Sunday, October 08, 2017

Projection

As you know, a rich Hollywood producer who is a supporter of liberal causes, Harvey Weinstein, has turned out to be a longtime sexual predator. Conservatives are making a big deal out of this, they have taken control of the message and made sure Weinstein's behavior smears liberals such as Hillary Clinton who have been associated with him, as if they condoned or were part of his sexual crimes. (Yesterday WTOP hit a new low in carrying this message, you would have thought Hillary herself was abusing young actresses.)

@paulkrugman posted a good observation about the fallout from this on Twitter yesterday.

The Weinstein affair is giving us an object lesson in right-wing projection. I keep seeing outraged demands for liberal condemnation 1/

"Will liberals condemn Weinstein the way they condemned Ailes and O'Reilly?" they ask, presuming that the answer is no. But actually ... 2/

Everywhere I look the answer is, in fact, yes. What we should ask is: "Did cons condemn Ailes/O'Reilly the way they condemn Weinstein?" 3/

And the answer, mainly, is no. Excusing evil behavior by people on your side is what THEY do; they're just projecting it onto libs 4/

And they're outraged in advance over the false assumption that liberals are just like them 5/
Weinstein appears to be the worst kind of person in his abuse and exploitation of women. He is like Ailes and O'Reilly and other conservatives who have turned out to have treated women terribly. I have not seen any liberal person say otherwise. The stories that have come out are revolting, and it's been going on for years.

Weinstein is a donor, a wealthy guy who supports causes and contributes to campaigns. He hasn't run for office, he isn't the liberals' candidate. Many politicians are giving his donations back, or sending the money to charities, nobody is calling this "rightwing fake news" or trying to justify it. The guy might be rich, charming, and take policy positions we agree with, but there is no excuse for some of the disgusting things he has done to traumatize women. Donors play an important role in politics -- too important, most of us think -- but we don't vote for them.

Projection in modern political discourse is where you accuse the other side of doing what you yourself are doing, and Krugman has this point about projection right. The conservative way is identity politics, us against them, you stand up for your side and oppose everything the other side wants. That's why they have to undo every Obama success, not because our healthcare system is bad or the Iran deal is bad or transgender people have caused any problem or anything else, but if Obama supported something they are obligated to oppose it. That is how the Republican Party came to be known as "the party of No" during the Obama presidency; if he was for it, they were against it, even if it was their idea originally.

And they assume everyone is like that. But actually, that's the difference between liberalism and conservatism. Liberalism is not fighting for your own group, against another group; liberals argue for inclusiveness, equality for all, and that includes people who are unlike themselves. Take for instance this week's news articles about Jeff Sessions promoting "freedom of religion." By this, he means the Christian religion that he himself practices. He would laugh at the idea of freedom for Islam or some other religion, that Sharia should be protected under the Constitution the same as the Ten Commandments. Liberals though believe in freedom for all religions, even ones that they are uncomfortable with.

The paradox is that this makes liberal views vulnerable; for instance, we end up giving freedom of speech to people who want to take our freedom of speech away. White liberals will take up issues like oppression of blacks, exploitation of migrant farm workers, discrimination against LGBT people, even if they are not part of those groups. White conservatives take up issues that are good for white people. They think everybody is taking sides based on their own identity, and watch for examples that can support that conclusion, but the core difference between conservatives and liberals is the difference between defending your own group and defending the rights of all.

Looking back, liberals did not defend Anthony Weiner's behavior -- I remember hoping it was not true but it was true and we accepted that and he is getting his punishment and nobody is calling it a false flag operation or defending him for doing stupid and bad things. I liked Anthony Weiner, he was bold and articulate, funny and on-point, and guess what, he was doing stuff on the Internet that disqualifies him from representing his party and leading people. Weinstein too, I never heard of the guy before but apparently he took the Hollywood "casting couch" thing to the nth degree, he is a creep who is going to pay the price in his career if not in criminal court. Liberals are not obligated to apologize for him -- I am sure most people he dealt with politically had no idea what was going on. He said the right things in public, donated money to the right candidates and causes, and he was a merciless sexual predator when he got a woman alone. Those women were afraid of him, afraid of his wealth and power and what he could do to destroy them professionally; they were afraid to speak out, so only his victims and a few of his immediate business associates had any idea until very recently.

The current President of the United States is known to be a sexual predator, as well, the Republicans knew that before they elected him. This is a different story altogether, because this is their candidate, the representative of their view. Their support of him reveals the GOP's talk of morality and judgment of others on the basis of their sexuality for what it is. They make excuses for Trump, accept his violations as boys-being-boys, and line up with him against "political correctness," which tries to tell men they can't grab women's pussies in this day and age and kiss them without consent, even if you are famous and they let you.

And also, because it is sure to come up, let me quote Monica Lewinsky here, regarding her affair with Bill Clinton: "Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any “abuse” came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position."

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Beyond Deplorable

The President's comments this weekend about Puerto Rico are breathtaking. He has been insulting the mayor of San Juan, who is begging for help as the island is immersed in what is probably the worst disaster ever to hit the United States. Millions of people are suffering, there is no water or electricity or gasoline, cholera is starting to break out. Thousands of people are still unaccounted for. Many are dying. The President clearly does not understand the situation, and yet he is going out of his way to deliberately make it worse.

It is hard to read the news since Maria hit -- well for most of the week there was no news, Puerto Rico was a black hole in the information space, with no telephones, no radio transmitters, no way in and out. Now there is some word from there, some video from San Juan, but the smaller towns are still unknowable. As news begins to leak out, the scenery is horrific. Hurricane Maria has devastated the entire island. The pain is hard to imagine, you want to jump in your car and go there to help, but you can't.

They speak Spanish there, and you know how he feels about Hispanics. Today Trump said, "Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help." Because you know how lazy those people are. He said, "The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump." Because, you know, it's all about him. He tweeted this from the golf course. "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort," Trump said. Because, you know, those lazy bad-hombre-sort-of-like-Mexicans are just sitting in their cars for nine hours a day waiting to buy gasoline instead of putting their houses back on their foundations with non-electric tools.

And what is this? He outdid himself on Twitter:
To the people of Puerto Rico:
Do not believe the #FakeNews!
What in the world can that mean? He is tweeting to an island of millions of people who do not even have electricity. They do not have news. They do not care about the news. This is not a political game to them. They are the news. Their own houses are destroyed, they are drinking sewage, their cars are out of gas, there is no food. By "fake news," does the President mean "real news?" Yes, of course he does. He means, don't believe it when you read that we are not rescuing you. This communication fails on so many levels, it is hard to imagine that it is not something out of a satirical dystopian novel. He really does not understand what is going on.

This morning Trump called the people of Puerto Rico "politically motivated ingrates" and tweeted: "people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military. All buildings now inspected". The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, told CNN "I'm not aware of such inspections, there are areas of Puerto Rico where we really haven't gotten contact." Just yesterday, Mother Jones reporters visited the 19,000-person town of Ciales, 45 minutes from San Juan, and found that not a single federal worker had been there.

You knew he would let them down. His Presidential campaign first got real attention with his comment about Mexico sending their rapists and bad hombres to our country. His biggest selling point has been his distaste for foreigners and people who are different from him -- women, LGBT people, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, just about anybody. That's what his supporters like about him, that's what "MAGA" is all about. If something bad happens to those non-real-Americans, they deserve it. People in Puerto Rico speak Spanish but they are American citizens. This is where your attitude about Americans should come into play, not your attitude about Hispanics. Or imagine caring about people just because they're people, and helping them because you can, and they need it. Or because it is your responsibility.

These new comments leave "deplorable" in the dust. This is depraved. If this is how one of America's two major political parties feels then this country is much worse off than I ever imagined. How can someone see what is happening in Puerto Rico and not feel empathy and a sense of panic? How can you not want to help? You and I can't do anything about it beyond maybe donating, but he's the President of the United States, he can literally save the day. This was a huge hurricane, we saw it approaching for days, and there was no federal preparation. It hit, the island was decimated, and the President went golfing. He picked a fight with protesting athletes. He didn't say anything about Puerto Rico or do anything for days.

Since the election everyone has known he will fail when he faces his first real crisis -- it has been a cliche to say that. But nobody -- even those with the lowest opinions of him -- believed that, given a catastrophe with millions of Americans' lives destroyed, he would actively, intentionally try to make the situation worse. We thought he'd be incompetent, but it never occurred to anyone that he would taunt those who were dying and begging for help, that he would go off and golf and pick a fight with some black guys protesting police violence when a huge number of American lives are in jeopardy.

There is one little piece of irony here. Puerto Ricans are Americans, so when they move to the continental US they are not "immigrants" and Trump can't ban them. And they are coming to Florida by the tens of thousands, fleeing the disaster. Trump won Florida in 2016 with only 49 percent of the vote -- in that state the winner gets all the electoral college delegates. You can bet these Puerto Ricans aren't going to support him next time around. It could make the difference.