xenophobia

Inexplicable (Duke Bashar al Putin)

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke talks to the media at the Louisiana Secretary of State's office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Friday, 22 July 2016, after registering to run for U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

So … right. Nobody knows quite what to think. Willa Frej tries to explain for HuffPo―

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was busy on Twitter this weekend, showing his support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in a string of tweets after weighing in favorably on Iowa Rep. Steve King’s latest xenophobic remarks.

―but as ledes go, it seems significant that anyone should have cause to attempt such a sentence.

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A Failure to Grasp (Strategically Tactical)

#antiMuslim | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

Q Southern Poverty Law Center said that the number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. has tripled between 2015 and 2016, during the time of the campaign. Is this message within the administration―anti-Semitism is not allowed, xenophobia is not allowed―anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration, has the President been forceful about that particular issue?

MR. SPICER: I think that the President, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right in our Constitution. But if you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country or our people harm, he is going to fight it aggressively, whether it’s domestic acts that are going on here or attempts through people abroad to come into this country. So there’s a big difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe so that there is no loss of life in allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment. Those are two very, very different, different, different things.

The only caveat, of course, is that this is not an accident.

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Image note: White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

Spicer, Sean. “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/21/2017, #13”. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. 21 February 2017.

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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The Deplorable Basket (Scary Mexican Mix)

Marco Gutierrez, founder of Latinos for Trump, explains to 'All In' host Joy Reid what is wrong with Latinos: "My culture is a very dominant culture. And it's imposing, and it's causing problems. If you don't do something about it, you're going to have taco trucks every corner." (via msnbc, 1 September 2016)

“For what it’s worth, I have no idea why that’s supposed to sound scary.”

Steve Benen

It is, of course, easy enough to wonder why more taco trucks would be a bad thing; it is also easy enough to remember that Marco Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump supports a Republican, and heaven knows the one thing Republicans can’t tolerate is the prospect of safe taco trucks. Perhaps Mr. Gutierrez thinks Mexicans are really into deregulation, or something.

JOY REID: Marco, you know, I’ve heard this Trump moment described as a “Barry Goldwater moment”, which is of course the tipping point when African-Americans became so identified with the Democratic Party that it essentially became almost impossible for Republicans to win more than ten percent of them. I’ve heard it described as a “Prop 187 moment”, when the California law that went after undocumented migrants there really harmed the Republican Party―it’s never recovered. Are you not at all concerned that Donald Trump is so alienating people with his tone last night, that yelling into the prompter speech, and just the tone toward undocumented migrants, toward immigrants in this c‎ountry, that you are now facing a Barry Goldwater moment for your Party?

MARCO GUTIERREZ: Yes, but, you know, Donald Trump’s a genius of delivering the message, and yes, it was a tough message to deliver, but he did it in a way that has shown us that we have a problem, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few; and different times, different problems. Yes, indeed, there’s a lot of people―my colleague, here, he would not be here―but we need to understand that this is a different time and we’re having problems here.

REID: What problems? What problems are you talking about?

GUTIERREZ: My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks every corner.​

(msnbc)

There is always at least one. There is an Alan Keyes or, more recently, Ben Carson. There is a Wendy McElroy or Janet Bloomfield. That is to say, there will always be someone who will serve the marketplace by advertising why we should be afraid of them. Or, if not them, others like them. See, we’re not supposed to be afraid of Marco Gutierrez, because he’s telling white people the truth about Mexicans, which in turn is that Mexicans are terrible people, or at the very least, “a dominant culture” that is “imposing” and “causing problems”, or something approximately like that. Marco Gutierrez found a job telling white supremacists what they want to hear about hispanics. Just like Janet Bloomfield will tell rapists what they want to hear about women. I know a guy like Mr. Gutierrez, a registered and participating Republican, a man of Mexican descent who worked hard and bootstrapped and scrimped and saved and got himself a career as an optometrist in the midwest and became a respectable person, not like that army of invading Mexicans he tells me I should be afraid of. Then again, it’s not just hispanics he hates; he also has a thing against blacks. He’s the Republican who once explained to me that Obamanoia was really just a policy discussion, and if the president wasn’t so terrible, all these wonderful, unracist, good, decent American people wouldn’t be forced to say racist-sounding things.

