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CSotD: Reaping the whirlwind

I wasn’t sure whether to start or end with Matt Wuerker‘s cartoon, but I think it does serve to set the scene as well as to wrap it up.

The Trump Whirlwind is a brilliant piece of graphic personification, but let me belabor the storm metaphor for a moment, because, as we watch Louisiana dig out from under another hurricane, I’m reminded that people said it wasn’t Katrina that caused the harm so much as it was the lack of preparation after smaller storms had revealed weaknesses in New Orleans’ defenses.

Katrina would still have been a major disaster, but it seems clear, in retrospect, that it wouldn’t have been so bad, had they taken steps earlier to prepare for such a storm.

And, ditto, Trump’s utter disregard for the truth, his promotion of “alternative facts,” his outright lies in the service of stirring up his base, caught us unprepared only because we ignored earlier warnings and smaller storms.

 

Matt Davies is right that Trump’s bizarre campaign this past week is based on the notion that the horrifying world he has created is the horror we can expect under Joe Biden.

It is a proposal of such stupefying imbecility that, in a sane world, it would be laughed out of the room.

 

Which is a nice observation, but, as Kevin Necessary points out, we live in a world in which Melania Trump can make the claim that we must protect children in front of an audience that knows damn well we take them by force from their families and lock them up in cages.

Even before a crowd of Republican supporters, she should have at least raised eyebrows if not provoked a hiss or two.

Then again, she weathered criticism a few years ago when she openly declared that she doesn’t care, and challenged anyone who did.

 

Ann Telnaes charges the Trump campaign with substituting glitz for meaningful action, and it’s a terrific graphic depiction but it’s not a revelation: It’s a challenge, rather, to admit that anyone who wants to know what’s going on already knows what’s going on.

Not just Melania. All of us.

 

Meanwhile, Kirk Walters suggests that the acceptance of insane QAnon theories by a childish president is setting us up for fascism, and, again, it’s true but who didn’t see this coming?

There was a wisecrack running around Canada a few years ago about a particularly ungifted provincial premier that said, “If you want to know what he thinks, find out who he spoke to last.”

That’s solid advice here, and the problem is that, rather than surrounding himself by the best and the brightest and then echoing whatever they tell him, Trump treats his intellectual diet with as much discipline and discernment as he does his physical diet.

And so instead of echoing the wise words of experienced statesmen — even ones who, like W’s cabal of advisors, are consistently wrong and self-serving — Trump consumes a steady diet of nonsensical delusions and barfs up an intellectual pile of hamberders and covfefe.

Does he believe in birtherism and snake oil cures and that the entire city of Portland is in flames, or is he cynically spinning lies to deceive his Deplorables?

In the words of a famous Secretary of State, “At this point, what difference does it make?”

 

Nate Beeler says that Trump has presided over the death of true conservativism and, while I often disagree with Beeler’s take on things, we’re certainly aligned on this one.

However, once again, there is first a question of how intentional it was and then of how much the answer matters.

 

Peter Brookes is a bit harsh in accusing Trump of taking pride in our having become the hardest hit nation in the pandemic, but that smug pleasure and a self-praising “We’re Number One!” attitude certainly do seem to be Trump’s response to everything.

And, in this case, the Wizard of Wharton is apparently convinced by his own statistical analysis that says if we’d only stop testing people, they’d stop getting sick.

Which mangled logic wouldn’t matter if it were just some tiresome drunk calling in on talk radio.

 

But it does matter when the fool who believes it, or pretends to believe it, has the ability, as Mike Luckovich observes, to send out orders subverting science and halting best practices.

Which, I would note, suggests that, counter to Brookes’ accusation, Trump does at least have a sense of shame, even if he covers up his failures rather than moving to correct them.

 

This meme was a lot funnier three years ago than it is today, but it remains a pretty accurate portrait of the Republican party, only the “cornfield” they fear is being branded RINOs and subjected to primary challenges.

Which is cowardly, but, then, it’s the product of a long march towards authoritarianism that began neither with Donald Trump nor in the streets of Kenosha.

 

Steve Benson draws the parallel between Robocop and the jackboots marching through our streets, but I disagree with his suggestion that it represents a change.

And here’s a personal I-told-you-so to my sons: “This is why I would not let you watch that goddam movie.”

I grew up on Zorro and Robin Hood, outlaws who broke the law, yes, but in defiance of a corrupt regime, and on a steady diet of Westerns in which the lone drifter fought off a crooked sheriff on behalf of innocent ranchers.

But my kids — now in their 40s — grew up in a world of Dirty Harry movies, and the Onion Field and Robocop, in which laws and civil rights niceties gave way to a demand for vengeance in which Constitutional rights were not hallmarks of justice but a barrier to law and order.

Which has brought us to a world in which Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson can declare their admiration for a murdering vigilante without drawing any contempt beyond what they’d previously earned.

 

Though, if Seamus Jennings has Dear Leader pegged right, we might want to explore that whole banished-to-the-cornfield thing and make sure that whatever it turns out to be is worse than what we’re turning out to be.

