Monday, November 23, 2015

The Comments Section Campaign

The above tweet, if you can't see the picture, was tweeted by Donald Trump yesterday and has 6k re-tweets and over 8k likes. The content is this:
The people linked include a black conservative radio host and a GOP political consultant and operative. There are some problems with the above graphic (excellent detective work by LGF!):
  1. The Source organization, the Crime Statistics Bureau: San Francisco, does not agree with the statistics. This is because they do not exist.
  2. The FBI, which apparently does exist, disagrees with the numbers (Blacks killed by Whites is 15%, not 2%, for example).
  3. The graphic came from, it seems, a white supremacist 

This Guy. Read The Text!
This comes on the heels of a Black Lives Matter protester not just getting thrown out of a Donald Trump rally but being beaten in the process. Even more telling: Donald Trump said that maybe the guy deserved to be roughed up. Now, The Omnivore isn't a fan of disrupting rallies--plus, what did the guy think would happen to him at a Trump rally in Birmingham--but top-down approval means that next time it may go even further.

On the other hand, Donald's stratospheric numbers have not been caused by calling for calm.

Pundits thought that the Paris attacks might / should hurt Trump--after all, they supposed, people might feel they needed someone with foreign policy experience in the White House. Not so. Trump's plan to bomb the shit out of ISIS seems as good a strategy as any. Trump's value increases.

The Comments Section Campaign

The Omnivore's instincts about this campaign have been right from, more or less, the start. This is because The Omnivore has spent a lot of time reading comment sections on conservative and liberal blogs. It is "conventional wisdom" that (a) you should never read the comments sections because (b) the comments sections are full of vile, anonymous trolls.

Well, no--or at least not now. Trump's political ideology comes directly out of the conservative-comments section's rhetoric. We'll note that this doesn't mean that comment-section posters comprise any significant number of voters (we just can't know) or that Trump is getting his strategy from reading blog's comment sections (highly doubtful).

Instead, it appears that Trump's take-no-prisoners, mad-at-everyone, I-Will-PWN-You (enemies, rivals) is exactly what the GOP wants this cycle.

To The Omnivore--it looks more and more likely they're going to get it. What are the implications of all this? Well, here's how it looks to The Omnivore:

Social Media as We Know It Did Not Exist in 2008

This is the graph of users for social media platforms:
If you are a conservative, The Omnivore is sure you heard every nasty thing under the sun said about George W. Bush by liberals. Probably true--but the reach of social networks in 2008--the ability to communicate those things and polarize the conversation was an order less than it is today.

Comment Section philosophy in 2008 was an anomaly. Today it's about 50% of the GOP.

Democrats and Republicans Aren't Symmetric

Yes, they play some of the same games--and yes, they both have their substantial moral failings--but Donald Trump is not the same degree of distance from normality as Bernie Sanders. Neither is Carson. Arguably Cruz is proportional to Sanders. Furthermore, while liberal blogs certainly have their share of assholes, the GOP's mono-culture stands in contrast to the Democrat's diversity.

If you think the argument that Democrats are handing out "free stuff" explains that, you need to account for the Jewish and Asian demographics which skew heavily Democratic yet are not getting free stuff. Also: younger women.

Clearly something else is driving away natural-fit populations.

In any event, GOP front-runner Donald Trump is the antithesis of minority outreach: the love of white supremacists and neo-reactionaries should be ample proof of that.

Here's a test: what's the Democratic version of the following terms?

  • RINO. What term do followers of the Democratic front-runner use as a litmus test for their parties' values?
  • Cuckservative. What's the Democratic equivalent of this?

The Ambivalence of the GOP Intellectual Class

Anyone who is appalled by Trump's rise--and Trump's game--who backed Sarah Palin all the way should go and take a long look in the mirror. The Trump philosophy drove turnout for 8 years. It created the emotional animus for the Tea Party. It has been refined by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, and others. It has been promoted by Fox News.

Reasonable right-wing blogs and magazines: PowerLine, HotAir, Commentary, and even, yes, The New Republic have all to degrees been complicit in:
  • Telling trusting readers that Obama is a tyrant--in some cases this is meant literally, in other cases, it is just rhetorical--but it is sometimes taken literally. Yes--this was said of Bush--but the reach of the Internet did not approximate what it is today. This doesn't count the various conservative news outlets suggesting Obama is planning a literal coup.
  • Selling literally apocalyptic ad-space around their stories. The connection between this and the conservative mood in America can't be over-stated.
  • Adopting a no-win position. If there's a good jobs report, the numbers must be cooked (or we'll play a game of looking at the "real numbers" which say how bad it really is). If gas prices are high? A crisis. If they fall? A crisis. Obama's policies in the Middle East are a failure--but no one has a good idea of what else to do. Obamacare must be repealed--but there is no substantial alternative (The Omnivore has viewed multiple alternatives and concludes that all of them would suffer at least as badly as Obamacare).
  • Pretending that the Congress has failed to enact their agenda due to lack of will. This story is perhaps the most damaging: it convinces conservatives that government itself--that Democracy in general--is a failure. It has led to an utter lack of faith in the founding principles of America.

Trump Is The Avatar of GOP Manipulation

The above conditions made a hell of a lot of money for GOP personalities. It sold a lot of ad space. It arguably won the mid-term elections. The problem was that the political playing field was supposed to be distinct from the national or state-level candidates. If the furthest right guy running was Ted Cruz then you could at least be sure he wouldn't say anything too toxic.

He wouldn't need to--there's no legitimate room on his right.

Of course Trump--and Carson--don't need a lane on Cruz's right. Like the flying cars in Back to the Future, where they're going they don't need roads. Once you have a guy like Trump--with no mechanism to control him--leading in the polls, what do you do? You can't just "shut down the reactor" and turn it all off: it has gone way, way past that.

Once the meme is out of the media-space / comments-section containment field and running amok in real life? You need to face up to having played with matches.

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