Schoolyard social media habits delivered President Trump
Is it wrong to have felt conflicted about the U.S. election campaign? I certainly did.
Canadian writers that I respect – like Andrew Coyne, Jonathan Kay, and John Robson – were adamant that Trump represented a threat, to America and to us. They said he was temperamentally unfit for office.
I agreed with them, but also saw in Trump’s movement an overdue resistance to several matters of political status quo: mass immigration, political correctness, a failure of Western leaders to identify Islamism by its true name and nature, and Wilsonian foreign policies.
My prediction was that Clinton would receive 275 electoral votes. I wanted her to win, thereby planting a predictable character in the White House, but narrowly enough to give the liberal elites a real scare.
The problem is not just that there is a questionable orthodoxy in public discourse, but also that the form of policing this orthodoxy is nasty on a human level.
I was at first uplifted by Trump’s early success, showing a people’s rebuke of the Democrats’ untakeable arrogance. But as it became clear that he was going to become President, my glee quickly turned to real fear about the future. His magnanimous victory speech notwithstanding, the chance of calamity in the next four years seems strong.
The claim that Trump’s election was a gigantic middle finger to political correctness is probably right, but it needs to be refined in one way. The problem is not just that there is a questionable orthodoxy in public discourse, but also that the form of policing this orthodoxy is nasty on a human level.
Mockery is a tool, certainly when placed in the hands of satirists, who hold a needed mirror to the culture and expose its hypocrisies. But it’s also something of a drug for those who can’t employ it responsibly. Social media have transformed the public square, which was once a selective platform whose audience participated only passively. That old “establishment” sometimes refused to consider matters of great concern to the masses, but it also had necessary customs of decorum.
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This establishment used to promote voices with real alternative views. Op-ed pages and television panels did invite people who were critical of immigration and Islamic revanchism to contribute. Heterodox figures like Patrick Buchanan, Peter Brimelow, and Ann Coulter – or, if you want a Canadian example, Ezra Levant – once held greater mainstream platforms before being purged from the Respectable Right.
The new public square of social media is governed by the decorum of the schoolyard. People with the spine to voice even mild dissent from the dominant ideology have become equivalents of the dorks, the obese, the weaklings, and the uglies in Facebook political “discussions.” Like their playground equivalents, they have no real chance to defend themselves through rational appeal. No one really debates anymore, so much as they announce and denounce based on tribal opinion.
Meanwhile, the holders of fashionable progressive views, performing the role of the bullies, possess a canon of terms with which to beat back non-conformists. The insults of racist, sexist, and privileged don’t mean “wrong” so much as they mean “loser.” Reasoned argument really doesn’t factor into online shouting matches, where the progressive side clearly believes that disagreement is illegitimate. Ultimately, the high of self-righteousness from throwing around these words was too addicting for many to control.
Pent-up resentment at online social justice warriors is a very bad psychology of voting. But it’s also an understandable and human one. The astounding thing about this election is how the people in power — by which I mean both the Democrats and their co-ideologues in the population — were never able to envision the tables being turned on them. Mrs. Clinton’s strategic error in calling half of Americans a “Basket of Deplorables” was forgetting that everyone in the basket still got to vote.
During the White House Correspondents Dinner of 2011, King of the Castle Barack Obama stood before the very media elites whose approval Trump has sought for decades and mocked the orange-haired birther. Could this have been a watershed moment, when Trump (very much a child in temperament) decided that running for President, for real this time, would be his new mission? Whether or not this incident was especially important, just imagine the ecstasy that Trump will feel on January 20, when he gets to tell Obama that the door mustn’t hit him on the way out.
Millions of his countrymen will likewise shed no tears for the end to the pompous Obama-Clinton era, even with the great uncertainty of what will follow.
The Prince Arthur Herald
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