No, seriously, something about deplorable goes here.

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Disappointing (Baby Beats Mix)

The Statue of Liberty, 2 June 2009. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“She didn’t even care for the well-being of a baby―that’s how serious this hate crime is”

Assistant District Attorney Kelli Muse

Yeah. This is one of those days when we all get to be disappointed.

A bigoted Brooklyn woman launched a sickening attack on two Muslim women pushing their babies in strollers — punching them in the face and trying to pull off their hijabs, prosecutors said Friday.

“Get the f–k out of here,” Xhelili, 32, allegedly yelled at the pair, according to prosecutors. “Get the f–k out of America, b—–s.”

As she punched the 23-year-old women in the face and kicked them in their legs, she tried to rip the traditional Muslim veils off their heads at Bay 20th St. and Cropsey Aves., police sources said.

“This is America―you shouldn’t be different from us,” she yelled, prosecutors said.

The victims and babies were not badly hurt, police sources said.

(Carrega-Woodby and Parascandola)

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Image note: Detail of photo by Richard Drew/AP Photo, 2009.

Carrega-Woodby, Christina and Rocco Parascandola. “Bigot tried ripping off two Muslim women’s hijabs as they strolled with their babies in Brooklyn attack”. New York Daily News. 10 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Trolling the Gap)

Johnson-20151212-Trump-ObamaBinLyin-detail-bw

This is your reminder―

Since launching his presidential campaign, however, Trump has largely ignored what used to be his signature issue. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly broached the subject last night:

O’REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?

TRUMP: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even talk about it anymore, Bill…. I guess with, maybe some. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. But I don’t think―very few people, you are the first one that’s brought that up in a while.

For the record, Trump fielded a question about this as recently as Monday―the day before this O’Reilly interview. When the candidate said no one has brought up this issue “in a while,” that clearly wasn’t true.

(Benen)

―that Donald Trump is the candidate of the internet troll. The whole pro wrestling metaphor really is tempting, all things considered, but let’s just file that under some manner of reality television. You know, to some degree we’re supposed to believe pro wrestling, too.

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The Donald Trump Show (Dehumanization)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“In this election, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who believes in humanity and who is subhuman.”

Jonathan Allen

So … yeah. Jonathan Allen has something to say:

It can be hard to tell how Donald Trump thinks. The man switches directions with all the forethought of a cat chasing a flashlight spot.

For days, Trump’s top campaign aides seemed to be making pronouncements based on what they hoped he’d say about immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night, not out of any real knowledge of his plans. He then proceeded to make anyone who had said anything about what he’d do―including himself―look foolish.

In talking about immigrants, he offered everyone a Windexed view of his blackened soul and the morally bankrupt way he thinks about people.

Ouch. Damn.

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The Donald Trump Show (American Distress)

Detail of image via Trump campaign.

“Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 + 1 does not equal 5.”

Steve Benen

The thing about politics right now is that everything is really, really depressing. I’m deathly sick of Donald Trump, yet the question persists: How did this happen?

Nor do I mean that in any context suggesting plaintive puzzlement. We all have a reasonable idea how the abdication of civic leadership in the context of public service struck the Republican Party so low after decades of pandering to ill-educated bigotry.

Donald Trump saying something stupid really shouldn’t be headline news. It shouldn’t be anything unusual. It shouldn’t be anything the rest of us have any reason to give a damn about. Then again, just how the hell did Republicans find themselves with Donald Trump as their presidential nominee apparent?

Oh, right.

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The Donald Trump Show (Boffo)

Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press.)

