No, Steve Bannon Doesn't Think Martin Luther King Would Be 'Proud' Of Trump. He Is A Troll.
He woke up like this.
In an interview that aired Wednesday on the BBC, Steve Bannon went on a ridiculous diatribe about how very enamored Dr. Martin Luther King would be with Donald Trump, were Dr. King alive today.
Martin Luther King "would be proud of" Donald Trump.— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) May 23, 2018
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon insists @realdonaldtrump has done a lot for black and Hispanic people. Full IV tonight 22:30 @BBCTwo #newsnight pic.twitter.com/I1kAYS1jMH
Bannon told BBC anchor Emily Maitlis, “If you look at the policies of Donald Trump, anybody... Martin Luther King would be proud of him, of what he’s done for the black and Hispanic community for jobs,” and then went on to give Trump credit for "the lowest black unemployment rate in history."
Now, we all know it's not entirely Trump's actions we should credit for that, right? We have charts. Charts!
And -- though we are not psychic -- we all feel pretty darn sure sure that, barring some kind of extremely unlikely Jerry Rubin or Eldridge Cleaver transformation, Martin Luther King would hardly be swooning over the likes of Donald Trump. We are also quite sure that Donald Trump -- being the age that he is, and having evaded the draft -- would have had ample opportunity to participate in the civil rights movement in some way while it was actually happening, had he been so inclined, instead of what he did during that time, which was refusing to rent apartments to black people so baldly that he was sued by the Nixon DOJ.
But here's a secret -- Steve Bannon also knows this is bullshit. Steve Bannon is, first and foremost, a troll. He picks the wings off of flies. He does not give 1/8th of a flying shit what Martin Luther King thought about anything, he just knows how to get under the skin of the opposition.
Take a moment and consider this. Can you even imagine a situation in which you would try to convince Steve Bannon, or any conservative, of anything with a quote from Dr. King, or by speculating what Dr. King would think if he were alive today? Of course not. Because you know they do not care.
I am not sure what the ideal response to this kind of trolling is. I, myself, have taken to simply saying "You really shouldn't speak ill of the dead," or "Well, if that's so then I would have to disagree with your imaginary Zombie Dr. King."
The only way in which conservatives are at all invested in Dr. King or anything he ever said is either in the way that they feel it gives them an excuse to blow off racism and chide others for acknowledging that it exists, or to be an asshole. In this instance, Steve Bannon is being an asshole.
In debate, one of the best strategies is to use your opponent's values and sacred cows against them. This is what conservatives are doing when they name their anti-choice clubs after Susan B. Anthony. It is what they are doing when they talk about "free speech" -- and some of them will even admit this, as Nazi trash Richard Spencer did in an interview with fellow Nazi trash Gregory Conte.
Conte said that he thought the alt-right would favor government regulation of speech in the short term, but seemed uncertain about what the alt-right would support long-term.
Conte asked Spencer, “Are we even pro-free speech?”
“No, of course not,” Spencer said. “But we have to use this platform in order—“
“So, we’re being radically honest, here?” Conte asked.
“Yes, radically pragmatic,” Spencer replied.
None of them care about free speech for everybody -- which is why they hate protests and boycotts and love the idea of Donald Trump murdering the free press. Like Richard Spencer, they only value it to the extent that they get their platform. It is not about free speech, it is about a desire for power and social validation.
It's also what they're doing when they use terms like "bullying" to describe being told they just said some messed up shit. When they talk about how liberal publications and colleges are being unfair by not hiring conservative writers and pundits. It is what they are doing when they do their whole "Martin Luther King was a conservative who would have loved Donald Trump" shtick. It is what they do when they try to claim that our political parties never realigned and there was no Southern Strategy, as if there are not still people alive from that era. They do not care about these things, we do.
They poke you and poke you and poke you until they see where you yelp -- or at least where you expend considerable effort into explaining to them why they are wrong -- and then they keep at it. They're like middle school bullies. They feel that they win when we get upset or angry.
Part of the reason they do it is because it riles us up. The other reason is because if they get to take those things away from us or neutralize them, then that gives them power.
We naturally have hand in three areas. One, we are better at art and we are funny. They are not funny and they are bad at art. Two, history is on our side. We were right about women's rights, we were right about civil rights, we were right about gay rights, we were right about Vietnam, we were right about the war in Iraq, and we will continue to go on being right. The people we have to look back to are people worthy of admiration. As much as Martin Luther King was hated in his day, most people today feel that he is essentially unassailable. They desperately, desperately, want dibs on that. Three, in the simplest of terms, we are nice and permissive and they are mean and authoritarian. We value fairness and they value hierarchy. By muddling history and trying to change our narrative into their own in certain ways, they gain hand. We must not let them.
The left, for all our snark and sarcasm, is extremely earnest. That's a good thing. I like that about us. We want things to be good and nice and not shitty. We don't want to play games. We don't like strategy much because we value authenticity. We want to be true to ourselves regardless of whether or not it backfires. The problem with that is that when you are earnest, you assume others are being earnest as well. These people are not, and we need to respond accordingly.
I'm not saying that we should not explain why Steve Bannon is wrong -- we absolutely should, for the benefit of other people who are not Steve Bannon and for the purpose of not letting them control the narrative, but we also must acknowledge when they are being disingenuous and we need to not fall for their bullshit or ever, ever assume they are sincere.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse