Losses all around

I can’t think of a single winner from the recent events in Virginia:

  •  Obviously the biggest losers are the victims who wound up dead or in the hospital. No innocent person should ever expect to meet that fate when they go out into public.
  • I’m a great admirer of Robert E. Lee, and he deserves better advocates than these autistic reactionaries whose whole world is an echo chamber on the internet. Lee’s memory has already been dragged through the mud for decades, and it fares even worse from an event like this.
  • The Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, and the Klan are totally clueless on PR. In fact, I can’t think of a more perfect way to paint them as vile lunatics than the actions and messages they’re already propagating on their own. It’s like Conquest’s Third Law, except it’s applied to a loosey-goosey jacky-wacky internet movement instead of a bureaucracy.
  • Trump hasn’t done himself any favors here either. My most charitable interpretation is that Trump is aware that news stories almost always blame the pro-white side in a clash of any kind but then quietly reveal facts later that indicate it was the other side who was the real aggressors, so Trump wants to distinguish himself by not jumping into the fray and dogpiling on the pro-white side the way Obama did. Also, Trump is constantly attacked, viciously, by the same journalists now awaiting a statement of condemnation from him, and he might take it personally.
  • America’s race relations probably won’t unravel from this event (in fact I think they’re generally much stronger than the media would have us believe) but crap like this sure doesn’t help.

4 thoughts on “Losses all around

  1. I’m actually surprised that Trump caved and issued a statement of condemnation. Statements of condemnation of this sort seem like terrible politics. It’s a no-win scenario for the president – asking is just a ritual the other side does to further tie the president in the public mind to whatever group they are asking him to denounce. Because it works!

    If the president DOESN’T denounce nazis, that proves he must like nazis, because how hard is it to denounce? Anybody would do that, right? But if he DOES denounce nazis, we can –
    and did! – just say the fact that he WAITED TOO LONG to do so – a whole day! – or did so a little HALFHEARTEDLY while tripping over his words proves he must secretly like nazis – clearly he’s only doing this because everybody demanded it rather than because that’s what he believes in his heart! (It also establishes a precedent that the people asking for denunciations are RIGHT to do so, so they’ll keep doing that more.)

    But wait! Suppose against all odds Trump manages to denounces nazis RIGHT AWAY and VEHEMENTLY and SPECIFICALLY and without tripping over any phrases? Well, then he’s “trying too hard” and “protests too much” and clearly he thought this meaningless apology would FOOL US into thinking he wasn’t a nazi but we can SEE THROUGH his tricks and we can totally tell he’s a nazi.

    There is no win condition here; the only winning move is not to play. I mean, can you imagine any statement from Trump that would get his detractors to say “Gosh! I guess since he said THAT we must have been WRONG to think he was connected to nazis”? Or can you imagine a statement from Trump that would get the neo-nazis to say “Gosh! I didn’t realize even the *president* disagrees with us! We must be on the wrong track! Let’s shut down operations immediately!”

    Anyway, it makes no sense to denounce a group that you were never connected with. The only reason people want this denunciation is because those exact same people have claimed there’s a connection. If there really ISN’T a connection, dignifying their stupid request with a serious response gives up some power and admits that they were right to ask. If there’s no connection, the stronger play is to point and laugh at the people asking for such a statement.

    • It’s come to be expected that presidents will immediately weigh in on news stories like this. I doubt this is a healthy custom, but that’s the way it is nonetheless.

      I don’t agree that Trump would have been accused to trying too hard, had he responded right away with a condemnation. I think you’re really stretching there.

      Trump is connected, at least in popular perception, with the groups he was asked to denounce–and he knows it. Choosing to not dignify the requests with a response is the same, from the public’s and the news media’s perspective, as waiting too long.

      I’ve been arguing for almost two years now that Trump is not some incompetent who doesn’t understand how his messages come across. But on this one he really fumbled it. You’re right he didn’t have many good options, but he had a better one than what he chose; my charitable explanation was exactly that.

      • I’m sure I’m typical-minding on this in that I have never really understood why people say things like “the president needs to strongly denounce X”, for pretty much any X. It’s like they think “denouncing’ is a productive human activity – there’s bakers and teachers and lawyers and engineers…and denouncers. We elect a denouncer-in-chief to make sure somebody gets properly – and officially, and impotently – scolded before anybody knows what happened. If he waits until we know anything, that’s TOO LATE! He needs to denounce RIGHT AWAY, or his words, I dunno, go stale? Is there really a freshness limit on denunciation?

        Maybe it’s like “listen-and-believe” – we want a president who is willing to say what we *feel* is true at the moment regardless of whether it is *actually* true in order to symbolize that he’s on our side, that he shares our own ill-informed gut reaction to what’s going on? In other words (expanding on your charitable explanation) showing any sign of hesitation to address *any* issue might (on any issue, even without regard to past experience) indicate the presence of *rational thought*…which we don’t want. If we wanted what the president says to be well-informed and correct the best advice would be to wait a couple weeks. Mouthing off on a subject at a same-day press conference isn’t THAT much better than mouthing off on twitter at 2am – I’d prefer a president who does less of BOTH those things.

      • Yeah, I think it’s about the president quickly, reflexively doing something to show he’s “on our side.” When you’re little and a bully hits you in front of your dad, you want your dad to reach over and smack the bully immediately, not stop and think it over to make sure you weren’t the one who started it. And in fact I think there is a bit of “Daddy Complex” to it.

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