Kepner Revisited

Back in November, 2017, I wrote a piece regarding what seemed to me to be an under-commented upon element of the role I thought the media had played in Donald Trump’s successful run for the presidency (Tyler Kepner: Trump’s Best Hope For 2020). In it I attempted to make the point that a predominantly left leaning press might well have contributed to the ranks of Trump supporters through a combination of rigidly harsh moralization and condescending virtue signaling. Recently the texting of Sarah Jeong, and more important, the disgusting excuse making on the part of her employer, and pathetic rationalizations courtesy of members of the academic elite have brought again to my mind the broader issues of media bias, collateral involvement of the “intellectual” class and the potential for additional unintended political consequence. Just guessing here, but I’d imagine that most, if not all, of the players involved are fervently opposed to the president and as such you’d think they would be aware of how much it is that the crap they’re engaged in buttresses his support as well as turning off potential voters who might otherwise help run him out of office the next time the job is up for grabs. The people I engage with on a regular basis that voted for Trump demonstrate a broad variety of personality traits, educational accomplishments, and beliefs. I know voters of the president who barely completed high school. I also know supporters of his whose latest academic achievement came in the form of being named chief resident at the hospital that served as their post graduate training in medicine. I have, in a variety of arenas (work, the gym, neighbors, etc.), been exposed to some that represent the very worst of the associated stereotypes and have also met a few folks that have a political history that could not reasonably have led me to guess that they would have helped elect Mr. Trump. Within the context of my (admittedly limited) interactions I have come into contact with a panalopy of cognitive, religious and social perspectives. There are a few areas of strong commonality. Leading with what has already been discussed to death, there is a near uniformity in absolute disgust with the political establishment on the part of those in the Trump camp. In a close second place is a distrust (with varying levels) of the media. I am not simply attributing the immediately preceding characteristics to those that have been tarred with the more unpleasant brush of narrow mindedness that is too often ascribed to the entirety of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement. I am saying that the Trump backers that are a part of my daily life all seem to demonstrate the same general disdain for the press and elected officials, regardless of how differently they might feel about any other number of things. If you’re invested in turning The Donald into a one term wonder you ignore the specific nature of the few genuinely universal ideas I just mentioned at your own peril. In fact we can probably add one more to the list, in the form of a specific distaste for the purveyors of higher education, even while maintaining an appreciation for education in and of itself. I have had more than a few conversations with parents of patients who express their concern over being able to find a college for their child that can give them the education they’re looking for without an accompanying lecture on the virtues of Mao’s Little Red Book. This distrust of academia has been demonstrated to me by people whose education extended for years past the college level as often as by those without any schooling after 12th grade. I suppose I should take this a step at a time.

As I wrote above, the issue of disgust with that which comprises establishment politics has received more coverage than is humanly imaginable in the last thirty months or so and I can’t imagine adding much of value to it at the moment. Not that I would let that stop me from throwing in a pennies worth of my two cents. In my conversations with Trump voters, at some point a discussion of his actual political skills (or lack thereof) will yield some variation on the theme of “he isn’t any worse than the rest of them”. Thinking of that sentiment in light of what this man actually is worse than (in my estimation), reveals a section of the populace which has effectively given up on the idea that an elected official can be expected to behave in a way which might qualify them as anything but sentient garbage. That’s troubling for many reasons, not the least of which is that it makes our politics more brazenly transactive. Sort of the general modus operandi of, well, you know who. If you’re reading this as a member of a more left leaning school of thought you can stop patting yourself on the back now. Years spent looking the other way on Clinton Foundation malfeasance, Paul Pelosi’s shenanigans and a list of congressional insider-ish trades which would kill off half the Amazon to fully document, helped set the stage for this long, national race to the bottom, and you were part of it. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this strong, generally negative view of politicians as a group is specifically beneficial to President Trump, but it does dampen the negative impact of the majority of what would otherwise be the sort of behavior that should have essentially denied him even a whiff of elected office. If our political leaders didn’t already have a lengthy history of self dealing ugliness and casual contempt for us, this guy would never have gotten a scintilla of traction as a candidate. If you think I’m blowing things out of proportion make yourself a list of the assorted miscreants, reprobates and imbeciles who’ve managed to hold a national office in just the last thirty years or so. Ted Stevens (the bridge to nowhere), Henry Aldridge (rape victims don’t get pregnant), and Maxine Waters (south central L.A. looters were just trying to get diapers for their babies) are just three losers off the top of my head, who in a variety of ways do a nice job of representing the qualities I indicated in the unflattering list I used to introduce them. Given a little more time I, or anyone else so motivated , could easily come up with another fifty names without really breaking a sweat. Frankly it’s a wonder that it took so long for a sufficiently sized chunk of the electorate to throw in the towel on the concept of moral turpitude and consider voting to be a process entirely divorced from the notion of character on the part of the candidates.

