Back in the '70s, a short-lived sitcom starred Cloris Leachman. In one episode, she reluctantly confided in a dimwitted co-worker: "I'm not sure how I feel. My daughter wants to marry a boy whose parents are midgets."
The dimwitted co-worker's response: "Has she found one yet?"
Even though I've forgotten everything else about that series -- including the very name
of that series! -- that particular joke stuck in my mind. It illustrates an important problem: Language has limits. No matter how clearly you express yourself, someone out there will find a way to misinterpret you.
Whenever talk turns to "hot button" issues, misinterpretation becomes downright wilful. For example, some years ago I took note of an interesting news story: Young people had formed the mistaken impression that twenty percent of the population is gay, even though the real number is closer to 2.5 percent. In response, a gay reader accused me of wanting to consign all homosexuals to concentration camps, as the Nazis did. I still cannot fathom how he managed to misunderstand my words so drastically; even Cloris Leachman's dimwitted co-worker wasn't that
Another example occurred yesterday. I was seriously misunderstood, even though my wording was plain. As I've aged, I've tried to remove complexity from my writing -- yet no matter how simple my style, there will always be someone out there who presumes that I meant hawk
when I wrote handsaw
Here's the "handsaw" text:
Removing confederate statues -- which should have happened a LONG time ago -- is not popular. I wish the situation were otherwise, believe me! I was appalled to run across a double equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson here in my adopted hometown of Baltimore. (The statue was removed quietly a couple of years ago.) But I'm not going to pretend that the removal of such monuments is popular when the polling tells me otherwise.
And here's the "hawkish" misinterpretation:
But there is a difference between destroying statues and works of art and displaying them in public spaces instead of museums and other dedicated places. Do Germans have statues of Hitler in their public squares?
I did not say that the public display of Confederate monuments was good or wise.
To repeat: The sight of that Lee/Jackson memorial (located near the art museum) appalled me, and not just because many black people live in that area. Lee and Jackson were enemies of the United States. Commemorating them in our public spaces is akin to the commemoration of Cornwallis, Ludendorff, Yamamoto, Rommel or Giap. Frankly, I would consider a Giap memorial less offensive than a Robert E. Lee memorial.
(I was particularly surprised to see a statue of Jackson, because that guy was a total nut
Although readers may know of other instances, I can think of only one place where a nation erected a memorial to a former enemy commander: In Winchester Cathedral, there is a statue of Joan of Arc. In that case, the intent was to make amends for an historic injustice.
A monument to Lee and Jackson does not rectify an injustice: It sanctifies
I hope that I have sufficiently clarified my stance, because I don't know how to express myself in a plainer fashion. Please do not wilfully misunderstand me when I say that the removal of Confederate memorials is not popular
I wish to God that the situation were otherwise. I wish to God that the majority of my fellow citizens would see things as I do. But the polling is clear
Removing these monuments will particularly anger southerners. Why would liberals wish to anger southerners in an election year? Heretofore, pollsters assured us that Democrats may actually be competitive in places like Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. I suspect that we can now write off those states.
Democrats have to ask themselves: What is more important -- a symbolic act or the defeat of Trumpism? Do you want a moment of catharsis or do you want actual power
? An offensive statue can come down just as easily in 2021; Trumpism must be defeated now
As I said in the preceding essay: Democracy is a popularity contest. That's the infuriating thing about democracy: A popular foolishness may have the force of law, and appeals to popular prejudice may determine the outcome of an election. This long-understood problem is the reason why Churchill said that democracy is the worst system imaginable, except for all of the others that have been tried.
Part of me was elated and part of me was exasperated when a statue of Jefferson Davis
in Richmond, Virginia, received the "Saddam Hussein" treatment. I've always considered such imagery to be risible. We do not erect monuments to Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo or any other defeated enemy.
But one must bow to political reality: At this time, an act of justifiable iconoclasm can only do injury to the larger cause of removing Trump.
Yes, Trump seems to be on the ropes right now
. May I remind you that he seemed similarly doomed at many points throughout 2016? Stories like this one
will only increase sympathy for the right:
The National Pulse can reveal the Black Lives Matter website – the organization spearheading nationwide “defund the police” campaigns – is partnered with ActBlue, a Democrat fundraising platform that is the top donor to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, responsible for raising nearly 99.64 percent of the Biden for President effort.
