Nel's New Day

September 6, 2017

Fight Authoritarianism with Humor

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

My partner and I get together every afternoon and talk. I drink scotch, and she drinks fruit juice. We start out with each of us listing three good things that happened to us during the day and then continue with wherever the conversation leads. I sometimes talk about what I’ve been reading, and she asks questions that makes me want to delve further into the topic. Often, the subject is politics, yesterday the tragedy of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rescinding DACA, work permits for children brought illegally and involuntarily into the United States. I segued into how stupid DDT looked when he was trying to load a pickup for a photo op. She asked why it mattered, and we launched into the importance of ridicule to oppose authoritarians.

[Anti-fascist protesters in Wurzen, Germany, last week. Markus Keine/NurPhoto via Getty Images.]

Today, the New York Times published Tina Rosenberg’s opinion piece, “Neo-Nazis in Your Streets? Send in the (Coup Clutz) Clowns,” that followed our discussion. Here are excerpts:

In Olympia, Wash., in 2005, a march of about a dozen brown-shirted neo-Nazis was met by protesting clowns, goose-stepping, Nazi-style. Hundreds of counterprotesters turned the occasion into a celebration of diversity and unity.

Two years later in Knoxville, Tenn., residents countered a white supremacist march with a hastily assembled group calling itself the Coup Clutz Clowns. The clowns pretended not to understand the shouts of “White power!”

“White flour?” the clowns cried, throwing some in the air. “White flower? Tight shower? Wife power!” For wife power, some of them put on wedding dresses.

And in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C., clowns protesting a far-right march held up “Dwight Power!” signs, evoking the Charlotte Hornets player Dwight Howard.

Responding to far-right demonstrators with mockery originated in Europe, where one outstanding recent example took place in the German town of Wunsiedel. Unable to dislodge annual marches with ordinary counterprotests, the town took a new tack in 2014. For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, the town donated 10 euros to an organization that helped people leave right-wing extremist groups. Residents hung silly signs along the route and threw confetti at the end, leaving the neo-Nazis responsible for raising $12,000 against their own cause.

Humor has a long and honored place in American politics as well.

And counterintuitive though it may seem, ridicule and mockery have long been an effective way to disarm protesters who espouse bigotry and racial supremacy. If you want to resist those who would stir up violence, using humor is more effective than staying at home when they march, and far better than rewarding their provocations with a melee in the streets.

Here’s what white supremacists want to do when they stage a rally:

  • Legitimize their views.
  • Strengthen their self-image as part of the downtrodden.
  • Unite their squabbling factions.
  • Attract new people to the movement.
  • Control media coverage.
  • Feel powerful and heroic.

They can accomplish all of those goals when the Antifa, or anti-fascists, respond to violence by throwing fists or rocks.

“For the far-right groups, violence is central to their way of looking at the world,” said Peter Simi, associate professor of sociology at Chapman University. “The idea of having violent confrontation and conflicts fuels and energizes them. They feed off it.

“It also helps perpetuate their own narrative about victimization and persecution —‘Look, we can’t even have a free speech rally without being attacked.’ ”

For the same reasons that violence by counter-protesters helps the far right, mockery hurts. “Ridicule makes the far right look less attractive to the type of people they want to attract,” said Cas Mudde, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “There’s a sizable portion who are there for the thrill. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the broader ideology, but they really enjoy the potential violence. They want to feel dangerous and important. They don’t want to feel like part of a sketch.” He thinks that’s true for the Antifa as well.

After all, which plan is more attractive to young macho men? “We’ll face a small group of masked tough guys” or “We’ll face a large number of men, women and children wearing silly hats and big red noses”?

Humor and mockery are also good strategies for classic political protest — whether against politicians who enable white supremacists, or policies like tax cuts for the rich.

Founded in 1980 as part of the Solidarity movement, [the Orange Alternative in Communist Poland] specialized in surrealist protest, often conducted by people in orange garden gnome costumes. At a protest in 1988, 10,000 people marched wearing gnome hats. One of the group’s common tactics was to mock the state through exaggerated obedience.

On Poland’s annual day honoring the secret police (you can’t make this stuff up), the Orange Alternative carried banners and posters proclaiming complete devotion: “Love the People’s Police!” “Long Life to Undercover Agents!” During the annual celebration of the Russian Revolution, the group shouted Bolshevik slogans, and during a state-supported referendum in the city of Wroclaw, Orange Alternative marchers chanted “Vote Yes Twice!” as they called for a “200 percent voter turnout.”

The police found themselves in a conundrum. They couldn’t let the protesters continue. But by making arrests, they acknowledged that no one could possibly believe in the Communist orthodoxy — and anyone who said they did must have been joking. Most Poles already knew that, of course, but the Orange Alternative forced the state authorities to make it visible.