The second issue I referred to was mistrust of the media. This is a touchy subject for many people I have had otherwise normal conversations with. I don’t want to rehash the creeping bias of the last quarter century in the news arena, and it wouldn’t go any where anyway. The vast majority of us have our minds set on who started it and who is or isn’t doing it, and I don’t see myself adding much to that particular barroom brawl. Suffice it to say that we now have, generally speaking, a news industry that has largely divided along the lines of political partisanship. Under these circumstances it isn’t shocking that most of the population doesn’t believe most of what they read or hear at any time. The phrase “fake news” isn’t really a new idea. It feels like more of a recent manifestation of an already well established business practice. There is a secondary level of bias which works just as well as a source of alienation to the average Trump voter. The double standard that a paper like The New York Times uses when it hired Sarah Jeong in August is not likely to sit well with the POTUS 45 gang. It should disgust anyone of good will. In case you missed it Ms. Jeong was brought on board the NYT as a science writer. It quickly became public knowledge that she did not seem to like white people, or men in general. She had a history of what could be reasonably described as unhinged racial animus expressed with a frequency that would preclude the possibility of interpreting any of her inflammatory tweets as an out-of-character episode. To list a few: “dumb assed fucking white people. Marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants”, “#cancelwhitepeople”, “it’s sick how much joy I get from being cruel to old white men”. Now the Times is a private enterprise and free to do as it sees fit. I wouldn’t want them to fire Ms. Jeong to satisfy an angry mob. But I am left more than a bit curious as to why they were able get past her ugliness but felt compelled to part ways with Quinn Norton. Ms. Norton had been tapped to write opinion pieces covering tech (must be something about that subject) earlier this year and was canned before she even got in the door as her own history using anti-gay slurs on Twitter came to light, as well as a disquieting friendship she had with Andrew Aurenheimer, a white supremacist. Deciding to part ways with Norton was absolutely the Time‘s prerogative. I’m just curious as to what motivated such different treatment in two more than casually similar cases. And I suppose I should inform the reader; I didn’t vote for Trump. If this kind of crap is getting on my nerves, one has to wonder what its impact might be on some of his more ardent supporters. In particular, to those who adhere more closely to the less pleasant attributes than the Times, and other periodicals have ascribed to them.

The third part of this philosophical Venn diagram is the suspicion as to the intent of those in higher education, even while trying to see to it that their children are well educated. As luck would have it the incident involving Ms. Jeong provides a nice segue into the uglier side of academia via the asinine drivel spouted on her behalf by University of Arizona associate professor Nolan Cabrera, PHD. Doctor Cabrera asserts that Jeong’s racist views can only be seen as such because they’d been “decontextualized and ahistorified.” He saw the reaction to her as “manufactured outrage.” It’s impossible for me to see that as anything other than an attempt to dress up what is not unlikely to be his own bigotry in the most clinical vocabulary possible. I’ve raised this issue in terms of parental anxiety because that’s how it was expressed to me. Here’s another perspective which should put this in an even uglier light. What might it be like to actually be the student that has to sit in a classroom with some vile piece of shit like Cabrera standing up front? Not daring to call him on his nonsense because he’s in charge of giving you a grade, at the very least. If you’re reading this as a current supporter of the president I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here. If you’re someone who’s had their (in my opinion) reasonable antipathy for him morph into a persistent disdain for those that chose him in 2016 you’ve picked an odd way to dislodge people from that position. I still believe that the general scorn heaped upon their heads solidified their commitment to him in the first election. I don’t see any reason to believe that the results will be dramatically different next time. I myself won’t be voting for him. But I know people who are prone to contextualizing away racism, and aren’t shy about their own sense of intellectual and moral superiority and I can’t see myself awash in empathy over their predictable misery if this president gets a second term.

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