Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"If you're explaining, you're losing."

updated
"DONALD TRUMP'S INAUGURATION MARKS THE BEGINNING OF THE ERA OF FEAR"
"DONALD TRUMP’S CHILLING LANGUAGE, AND THE FEARSOME POWER OF WORDS"
"This is how it begins."
"There are different ways to approach Trump's lies: morally, psychologically, etc. But as tools of dominance is crucial."

The problem isn't Trump; it's the Republican party. The other problem is liberals and the press.

"If you're explaining, you're losing." I've always described the ideal of objectivity as passive. I never thought it was an original point. I always thought it was obvious. I hated making it. But I'd never thought to use that old cliché until yesterday. It's a maxim from the culture of argument, not conversation.

Also reminds me I want to connect this to Didion on the Central Park jogger case, to the behavior of the kids and teachers at Yale and Mizzou, (now a tag) and Charlie Hebdo: the misunderstanding of democracy and freedom of speech.
Free speech means there are no government restrictions on fascist speech. It means also that people don't have "the right" to shut down an assembly of fascists, that people in Harlem don't have "the right" to chase a man walking down the street in a KKK robe, and that Jews in Skokie don't have "the right" to threaten a man in a Nazi uniform. The same rules apply to black men who wander into the "white part of town" at three in the morning and women who jog alone at night in Central Park. All of the people above are "within their rights" in wanting to be left alone. 
The calculations of real politics, as function and not ideal, practice and not theory (and of participants not philosophers), includes accounting for prudence.
Freedom of speech is not based on idealism. That's the mistake Christakis and Friedersdorf, and libertarians make. It's why they defend speech that they call inflammatory or provocative, without admitting to defending racism.  "Other people have rights too!" as Christakis says. The underlying logic is optimistic. Academic liberals make the same mistake. But democracy and freedom of speech are not based on optimism; they're based on realism. [the only new term I've used] They're based on fostering reasoned argument, only after setting limits to when and how you can respond to people you hate. There's no optimistic reason for allowing people to defend the extermination of the Jews, yet we allow it. And this allows for the possibility of change, not perhaps that we decide the Holocaust or slavery were justified, but maybe that the conquest of Palestine was not. But freedom of speech means we do not prejudge the good and the evil. Each generation is left to judge for themselves, in the present.

"A policeman's job is only easy in a police state." We don't want policemen standing on every street corner on every hour of the day, so we accept that street smarts are a requirement of city life. I'm not going to stumble drunk into a cop bar wearing a tshirt with "fuck the police" printed across the chest.
It's within my rights, just as it's within the rights of a girl in miniskirt and 5 inch heels to stumble drunk through empty streets at 3 AM, but it would be a mistake.

The unreasoning fear of Trump, like the fear expressed by some that laughing or cheering Spencer getting popped is weakening our democracy, is based on a misunderstanding of democracy. The people explaining why we shouldn't laugh at the minor violence against an open fascist are the same people explaining why it's not fair for Trump to be so unfair. They're explaining, and they're losing.

"A policeman's job is only easy in a police state." Pedantry is lousy politics. The most famous definition of kitsch is "more Catholic than the Pope".  I don't want all citizens to behave like on-duty cops. They need to respect the law, but they also have to accept and learn to face the ambiguities of their own moral responsibility. I can laugh at the video of Spencer being punched without denying that the person who hit him committed a criminal act. I can enjoy watching it without justifying the assault as a matter of law. But it's amusing that one punch did more to deflate Spencer's image than all the coverage he'd received before. In a stronger democracy the man who punched him wouldn't have been an idiot anarchist who finally picked the right target. And he might have turned himself in.

This is all repeats, repurposed, expanded.

I asked a Marine if he was a soldier first or citizen. He said "Semper Fi".
The first sentence of political scientists' statement on Trump was: "Political scientists seek to understand politics, not engage in politics."

It's the same problem, the same evasion, the same passivity as the press.

A soldier in an army in service to a democracy is a free man who has to follow orders. That's a contradiction each soldier has to face. Is Manning a soldier or a citizen? There is no right answer, but we have to choose. That's what it means to live in a democracy.

Citizens have to face contradictions every day. Freedom means we have to be left to make our own decisions. So we laugh at a Nazi being punched. That's not the same thing as saying the person who did it should go free if caught. The law is a blunt instrument for times of crisis. The rest of the time we have to learn to be on our own.

Soldiers and social scientists who don't face the responsibilities of citizenship -because they're somehow above the mess of politics- are more dangerous to democracy than rude laughter.

Trump says he's hounded by the press; the press reports that Trump says he's being hounded by the press. They should tell him that if the heat's too hot he should get out of the kitchen. That's not reporting, but reporters should be willing to respond.

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