Donald Trump Has Finally Gone Too Far. Following the nominee’s remarks on a “second amendment” end to his opponent, this is the current consensus by reasonable people. Then again, that was the reasonable consensus last week following Trump’s remarks about the Khans, a Gold Star Family. And so it was last December when Trump characterised many Mexican immigrants as importers of crime, drugs and rape. What reasonable instruments we had agreed: Trump had gone too far.
But we’ve been saying this reasonable thing for a while. When Trump calculated the menstrual flow of Fox News broadcaster Megyn Kelly last August, he had, apparently, shown colours so true, no reasonable person could tolerate them. And that’s what reasonable people had said in March 2011, when Trump demanded of President Barack Obama that he produce a birth certificate.
In short, even before he had announced his candidacy, Trump was in the habit of terrible declarations. And yes, of course, this gobshite is not the kind of thing many of us wish to hear. But to insist, as reasonable people have for such an unreasonably long time, that no one wants to hear it is just plain, and quite perilously, wrong.
Many people do want to hear it. It is certainly a fact that Trump’s camp, folksy and extreme speech has elevated him; and has even produced record Republican voter turnout in some state primaries. And it is probably a fact that Trump has removed the usual reasonable filter between political brain and mouth intentionally. He is not doing this by accident. He is not doing this because it hurts him. It really doesn’t. It helps.
In the past few days, many noble and reasonable people have implored the world to turn their back on Trump, who is, they say, out of control. US news veteran Dan Rather has described the “joke” about Clinton’s assassination as a “new low”. Our own former minister for defence, Kim Beazley, has denounced Trump’s loud mouth more generally as a “security threat”. In The New York Times, Thomas L Friedman warned Trump that the nature of his threat against Clinton was just how “Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated”.
Pardon? I’m no great shakes on the absolute history of Zionism, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Israel’s extreme right finds its motivations from sources other than extreme speech. Among them, the failure of the US to contain their batty aspirations. But, hey. Apparently, it was unreasonable speech alone that got the relatively moderate Rabin killed.
This is the primary argument against a Trump presidency: hate speech is bad for America. Only fools, of course, would argue that hate speech is good for the US. But only fools continue to believe that the worst thing a presidential nominee can do is speak foolishly.
I happen to be one of the many that finds such speech distasteful. I do not like what Trump has to say about minorities and I have a justified fear that his anti-Islam comments produce a security threat; counter-terrorism specialists in the West are largely agreed that crude and alienating speech builds bombs. This is a legitimate concern and we can be sure that Trump’s stupidest comments are retold to extremist militia. Just as Madeline Albright’s stupid comments about the “justified” deaths of half-a-million Iraqi babies are. Just as Hillary Clinton’s stupid comments about the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi are. To say, while sitting in front of a camera, “We came. We saw. He died.” upon learning of Gaddafi’s death — one achieved by anal rape with a bayonet — surely qualifies as hate speech. Hate speech, especially by powerful people, can have a terrible result.
But, sheesh. To assess those two unremarkable persons currently competing for the world’s most powerful political post only in the terms of their speech is actually bonkers. And this is the work of most liberal media — which still manages to overlook the hateful decades in which Clinton has called the monstrous Bashar al-Assad a “potential reformer”, Edward Snowden a terrorist’s helper and the black criminal underclass “super predators”.
But, the treasure trove of Clinton clangers left undisturbed by a stubborn liberal media is not my point. My point is: media outlets and enthusiastic social media users seem unable to concede that “calling out” Trump on things that he intended to say is pretty useful to him.
This, in my view, is a terrible liberal myopia, and one that has clouded our powers of observation in Australia to the point that we cannot make sense of a party like One Nation. We say that people vote for One Nation because they are racist. This, in some part is true, but it is also true that the Hanson appeal rests in her appearance as “real”, as one who talks honestly.
Hanson does talk honestly and, in all likelihood, so does Donald Trump. That the things they say are not predicated on an honestly informed view of how things actually work is not the point. That they are being honest, despite what snooty commentators say — in particular about Pauline the puppet — is the point. These figures have successfully employed the tactic of not employing a tactic. As the anti-Trump conservative writer Michael Brendan Dougherty pointed out last month, this strategy has already been written down. As the anti-capitalist radical writer Adorno pointed out last century, the appearance of speaking candidly and being persecuted for it worked terribly well for a guy called Adolf.
To call on those “second amendment people” to end Clinton is just the kind of thing you might hear in everyday speech. I mean, not, of course, in “reasonable” company, but in, say, the sort of conversation you might have with your working-class grandmother. I remember being very small and watching the funeral of Menzies with my nan. As the PM’s cortege moved over the Princes Bridge in Melbourne, she said something like, “I hope the old corpse falls in and dies again”. And if you think that working people of the left no longer speak like that, then you didn’t go to the ALP National Conference last year.
I believe that there is a great hunger for vulgar speech — or, at least for a speech that is not as bland and correct and contained such as that which so reliably flows from the mouth of a person like Clinton. We, the reasonable knowledge class, mistake her correct pronunciation of an acronym like “LGBT” for reason itself. But others hear it as a form of obfuscation.
I happen to believe that it is, in the case of Clinton, a form of obfuscation. I have read no more compressed description of the hypocrisy of Clinton’s Democratic Party as one that “would happily invade — with bombs or trade treaties — such nations as it found necessary to, but would ensure that its occupying troops are provided with gender-neutral toilets”. (Thanks, Rundle.) There are many persons who are as offended by an ugly truth concealed by a good representation as there are those offended by ugly speech itself.
FFS. Liberal media has been saying for five years straight that Trump has, again, uttered a huge mistake. They urge us, in some Habermas orgy of deliberative democracy, to all return to “reason” and moderate speech. As though everyone went to high school debate club. As though everyone thinks that speaking nicely is a guarantee that societies will be organised nicely.
There are those, myself included, who have come to find a tolerant newspeak intolerable — in my case, not for the future of equality it claims to herald but for the present of inequality it seeks to mask.
So, go on. Keep saying that Trump’s hate speech is in itself proof that he’ll be the worst president in history. Or, you know, you could actually look at his policy –and there is some — and come more effectively to the same conclusion.