Trumping America

by Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis –

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Donald Trump is the face of a political system mired in corruption, an economic system that is as ruthless as it is authoritarian, and a culture that has lost its critical embrace of historical memory. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Donald Trump lit up the mainstream media spectacle by stating in his presidential candidacy announcement, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (1) The mainstream press could not let such an opportune racist outburst go unnoticed. After all, it was perfect fodder for fueling the corporate media’s never-ending spectacle of entertainment. Mouthed from one of America’s favorite billionaire buffoons, his racist and xenophobic statements have been defended as brave, dismissed as uncivil, or set aside  as the colorful discourse of a cantankerous, rich eccentric. Such commentary collapses into the realm of the personal by privatizing racism. That is, it ignores the deep-seated contours of systemic racism and xenophobia and the conditions that promote it, instead focusing on the individual who spouts such poisonous racist language. Rather than viewing Trump’s comments as a political virus that has deep roots in nativist apoplexy and a long legacy of racism and state violence, his despicable remarks are reduced to an uncivil rant by a bullying member of the billionaire class with no reference to the unmarked status of white privilege and its underlying logic of white supremacy.  Such commentary at its core is superficial, duplicitous, and represents a flight from responsibility and a politics of denial.

Not only did mainstream media replay Trump’s statements over and over again, without any serious criticism, but also they filled the 24/7 news cycle with endless interviews in which Trump defended his remarks, proving the obvious about his arrogance and stupidity. Treated more as an indication of Trump’s no-holds-barred personality than as another example of the myth of the United States’ claim to the comfortable status of an alleged postracial society, Trump’s remarks were viewed as indiscrete and colorful rather than symptomatic of the racial hatred lying beneath the culture of dominant politics.

The racial cleansing machine was in full operating mode as the dominant media apparatuses rushed to interview a variety of faux commentators about how they felt about Trump’s remarks with little attempt to take the high ground and challenge many of the remarks that were made. On the contrary, the only truth or sense of injustice displayed by CNN, NBC, CBS and other major news outlets lies in the assumption that the meaning of any issue rests with making sure that the public is exposed to a narrow array of views in the interest of balance and journalistic objectivity.

According to this logic, balance – not morality, justice or evidence – is the ultimate arbiter of truth. Hence, Trump’s vicious, racist remarks enabled the mainstream media to let the American people hear from Sen. Ted Cruz who argued that he liked Donald Trump and was glad he was bringing attention to the issue of “illegal immigration.” (2) Former Sen. Rick Santorum joined Cruz in praising Trump for focusing on “illegal immigration,” absent of any serious criticism of his racist remarks. (3) Other conservative politicians such as Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Gov. Rick Perry condemned Trump’s remarks but nothing was said in the press about how they had played a key role in supporting legislation that was both vicious and racist. (4)

A Long History of Racist Political Candidates

Liberals denounced Trump but said little about the history of both major parties in which policies were developed that undermined the welfare system, created the racist incarceration state and supported a tough-on-crime drug war that decimated Black communities. For instance, Jonathan Chait seems less concerned about a Republican Party that has promoted a number of racist policies such as trying to disable the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and militarizing the southern border than he is about “conservative thought leaders [who] feel compelled to defend Trump’s nativist ramblings.” (5) Chait’s confusion is evident in the title of his article, “Why Are Conservatives Defending Donald Trump?” which should read “Should We Be Surprised That Conservatives Are Defending Donald Trump?”



Reprinted with permission from Truthout