That Small Group of People

In 2004, George Lakoff, that professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, published Don’t Think of an Elephant! The subtitle was “Know Your Values and Frame the Debate – The Essential Guide for Progressives” – necessary after John Kerry lost to the goofiest guy in the Bush family, mired in a pointless war that was getting worse by the day. How did that guy win a second term?

George Lakoff knew how that happened. It’s all in how things are framed, and it was time to get as tricky as the Frank Lutz conservatives. Tell people not to think about something and they’ll think about that very thing because they’re trying not to think about that very thing. It was not important that John Kerry was fluent in French and “looked kind of French” – doesn’t matter a bit – don’t think about it. People thought about it – and about how the French mocked Colin Powell at the UN when he said the world had to approve of, and join in, America’s war to get rid of Saddam Hussein, because of that guy’s weapons of mass destruction. Of course no one mocked Colin Powell. The elegant and suave Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin asked simple questions, damn it. That was unforgivable. America now hated the French.

John Kerry had nothing to do with any of that, but he was fluent in French and kind of skinny too. But don’t think about that. And that worked. There was no way for Kerry to respond. He was one of those French bastards. Those guys on the other side were good. George Lakoff wanted to make his side as good, so in 2014 he wrote a new version of the book – but that may not have been necessary. Republicans sometimes do all the work for the Democrats and progressives and liberals and whatnot. They get defensive. They deny this and that, when they shouldn’t mention this and that at all. Nixon said that the American public needs to know that their president is not a crook, and he was not a crook.

Don’t think of a crook, and don’t think of him as a crook? The nation considered the question. What did he expect would happen? He framed all the debate that would end his presidency. And now it’s Trump. Don’t think of him as a white supremacist – do NOT think that thought – and don’t think he’s encouraging white supremacists. Try real hard not to think those things.

No, don’t even mention such things. Shrug. Hide. Change the subject. Don’t set this up as the subject. What fool would make such arguments?

That would be this guy:

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the New Zealand mosque massacre, where a white supremacist allegedly killed 50 people, had nothing to do with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and that the president “is not a white supremacist.”

Mulvaney defended Trump during a pair of interviews on the Sunday political talk shows.

On “Fox News Sunday,” anchor Chris Wallace asked “to the degree that there’s an issue with white supremacist, white nationalist, anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, and there is an issue with that, why not deliver a speech condemning it?”

“You’ve seen the president stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty,” Mulvaney said.

Yes, Trump has stood up for the rights of the oppressed white Christian minority in America to refuse service to gay folks, and to refuse them medical care and even medicine, but that’s not this, so Mulvaney dropped that for this:

“Let’s take what happened in New Zealand yesterday for what it is, a terrible, evil, tragic act, and figure out why those things are becoming more prevalent in the world,” he continued. “Is it Donald Trump? Absolutely not. Is there something else happening in our culture where people go, ‘Know what? I think today I’m going to go on TV and live-stream me murdering other people’? That’s what we should be talking about. Not the politics of the United States.”

This was one sick puppy, so let’s look at the culture that might have twisted this once good white guy, ruining him, and he is just one guy:

Trump condemned the shooting on Friday, but when asked if he believes white nationalist terrorism and violence is a rising concern globally, the president said, said, “I don’t really.” Trump added that he thinks “it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

But they are few, as he sees it, and then there was the second interview:

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mulvaney said Trump “is no more to blame for what happened in New Zealand than Mark Zuckerberg is because he created Facebook.” The social networking site said it removed 1.5 million videos of the shooting within 24 hours of the attack.

In short, blame Facebook, not Trump, but not everyone agreed:

Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he hoped the president “doesn’t maintain the position” that white nationalism is “not a threat at all.”

“I don’t think that the two threats are equal, ISIS and white supremacists,” Bossert said. “They’re equally repugnant. They are not equal in size. But the president has to combat the ideology of both.”

That was the advice:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on CNN’s State of the Union, that white nationalists are “using” Trump “as an excuse” to commit violence.

Trump “should be giving strong statements, public speeches defending Muslims in this world,” the 2020 presidential candidate said.

Don’t expect that. Trump goes the other way:

President Donald Trump seemed to adopt the role of programmer in chief on Sunday, firing off a series of tweets that singled out for solidarity and scorn various anchors at his favorite network, Fox News, and suggested that federal regulators should bear down on “Saturday Night Live” and NBC.

He was on a roll:

The president’s posts directed at Fox News followed a particularly bruising week for the conservative cable outlet. Last Sunday, audio clips surfaced of misogynistic comments that prime-time host Tucker Carlson made on a Florida shock jock’s radio show from 2006 to 2011, and fellow talking head Jeanine Pirro was roundly rebuked the same weekend for appearing to question the patriotism of a Muslim-American member of Congress.

The damned Muslim-American member of Congress criticized the Israeli government and that government’s lobbyists in Washington, and she dresses funny, so she must hate America and want Sharia Law here right now, which was a bit too much for even Fox News, and that angered President Trump:

Fox News did not air Pirro’s weekly program, “Justice,” on Saturday night, and CNN reported Sunday that she has been suspended from the network. The president made clear that he was no fan of the unannounced lineup change.

“Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro,” Trump said in a tweet Sunday. “The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country. They have all out campaigns against @FoxNews hosts who are doing too well.”

In another message, the president wrote that Fox News “must stay strong and fight back with vigor.” Framing the public relations fracas in gladiatorial terms, Trump advised the network to “continue to fight for our Country” and “stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down.”

He wasn’t’ saying Muslims should be shot, but “the majority of our Country” understands how anyone can feel that way, and should. But of course he wasn’t finished:

Earlier in the morning, Trump had indicated for the second time in two months that government officials should scrutinize “Saturday Night Live,” the satirical sketch show that airs weekly on NBC, for potential abuses.

“It’s truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Live, not funny/no talent, can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side,'” the president tweeted. “Like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows.”

“Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this?” Trump wrote in a separate post. “There must be Collusion with the Democrats and, of course, Russia!”

Saturday Night Live is financed and produced and written by the Russians? There is the Federal Election Commission. There is the FCC too. But expect a presidential commission to look into this – or not. Donald Trump likes to be outrageous. The man just says things. He doesn’t mean them – unless he does.

Assume he means what he says. White supremacists aren’t a problem. White nationalist terrorism is not on the rise around the world – that’s just a small group of people with issues. Don’t think about it.

Charlie Pierce thought about it:

There is now little doubt that white supremacy is an international terrorist threat stretching from Christchurch to Pittsburgh and extending out in every direction. It runs on a parallel track with the rise of a xenophobic rightwing nationalist politics that is conspicuously successful in a number of putatively democratic nations. Liberal democracy is under attack and, like any revolution, this one has both a respectable political front and a violent auxiliary that operates on its own imperatives … This is the everyday al Qaeda of the angry white soul, and it’s growing.

The respectable political front here is the Republican Party and Donald Trump, of course, violent auxiliary is everywhere. That’s what Christopher Dickey argues here:

The fight against extremism must start with ideas, and with language that is clear and unequivocal. Which is why we should be perfectly blunt about what Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old monster of Christchurch, claimed to represent, and did and does represent, which is white nationalist terrorism.

Tarrant may have been a lone shooter when he slaughtered 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, but he was not a “lone wolf.” He was part of a much wider movement that is every bit as extensive as Al Qaeda was when it attacked the United States in 2001 and potentially much more dangerous to the future of Western democracies.

The recommendation:

Now, before it grows any stronger, should be the time to move against it with the same kind of concerted international focus of attention and resources that were trained on Osama bin Laden. Now is the time for a global war on white nationalist terrorism.

The reasoning:

Nobody can claim, as the George W. Bush administration did, that “we’re going to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” because they are already “here” with a vengeance, steadily increasing their power and presence in Western democracies.

Networks of white nationalist apologists, sympathizers, supporters and facilitators – vital to any terrorist movement – are deeply embedded in the political and social fabric. They are literally the enemy within. As an apologist, it should be said, President Donald Trump is in a class by himself. Trump is “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” as Tarrant wrote in his manifesto.

The obsession with the border wall, the attempts to ban all Muslims – such measures are trending in Tarrant’s direction because Trump’s base buys into them. And when it comes to feeding the basic instincts of the base in order to hold on to power, it is not at all clear how far Trump will go.

That is the issue, because Trump really is the issue here:

I have been told by a very senior former U.S. intelligence official that he is concerned if Trump is impeached and removed, the result could be violence tearing the country apart. And Trump himself likes to feint in that direction, as he did in his Breitbart interview last week.

In a weird aside, in the middle of an otherwise soporific dialogue about former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Trump declared, “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

That was widely interpreted as a veiled threat of violence because, clearly, it was one.

So, if we are going to think seriously about a global war on white nationalist terrorism, we have to admit that the American president is an enormous obstacle.

That’s not what Mick Mulvaney said. Mulvaney said do not even think such thoughts. Do not think about that elephant, but Christopher Dickey has been an international correspondent based in Paris for decades, so he sees a bit more than Mulvaney and Trump. This is an international issue:

Provocateurs like Tarrant are hoping for draconian measures, looking to provoke a conflagration. “Civil war in the so called ‘melting pot’ that is the United States should be a major aim in overthrowing the global power structure and the Wests’ egalitarian, individualist, globalist dominant culture,” Tarrant’s manifesto tells us. He’s hoping “the conflict over the 2nd amendment” will lead to that fratricidal fight and “eventually balkanize the U.S. along political, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines.”

He wants that to spread everywhere, but he’s just one guy late to the game:

When Tarrant writes in all caps “THE MYTH OF THE MELTING POT MUST END, AND WITH IT THE MYTH OF THE EGALITARIAN NATION” he is not coming up with his own lunatic theory, but parroting ones that have been disseminated for years by American racists, and developed into an ideology in Europe as resonant of terror today as Mein Kampf was in the 1920s.

Vladimir Putin and his ideologues are apostles of ethnic and linguistic nationalism, and promote it both overtly and covertly in Western European countries to disrupt and divide their democracies.

Parties running on anti-brown-or-black-immigrant platforms are now significant players in the politics of Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Italy. We know that Tarrant recently traveled to Spain, Bulgaria and other countries where there are active ultra-right movements. In Hungary, where the government of Viktor Orban is rabidly anti-immigrant and obviously anti-Semitic, the New Zealand shooter probably felt right at home.

And then there’s France:

As the popular French daily Le Parisien headlined on Saturday morning, “49 Dead in New Zealand: Everything Started in France…”

In 2017, Tarrant came here to watch the presidential election between Emmanuel Macron, who represents everything from globalization to higher education that the Tarrant crowd hates, and far-right Marine Le Pen, who, he concluded, was just not racist enough for his tastes.

But he did find someone he liked:

The key to Tarrant’s thinking and to his connections is in the title of his manifesto, “The Great Replacement,” drawn directly from the work of far-right French author Renaud Camus, who has written that the fecund peoples of Africa and the Muslim world will overwhelm and replace European populations.

As the daily Le Monde pointed out, the fantasy of this sinister replacement plot originally was based on the notion that the Jews were out to diminish or subjugate the white population of Europe – a notion that endured in right-wing circles even after World War II and the revelations of the Holocaust. And it is still a common trope among Americans on the far right. When neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville in 2017, they were vowing that they would not be replaced by Jews.

Trump did say that there were fine people on both sides there, and his chief advisor on such things, who writes all of his speeches for him, is young Stephen Miller – a big fan of Renaud Camus. Miller was mentored at Duke University by Richard Spencer – the famous White Supremacist – before he joined Jeff Sessions’ senate staff, before the White House. John Kerry wasn’t French but Miller may be. Even so, Dickey reports this:

Here in Europe in the 21st century, where many countries treat expressed anti-Semitism as a crime, Renaud Camus put a new spin on that replacement fable following Sept. 11, 2001, by claiming Muslims were colonizing Europe, but on Friday, Camus denied any incitement to terrorism in his own particular way.

“The colonized,” he wrote, meaning the embattled white Europeans, “ought not to imitate the methods of the colonizer,” meaning the immigrants to Europe, by adopting terror tactics. “That is to become like him already and give in to colonization.”

He got cold feet, but Dickey adds this:

It might be possible to silence such voices of hate. Many European governments have tried. But would that be enough to stop the spread of white nationalist terrorism? Almost certainly not.

These people will not be silenced:

The man accused of mass shootings at mosques in New Zealand has fired his lawyer and plans to represent himself in court, leading to speculation that he might try to use his trial as a platform for extremist views.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, of Australia, who has been charged with one count of murder, appeared to be lucid and not mentally unstable, said Richard Peters, his former attorney. He is expected to face more charges when he next appears in court on April 5.

In his defense he will cite his motive, claiming justifiable homicide or some such thing. When he cites his motive perhaps he’ll read his seventy-four page manifesto, word for word, and add extemporaneous commentary, to add depth and emphasis. That’s his right. And that will spread the word. That too will spread white nationalist terrorism – the concept. There’s no stopping this.

Trump says that this is just a small group of people with issues. Mick Mulvaney says that Trump has nothing to do with any of this. Nixon said he was not a crook. Don’t even think such things. Okay, now don’t think about an elephant. Try real hard not to think about an elephant. And there it is.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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