“I swear that white folks need to just shut the hell up sometimes. Y’all make it hard for everybody.”
― Kiese Laymon, Long Division
I realize that he is the President of the United States and denying him coverage might be unprecedented in American history and simply unthinkable for people who are shocked by his behavior and feel the impulse to give him their attention and share how flabbergasted, disgusted, or terrified they are by the threat he poses.
But I believe the hyper-focus on him in the media — how every conservation is about him; how every headline carries his name; how there is 24/7 coverage of every ridiculous thing he says or does, which allows his message of pure, white-hot hatred to spread far and wide, reach every corner of the planet, emboldening his cult and galvanizing his base because the common narrative reveals that no matter how outrageous what he does or says is (and it seems as though this man is right out of Nietzsche in that he wills his evil into indestructible power and the political opposition seems to either wither before it or capitulate), no one can stop him — ensures that he remains victorious.
And therefore, his cult is victorious.
I believe this is why they feel confident enough to mail bombs to people or falsely accuse nine-year-old black children of sexual assault. This is why they openly rally behind the attempt to ensure an anti-woman and pro-rape culture majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, the throwing of disabled people out of their wheelchairs, the enacting of Stage 2 of genocide against transgender people, and the insistence that the indigenous population that can’t vote because they don’t have the right addresses in the very landscape to which they belong.
And after all of this, his administration (and a complicit Congress) remains intact and seemingly untouchable. The boorish gangsterism, verbal savagery, stunning lack of moral character, unchecked bigotry, frothing violence, and unfettered capitalism provide a thrill to those who share those qualities or wish they did. As the previous president served as a symbol for those who wished to share their dreams (whether or not he lived up to those dreamy expectations is immaterial to the pure symbology of the matter), this current president is license for others to unleash their apocalyptic nightmares.
And the media, irrespective of the substance of its content (criticism or other dissension), has been not the opposition to this man’s horror it believes itself to be. Rather, I think it has been the vehicle of its transmission. The overwhelming, incessant focus on him does nothing but bring him (and his supporters) joy and energize his inhumanity. Rather than expose him for the terrorist he is (because it, instead, highlights his star power and iconography over and above an unfiltered examination of the people and places he is or is attempting to obliterate), the media has unwittingly(?) become the propaganda machine that allows him to disguise his terrorism as him (and all those who believe in him) being unjustly persecuted by a wild minority obsessed with political correctness.
Driven by ratings, which is to say, money, the media has succeeded in saturating the world with this man’s blistering pathology to the point where I think some human beings, those who do not adore and emulate him, are, after the momentary catharsis of joining in to denounce the base injustice of his rhetoric, becoming desensitized to it. And those who have not yet become desensitized, and have remained horrified, are the ones who were already aware of the danger; long have they known what lurks at the nadir of this divide because the divide existed long before him. And this is the inspiration for action in too few and despair in most.
Failing to realize this is how we lose.
I think a better strategy is to fight out of sight and let go of the fiction that “If people knew what he is actually up to, they would wake up and demand an end to his reign!” because that seems untenable in a country where a presidential candidate could brag about sexually assaulting white women and still receive the majority of their votes. Turning all of media into a four-year-long commercial for malevolence is how you sell it to a materialistic nation, not how you dissuade it from purchasing.
Stop advertising for him.
Resistance — real resistance — is not televisionable. It is not marketable. It is not a slogan or a button or a t-shirt or a hashtag or a chant. It is not bite-sized. It is not serviceable for the State. But most of all, it is not comfortable.
Resistance, or change, as James Baldwin once put it, “implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a [person] is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream [they have] long possessed that [they are] set free — [they have] set [themselves] free — for higher dreams, for greater privileges.”
If there is anything that we are willing to surrender ourselves to, in the name of liberation, it should be to that. We can no longer afford for media to function as an obstacle to such. The math is simple: it will have to choose what it wants to be: our accomplice/or his.
The former is hope.
The latter is war.