Friday, July 22, 2016

The GOP has Weaponized Insincerity and is Led by Internet Trolls: It's time for the Adults' Convention

GOP Convention July 21, 2016/Sam Hodgson,NYT photo
So the Republican Party Convention in Cleveland has concluded. "I don't recognize the America that Trump described last night," says Jane Eisner in the Forward. On Wednesday evening, Laura Ingraham promised that Trump will restore not only law and order, but respect for the flag and citizens. "It's our country," she said. "It's where our dead are buried." Laurie Penny at says the Republican party has been taken over by internet trolls. It's time for the adults convention next week. As Peter Beinart has tweeted: "Please @Hillary Clinton, don't screw this up."

Here's Eisner:
According to [Trump] our nation is overrun by illegal immigrants who steal jobs, menace peaceful communities, ruin our schools and murder innocent children. Law and order has gone the way of the rotary phone, while police officers are being killed at a new and alarming rate. Plain talk has been obliterated by extreme political correctness and a little-known regulation from the 1960s. American foreign policy has created a global situation “worse than it’s ever been before.” We are overtaxed and under protected. All is death, destruction, terrorism and weakness. I almost thought he was reading from the Book of Lamentations.
But reality is different, of course. The number of undocumented workers has been dropping in recent years, the undocumented population commits fewer crimes than legal citizens, and fewer police officers are being killed today, not more, and even the GOP convention has embraced LGBT rights. And they threw in "Q" for good measure.  The economy is in far better shape than when Reagan took office, and in far better shape than when George W. Bush left office. But Trump promises to fix all these non-problems through the imposition of LAW AND ORDER. And he'll do it all by himself:  I am your voice,” he said, addressing the mostly all white crowd inside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. “No one knows the system better than me… and I alone can fix it," he said.  “I will restore law and order to our country; .... I’m going to make our country rich again.... I am going to bring back jobs....; I am going to do it,” he promised. And never you mind how.

Trump is a wanna be strongman in the mold of Hugo Chavez, says the Guardian newspaper.  Bernie Sanders watched the speech and tweeted: "Is the guy running for president or dictator?"  And all this autocratic talk makes Jane Eisner nervous: "Haltingly and often too slowly, political power has increasingly been shared in this country, not consolidated," she said. "We are all supposed to be owners; we don’t just serve the boss," she observes. Trump wants to reverse this sharing of power, she suggests; he wants to be the boss. "Believe me," he says.

Even in the absence of any disclosed program, Laura Ingraham is ready to sign on with Donald Trump. In her full throated endorsement on Wednesday, Ingraham did a long riff on "Respect." [For commentary and link to the full Ingraham speech see Wonkette] Respect for the flag, respect for police, and respect for the people.  The country belongs to us citizens, she said, "it's where our dead are buried." In other words, the country belongs to people who have been here for generations, you know, white people; it does not  belong to those recent immigrants, or immigrants to come.

Trump will put citizens first, she promised:  "Us" who have our dead buried here. "We're the people," she said.

Laurie Penny was at the convention in Cleveland.  She says trolls are driving a clown car of modern politics. Trump is trolling us, she suggests.  She shares her adventures at a party attended by Gert Wilders (the radical right politician from the Netherlands), Pamela Geller, and Milo Yinnopoulos, an alt-right professional right wing provocateur who writes for Breitbart. Yinnapoulos has just been suspended from Twitter permanently for heaping racist abuse on actor Leslie Jones.

