Bill Maher, Deplorables, Disabilities, Donald Trump, Racism, Rhetoric, Roseanne Barr, Serge Kovaleski, Valerie Jarrett
I’m often amused at the things that people say in defense of Donald Trump and his supporters. Okay, I’m as likely to be outraged as I am amused, and often I manage to be both, but for the moment, let’s concentrate on the amusing part.
Plenty of time to be outraged later. We get new reasons with each passing moment of the Orange Reich!
One of the most amusing twists in the defending-Donald game has always been the angle many deplorables took on the Serge Kovaleski incident. This would be the disabled reporter that Donald Trump once mocked at one of his rallies. Trump supporters have long since settled on a standard line of defense against this criticism. They will say that Trump’s decision to effect the speech and physical demeanor of a disabled person is actually a common bit that he runs on lots of people. They can even provide evidence for this in the form of several video clips in which Donald Trump mocks a variety of people in a similar way. So, the argument runs that Trump was not really mocking Kovaleski for being handicapped, because he actually mocks lots of people (including those who don’t appear to be handicapped) by pretending that they are handicapped.
…which would of course make him as juvenile as he is cruel.
This whole line of reasoning is a REALLY fascinating defense of Trump, because it amounts to the claim that Donald Trump actually makes fun of disabled people all the time. How this is supposed to prove he wasn’t mocking the particular individual, Serge Kovaleski, for being disabled is beyond me, though perhaps the notion here is that Donald Trump wasn’t consciously making fun of Serge for being disabled, because Donald Trump wouldn’t have been happy to mock him in the same way whether he was disabled or not.
It’s a particularly damning defense.
Seriously, how pathetic is that? That the best thing you can think to say about a man is that he wasn’t making fun of a particular disabled person, because he actually does that all the time.
…also, there is the whole matter of Donald telling us we should see the man before embarking on the whole charade. A reasonable person might take that as an indication that the coming display was a bit more than a coincidence, that it was perhaps meant to illustrate something about his actual demeanor of the person in question. A reasonable person might take it that way.
Not a deplorable.
But anyway, I really do think the most amusing thing about this really is the notion that it’s somehow better if this is a standard act in Trump’s bag of tricks. Of course this is also one of the most sad things about Trump and the politics of trumpetry; the normalization of things that ought to be outrageous. This particular defense doesn’t just ask us to let the whole thing go, it asks us to think of it as a normal thing, an acceptable mode of public engagement for a major politician.
…and thus the movement to make America great again serves in practice to make it a more pathetic place.
The nation recently got a whole new dose of that pathetic quality from Roseanne Barr, who, as we all know by now, recently chose to mock an advisor from the Obama administration in racist terms. Valerie Jarrett had her time in the cross-hairs of right wing hacks quite some time ago, and apparently, she is still a favorite target abuse among those whose pornography consists of mocking all things connected to Obama. At any rate, Roseanne chose to suggest that Jarrett was the product of a union between the Planet of the Apes and the Muslim Brotherhood.
There is of course a lot wrong with Roseanne’s joke, but the thing that most seem to have focused on was the racist imagery. The equation of African-Americans with apes has long been one of the major themes of racism, and that theme flourished in political-pornography aimed at the Obama family. Given Jarrett’s own African-American ancestry, it’s not hard to see where Roseanne was going with this.
We all know the fall-out by now. Barr’s show has been cancelled. She apologized. She also made excuses, and she now seems to believe she’s been mistreated. And so on…
One of the more pathetic angles in this already pathetic story is the effort to equate Roseanne’s behavior with that of various left-wing personalities. Much like the right wing response to the Kovaleski incident, those attempting to defend Roseanne show little but their own lack of concern with the very themes in question.
Several have tried pointing to Cathy Griffin, asking why the left didn’t condemn her for posing with a fake severed head. Why doesn’t this work? Among other things, because a lot of people on the left really did condemn Griffin’s gag. Right wingers keep pretending this isn’t so, but it is.
Then of course, there are a variety of people (among them Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, and Joy Behar) who have said horribly mean things about Donald Trump over the years. Bill Maher, in particular, has been singled out, because he has apparently compared Donald Trump to an Orangutan. No matter how you slice this, it still comes up as pathetic whataboutism, but what’s particularly pathetic about this argument is that it misses the point. Calling someone an orangutan is rude, but calling an African-American woman an ape carries specific racist overtones. Does that seem like a double standard? Perhaps it does if you just ignore the entire history of racism. At the end the day, this argument proves little except that Roseanne’s defenders (who are at this point essentially Trump’s defenders) do not see racism as a problem. To them, Roseanne’s gaff was simply rudeness, nothing more.
Now add Samantha Bee into this mix. What did she do? She called Ivanka Trump a ‘c*nt’. This is at least a little bit more of a concern insofar as that particular term is perhaps the most derogatory insult you can use in American English, and that fact alone suggests use of the term may not be the most helpful thing someone can do if they care about the status of women in American society. Still, does it rise to the level of toxicity one finds in racial stereotypes equating African-Americans with apes? No. Not even close. Once again, the argument proves very little, other than that those fielding it don’t really have a problem with racist imagery at all. To them, this is a battle over rudeness, which is why the efforts they keep making to field a charge of hypocrisy against those on the left focus on rudeness more than social justice. They keep trying to accuse the left of violating its own principles, but they consistently mistake what those princples happen to be.
Of course this is just another example of the meta-hypocrisy shuffle. The right wing is fielding the charge of hypocrisy in order to cover up their own hypocrisy. While we debate whether or not any particular comic can say this or that rude thing, Trump’s defenders celebrate him for that very quality.
…but perhaps, this is fitting after all.
The king (and that is what Trump is to his supporters, not a President, a king) is entitled to certain privileges. Perhaps being able to insult people as he sees fit is, in the mind of the deplorables, simply one of the great privileges to which a man of his stature is entitled. What makes Donald Trump great in their eyes is precisely what would make anyone else terrible.
There are many reasons to reject the kind of rhetoric, not the least of them being the obvious foibles of what aboutism, or false equivalence, or the tu quoque fallacy, or any number of idiotic twists in this hollow game. Yet, the most disturbing thing about these arguments would remain just how little appreciation those making these arguments seem to show for the toxic impact of racism in America. Each of these defenses shows us mainly that those making them do NOT see racism as a serious problem.
…which is why I say this is a damning defense of Roseanne.
Of course the real question here is who will be damned by it? Those making these arguments reveal their own racism in making them, but if they succeed in transforming the issue into one of mere rudeness, then the public at large loses. If these idiots succeed, then we damn ourselves to a world in which Roseanne’s joke is just another form of edgy comedy.