Words have gone gelatinous, oozing and bending. Our political discourse has turned into gibberish, torturing language into pure nonsense.
Take “white nationalist,” the idiotic label applied in recent weeks to Breitbart CEO and Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon, who will soon move to the White House to direct the new administration’s political strategy.
“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here,” Senator Jeff Merkley said in a post-election press release. “Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government.”
For example, Merkley went on, Bannon “compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust.”
Take a moment to look at a definition or three of the phrases “white nationalist” and “white nationalism.” Stormfront – a group that should probably have a pretty good idea what white nationalism is – defines the latter as “the political doctrine demanding White only living space administrated solely by a White people only government. All political and cultural elements are to be free from Non-White influence and/or control.” The Southern Poverty Law Center says that “white nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of non-whites.” Here are a few more definitions – they’re pretty consistent.
Now: If you want to claim that Steve Bannon is a “white nationalist,” does his criticism of Planned Parenthood provide evidence for your claim?
At best, it’s a non-sequitur: Mr. Fred P. Example is a Maoist; for example, he plants orchids. You want America to be a white man’s country; for example, you think a fetus is a human life.
But take a moment to examine what Breitbart, under Bannon’s leadership, has actually said about Planned Parenthood. What do they mean by that comparison to the Holocaust?
Here’s a Breitbart story from late this year, shortly before the election, that ran under the headline, “Planned Parenthood Celebrates a Century of Eugenics.” Here’s what it says:
According to the 2010 census, 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of black or Hispanic neighborhoods.
Some 59 million abortions have been performed in the country since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, nearly 18 million of them on black babies. As Breitbart News has reported, the Alan Guttmacher Institute also provided data showing that about 30 percent of all abortions in the U.S. are performed on black women, with another 25 percent performed on Hispanic women.
Perhaps the most stirring statistic comes from New York City, where more black babies are aborted than are born.
See all the white nationalism that oozes from that story?
Breitbart is horrified by the reduction of the African-American population through abortion; if the world worked the way Breitbart’s editorial team wants it work, more black children would be born. This, you see, is a white nationalist argument. America should be a white man’s country, said the person who viewed the reduction of the black population of America as a tragedy.
Bannon is as much a white nationalist as he is a geranium, and the evidence given for his supposed white nationalism usually runs somewhere between “kind of bizarre” and “utterly batshit crazy.” But the point isn’t to make an argument that Bannon is a white nationalist; rather, the point is to recite the phrase alongside his name as often as possible, simply for the purpose of dirtying the name with the term. At least some people will believe it, and truth is no part of the point. The ongoing smear campaign against Jeff Sessions works on the same principle.
Similarly, we now learn that Donald Trump is a “fascist.” In New Mexico, infamously, a halfwit CEO has fired his own customers for supporting a presidential candidate who is just like Adolf Hitler. “If you are a Republican, voted for Donald Trump or support Donald Trump, in any manner, you are not welcome at 1st in SEO and we ask you to leave our firm,” wrote 1st in SEO CEO Matthew Blanchfield in a letter to his clients. “1st in SEO will do everything in our power to ensure that we break ties with any person or business that supports fascism.”
A flood of news stories and opinion essays promotes the same point, with delicate variations in the precise flavor of idiocy: Trump is like Mussolini; he’s a semi-fascist; he’s “fascistic without being a full-blown fascist.” (He’s an arsonist who doesn’t start fires! He’s a semi-child molester who doesn’t touch children inappropriately! He drives the speed limit, but we feel like he yearns to speed!)
Gloriously, the news media that warns about Trump’s fascist tendencies also screams the alarm about his plans to slash the size, cost, and power of our central government. Fascist Trump and Fascist Paul Ryan have “an expansive plan to roll back the American welfare state,” warns Slate’s chief political correspondent. “With President Trump’s signature, Ryan will repeal the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, and much of the legislative legacy of the Obama administration. He will craft and pass a massive package of tax cuts and ‘tax reform’ that will deprive the federal government of revenue and fundamentally change the relationship between it and the American public.”
Yes, that’s right: Donald Trump is a small government fascist, a libertarian tyrant, a totalitarian anarchist. Just like Hitler and Mussolini, he’s going to shrink the power of the state. Here, for your reading pleasure, is an argument that Trump is going to impose “free-market fascism.” It’s laissez-faire gleichschaltung. Like Mussolini, Donald Trump believes there should be “nothing above the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” For example, tax cuts.
The senseless spew of pejoratives pouring out of the deep-blue cultural bubble has to do with political strategy and the social pleasures of virtue signaling. It has no connection to reality because it isn’t meant to have a connection to reality; it’s just a turd some idiots are throwing at a wall. And the only appropriate reaction is to sigh and ignore it.
Which will make you just like Adolf Hitler, but you’ll learn to deal with it.
Chris Bray is a writer and historian, and is the author of Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond.