier.