Monday, 6 March 2017

The Failure of Anti-Trump Protesters.

'A banner reading “Build bridges not walls” has been draped across London’s Tower Bridge as part of a series of events across the world aimed to protest against Trump’s presidency. Beside the British parliament, protesters draped banners saying “Migrants welcome here”
Written early January 2017, before Trump entered the White House.

The appearance of banners such as "Love Trumps Hate" or " Build bridges Not Walls" are guaranteed to help shore up support for Trump. Ordinary citizens are simply fed up with being shouted at by trendy progressive types who ooze smug self-righteousness and just 'know' they are Correct and any opponent is Evil.

Like it or not, Donald Trump was elected President. The task is is to hold his power to account instead of prejudging it even before he gets into the White House. Certainly, there are real reasons to be concerned about his position on climate change and towards China, as well as with his temperament and authoritarianism.

The problem with the opposition to Trump and sections of the 'liberal left' was defined by Irish writer Michael Foley who nails the problem with 'identity politics' thus in his superb The Age of Absurdity 
“The 1970s was the decade of liberation, of anger at injustice and demands for recognition and rights. But over time, the demand for specific rights degraded into a generalized sense of entitlement, the demand for specific recognition into a generalized demand for attention and the anger at specific injustice into a generalized feeling of grievance and resentment.The result is a culture of entitlement, attention-seeking and complaint.”
In essence this form of self-righteous protest is putting people off  dealing with the many real challenges the US and the globe faces. People who need to be persuaded are being alienated by these sorts of protesters with their silly self-important sloganeering such as 'Love Trumps Hate' and 'Build Bridges Not Walls'.

Complicated problems require reducing them to ways that communicate their importance in plain English and using reasoned debate to defeat opponents and demagogues. Not infantile slogans that have been rightly called 'virtue signalling'. It's just part of the same decay of democratic discourse as Trump represents.

Slogans are ways to do people's thinking for them and this simply is not going to work any more as enough citizens have had enough of them and soundbites. "Migrants Welcome" is essentially a meaningless statement. There are, in fact, borders, and so obviously not all migrants everywhere could or should be welcomed.

However, as a way of convincing those concerned about the perceived lack of control over migration and terrorism, of a world that seems ever more terrifying and dangerous, a blanket statement on behalf of everybody by a vociferous group of protesters is bound to be worth a great many votes for authoritarian populists.

When people see 'Migrants Welcome' banners, it increases their anxiety levels and that then leads to the impression that not only are the protesters wrong but also that their views, which are supposedly 'establishment', are actually going to mean their lives and lifestyles are endangered by such people for very obvious reasons.

Migrants are those that migrate.They may be refugees or they maybe just economic migrants deciding they are not much concerned with old fashioned things such as borders. Yet realistically borders are going to remain and be enforced. Moreover, all migrants are not welcome as some may indeed well be terrorists or pyschopaths from war-torn lands.

The implication of the slogan is that those who do not agree mean that 'all migrants are unwelcome' and that would clearly indicative something is fundamentally evil and horrible about them. In essence, these slogans are meant to get rid of nuance and only end up contributing to further polarisation and division.

Then there is 'Love Trumps Hate'. It is simply not true that 'Love Trumps Hate'. One could say it ought to, but as an empirical observation is it not true. Plus some of the most intolerant and pyschopathological movements in history, led by utopian fanatics, believed in love triumphing over hate-through extirpating the haters.

The philosopher Alan Watts was accurate when he wrote of some of the anti-Vietnam protesters in the 1960s that 'they hate the hating of hatred-three instead of one'. Much of this protest is a way of saying 'look how much better I am than so many others'. At another level it is often connected to hatred for Western societies ( 'oikophobia' )

Those preachy about love are often incredibly self-righteous and for reasons often connected more to spiritual oneupmanship. 'Hate' means, in practice, could mean believing in border controls or it could mean forced deportations or a war against Muslims or a new Third Reich' ; it's so vague as lack any concrete meaning.

'Hate', in other words, could mean truly abhorrent policies and attitudes that are expressed or else it could mean simply mean those who want less immigration or who do not want completely open borders. It could mean those who think that Islamism, if not Islam or certainly all Muslims, is a real problem.

'Love' could mean, in reality, agreeing that 'we are always right' ; those who disagree are 'the bigots'. 'Bigot' has increasingly taken the function of meaning something akin to 'heretic' as opposed to a person who, despite all evidence, will never change his mind is is animated only by bad anger and hatred.

The idea of the figure of the bigot as heretic means 'if you disagree with me, you are harming this community' and so 'you can't say that'. The desire to forbid those who forbid, to punish those seen as punishers can become part of a new dogmatic orthodoxy in which there is only the power to destroy opponents as enemies.

All in the Name of Love, of course.

Stupid slogans and demagogic politics from authoritarian populists needs to be countered by intelligent arguments that embrace complexity and not by repeating dumb slogans that reveal the protesters are more concerned with their own status, role and egos as protesters rather than in  genuine engagement in complicated issues.

1 comment:

  1. Get in there Naylor. Good words and true, every last fucking one of them.