Here's Laurie Penny:
Milo shows no remorse for the avalanche of misconduct he helped direct towards Leslie Jones, who is just the latest victim of the recreational ritual abuse he likes to launch at women and minorities for the fame and fun of it. According to the law of the wild web, the spoils go to those [who care the least].  I have come to believe, in the course of our bizarro unfriendship, that Milo believes in almost nothing concrete—not even in free speech. The same is reportedly true of Trump, of people like Ann Coulter, of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage: They are pure antagonists unencumbered by any conviction apart from their personal entitlement to raw power and stacks of cash.
I think we can lump Laura Ingraham in with this crowd.
Milo puts on a bulletproof jacket before his big entrance. He does this “because it’s funny,” although he worries that it may be insufficiently flattering. “I’m going to send it to my guy at Louis Vuitton.” It’s all an act. A choreographed performance by a career sociopath who will claim any cause to further his legend. Milo Yiannopoulos is the ideological analogue of Kim Kardashian’s rear end. Trickster breaks the internet....
The most widely accepted definition of a troll is a provocateur—someone who says outrageous, extreme or abusive things to elicit a reaction in an imagined audience. For them, the reaction itself is the win. That doesn’t cover the various sub-species of troll in this well-catered goblin market. 
The key distinction, at this convention and among the petty demagogues here assembled, is between the attention hustlers—the pure troll howlers who play this grotesque game for its own sake and their own—and the true believers.... [T]rue believer(s) (are) .... at a disadvantage. 
Roosh [a true believer] means what he’s saying, but he’s still aware that he’s playing a game — the same game almost everyone in this crucible of A-list internet con-men is playing. It’s the game of turning raw rage into political currency, the unscrupulous whorebaggery of the troll gone pro. These are people who cashed in their limited principles to cheat at poker. Milo is the best player here. Like Trump, and like a lot of successful politicians in this postmodern circus, they channel their own narcissism to give voice to the wordless, formless rage of the people neoliberalism left behind. They offer new win conditions for the humiliated masses. Welcome to the scream room. There’s a cheese plate. 
I run into a British writer from the Spectator, a moderate right-wing magazine, who takes the opportunity to apologise for being mean to me on the internet. He thought that was just how you’re supposed to do Twitter. We become, briefly, allies on foreign soil. A certain school of spiteful camaraderie, of bloodless political jousting before dinner, has long been the form of political discourse in Britain, where the mainstream media is dominated by private school graduates who were trained to debate as if it were a bloodsport in which empathy is a handicap. London media wonks routinely treat one another as sparring partners and drinking buddies despite their political differences: after all, aren’t we all on the same team really? Aren’t we playing the same game? 
I have never understood this game. That’s why I’ve always refused to debate Milo in public. Not because I’m frightened I’ll lose, but because I know I’ll lose, because I care and he doesn’t—and that means he’s already won. Help and forgive me, but I actually believe human beings can be better than this. 
My new Spectator friend is as bewildered as I am by the way Americans take Milo and his ilk seriously, by their willingness to take pride in performative bigotry and call it strength. It works. It sells. It’s the unholy marriage of that soulless debate culture that works so well in Britain, transplanted to a nation with no social safety net and half a billion guns. It works, in part, because of the essentially cult-like nature of U.S. culture and the structured ignorance that accompanies it. America is a nation eaten by its own myth. The entire idea of America is about believing impossible things. Nobody said those things had to be benign.....

Geert Wilders is also a true believer. I am introduced to the euro-fascist and his dead-badger hair by a genial young Dutchman I met earlier on Tinder. ....Wilders is the most obviously disturbed member of the neo-right suicide squad in attendance. He cannot finish a sentence. His voice drifts, and he trails away, already out of the room. There is a dustbin fire behind the blank eyes of his human suit. 
Wilders is a less polished, wholly charmless rendition of the neo-right demagogue character creation sheet that gave us Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. These people do not have personalities, they have haircuts. Ugly ones. And we have fallen through the looking glass in which they see themselves reflected as small gods. ....
Then it’s Milo’s turn
His speech is cabaret from start to finish. He sashays up to the podium and strips off his bulletproof vest, giddy with the attention, and announces that he’s been banned from Twitter.... Milo peddles a pageant of insincerity that is immediately legible to fellow Brits. Americans understand irony differently, and sometimes not at all. The crowd of excitable young and young-ish people gathered to hear him pontificate believe what he’s saying, even if he doesn’t. Which he doesn’t. And it doesn’t matter. 
It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real. 
He is leading a yammering army of trolls to victory on terms they barely understand. This is how we got to a place where headline speakers at the Republican convention—one of the most significant political events in the national narrative of world’s greatest superpower—are now actively calling for the slaughter and deportation of foreigners, declaring that Hillary Clinton is an agent of Satan, and hearing only cheers from the floor. They ventriloquise the fear of millions into a scream of fire in the crowded theatre of modernity where all the doors are locked, and then they watch the stampede, and they smile for the cameras.

I’ve seen enough. This is an evil place, airless and soulless as the inside of Pamela Geller’s head. We have to get out. .... In the humid dark of the plaza outside the event, a dozen young activists covered in sweat and glitter have got together an impromptu protest. Shell-shocked members of the press stumble out into the street. One journalist from a major mainstream outlet breaks down in tears. “It’s just — there’s so much hate,” she says, as a couple of glitterpunks move in to comfort her. “What is happening to this country?”
What’s happening to this country has happened before, in other nations, in other anxious, violent times when all the old certainties peeled away and maniacs took the wheel. It’s what happens when weaponised insincerity is applied to structured ignorance. Donald Trump is the Gordon Gekko of the attention economy, but even he is no longer in control. This culture war is being run in bad faith by bad actors who are running way off-script, and it’s barely begun, and there are going to be a lot of refugees.
Read the whole Laurie Penny article HERE.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

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