Again we hear the refrain wondering whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has finally gone too far. The answer, of course, is invested in who marks the threshold, and in the end voters have the final word, or so to speak. GOP consultant and fierce Trump critic Rick Wilson appears quite correct when he says a leaked conference call tells us the Trump Univesity lawsuit “really bothers” his party’s apparent nominee. And while Wilson’s critique that “there is no campaign” actually sounds about right under the circumstances―hint: more than the conference call, perhaps the msnbc article with the straightforward title, “Donald Trump does not have a campaign”, explains the problem better― NYT deputy Washington editor Jon Weisman is even more blunt: “The leaks in this boffo @bpolitics piece,” he tweets, “show @RealDonaldTrump doesn’t understand he’s playing in the majors now.”

And boffo fits well enough; the Bloomberg Politics piece describes a Monday conference call between Mr. Trump and prominent supporters:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge’s credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

Which sounds about right, all things considered, except that’s when things start to go off the rails:

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said.

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. He openly questioned how the campaign could defend itself if supporters weren’t allowed to talk.

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

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The Donald Trump Show (Death Wish Double Trouble Super Fun Follow-Up Sequel Pak)

Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate who also happens to be a skeleton with an afro. (Detail of frame from 'Shonen Jump One Piece'.)

“He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance.”

Andrew O’Hehir

Sometimes the setup requires a bit of seemingly otherwise useless melodrama; and sometimes that seemingly otherwise useless melodrama―your buzzword for the week is, well, okay, two words: “October surprise”―works well enough to address certain otherwise seemingly obvious questions somehow obscured by a hazy addiction to synthesized melodrama. Or, more to the point:

We can’t be sure how many people really support Trump, [Thomas B.] Edsall reports, since there’s considerable evidence that they aren’t telling pollsters the truth. Voting for Trump, it appears, is something white people do in the shadows. It’s a forbidden desire that is both liberating and self-destructive, not unlike the married heterosexual who has a same-sex lover on the down-low, or the executive who powers through the day on crystal meth and OxyContin. Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)On some level you know the whole thing can’t end well, but boy does it feel good right now.

I have argued on multiple occasions that white Americans, considered in the aggregate, exhibit signs of an unconscious or semi-conscious death wish. I mean that both in the Freudian sense of a longing for release that is both erotic and self-destructive―the intermingling of Eros and Thanatos―and in a more straightforward sense. Consider the prevalence of guns in American society, the epidemic rates of suicide and obesity (which might be called slow-motion suicide) among low-income whites, the widespread willingness to ignore or deny climate science and the deeply rooted tendency of the white working class to vote against its own interests and empower those who have impoverished it. What other term can encompass all that?

Trump is the living embodiment of that contradictory desire for redemption and destruction. His incoherent speeches wander back and forth between those two poles, from infantile fantasies about forcing Mexico to build an $8 billion wall and rampant anti-Muslim paranoia to unfocused panegyrics about how “great” we will be one day and how much we will “win.” In his abundant vigor and ebullience and cloddish, mean-spirited good humor, Trump may seem like the opposite of the death wish. (He would certainly be insulted by any such suggestion. Wrong! Bad!) But everything he promises is impossible, and his supporters are not quite dumb enough not to see that. He’s a death’s-head jester cackling on the edge of the void, the clownish host of one last celebration of America’s bombast, bigotry and spectacular ignorance. No wonder his voters are reluctant to ‘fess up.

(O’Hehir)

Nor is this a matter of making the obvious point; with Americans, it’s all in how you say it.

I mean, sure, we can all see it, but explaining the mess is a whole ‘nother thing.

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Image notes: Top ― Brook, the jolly Humming Pirate. (Detail of frame from Shonen Jump One Piece.) Right ― Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

O’Hehir, Andrew. “Appetite for destruction: White America’s death wish is the source of Trump’s hidden support”. Salon. 11 May 2016.