“The summer began on May 25, when the police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis, Minnesota, suffocating his pleas for life. Largely peaceful demonstrations followed, and Trump tweeted: ‘These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen.’ He added, ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’” – Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic
As we inch closer to November, the vitriolic nature of political rhetoric is heating up. We, as the public audience of this charade, will continue to be blasted by half-truths, rhetorical sleight-of-hand, and most importantly the age old employment of cheery picking information to create a false narrative bought and sold by lobbyists on each side of the aisle and their mainstream media cohorts. In other words, the battle for the collective mind is at full force and is getting louder with each passing day.
On September 9, The Atlantic ran a story from the nation’s leading “anti-racist” scholar (the same man who made the phrase a household word) Ibram X. Kendi, which characterized the resistance to this summer’s civil unrest as the “violent defense of white male supremacy.” In particular, he points to several specific responses by President Trump of these instances, and then uses them to paint a broad view that any crime committed by white males is subject to a “presumption of innocence…for wealthy cisgender heterosexual white men like Trump.” In his article, he lays out an argument that turns into an anti-Trump election commercial. Complete with evasion of facts and mischaracterizations of events that we saw unfold in edited and redacted forms on MSNBC, CNN, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and yes, even my beloved Atlantic. Like most Americans who were caught in the onslaught of minimal coverage that shaped narratives in the form of “look children, the old orange man is a racist” narratives, Kendi attacks the current administration in covert usage of simple phrases, misleading quotes, misdirected outrage, and politics 101 catch phrases.
In the opening paragraph, he begins his narrative with the above (italicized for emphasis and dramatic effect) quote. Note the line, “largely peaceful demonstrations,” then note the “and Trump tweeted:”. It is important to realize a few things about this early and deliberate example: 1) that in the second paragraph of the article, he has already told you the reader that this is going to be about Trump and his blatant racism. 2) You should be pissed as hell that Trump showed his blatant racism (even though left-leaning media bashes this shit into our brains every friggin’ day), he is already putting misguided information into the article to complete the aforementioned tasks. The truth: Trump was not tweeting about the demonstrations. He was tweeting about the riots that accompanied the demonstrations.
What Kendi does not do is mention the “nearly $82 million in damage sustained during the civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police,” the move by Minneapolis to “no longer require property owners to prepay the second half of their property taxes in order to start removing rubble from sites damaged in the May riots,” the fact that “[i]n the first few days after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, rioters tore through dense stretches of Minneapolis, St. Paul and other metro communities in retaliation, causing millions in property damage to more than 1,500 locations,” and the glaring fact that “[h]eaping violent contempt on an 8 p.m. curfew declaration and on widespread pleas for forbearance and peace, rioters rampaged across Minneapolis for a fourth night Friday [May 29, 2020] and into early Saturday [May 30, 2020], creating unprecedented havoc as they set towering fires, looted and vandalized businesses and shot at police officers, all in response to the death of an unarmed black man under a white police officer’s knee on Monday.”
But when you’re creating and sustaining an orange boogieman, you can’t talk about those things. He wouldn’t be as racist as you’d need him to be.
Kendi then focuses on Officer Derek Chauvin and Youngster Kyle Rittenhouse as the pieces that “bookended the summer of Trumpism.” This tactic also draws the reader away from the intent of those original tweets in response to the riots and instead implies that the real violent provocateurs of the summer were uncontrolled white CIS gendered heterosexual monsters who would of course vote for Trump because they too would simply “grab them by the pussy.”
Kendi also mischaracterizes and leaves out specific information in his relation of the Kyle Rittenhouse story. From his telling, “Kyle Rittenhouse borrowed an AR-15-style assault rifle from a friend and allegedly fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony M. Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz. These three people had been demonstrating in Kenosha, Wisconsin, against the police shooting of Jacob Blake two days earlier.” What Kendi does not mention is that these three victims were NOT demonstrators or protestors. These three men were part of a group of activists that were intent on setting fire to local businesses in Kenosha. They were not there to peacefully protest the systemic violence against minorities or to demonstrate against the shooting of an unarmed black man. They were there to riot and destroy property.
Oh, and they were WHITE.
Kendi ties all of this to revolt against an America that does not belong to him.
The three long, hot months from May 25 to August 25 compressed 413 years of American history into a cellphone video in which anyone could easily see the history for what it has always been: the violent “self-defense” of white male supremacy. Colonialism, capitalism, slavery and slave trading, Indian removal, manifest destiny, colonization, the Ku Klux Klan, Chinese exclusion, disenfranchisement, Jim Crow, eugenics, massive resistance, ‘law and order,’ Islamophobia, family separation—all were done in the name of defending life or civilization or freedom.
This is done by design. In order for the argument to work, he must bring in historical precedence to show that Rittenhouse, Chauvin, and Trump are all a part of a long line of white men who wake up everyday with the clear intent of killing black people. That white men themselves are the ultimate enemy, and only Joe Biden can save us from them (even though he is a CIS gendered white heterosexual male).
But this rhetorical play to disillusion the American public about what the real story is can also be found in another article in the Atlantic cloaked cleverly in a review of the HBO film Coastal Elites. In this article, Hannah Giorgis criticizes the film as depicting an unreal critique of liberal elites that has become old and passé:
Their provincialism is the real ill plaguing the country, Coastal Elites argues—never mind the ravages of COVID-19, the steady violence of a racist criminal-justice system, or the worsening threat to voting access. The film, which airs tonight, instead fixates on the problem of ambient divisiveness and offers naive takeaways. If the headstrong liberals of California and the Northeast corridor would simply listen to the everyman of the heartland, Coastal Elites posits, perhaps we’d all be a little less hysterical.
In other words, if Hannah Giorgis would simply ask why Tucker Carlson is #1 in cable news, she might see that this critique is still relevant – and it will most likely get Trump re-elected since the “coastal elites” still don’t understand that the middle American is still pissed, hungry, and not buying their bullshit.
She also, like Kendi, drudges up the same rhetoric that liberal news outlets have been hammering for the last four years. Yeah, we know Trump is narcissistic, yeah we know that the liberals are terrified that Trump won’t leave if he loses, yeah we know he’s a racist, yeah we know he’s orange, blah, blah, blah.
Hidden in both of these articles is a real fear that the movement that defined the summer is losing steam – because it is. BLM “protestors” are being infiltrated by antifa extremists (just like Occupy was) and the once peaceful movement that promised real systemic observations and change is now being seen by the heartland as a metropolitan anarchist force that threatens to not take away their freedom, but their security and belief systems. The middle American is not buying this narrative that the liberal media is writing. Again, that can be seen in the sheer number of people who are tuning into Tucker Carlson every night verses Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper.
So the rhetoric is heating up. And will continue to heat up. The narratives are going to get further away from the truth, the anxiety that will be reported will increase, and no one will be listening to the real voices screaming for help because, lets face it, this isn’t about how racist Trump may or may not be. This is about power. And it looks like, once again, the liberals are realizing that they overplayed their hand too quickly.