Some may be asking if Donald Trump’s predestined role in the history of the US isn’t to expose the profound hypocrisy of a nation founded on racist principles and a social system dedicated to employing any method conceivable to uphold its racist order, while at the same time claiming to be a paragon of equality and freedom.
In recent days President Trump, aided and abetted by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, has put racism center stage as the guiding force of US politics. It may simply be an electoral ploy on Trump’s part, following the principle that if his voters are racist, they need to know he’s there to represent them. But whether it’s hypocritical or not on his part, his strategy reveals some of the background truths about US society — and it pays to speak like a racist.
Trump uses this strategy to reveal another related truth: US foreign policy is strictly and obediently aligned with Israel’s foreign policy. In the context of the ongoing controversy about the new generation of progressive Democrats in Congress, Trump tweeted: “So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
An adjective associated with the notion of passion that is routinely used by politicians to indignantly describe the strictly and coolly rational analysis of their own policies put forward by their opponents
The media have covered in depth the current controversy concerning what is now being called the “Squad,” a group of young female progressive Democrats, all from minority (i.e., nonwhite, Christian, European) communities. To quickly summarize a slightly complex generational struggle within the Democratic Party: The Squad voted against a law submitted by their party leader, Nancy Pelosi, on grounds that it supported Trump’s border policies, with which they could not agree. When the issue became public after the Squad tweeted its disagreement, Pelosi adopted the language of a mafia godfather: “We’re a family and we have our moments. You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK.”
On July 14, Trump stepped in and defended Pelosi using his most racist and xenophobic rhetoric, inviting the young legislators to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” With the exception of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, who is an American citizen born in Somalia, they are all from the US.
Need we add that Somalia itself is in a state of permanent war initiated and maintained by the United States? As Human Rights Watch has noted: “US policy not only has displayed a callous disregard for the basic human rights of Somalis, but it has failed on its own terms, breeding the very extremism it sought to eliminate.”
During the spat between Pelosi and her refractory family members, Tucker Carlson on Fox News provided Trump with his cue when he claimed that “Omar isn’t disappointed in America. She’s enraged by it.” He concluded: “Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country.” Trump’s logical mind that puts Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the others in the same category as Omar sees them as a troop of invaders of a pristine land where a true citizen’s skin is white and whose only language is (not necessarily grammatical) English.
With the combat raging inside the Democratic Party, in a spirit of divide and conquer, Trump stepped up to defend Pelosi against members of her own party, to which Pelosi reacted uncomfortably, having to defend those she had made a point of attacking. But Trump went one step further when he revealed his conviction that Israel is part and parcel of the United States, citing the Squad’s “unbridled” hatred of Israel — a crime apparently more heinous than being “enraged” against the US. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump supporter, piled on by baldly calling the four young women communists and affirming: “They hate Israel, they hate our own country … They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.” He repeated “they’re anti-Semitic” no less than three times in the space of three minutes.
Trump’s confusion is understandable: Both the US and Israel are white regimes schooled, though with different methods (some more subtle than others), in keeping minorities in their place thanks to increasingly authoritarian methods and ever more evident ethnocentric and xenophobic formulations of their respective identities.
Though Trump will jump on any occasion that permits him to encourage racist sentiments, his strategy includes a specific tactic of prompting his opponents to call him a racist, to which he can innocently qualify the accusation as an example of abusive, insulting language that should be considered intolerable when referring to “the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.” Racism is tolerable, but noticing it and describing it is a crime.
The symbolic role of Israel has, in recent years, taken a particular place in partisan polemic, not just in the United States but elsewhere — in particular the UK. Israeli governments justify their increasingly shameless violence toward the native Palestinian population as a reaction to something real: acts of Palestinian terrorism. And the theme of terrorism has become, everywhere in the Western world, the justification of authoritarian rule and mounting levels of state violence and surveillance, both domestically and abroad.
Terrorism has existed throughout history as a frustrated reaction against what is perceived to be oppression. To the extent that any form of oppression of a significant group is real and debate is stifled by an effective imposition of broad ideological compliance, acts of terrorism will inevitably appear as the unique way in which the oppressed group seeks to affirm what it believes to be its rights.
A rational, democratic state should respond with three complementary tactics: encourage debate, show itself open to reform or redress and treat acts of terrorism as crimes, rather than ennobling them as a form of political expression.
Calling every violent act of protest terrorism — instead of treating them as simple criminal acts — legitimizes them and perpetuates the recourse to terrorism. It’s true, however, that if there is no debate and no hope of redress, the self-perpetuating system of more authoritarianism to meet an ever increasing threat of terrorism will become a permanent trend and an established mode of government.
The UK has provided an example of how potent the symbolic influence of Israel has become in Western political culture. The political class and the media have nourished a campaign to ostracize politicians whose criticism of Israeli policies they qualify as anti-Semitism. Whether their belief in the reality of the anti-Semitism is sincere or simply an angle invented to attack Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who appears to them both too radical and too severe with Israel for their tastes, is a matter of debate. The effects of their attacks are real, thanks in part to the complicity of the media.
Labour’s Chris Williamson succumbed to the disingenuous accusations of anti-Semitism launched by defenders of Israeli policies in his own party and amplified by the media. This includes The Guardian, which has now even resorted to censorship to remove shortly after publication an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky and other prominent Jewish intellectuals, writers and activists not just defending Williamson against the accusations, but also highlighting their misrepresentation of his views.
As journalist Ben Norton writing for The Gray Zone points out, for all its admired “respectability” in reporting the news and its willingness to publish a diversity of progressive views, “The Guardian has for years been the voice of Blairite centrism.” Corbyn represents the negation of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s establishment “Third Way” neoliberalism, designed to be “the ideology of the future.” The Blairite political family has been more comfortable historically with the policies of George W. Bush, the former US president, than with a majority of the members of Blair’s own party.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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