We will kill you, that’s the Proud Boys, in a nutshell. We will kill you. We look nice, seem soft, we have boys in our name, but like Bill the Butcher in the Bowery Boys, we will assassinate you.
Fighting solves everything. We need more violence from the Trump people. Trump supporters: Choke a motherfucker. Choke a bitch. Choke a tranny. Get your fingers around the windpipe.”
– Gavin McInnes.
In the good old days this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they would not do it again so easily.
I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself, or other people will.
– Donald Trump
Donald Trump has been and promises to remain a cancer on the presidency and on the nation as a whole. It is not as if there were no warning signs. And it should not have taken belated public service announcements to alert Americans to the fact that flirting with fascism would prove dangerous to the health of our republic, though like cigarette ads, it was hard to see the latent danger lurking behind the glitz and glamor of the Trump brand as initially hyped by corporate media. America has elected its first (and hopefully its last) click-bait president. However, in the wake of the package bombs against Trump’s Democratic critics, the need to excise this malignancy has become more urgent.
It is often said that the presidency is a bully pulpit; Trump has turned it into a cudgel that he offers to his base as he directs them toward violence against the press and his many detractors. Speaking at a rally in Montana only weeks following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a tone-deaf Trump heaped praise on “his guy” congressman Greg Gianforte for body slamming a reporter in 2017. Media sites, apparently under the impression that the public expected anything better from Trump, reported that Twitter users were “shocked” by Trump’s unveiled avowal of violence. Really? It’s a bit like being shocked that Megyn Kelly would see nothing wrong with blackface and everything wrong with black Jesuses and Santas.
Given the regularity of Trump’s vacillating bloviations, nothing that comes out of the White House these days is shocking; it is all business as unusual, the business in question being the relentless unraveling of American civility. Here, Trump’s consistent inconsistency is more a strategy than a sign of mental decline, since it provides him the cover of plausible deniability however implausible those denials may be. Like his bromanatic partner in hyperbolic self-promotion Kanye West, Trump borrows a page from W.C. Fields: “If you can’t dazzle with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” The sobering reality is that it has worked. Many Americans are either bedazzled by its blinding glare or simply do not care so long as Trump grows the economy and stokes their most primal fears.
The marigold man-child of Mar-a-Largo, who boasts he has “the best words,” calls Stormy Daniels “horseface” and slouches behind the Resolute Desk as Kanye West tosses a 10-minute word salad that includes Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite profanity, a scene that views like a photo-op from some alternate universe “Apprentice” episode filmed live before a swarming horde of White House paparazzi. During this circus, a straight-faced Jonathan Karl asks Trump if he thought West would be a “future presidential candidate.” “He could very well be,” Trump responds, adding that he (Trump) had “important meetings with senators and with everything” but apparently “nobody (read: the “hateful” media) cared; they wanted this meeting,” implying that America’s fourth estate (or in Trump’s eyes, its fifth column) was more interested in covering his summit with West and Jim Brown – unfortunately, Frederick Douglass, whom the president once assured us is “doing an amazing job,” could not attend, as he was too busy rolling in his grave – and that he felt he had to oblige them.
But is any of this really shocking? Only if one is inclined to forget that a previous White House guest, Ted Nugent, who once boasted of showing up at his draft physical wearing days-old, feces-encrusted underwear in order avoid the draft, notoriously called then-president Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” labeled Hillary Clinton a “bitch,” and Dianne Feinstein, a “whore.” And only if one forgets that more recently Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford and could muster only tepid, passionless equivocations against Khashoggi’s Saudi assassins – and will with time no doubt find another side to blame (even odds it will be the media that reported his murder). Trump remains willfully oblivious to the fact that what happened in Saudi Arabia and continues to occur in other parts of the world where the lives of journalists are endangered is the deadly price paid when one declares the free press the “enemy of the people” and encourages violence against it. In fact, the deadly consequences have already materialized: according to the International News Safety Institute, during the first half of 2018, the U.S. was the secondmost dangerous country for journalists (Afghanistan was number one), a sobering statistic one would think the mainstream media would advertise.
