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Westlake Legal Group > Climate Change

How Trump appeals to unspeakable emotions

Denial: The Unspeakable Truth by Keith Kahn-Harris

Anyone who takes the faintest interest in politics is bound to wonder why, while behaving in a manner so loutish, shameless and disrespectful of conventional wisdom, Donald Trump has managed to form such a close bond with the American public.

Keith Kahn-Harris touches only in passing on that question, yet succeeds in casting much light on it.

His book has the merit of being short. He examines a phenomenon – the yearning to deny various commonly accepted positions – which could have spawned a treatise of inordinate length.

He manages to write not much more than an extended essay by selecting only a few examples of denial. These include denial of the Holocaust, of the harm done by tobacco, of the link between HIV and AIDS, and of man-made climate change.

One may question how much in common with each other these denials have. The Holocaust has already taken place, while climate change is to a large extent a series of predictions about the future.

And denialism (a term he admits to be “terrible”) as a form of non-argument, where one refuses to listen to the opposing point of view or to take into account strong opposing evidence, and is instead driven by inner compulsions of one’s own, has also been seen quite a bit during our own referendum campaign.

In his frivolous youth, Kahn-Harris tells us in his preface, he developed a love of “nonsense dressed up as scholarship”, and revelled in the “portentous ludicrousness” of books such as Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, which in the 1970s contended that aliens had visited earth and inspired the glories of ancient civilisations.

Kahn-Harris’s Jewish upbringing meant he was conscious of the Holocaust from an early age, but when he heard of people who denied it had ever happened, this too “was all a big joke to me”.

It is easier to be heartless in one’s teens than later on, when he begins to worry that those who challenge “real scholarship” are helping  “something deeply poisonous” to grow, and to produce “diseased fruit in our ‘post-truth’ age”.

In some ways, I prefer the earlier and more heartless Kahn-Harris, who shrieks with laughter at the flat earthers and other cranks he comes across. For as he himself says, these people yearn to be taken seriously, and one should be wary of paying them that compliment.

But one advantage of taking them seriously is that he starts to see that they are not just liberals who have somehow gone astray, and only need a bit of education in order to enable them to perceive the truth:

“Denialism is not a barrier to acknowledging a common moral foundation, it is a barrier to acknowledging moral differences… Denialism arises from being in an impossible bind: holding to desires, values, ideologies and morals that cannot be openly spoken of.”

Later on, Kahn-Harris remarks that “all denialists share a burning desire to continue to appear decent while rejecting the path of decency”.  They cannot say what they really want, and

“politics becomes a kind of shadow play, in which – shorn of of real discussions of real differences – all that is left is a battle over who can really claim the mantle of righteousness, who can rightly claim to embody the values we all sign up to.”

We are all, he points out, anti-racists now. The anti-Zionist Left vehemently rejects any idea that it might be anti-semitic. Holocaust deniers similarly reject with indignation the charge that they hate Jews, and indeed find themselves adopting the ludicrous position that Hitler was pro-Jewish, for after all, in their version of events, the Nazis were not actually evil and the Jews were not actually killed.

Kahn-Harris sees “the pathos, the desperation and the fierce hope” that undergird denialist tracts – qualities one is liable to miss if one just debunks such works as ludicrously unscientific and unscholarly.

And here one starts to see Trump’s appeal. There is no way to be a polite racist. It is an inherently rude position, and in, for example, his attacks on Mexicans, Trump embraces that rudeness, revels in it, is authentically and genuinely loutish, appalls respectable society and thus convinces his supporters that he is on their side.

I have just been reading about the Mexican War of 1846-48, in which the United States made vast gains of territory at the expense of an enfeebled Mexico, which was provoked into war, fought bravely but was thrashed by well-led American forces with superior equipment. It was in many ways a disgraceful affair, and people like Abraham Lincoln said at the time that it was disgraceful.

But at the same time, a strong moral case was made for the expansion. It was, the Democratic Review declared in 1845, “the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”

The war was popular – democratic, one might say – and no one supposed afterwards that these gains stretching all the way to the Pacific, including what became the states of California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, and a southern border pushed down to the Rio Grande, should be handed back.

One of the heroes of the war, General Zachary Taylor, who had no political experience, was adopted as a presidential candidate in the election of 1848, which he proceeded to win.

Kahn-Harris does not go in to this history, and if he had done his book would have become unmanageable. But he does observe that denialists have beliefs which used to be regarded as morally defensible and now are not.

In the old days, one could win presidential elections thanks to one’s heroic record in unequal wars waged against native Americans and Mexicans. Today one cannot advocate that kind of thing. But Trump, with brutal skill, knows how to show whose side he is on. He is a more traditional figure than his opponents, whose outlook is usually bounded by their own lifetimes, tend to realise.

Throughout his essay, Kahn-Harris touches on the pleasure to be derived from shocking people, behaving in an outrageous fashion, claiming to be in possession of arcane information, and throwing one’s opponents off balance by saying things they never imagined could be said. Trump has a genius for that kind of performance.

At  the end of his essay, Kahn-Harris admits his book has not been particularly helpful in showing how denialism should be dealt with. He attempts, rather unconvincingly, to frame messages for Holocaust deniers and global warming deniers.

But his purpose is to understand, not to cure, and his essay can be recommended not just to anyone interested in denialism, but to anyone dismayed by the narrow limits within which our political debates take place.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

And then there were 47: Billionaire impeachment fanatic Tom Steyer won’t be a candidate for president

Westlake Legal Group ts And then there were 47: Billionaire impeachment fanatic Tom Steyer won’t be a candidate for president Tom Steyer The Blog self-funded progressive primary impeachment Elizabeth Warren democratic Climate Change billionaire

A legit surprise. The guy’s spent the past two years using the prospect of impeaching Trump as a cheap ‘n easy way to build a national liberal donor list. He’s flirted with running for office before too, nearly jumping into the race for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in California a few years ago before passing. With every Democrat in the country who’s ever been on television apparently running for president this year, it seemed a cinch that Steyer would throw his hat in and compete with Mike Bloomberg and Howard Schultz to see which billionaire liberal would be the first to get to two percent in a national primary poll.

Nope. Even his advisors were caught off-guard.

Mr. Steyer’s decision came as a surprise even to some of his political confidants. He had made deliberate preparations in recent months to seek the White House, running television ads in the early primary states, recruiting potential staff members and even designating a campaign manager for a possible run.

But Mr. Steyer began informing aides early this week that he would not be a candidate after all, after concluding that he could have a greater political impact through his impeachment activism, several advisers to Mr. Steyer said. Mr. Steyer intends to spend at least $40 million on impeachment efforts in the coming year — money that might otherwise have been directed toward a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He’d already lined up a campaign-manager-in-waiting and had posted job listings on LinkedIn for his coming national operation. It’s true that he had obvious liabilities for a Democratic primary — he’s a “wealthy white man,” warns the NYT — but he also had arguments to counter most of them. Annoyed that Steyer got rich running a hedge fund that invested in fossil-fuel companies? Well, until Trump got elected he was best known to the left for his big-bucks advocacy on fighting climate change. He caresWestlake Legal Group 2122 And then there were 47: Billionaire impeachment fanatic Tom Steyer won’t be a candidate for president Tom Steyer The Blog self-funded progressive primary impeachment Elizabeth Warren democratic Climate Change billionaire   ! Irked at the spectacle of an oligarch like Steyer pouring endless millions into his campaign while other candidates are forced to rely on people power and small donations? Okay, but until recently Steyer had been the single biggest Democratic donor in the country for multiple election cycles. “I’ve been generous in using my wealth to help this party succeed because I believed in its vision for America,” he could have said, sincerely. “I’m funding my own campaign generously because I believe in my own vision.” Plenty of Democratic voters would have bought that.

So what steered him away from the race? Hmmm:

An adviser to Mr. Steyer, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations with him, said that he had been unruffled by [Elizabeth] Warren’s attacks on billionaire candidates. But, the adviser said, Mr. Steyer was impressed by Ms. Warren’s rollout as a candidate and suggested that her announcement video channeled the very themes he had been planning to campaign on.

She’s “channeling” the same left-wing economic populist themes that literally every other Democrat will be running on. What did Steyer think was going to happen in a primary? Everyone would run as Clinton-esque centrists and he’d have the left to himself?

I thought he’d run next year if for no other reason than to raise his public profile ahead of a future run for governor or senator in California. He’d have been a long-longshot in a national primary even with millions being dumped into his campaign but he might have made a good impression and then leveraged that in 2024 when Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat comes up again. She’s 85 and probably now in her final Senate term; Steyer’s just 61 and can afford to wait. He’d have to have made an awfully good impression in 2020 for voters to remember him four years later, though. And frankly he would have been better off challenging Feinstein last year, when the left was sniffing around for a progressive insurgent capable of knocking off a Washington mainstay who’s far too centrist for their tastes. Lefty concerns about Steyer self-funding would have been far more muted in a race against DiFi. I can’t figure why he would have passed on that race and then passed on the presidential primary too if he really wants to run for office. Presumably he’ll try to play kingmaker now instead, bankrolling some lucky Democratic contender who, upon being elected president, will reward him with … what?

