This is a written synopsis of my show notes for the Daily #Covfefe episode dated July 17th, 2019 on Unsafe Space.
On May 26th this year, the hit Broadway musical comedy Avenue Q held its last performance in New York. One of the most memorable songs from this 2004 Tony winner was titled, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” It was comedy, so shouldn’t be taken as a serious philosophical argument, but the concluding message that if “everyone stopped being so PC, maybe we could live in harmony” was well worth considering.
Unfortunately, such a message flew right over the heads of the social justice left. We now live in a culture in which everyone and everything can be — and often is — construed as “racist” (and not just a little bit), so long as doing so advances a radical leftist agenda. Their favorite target, of course, is President Trump. Case and point, he released a series of Tweets over the weekend that has leftists everywhere bursting blood vessels while House Democrats hustle to pass a resolution condemning his “racist comments.” Because they desperately need all of us to know that they are against racism. Here’s what Trump said:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
These comments are many things, but racist is not one of them. First, they are inaccurate. The progressive congresswomen to whom Trump was referring are “the Squad,” a group of four social justice activists whom I wrote about yesterday. Three of those women: Rashida Tlaib, Ayana Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were born in the United States, although from listening to the trio’s constant rhetoric about how racist and terrible America is one might think they were born and raised in a Soviet brainwashing institute if it weren’t for their youth. As Louisiana Senator John Kennedy told Tucker Carlson:
The simple fact of the matter is, the four Congresswomen think that America is wicked in its origins. They think that America is even more wicked now, that we are all racist and evil. They’re entitled to their opinions; they’re Americans. Now I’m entitled to my opinion, and I just think they’re left wing cranks. They’re the reason there are directions on a shampoo bottle.
Kennedy isn’t wrong, but for Trump to lump the three US-born Representatives into remarks he was clearly making only about the fourth (Ilhan Omar) was incorrect. I hesitate to say it was a tactical mistake, though, since as my co-host Keri Smith pointed out: revealing his ignorance with respect to their backgrounds is one way for Trump to publicly signal that he didn’t think these three Representatives were worth knowing even basic facts about. It’s insulting, but still not racist.
However, Trump’s real target for the tweets — which everyone knows and which is the primary source of leftist outrage — was Representative Ilhan Omar. So what did he say about her? Let’s take a look.
Trump said that she originally came from a country with a government that was a “complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all).” Ilhan Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. Somalia is a place with which libertarians and anarcho-capitalists like myself are somewhat familiar, since for years we had to listen to statists sneer derisively, “if you hate government so much, why don’t you move to Somalia?” This was a great argument, they reasoned, because Somalia’s government (“scientific socialism” unsurprisingly led by a power hungry tyrant) collapsed in 1991, and after some failed UN peacekeeping missions the country fell into a state of almost complete anarchy with various power struggles for over a decade. Although a transitional federal government took control in 2006, followed by a “permanent” government in 2012, Islamic insurgency and rampant violence have continued. “War-torn Somalia” has been an oft-repeated phrase in Western media for years. In 2017, for example, 500 people were killed in bombings in Omar’s city of birth, Mogadishu. On top of that, the Somali government is widely recognized as corrupt. In 2014, a UN commission investigating monetary aid to the country reported that they “consistently found patterns of misappropriation with diversion rates of between 70 and 80 percent.” And finally, take a gander at the most recent assessment of Somalia from Human Rights Watch:
Military operations by Somali government forces, militia, AU and other foreign troops, notably against Al-Shabab, resulted in civilian deaths and injuries in 2018. Civilians died and were injured during inter-clan violence and as a result of excessive use of force by security forces against protestors during protests in Baidoa. Fighting and drought left over two million people displaced; many face sexual violence and forced evictions in government areas. Government forces and militias have arbitrarily arrested and detained people, including children. Authorities across Somalia and in Somaliland limited the freedom of expression by threatening and arresting journalists and critics. Al-Shabab forcibly recruited civilians, including children, and extorted residents in areas it controls and conducted indiscriminate and deliberate attacks, which left hundreds of civilians dead.