Yet, since Charlottesville the fatuous narrative that “both sides” are violent has gained ground, as a forced, false equivalency is drawn between vocal nonviolent protest and political rhetoric that explicitly promotes physical violence – an equivalency drawn not only by Trump and his surrogates but also by its target, corporate mainstream media.
Ironically, the same media that has criticized Trump’s zealous anti-media crusade often underplays vitriolic rhetoric even when it spirals into acts of physical violence: TheNew York Times(October 16, 2018) didn’t seem to mind normalizing Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes after his followers clashed with protesters following a speech he gave at the Metropolitan Republican Club on October 12th. A self-avowed Islamophobe and “Archie Bunker sexist,” whom the Times profile toothlessly describes as a “Brooklyn hipster” turned “far-right provocateur” and “younger and more foul-mouthed President Trump,” while underplaying his more caustic similarity to Trump in his advocacy of violence, his more colorful statements, two of which open this article, somehow escaping the notice of the Alan Feuer, the profile’s author, who simply repeats McInnes’s more innocuous descriptions of the group as “an ordinary club like the Shriners and the Elks” and as “a sort of safe space for him and what he calls his fellow ‘Western chauvinists.’”
In the rush to bilateral blame, the fact that such exhortations are of quite a different order of magnitude than congresswoman Maxine Walters’ urging citizens to “hassle” lawmakers or concerned citizens stopping Senator Jeff Flake’s elevator to urge him to reconsider his vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, or the restaurant heckling of Ted Cruz and Kirstjen Nielsenis conveniently overlooked. More ominously, it begs the question of what other non-violent options are currently available when voter suppression rather than voter fraud infects a Republican-headed, ruthlessly Machiavellian political drive that threatens the core of our participatory democracy, yet still receives scant attention by a media that casts itself as its stalwart guardians. If anything, Trump’s Democratic “angry mobs” should be praised for their restraint in the face of such constitutional onslaughts.
As Jane Coaston of Vox (Oct 15) points out, the event that ignited the violence at the Metropolitan Republican Club was “a reenactment of an assassination of a political opponent, meant to celebrate the use of violence in politics – something that aligns very well with McInnes’s vision” as well as that of an unscripted Trump who has been allowed to get away with such excesses. As, in fact, has McInnes who, in yellowface mimicry of Otoya Yamaguchi, the right-wing Japanese extremist who exactly 58 years ago to that day assassinated socialist Inejiro Asanuma, praised the act and later outside the venue, brandishing a fake Japanese sword and his white privilege before protesters and in full view of police, escaped unscathed, unlike Darrien Hunt, the black cosplayer who was shot four times in the back and killed by Utah police in 2014 for walking around with a fake sword. But then, McInnes, a member of a protected species – angry white males – is, as the Timesprofile describes him, a “heavy drinking,” “angry nerd aesthetic” who is wont to “spout aggressive rhetoric” to draw a crowd and “is also willing to get physical at times,” a rather tepid description that makes it sound as if he simply enjoys engaging the laddies in a wee bit of Queensberry fisticuffs, though in the raw, non-sanitized world of domestic terrorism beyond the Times’s offices, be it Charlottesville, the Metropolitan Republican Club, a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, a supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky, or the U.S mails, such behavior has proven neither civil nor civilized and both potentially and actually deadly.
In the wake of the MAGAbomber, our elected Proud Boy president has moved from dog-whistling button pusher to trigger man, an older, tea-totaling, foul-mouthed McInnes who eagerly watches his supporters attack his political enemies as he twitters implausible denials of culpability. Violent political rhetoric did not begin with either man, but they must be held accountable for their willful, even gleeful contribution to exacerbating the polarization of our violently fractious republic.