Thursday, November 17, 2016

Crying Wolf

Slate Star Codex makes a data-based case that Trump isn't (a) especially racist for a 70 year old guy and (b) maybe isn't even especially racist at all. His points, at a high level, are roughly:

  1. Trump improved over Romney with the minority vote share.
  2. Trump's explicit message has been pro-minority and pro LGBT--even if clumsily.
  3. There are just not a lot of white supremacists out there--so who cares if they support him?
  4. Trump's positions on campaign violence, immigrants, and so on are at least nuanced to significant degree. He did, for example, disavow David Duke (albeit clumsily).
These are all true--and taken together make a reasonably powerful argument. So is he right?

Well? Is He Right?

Do you believe that advertising makes a difference? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Firstly, advertising makes a difference because it makes people who don't know a product is out there aware of it. Secondly, advertising provides a best-case narrative to promote a product, service, or idea. And finally, advertising provides a cultural context for a product--you know where a VW Jetta fits into society because you see the ads touting its safety and showing parents letting their kids take the car out because it's such a responsible choice.

There can be little question that Trump is advertising for white supremacy.

How So?

The first is the obvious: Brietbart. Brietbart is Bannon's web-news site that is the herald of the alt-right. If you want to address Slate Star Codex's argument, go there, read a bunch of articles, and then realize that the guy in charge of that is Trump's White House Strategist. Bannon has enough ties to the alt-right that he might not pass a security check.

Of course none of that means Trump is racist himself--just that he has placed a pretty blatant racial provocateur in a position of high power.

Brietbart is a mouth-piece--a massive narrative engine with more traffic than any of the white supremacist sites Codex lists--that does, in fact, promote a voice that is pretty clearly racist. Bannon, ensconced in power, will obviously increase that voice's reach.

Secondly, Trump's rise is air-time for white supremacists. From David Duke getting headlines to Klan marches making the news, Trump has created an environment where these "products" are becoming more and more visible in our society.

The Alt-Right cheered when Hillary gave her Alt-Right speech because it had made the front page (finally!) and while Hillary may have been unwise to add her voice to that mix in the end, the fact that she was even thinking about saying anything at all is telling.

Finally, Trump will be the leader of the free world. If anything could happen to mainstream his supporters--many of whom hold ideas that the majority (according to SSC's polling) find abhorrent, it's that. Trump's victory will--and has--elevated what was, yes, a minority force into something with a national cultural footprint.

Just look at all the people proudly declaring themselves "deplorable."

If the "deplorables" were really all volunteering at soup kitchens and tending the sick, that'd be one thing--but as far as The Omnivore can tell, they're mostly on Twitter doing the tweet equivalent "I'm not racist but--[something racist]."

Simply put: Yeah, there may not be a ton of White Supremacists right now--but Trump seems like to make more of them. Maybe a lot more. Depends on how well advertising works.

The Thing SSC Doesn't Address

SSC is right that if you take "dog whistles" out of Trump's list of pandering and you align both pro-and con-Trump you get a lot of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (we will need better reporting to sort this stuff out). On the other hand, Trump certainly could have addressed this stuff himself. Trump has re-tweeted a bunch of white supremacists accounts. Why does that keep happening? Well, because they're tweeting stuff he likes and he can't be arsed to check?

Sure--maybe--but if he cared? He'd check.

There are pro-Trump memes that show Trump in Nazi garb next to ovens. Yes--these are online--but also, yes, Trump counts his on-line efforts as a major part of his campaign. 

Trump could put a stop to this--at least a lot of it--in addition to talking up minorities and kind of faintly disavowing David Duke, he could could come out and say those people aren't welcome in his coalition. Why doesn't he?


  1. "Trump has created an environment where these "products" are becoming more and more visible in our society."

    Your complaint is then with the media that is selling you these Duke/KKK "products", neither of which were brought up by Trump nor Breitbart.

    1. Oh, I think think it's totally Trump. David Duke *existed* before Trump--but his prominence in the media is *because* of Trump. Or are we postulating he'd be making headlines if, say, Marco Rubio had won?