Dull-witted Snark as Political Argument
Sometimes, an argument is presented so poorly, so devoid of maturity and reason that language fails the respondent. Such is the case with much of what people call “political discussions” on social media.
Almost half our population is now witlessly enthralled with monosyllabic populism. And whether right or left, that populism comes packaged in witless barbs which get pumped through the web by people who think they sound smart employing them.
Some people blame Trump and Clinton. I don’t. Our low-caliber discourse isn’t their invention. They just recognized a market for it. And yes, that means they see Americans as stupid and catered to that stupidity.
And they recognized our flaw in their own success. Trump struggled throughout the campaign forming complete sentences. He rarely if ever expressed a fully-formed philosophical or political thought. And he got the nomination! Hillary is the most corrupt and inept politician of our time. And she was nominated!
Both of them could look at themselves or each other and correctly conclude the American voter doesn’t want or need substance. Then with a glance at Twitter or Facebook, they would have that summation validated.
And so we have President-elect Twitter Girl.
I had expressed vague hope during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump’s tweeting was just a rope-the-dope ploy. He was appealing to the lowest common denominator of his active supporters and would suddenly explode into adulthood. Sadly, except for a short period just prior to Election Day when Trump was on the prompter and on message, he is still a petulant teenager. He cannot control his urge to prove he can be really, really snarky.
If the man was not the President-elect, I wouldn’t give a damn what he said to anyone – ever. I never did before. But he is. The problem with his immature mini-rants on Twitter is two-fold.
First, it shows that he still relates to his job based on his Twitter feed. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the political threads lately. If not, trust me, there are few Mensa members filtering through to Trump’s cell phone. And it is there he finds information, such as it is, and inspiration. We have an incoming president with a severe maturity problem!
In one of his recent Tweets he said, “I thought that @CNN would get better after they failed so badly in their support of Hillary Clinton however, since election, they are worse!” What? Effing what? He also retweeted a fellow teenager’s tweet about a reporter named Zeleny. http://theweek.com/speedreads/664356/donald-trumps-latest-twitter-tempest-targets-cnn-reporter
This is the kind of immaturity that gives people serious pause. There was a huge contingent that had to hold their noses to vote for Trump to begin with. There are members of his party who are only giving tacit support at this point. They are watching repeats of the Rosie O’Donnell cat fight all over again. And it is truly disturbing.
The second problem with this inability to disengage from the twittersphere is the way such impulsiveness telegraphs plausible intent.
Combine Trump’s meanderings about the press, including “and we’re going to fix that, believe me,” with his tweet about flag burning. Now we have a supposed “conservative” who seems to be ready to fundamentally alter our first amendment rights. And for over a year, Trumps loyal fan club has been (correctly) excoriating universities for doing just that.
Here’s that tweet: "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do, there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"
The President-elect said there MUST BE consequences for flag burning.
No American over the age of six can deny that burning or doing anything to a flag as a protest isn’t anything other than exercising the right to free expression. Leave aside your dislike for it, I’ll get to that. But it is speech.
Now if you burn someone else’s flag, that’s theft and destruction of property. You could even make a case for destruction of evidence. But with Hillary as precedent, you probably couldn’t make that stick. But if the combined penalty for all this were say, a year in jail, hmmm… A judge could do a lot of damage with that.
But we can’t have a man in Trump’s position threatening to abridge liberties because people are picking on him. We can’t have him threatening protestors because all the cool kids on Twitter are saying flag burners should be punished.
Our Luxury, Trump’s Burden.
On the issue of flag burning or desecration, my heart is with those who hate the burner. It is a rare protest where such actions aren’t more than an immature urge to shock and an effort to get cameras pointed at the man with the lighter. And the National Ensign does represent something important to many Americans.
Everyday I see a derivation of heartbreak and the flag on Facebook. We see the soldier, in tears, carrying his buddy’s flag-draped coffin or the widow receiving the folded flag. You can’t look at that and not be moved.
But sadness and disdain do not an argument make when you are talking about the U.S. Constitution. Can you call the flag burner an asshole? Sure. Do you owe him that least personal respect? Absolutely not! But you can’t lay a finger on him and neither can the government.
If the flag is his property, he can do anything to it he wishes and you don’t have the authority to stop him.
The argument about how it insults soldiers is a dicey one. I often see people saying because it is an insult to soldiers it should be prosecuted...or at least an ass-kicking is in order (Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely). But like my brothers and sisters in uniform, I put 23 years in the Navy protecting a list of rights enshrined in the Constitution, including that guy’s right to be a complete asshole.
So thanks for the thought, but speaking for my fellow warriors, we’ll get over it. Don’t go kicking anyone’s ass on our behalf. THAT would be the insult to our service.
And that is the only valid way Trump should see this. But he doesn’t seem capable of separating the distasteful from the legally punishable. It’s the same with his view of the media. He sees an anti-Trump or pro-sanctuary city or pro-TTP editorial line as a personal attack that he says he wants to punish.
Well, I am anti-TPP and anti-Illegal alien. And I am often disgusted by the specious arguments made in their favor. But making such arguments is not criminal activity. If Trump sees it that way and senses we are ignorant enough to go along, what will he take upon himself to do?
We need to be very careful here. We need to watch this man very closely. What he’ll do to one, out of animus, he would do to you or a cause you espouse.
Photo credit: Sacrifice by Arbyreed, via Flickr
Matt Jordan is a travel writer and author of Street Politics: It Ain't Your Daddy's GOP Anymore! and 16 20 24.
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