Fetch Smelling Salts For The New York Times! By A Doctor Of Rhetoric
The New York Times has published yet another installment in its infuriating series "We Sold Our Moral Compass For These Magic Impartial Beans" yesterday, with a news analysis piece explaining that the public discourse around Donald Trump's immigration policy has become intolerably coarse. On the one hand, for instance, you have the "president" openly echoing Nazi propaganda and saying Democrats want "illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country." Oh, dear, but in response, people are using four-letter words, putting "president" in scare quotes, and even pointing out that Nazi Germany literally compared Jews to vermin, and isn't that a shocking development?
My goodness, it is truly disheartening that things on both sides have come to such a pass, though we must note that reporters Peter Baker and Katie Rogers daintily concede Trump may bear a bit of responsibility, somehow. Mostly for his language, as if the actual policy of taking migrant children away had nothing to do with why people are cussin':
Mr. Trump's coarse discourse increasingly seems to inspire opponents to respond with vituperative words of their own. Whether it be Robert De Niro's four-letter condemnation at the Tony Awards or a congressional intern who shouted the same word at Mr. Trump when he visited the Capitol this week, the president has generated so much anger among his foes that some are crossing boundaries that he himself shattered long ago.
Egad. As usual, NYT's tweet promoting the story somehow manages to distill the both-sidesism into pearl-clutching self-parody:
The contagion of incivility: President Trump says undocumented immigrants want to “infest” the United States. His c… https://t.co/5104KRIXA7— NYT Politics (@NYT Politics) 1529545862.0
The actual article checks in with Georgetown business management professor Christine Porath, who writes about being civil in the workplace. She too is shaking her damn head at the unfortunate consequences of all this mean talk:
Unfortunately, we've seen a decline in civility and an uptick in incivility [...] It seems like people are not only reciprocating, but we tend to stoop lower rather than higher. It's really putting us in an unfortunate place.
We aren't certain we buy that claim, since many people have in fact responded to Trump's immigration policies by appealing to our better angels, saying things like "America should be better than to take crying children and put them in prisons where workers aren't allowed to comfort them, you fucker."
And then there's this paragraph, which wisely avoids any mention of Trump's actual policies toward migrants and instead looks only at the derogatory tone:
Mr. Trump's descriptions of those trying to enter the country illegally have been so sharp that critics say they dehumanize people and lump together millions of migrants with the small minority that are violent. This approach traces back to the day Mr. Trump first announced his campaign for president in 2015, when he labeled many Mexican immigrants as "rapists," a portrayal that drew furious protests.
The piece then goes on to catalog Mr. Trump's many calumnies of political opponents, and notes, correctly enough, that he thrives on being as outrageous as possible, while his Republican primary opponents had little success responding with nastiness of their own. But oh, dear, Trump's shamelessness appears to have infected even those who protest him!
The emotional exchanges that feel so raw online play out in person too. Outside an arena in Duluth, Minn., where the president was speaking on Wednesday night, protesters waved signs that said "My Grandpa Didn't Fight Nazis for This" and "Liar. Racist. Fascist. Sociopath. Twitter Troll. Idiot."
Supporters of the president responded with their own messaging. "Hillary Clinton Killed My Friends," read a man's T-shirt outside the rally, without explanation.
The article does at least offer -- a bit disdainfully -- some space to those who point out maybe there's something beyond Trump's tone to cuss about:
Some liberals bristle at the idea that they should hold back in the face of what they consider an inhumane or authoritarian presidency. Jessica Valenti, a columnist for Guardian U.S. and the author of multiple books on feminism, politics and culture, said restraint played into Mr. Trump's hands.
"Expecting those of us who are scared and angry over what our country is becoming to speak with civility is absurd — civility died the day Trump took office," she wrote. "It's like telling a woman to smile as she's being sexually harassed on the street: We're not just supposed to put up with injustice, we're meant to be cheerful through it, as well."
Ya think? We're then treated to a discussion of whether it's overkill to compare Trump's actions and policy to Nazism, because after all, he hasn't yet actually murdered anyone (except a still-unknown total of Puerto Ricans, but that was more deliberate neglect, golly). To at least their partial credit, Baker and Rogers acknowledge that the comparison seems apt to at least some whose experience of the Third Reich wasn't just rhetorical:
Two Holocaust survivors, however, posted a video testimonial this week talking about the impact of being separated from their parents. "Let's be clear: We are not comparing what is happening today to the Holocaust," they said in a statement. "But forcibly separating children from their parents is an act of cruelty under all circumstances."
In conclusion, we would just like to point out that cancelling your New York Times subscription and giving your money to Wonkette isn't merely a good idea: it would make you part of a MOVEMENT.
Plus, we do way gooder rhetorical analysis here.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.