 

Community Comments

#1 phil von neupert
August/29/2020
@ 8:14 am

You’re absolutely right, Mike, the GOP has a long history of authoritarian, racist behavior. The modern KKK was founded by Indiana Republicans in the 1920’s. There was Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s, and Nixon in the 1970’s. Then there was Reagan, our first anti-government President, in the ’80’s. We had Newt Gingrich in the ’90’s, and W. Bush in the 2000’s. A long, steady march toward Trumpism. Was it easy to see? It was for me. The only problem I had was convincing others that it was coming. Like a frog in a pot of water, all that was needed to boil it was to turn up the heat slowly. Well, we’re here now, and the only hope we have is that Trump hasn’t so thorougly corrupted our nation that he can’t be removed. Keep up the good work, you and your fellow cartoonists are indeed essential workers.

#2 Brad Walker
August/29/2020
@ 8:35 am

I thought the point of RoboCop was the lead’s rebellion against his corporate programming.

Oh, and it’s covfefe. Correct spelling is so important.

#3 Mike Peterson
August/29/2020
@ 8:49 am

Corrected the spelling — thanx.

Would be willing to sit on a panel about those movies — adding Bullitt and French Connection, perhaps Serpico — once we take off our masks and sit down somewhere again.

#4 Gawain Lavers
August/29/2020
@ 10:09 am

Another +1 for RoboCop. Verhoeven never telegraphs his satire, but even then it’s a lazy trope. RoboCop, interestingly, was programmed in such a way that he couldn’t be fascist in the way that all the cops on Dirty Harry knock-offs are.

Speaking of the zeitgeist RoboCop was written for, wanted to share this essay far and wide:

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/the-incredibly-short-rise-and-fall-of-a-black-republican

Also, for fun:
https://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/amp30521657/robocop-statue-detroit/

#5 Kip Williams
August/29/2020
@ 12:38 pm

Periodic pedantry: A real frog jumps out of the water before it’s near boiling.

The reason I keep pointing this out is to let folks know that, collectively, we’re dumber than a frog.

#6 phil von neupert
August/29/2020
@ 12:55 pm

I’ll take your word for it, Kip. I’ve never tried boiling a frog, so I really don’t know.

#7 Kip Williams
August/29/2020
@ 9:52 pm

I myself am taking the word from scientific debunkers who must have been prepared to do something pretty bad to a frog in the name of knowledge. I never personally investigated whether salamanders can live in fire, either, but have tentatively accepted the answer that common sense in the matter turns out to be correct.

#8 Kip Williams
August/29/2020
@ 9:56 pm

Gawain: I once had a chance to ask Brian Bolland how much influence he thought Judge Dredd had on the existence of Robocop. The panel he was on ended at that moment and we broke for lunch, but I was informed later by his companion that he thought it was the best question he’d been asked at a convention. I wish I could have heard his answer.

I’ll add another +1 for Robocop–the violence sometimes shocks, but it’s more potential than actual, and it’s unmistakeably satiric by intent, as you say.

#9 phil von neupert
August/30/2020
@ 6:50 am

Although I agree that the “urban decay” movies generated a large degree of cynicism among young people back then, my top pick for most damaging films goes to the Harry Potter series. (Pokemon cartoons are also on the list.) Much of the “magical thinking” that plagues young people nowdays stems from them. Believing that everything happens by magic, and not through critical thinking and effort on their parts, has lead to an entire generation to simply blame their predecessors (boomers) for everything. My favorite example of this is the “Occupy Wall St.” movement. Young people had the right idea, but when the Unions showed up and tried to better organize everything, those “boomers” were told to take a hike. As predicted, the movement fell apart when the weather got cold. To be fair, the Christian Right also heavily promotes this type of thinking, as evidenced by Trump supporters believing in “miracle cures” for Coronavirus. The world is a mess right now, and only rational thinking and mutual effort are going to save it. It won’t happen by magic.

#10 Brad Walker
August/30/2020
@ 10:43 am

It would be a great scene in Zootopia, if only they had more animals than just mammals, as in Sing:

An anthro frog is found boiled to death in his hot tub. Judy asks, “Why didn’t he get out when it got too hot?”

#11 Denny Lien
August/30/2020
@ 12:33 pm

re “Much of the “magical thinking” that plagues young people nowdays stems from them. Believing that everything happens by magic, and not through critical thinking and effort on their parts” — surely this was a common theme in popular culture well before the Harry Potter franchise? For instance: the whole “Trust the Force, Luke!” nonsense.

#12 phil von neupert
August/30/2020
@ 2:26 pm

Denny, it’s funny you should mention “Star Wars,” since I saw that in the theater when I was a kid. I didn’t buy into “The Force”, nor did anyone else I knew. We all knew it was just a movie; it was “black hat” vs. “white hat” just like the old westerns. The Harry Potter series is not that simplistic; it’s closer to the “anti-hero” films like “Dirty Harry,” where good and evil are not so clearly defined. It presents an alternate “magical” reality, without the morality, that is extremely enticing to young people. You’re right, though, magical thinking is not exclusive to Millenials. It’s really more of an extension of the drug/mysticism culture of my generation. (J.K. Rowling is a boomer, after all.) Most of us grew up and abandoned that philosophy, or fried out and joined the religious right in a desparate attempt to escape the drug-induced madness. I would have thought the younger generation would have learned from our mistakes, but they haven’t.

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