All of these organizations changed people’s thinking by putting familiar ideas into a disorienting new context….

Soon Congress will be considering proposals to drastically cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor. What’s the message? “No tax cuts for the rich”? “Protect social services”?

Better to do what Billionaires for Bush did during the George W. years. Put on your (fake) mink stole and pearls, or don your tux — look fabulously wealthy, or just fabulous. Carry a cardboard Rolls-Royce door or a Champagne glass and hold a sign that says “Pools, not schools.” Or “Only little people pay taxes.”

The group adopted a logo that cast the Republican Party’s elephant as a piggy bank and described itself as a “grass-roots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses and Halliburton C.E.O.s.” When President Bush made privatization of Social Security the flagship issue of his second term, the Billionaires, tired of waiting, put Social Security on eBay.

It seems too basic to even say, but the rule is violated again and again: Successful political activists are strategic. They ask: “What will reach, and motivate or convince, the people we need?”

Very often, the answer is: Make ’em laugh.

DDT said that he rejected the Paris Agreement because he didn’t want people in the world to laugh at him, failing to understand that he is the laughing stock of the entire world—sometimes openly and other times covertly as in Saudi Arabia where they consider him to be useful. In his first 100 days, DDT was the target of jokes from late night hosts, with 1,000 jokes about him, and the second 100 days just got worse.

Humorist Garison Keillor wrote about DDT:

“The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now….

“Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.”

As we now know, DDT’s adlibs revealed a high level of ignorance and a low level of vocabulary.

People are afraid of humor and satire because they are effective. Hollywood executives fought Charlie Chaplin when he wanted to satirize Nazism and Hitler in The Great Dictator. Arab airlines helped defeat the U.S. electronic ban with sarcasm. “Fake” news is so commonly used now for real faux news that DDT uses the term less and less. As Mel Brooks said, comedy robs people of their “power and myths.” Director Michael Moore told people to “form an army of comedy” to defeat DDT because “he’ll implode”; it’s “his Achilles’ heel.”

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mocked DDT’s small hands and small something else during the campaign, DDT talked at a debate about how he was well-endowed. He may not be reacting as much to the jokes recently because of John Kelly’s tutelage and restrictions of what DDT watches, but John Kelly won’t be in the White House long. The humor will lead to DDT’s destruction.

December 18, 2016

Electoral College Votes Tomorrow

Religious faith is turning electoral voters against Donald Trump (DT) after 80 percent of the evangelical world supported him before the election. One so-called “faithless elector” in the Electoral College, Christopher Suprun, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he said that he would vote for someone else than DT. Texas state law permits him to do so. The Republican called DT unfit for office:

 “Given [Trump’s] own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.”

Suprun detailed his concerns about DT such as his promotion of violence against Trump-protesters, his choice of advisers he writes. Asked if his faith influenced his decision to vote against Trump, the Roman Catholic paramedic and former firefighter said, “Of course.” He added that he learned from his faith that “it is allowable to choose the lesser of two evils.”

A former Texas electoral voter, Art Sisernos, stepped down from the Electoral College because supporting Trump would “bring dishonor to God,” but he couldn’t break his pledge to the Texas GOP to vote for the Republican candidate. A number of electoral voters struggling between their political requirements and their faith are Mormons who see DT as an opponent of the U.S. Constitution.

The members of the Electoral College lobbying for casting ballots for a moderate GOP instead of DT call themselves “Hamilton Electors,” referring to the constitutional process of voting for the president. In a Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Electoral College should be an “intermediate body” that’s less exposed to the people’s “heats and ferments.”

Hamilton Electors argue that DT is a threat to U.S democracy because of his unfit temperament as a tyrant and demagogue, his threat to world peace and closeness to Russia, and his corruption with his personal dealings. Another argument is that the Founding Fathers envisioned the electors preventing “an irresponsible demagogue from taking office,” according to Atlantic’s Peter Beinart.

In the Electoral College, the 538 people selecting the President of the United States (two senators plus the number of representatives from each state plus another three from Washington, D.C.) cast ballots tomorrow.  Twenty-nine states require these “electoral voters” to select the person who the state chose in its popular vote. Maine and Nebraska are the only states to not vote in a block for the popular vote; they divide the vote based on the percentage of the votes for president in the state. The votes are read in a special joint session of Congress on January 6 when the official winner is declared.

Seuss satires took over Twitter in October. Here is a recent one from John Pavlovitz, a pastor in Raleigh.

trump-seuss

HOW THE TRUMP STOLE AMERICA

john-pavlovitzIn a land where the states are united, they claim,

in a sky-scraping tower adorned with his name,

lived a terrible, horrible, devious chump,

the bright orange miscreant known as the Trump.