The phrase "defund the police" will never be popular. You can argue until your face turns Prussian Blue that those words should
be popular, and that the phrase "defund the police" should
be understood to mean something other than what it seems to mean at face value.
My response: Should
is a dangerous word. Arguments involving the word "should" tend to be delusional and self-defeating. I should
have a healthy heart, but I don't. Stanley Kubrick should
have won the 1968 Oscar for Best Director, but he didn't. Joan of Arc should
never have been burned, but she was. That statue of Jefferson Davis should
never have been created, but it was.
You should avoid "should." Find the courage to face the most challenging and obdurate word in the English language: IS
. It IS
the case that the phrase "defund the police" is unpopular. Anyone who uses those three words serves Donald Trump.
You think that the situation should
be otherwise? Sorry, but that's the way it IS.
Frankly, I am beginning to wonder if the more unpopular aspects of the George Floyd protests -- protests which I consider laudable and overdue -- might actually be the work of clever provocateurs. To use Alex Jonesian terminology, we may be the targets of "false flag" attacks designed to besmirch Trump's opponents.
Before you dismiss the idea, consider this story
from a week ago.
A Twitter account claiming to belong to a national “antifa” organization and pushing violent rhetoric related to ongoing protests has been linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, according to a Twitter spokesperson.
The spokesperson said the account violated the company’s platform manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts. Twitter suspended the account after a tweet that incited violence.
As protests were taking place in multiple states across the U.S. Sunday night, the newly created account, @ANTIFA_US, tweeted, “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” with a brown raised fist emoji and “Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours...”
Yoy may already be familiar with the far-right group calling itself the Boogaloo Boys
But it’s also been clear that there has genuinely been an element of destruction hiding behind the protests; a small number of people attempting to derail a fight about racial justice and channel energy and attention toward chaos. Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed the violence on “the far left” and groups such as antifa. However, over the weekend, officials in Minnesota confirmed that some of those initiating destruction in that city were white supremacists. Organizers behind groups such as the “Boogaloo Bois” have been actively recruiting members to cause violence at these events. And it’s now clear in addition to appropriating the cause of justice in the hope of inspiring a race war, these groups have also actively been working to blame antifa and similar groups. And Trump is playing along.
It's an old tactic. This story
appeared in 2017:
But in the minds of the far-right, antifa are painted in cartoonishly broad strokes, either as the caricature of the “entitled millennial liberal” or as a dangerous, violent “alt-left.” Both of these deeply incomplete understandings of antifa come largely from the far-right itself—and are amplified by fake antifa accounts on Twitter which credulous idiots lap up and regurgitate.
Former Buzzfeed plagiarist and current Independent Journal Review “Chief Content Officer” Benny Johnson did just that this weekend with a piece titled “Alleged Boston Antifa Thanks Hillary Clinton, Democrats for Their Support as They Burn American Flag.” The listicle attributes such damning actions as burning a flag, burning a sign that says “free speech,” and “thanking ‘Hillary Democrats,’” to the Twitter account @AntifaBoston. The lead image, which is implied to be antifa members burning an American flag, is actually from a 2015 protest in Denver following the mass killing committed by Dylann Roof. Likewise, the address listed on the Boston antifa Facebook page correlates to a Harvard staffer.
(As if anyone allied with Antifa would praise Hillary Clinton! I long ago declared myself opposed to Antifa because most of those ninnies were die-hard BernieBros.)
My point comes down to this: Alt Right wolves (or frogs?) love to don that familiar sheepskin. This tactic is old and effective. If the neo-fascist right flew the false flag a week ago, they'll attempt the same maneuver a week from today. They did it three years ago, and they'll do it three years in the future.
They've propagandized themselves into the rock-solid belief that they are the perpetual victims
of false flag tactics. This delusion makes them feel entitled to do unto others as was done unto them.
Back in the '90s, I learned a hard lesson in the hardest possible way: Conspiracy buffs tend to become conspiracy practitioners.