Ten minutes on Twitter — if one wanders cautiously outside the elitist libtard echo-chamber that is my natural home — demonstrates that one of the alt-right’s very favorite things is the creation of memes, especially ones targeting the Democratic candidate for president.
Here’s a recent favorite:
The allegation being that, while working as a staff attorney on the Watergate Investigation, Hillary was fired for unethical behaviour, thus “proving” forty years of corruption, concerted attempts to destroy the United States and its constitution, and general evil naughtiness.
In fact, two seconds on Google will show the assertion is nonsense, and that Clinton remained on the Watergate Committee until Richard Nixon resigned and the Committee’s business was concluded. Here’s just two take-downs, from leading (and politically neutral) urban myth sites — Snopes and UrbanMyths.
So what does this meme actually demonstrate? That Clinton has been subject to counter-factual right-wing smears for decades, of course — but something more important, too. It illustrates that she has been working as a public servant, at the heart of American politics, for over forty years. The emails that the alt-right go on and on and on and on about actually show the same thing: a dedicated, compassionate professional doing her job, day after day. No, of course she isn't perfect. Do you know anybody who is? Especially a politician, particularly one who's spent decades making judgement calls? But also — have you seen the choice? (And don’t start bleating to me about “Dr” Jill Stein. She’s a clueless dilettante.)
Trump, of course, has never held elected office, nor spent a moment of his gilded life working for the good of the people, in any role. As a matter of interest, what was he doing in 1975, you may ask, when Clinton was on the Watergate Investigation? Well, in 1973 the Department of Justice sued Trump Management for a concerted policy of discrimination against African Americans in buildings they owned — a practice that included attaching a piece of paper to applications with the letter C for “colored” on it. In 1975, Trump and his father were finally compelled to sign an agreement with plans to desegregate their properties. You’ll be unsurprised to hear this was not discussed during his outreach spectacle in Detroit on Saturday night. [UPDATE: this did come up in the first debate, in which Trump answered the charge by bragging he was able to settle without admitting fault.]
Within this meme, therefore, is interesting truth — but the opposite of that claimed by people who hate Hillary with a pathological fury that’s hard to comprehend, and borders on disturbing (have a brief look at the #SickHillary tag on Twitter, to see how luridly obsessed these people are). The Internet is creaking under the weight of this bullshit, gleefully brandished and recycled by people who — despite the insight they feel they have on politics — deploy grammar that makes my eyes bleed (and yes, I know I keep going on about this like some dreary elitist bore, but if you can’t learn the simple rules of apostrophe use then I’ll be damned if I’ll take your word on the complex issues of international political praxis. Or even the best place to buy a breakfast burrito).
This election has become rabidly personal in a way none has ever been before. Even major news agencies are conducting their coverage with a degree of relish for the ad hominem that is shoving all issues of substance into deep background — and it's hard to avoid, when Trump's entire campaign strategy rests on attaching a pejorative adjective to the name of every opponent. The process is not bringing out the best in anyone. I am, for example, intrigued by the — curiously generally undiscussed — suggestion that Trump may be required in October to attend a pretrial conference in the matter of Doe vs. Trump et all, for a Personal Injury - Assault, Libel, & Slander suit. But I know that I have to fight against a predisposition to believe that Trump has a case to answer here (you can do your own research to find out what this case is (allegedly) about — I don’t have sufficient proof it's real, and we libtards tend to like a bit more evidence before we head to the meme-generator) on the basis not even of a distrust of the man himself, but a fervent dislike of his swivel-eyed fans, and the people out there monetizing their discontent.
The truth is that Clinton and Trump are barely important any more. They (and Bernie, and that dreadful wanker Milo Yiannopoulos, and others) are merely talismans on the tattered flags brandished by sides at war, images of conflicting ideas of what the country — and by extension, the world — should stand for. Perhaps it’s always been that way. But this time it's worse, and the Internet really isn't helping. Social media is becoming increasingly allopathic, continually smashing opposites against each other, crushing reality to dust in the process. That's not taking us anywhere good — and I choose to believe we're far better than this. That there is no wall that we cannot climb over, or knock down... and the most powerful direction of attack is always through a centre line. In the meantime, let's stop dignifying the alt-right with the idea that it's a political position. It's not. It's a psychological condition, born of fear and ignorance, and nurtured on a diet of lies.
On a slightly related note, today represents the fiftieth anniversary of my family first coming to live in the United States, when I was one year old. I am very grateful that this country allowed the huddled mass of the Smith family to settle here: though we were, of course, white and ideologically suitable, which always makes it easier. I know that my mother — an old school feminist, and also involved in the movement to unionize black domestic workers in Florida, a non-trivial enterprise in the South during the late 1960s — would be shocked by how this election demonstrates that issues of race, sexism and homophobia remain front-line battles to be fought on a day-to-day basis. But they are wars that must be won. And they will, eventually. Not through memes, but through hope, patience, and a willingness to walk a long, long road.
Happy Labor Day. Now, let's grill.