 

This Trump he was mean, such a mean little man,

with the tiniest heart and two tinier hands,

and a thin set of lips etched in permanent curl,

and a sneer and a scowl and contempt for the world.

 

He looked down from his perch and he grinned ear to ear,

and he thought, “I could steal the election this year!

It’d be rather simple, it’s so easily won,

I’ll just make them believe that their best days are done!

Yes, I’ll make them believe that it’s all gone to Hell,

and I’ll be Jerk Messiah and their souls they will sell.

 

And I’ll use lots of words disconnected from truth,

but I’ll say them with style so they won’t ask for proof.

I’ll toss out random platitudes, phrases, and such,

They’re so raised on fake news that it won’t matter much!

They won’t question the how to, the what, why, or when,

I will make their America great once again!”

 

The Trump told them to fear, they should fear he would say,

“They’ve all come for your jobs, they’ll all take them away.

You should fear every Muslim and Mexican too,

every brown, black, and tan one, everyone who votes blue.”

 

And he fooled all the Christians, he fooled them indeed,

He just trotted out Jesus, that’s all Jesus folk need.

And celebrity preachers they all crowned him as king,

Tripping over themselves just to kiss the Trump’s ring.

 

And he spoke only lies just as if they were true,

Until they believed all of those lies were true too.

He repeated and Tweeted and he blustered and spit,

And he mislead and fibbed—and he just made up sh*t.

 

And the media laughed but they printed each line,

thinking “He’ll never will win, in the end we’ll be fine.”

So they chased every headline, bold typed every claim,

‘Till the fake news and real news they looked just the same.

 

And the scared folk who listened, they devoured each word,

Yes, they ate it all up every word that they heard,

petrified that their freedom was under attack,

trusting Trump he would take their America back.

From the gays and from ISIS, he’d take it all back,

Take it back from the Democrats, fat cats, and blacks.

And so hook, line, and sinker they all took the bait,

all his lies about making America great.

 

Now the Pant-suited One she was smart and prepared,

she was brilliant and steady but none of them cared,

no they cared not to see all the work that she’d done,

or the fact they the Trump had not yet done thing one.

They could only shout “Emails!”, yes “Emails!” they’d shout,

because Fox News had told them—and Fox News had clout.

And the Pant-suited One she was slandered no end,

and a lie became truth she could never defend.

And the Trump watched it all go according to plan—

a strong woman eclipsed by an insecure man.

 

And November the 8th arrived, finally it came,

like a slow-moving storm but it came just the same.

And Tuesday became Wednesday as those days will do,

And the night turned to morning and the nightmare came true,

With millions of non-voters still in their beds,

Yes, the Trump he had done it, just like he had said.

 

And the Trumpers they trumped, how they trumped when he won,

All the racists and bigots; deplorable ones,

they crawled out from the woodwork, came out to raise Hell,

they came out to be hateful and hurtful as well.

With slurs and with road signs, with spray paint and Tweets,

with death threats to neighbors and taunts on the street.

And the grossest of grossness they hurled on their peers,

while the Trump he said zilch—for the first time in years.

 

But he Tweeted at Hamilton, he Tweeted the Times,

And he trolled Alec Baldwin a few hundred times,

and he pouted a pout like a petulant kid,

thinking this is what Presidents actually did,

thinking he could still be a perpetual jerk,

terrified to learn he had to actually work,

work for every American, not just for a few,

not just for the white ones—there was much more to do.

He now worked for the Muslims and Mexicans too,

for the brown, black, and tan ones, and the ones who vote blue.

They were all now his bosses, now they all had a say,

and those nasty pant-suited ones were here to stay.

And the Trump he soon realized that he didn’t win,

He had gotten the thing—and the thing now had him.

 

And it turned out the Trump was a little too late,

for America was already more than quite great,

not because of the sameness, the opposite’s true,

It’s greatness far more than just red, white, and blue,

It’s straight, gay, and female—it’s Gentile and Jew,

It’s Transgender and Christian and Atheist too.

It’s Asians, Caucasians of every kind,

The disabled and abled, the deaf and the blind,

It’s immigrants, Muslims, and brave refugees,

It’s Liberals with bleeding hearts fixed to their sleeves.

And we are all staying, we’re staying right here,

and we’ll be the great bane of the Trump for four years.

And we’ll be twice as loud as the loudness of hate,

be the greatness that makes our America great.

And the Trump’s loudest boasts they won’t ever obscure,

over two million more of us—voted for her.

 

You can see Pavlovitz’s latest post about DT here and follow his blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said.

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily 60 Second News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: