Monday, July 03, 2017

Trump the body-slammer

Donald Trump recently retweeted a ten-year-old video of himself at a WWE event slamming Vince McMahon to the floor, then getting up and walking away triumphantly. But the video in question had been retooled so that McMahon's head had been replaced by a CNN logo, and below was the hashtag #FraudNewsCNN. The media are, predictably, up in arms about what they decry as "incitement to violence." By that standard, of course, the media themselves are guilty of such incitement: cf. Kathy Griffin and the severed head. My own stance regarding Griffin was, as you recall, that what she had done was not incitement to violence by any sane interpretation of her gesture. Sure, it was crude, inappropriate, etc.—but it wasn't incitement, especially coming from a comedian.

In his reaction to the Trump retweet, Stefan Molyneux lists occasions in which the media have committed similar sins:

• months and months of comparing Trump to the literal second coming of Adolf Hitler
• CNN's portrayal of the individual who rushed the stage to attack Trump as "an activist, a hero"
• CNN's openly pondering Trump's assassination prior to his inauguration
• [the media's] pic of Steve Bannon, framed in crosshairs
• a CNN commentator's pondering on air whether Jared Kushner was "maybe one of the people who has to die"

About that last sin, Molyneux notes, "Trump is Hitler, but very Jewish Jared Kushner, well, maybe he's just one of the people who has to die!"

Ed Driscoll at Instapundit notes several other media hypocrisies and includes a tweeted quote from Molyneux: "After weeks of hearing how assassination plays and holding up a severed head [were] just ‘art’—the leftist response to [Trump’s] tweet is precious."

My take is that Trump's slamming of a CNN logo is no more an incitement to violence against reporters than Kathy Griffin's head-in-effigy moment was an incitement to go out and saw off the president's head.

We really are turning into North Korea, aren't we—a land where symbols are conflated with the things they symbolize. This would be a good time to remember George Carlin's gibe that "I leave symbols to the symbol-minded."

Styx weighs in here.

The flip side of all this is that the right needs to go back to Kathy Griffin and Julius Caesar (a Shakespeare-in-the-Park play in which a Trump-like figure is stabbed to death) and recognize that these instances of free expression aren't incitement to violence, either. Certain people on both sides need to drop their double standards, let go of their hypocrisy, and just relax. I'd much rather have a goofy war of words and symbols than a real war of blades and bullets.


Surprises Aplenty said...

Kevin, you really don't see the difference between private citizens speaking and public officials speaking in their role as public officials? Hold it, I reread your post; you do point out that Griffin is a comedian. At the same time, though, you say 'the media'. Griffin is a member of the media but not 'The Media'. Not in the same way that Trump is The President.

I gotta say Trump's offer to pay the legal fees of people who beat up protesters was no symbol. Of course, after people actually did beat up protesters, he is now trying to claim he wasn't being literal.

And then there's Sharron Angle who recommended 'Second Amendment remedies" to cure congress. This was during her election efforts so it is at least her political speech. I think she was not elected so it can't be described as Republican speech in general. But it also has to be taken more seriously than that of a comedian.

When the chief of the NRA said, “Our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules" it was not 100% clear that he was advocating violence. He was also not a politician - though he was a speaker at a conservative PAC.

Some years ago, GOP candidate Lowry held a campaign event and it included shooting a silhouette of his opponent.

I note you mention a face in crosshairs. Yet in previous posts you found use of similar images - democrats in crosshairs by Palin - as not being relevant at all in the shooting of Giffords.

I gotta say, statements by politicians should be more restricted -even if only by morals or good taste - than statements by public citizens.

Kevin Kim said...

"I note you mention a face in crosshairs. Yet in previous posts you found use of similar images - democrats in crosshairs by Palin - as not being relevant at all in the shooting of Giffords."

There's no contradiction here. In this post, I'm mentioning someone else's mention of crosshairs. Molyneux's point was that the crosshairs meant something to the left when Sarah Palin was involved, then they ceased to have the same meaning once Steve Bannon was "targeted."

My own stance on free speech has been consistent. Go ahead—crosshair away, I say! But as I pointed out in the final part of this post, the right needs to be consistent about what constitutes incitement and what constitutes free speech. As far as I'm concerned, crosshairs fall under free speech. The right can't very well point to crosshairs as a literal threat after having dismissed crosshairs in the Gabrielle Giffords case (to be clear, that's not what Molyneux was doing: he was merely pointing out an inconsistency). Neither side serves its own cause through double standards.

What makes the situation hard to simplify, though, is that there are self-consistent lefties and self-consistent righties, so please take any mention of leftist hypocrisy on this blog with a grain of salt. There's always a subtext that it's #NotAllLefties and #NotAllRighties who are being hypocritical. Please assume my stance is more nuanced than a single post makes it out to be, and that it's best to consider the totality of my posts on a given subject to have a good idea of where I'm coming from. I can't be expected to recap everything I've said earlier whenever I write a new post, so I have to let the history of my posts speak for me.