So was Trump’s description of Omar’s native country accurate? Well, yeah. And is Representative Omar “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run?” Well, yeah. Does any of this have anything to do with Representative Omar’s race? Well, no. To be clear, these statements by Trump are completely true with respect to Ilhan Omar, but they’re not arguments. They’re just ad hominem attacks. I’d love for social justice warriors like Ilhan Omar to actively campaign to remove ad hominem attacks from all political and ideological discourse, but then they themselves would have little left to say.
Trump goes on to ask why Omar doesn’t “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested [place] from which [she] came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.” Is it racist to say, in effect, “go back and fix your country of origin before lecturing Americans about how evil they are?” Nope. It’s rude, for sure. And, like his earlier comments about Somalia, it doesn’t qualify as an argument against Omar’s political ideology. But it’s not racist.
Some of you may be appalled at the claim that Trump’s tweets aren’t racist, since he clearly references her country of origin and implies that she’s un-American. That’s because you’ve been taught to conflate racism with other concepts. Your visceral (and righteous) reaction to hearing the word “racist” is a convenient weapon that the left exploits regularly, so they’ve gone out of their way to obfuscate its meaning and jam the word “racist” into a single package together with some other handy terms: a “knapsack,” if you will. And so, as SJW hero Peggy McIntosh would say, let’s “unpack this knapsack.”
Simply stated, racism happens when someone’s race becomes a relevant factor in how you treat him or her as a person. It’s really nothing more than that. It’s not “prejudice plus power,” or criticism of another government or culture, or some inherent genetic quality unique to Caucasians. Related, but often confused, is xenophobia. Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreigners. This need not involve race, as there are plenty of examples around the world of ethnically homogenous groups who hate each other based on traits that are independent of race, such as religion, geography, culture, or politics. Then there is “chauvinism,” which dictionary.com defines as “zealous and aggressive patriotism or blind enthusiasm for military glory.” Chauvinism could be inspired by xenophobia, but not necessarily. It could also arise from a rational recognition of the merits of one system of government over another from a purely moral or philosophical perspective (i.e. not xenophobia).
For example, believing the United States is superior to China because it has a codified Bill of Rights that (theoretically) prevents the government from infringing on personal liberties is not racist or xenophobic: it’s a reasoned position, whether one agrees with it or not. Believing the US is superior because one can find roasted scorpions on a skewer for sale at street vendors throughout Beijing and that’s just gross and anyone who would eat such a thing must be possessed by the devil and we Americans don’t want any part of that culture over here, thank you very much — well, that’s xenophobic. Believing the US is superior to China because Chinese people have darker skin or some other racially differentiated quality — well, that’s obviously racist.
At worst, Trump’s brief tweetstorm was chauvinism sans racism or xenophobia. His distain for the Somalian government and for Ilhan Omar is clearly not a result of her skin color or other amoral characteristics. It’s a result of her politics, which — in case you haven’t been paying attention — are a hateful, neo-Marxist, illiberal application of intersectional ideology that is completely incompatible with the principles upon which America was founded.
Today’s left (and, sadly, sometimes even the “center”) contorts, misconstrues, and outright misrepresents every syllable spoken against them in a transparent effort to declare that they’ve discovered “racism” or “sexism” or “transphobia” lurking in the corner of the enemy’s mind, and he must therefore be burned at the stake as a heretic and danger to the community. They do this because they have no real arguments, so they’ve had to become experts at ginning up the limbic systems of the intellectually incurious, and then aiming the resulting hose of emotional bile squarely at the opposition. We’re not far away from a world in which prepositions will be evidence of latent white supremacy.
In the name of fighting racism, the social justice community has turned racism into a joke. Most readers are likely too old to understand that I mean this literally, and anyway it would seem an outrageous claim to make. But hear me out on this one. The father of a high school student recently told me that ordinary kids are now slinging the pejorative “racist” at each other, but not in moral condemnation. Instead, they are using it playfully as a sort of mocking jab meant to convey feigned offense between friends. “You don’t play Fortnite? Racist!”
“You mean the word ‘racist’ has no real meaning to them anymore?” I asked.
“Nope. They just think it’s funny.”
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