To give you a sense of what we’ll be missing out on, here’s a reminder of how Steyer’s org “celebrated” Mother’s Day this year. Exit question via the lefty site Splinter: Is spending another $40 million to promote impeachment among American voters, not one of whom will have a direct say on impeachment, really the best political use of that money? Forty large is a *lot* of dough to waste on virtue-signaling.

The post And then there were 47: Billionaire impeachment fanatic Tom Steyer won’t be a candidate for president appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group ts-300x153 And then there were 47: Billionaire impeachment fanatic Tom Steyer won’t be a candidate for president Tom Steyer The Blog self-funded progressive primary impeachment Elizabeth Warren democratic Climate Change billionaire   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sunday morning talking heads: Border-wall shutdown, 2020, Syria, and climate change

Westlake Legal Group 6bbd462e-1f93-4958-ad08-e5d1c8279a85 Sunday morning talking heads: Border-wall shutdown, 2020, Syria, and climate change The Blog immigration Government Shutdown donald trump Climate Change Border wall 2020 election

It’s the end of the year, but other than on CBS, looking back won’t be a major theme on the Sunday morning shows today. Three of the five shows will have backup anchors in the final weekend of 2018, but the topics will focus more on 2019 than 2018, and perhaps even more on 2020 than 2018 too.

The ongoing shutdown fight over funding for the border wall will certainly come up. On ABC, fill-in anchor Martha Raddatz will grill CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan on border security and the deaths of two children in US custody this month. ABC roundtable participant Reihan Salam appears to discuss his argument against open borders, which should make things very lively on immigration. Donald Trump’s political consigliere Kellyanne Conway drops in on CNN and Fox, presumably to affirm that Trump’s not bluffing on the shutdown. CBS and CNN have several members from Capitol Hill on hand, presumably to discuss legislative options in the next session of Congress.

Trump’s withdrawal from Syria will no doubt take up some of those discussions as well. ABC will talk with former Afghanistan-theater commander Stanley McChrystal, while Dana Bash will talk with GOP hawk Lindsey Graham on CNN. If 2019 is too short term for anyone, there should be some presidential-election chit-chat as well. Michael Bloomberg will lead off NBC’s Climate Change Hour (no, not kidding), while Terry McAuliffe drops in on CNN for no other discernible reason. For that matter, so does former Bernie Sanders press secretary Symone Sanders.

If retrospectives are your thing, though, stick with CBS and their “historians panel.” Or take a peek at CNN’s Reliable Sources for a year-end perspective on #MeToo with Ronan Farrow, who demolished his credibility on the topic with a political smear job on Brett Kavanaugh. Don’t expect too much scrutiny on that point from Brian Stelter, though.

  • ABC’s This Week — Martha Raddatz sits in for George Stephanopoulos; CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan; Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); Gen. Stanley McChrystal; roundtable with Mary Bruce, Matthew Dowd, Mary Jordan, Reihan Salam.
  • CBS’ Face the Nation — Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Jon Tester (D-MT); Gayle Smith; historians roundtable with Peter Baker, Michael Beschloss, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jill Lepore.
  • CNN’s State of the Union — Dana Bash sits in for Jake Tapper; Kellyanne Conway; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Terry McAuliffe (D-VA); roundtable with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rick Santorum, Linda Chavez, Symone Sanders.
  • Fox News Sunday — Sandra Smith sits in for Chris Wallace; Kellyanne Conway; Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA); Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed el-Erian; roundtable with Marc Thiessen, Anne Gearan, Philippe Reines, Charles Hurt.
  • NBC’s Meet the Press — Michael Bloomberg; Jerry Brown; roundtable with Craig Fugate, Kate Marvel, Rep. Carlos Cubelo (R-FL), Michèle Flournoy.

The post Sunday morning talking heads: Border-wall shutdown, 2020, Syria, and climate change appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group 6bbd462e-1f93-4958-ad08-e5d1c8279a85-300x153 Sunday morning talking heads: Border-wall shutdown, 2020, Syria, and climate change The Blog immigration Government Shutdown donald trump Climate Change Border wall 2020 election   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com