Part 3—Plays nicely with Us and Them: A lot of crazy punditry has followed Trump's ascension. One example:
In this morning's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof lists "reasons to hold off your visa applications" in the wake of the candidate's triumph. Among the hopeful signs he lists? Try this on for size:
"The thought of Trump with the nuclear codes is terrifying, but if he was to give a crazy order, no one knows if aides would circumvent it."
That isn't offered as a joke in Kristof's column. According to Kristof, you shouldn't freak out about Trump's ascension because his aides might circumvent an order to unleash the nukes.
As a reason for hope, that borders on the insane. Sensible analysis has long since ceased to be a New York Times strong suit. That said, we're going to agree with this part of Kristof's column:
KRISTOF (11/10/16): Democrats are too quick to caricature Trump supporters as deplorables. Sure, some are racists or misogynists, but many are good people who had voted for Obama in the past. My rural hometown, Yamhill, Ore., is pro-Trump, and I can tell you: The voters there are not all bigoted monsters, but well-meaning people upended by economic changes such as the disappearance of good manufacturing jobs. They feel betrayed by the Democratic and Republican establishments, and finally a candidate spoke to them.That last statement is massively true. Before we show you what we encounter when we read last weekend's Sunday Review, we give you this essay by Rembert Browne in New York Magazine.
Liberals condemn the stereotyping of Latinos or Muslims but have been quick to stereotype Trump voters.
Browne prepped at The Paideia School, graduated from Dartmouth in 2009. Along the way, notes on his his report cards enthused:
"Plays nicely with Us and Them."
No false equivalence clutters Browne's head. His skill at fashioning Us and Them becomes remarkably clear in the part of his piece shown below, where he stereotypes the bulk of Trump voters as undifferentiated haters from "a massive, like-minded sect:"
BROWNE (11/9/16): These two realities may help explain the support of Trump’s truest base of working-class rural/exurban whites, which he won by a huge margin, according to exit polls; and also the portion of the traditionally Republican white upper class whose support he managed to hold on to, outperforming predictions that Hillary would win that group."Hate is infectious," Browne explains. A puckish observer could puckishly ask if Browne has perhaps been exposed.
The reason this election makes it inaccurate to simply blame “white people” is because there are white people who are not part of either of those groups. But more important, it allows the white people who rallied behind Trump to remain an amorphous part of the whole, instead of treating them for what they are: a massive, like-minded sect.
In recent elections, these two groups have voted Republican, but Trump was able to turn them out in record numbers with two strategies. He rearmed the white working class with a confidence that both an ignorance about and intimidation of others was a sign of patriotism. And he weaponized that ignorance: His base of voters, egged on by foul statements in rooms across the country, did not have a single target. For over a year, their hatred was a revolving door. The did not discriminate: They hated black people, they hated women, they hated immigrants, they hated Muslims, they hated Jews, they hated gay people, they hated Hispanic people—and if you could be white and any of those things, they hated you, too.
...Trump won the presidency by making hate intersectional. He encouraged sexists to also be racists and homophobes, while saying disgusting things about immigrants in public and Jews online. Hate, like love, is infectious, and it is contagious. And for so many, the adrenaline felt by blaming one group for one’s personal ills bled into blaming all the others.
In fairness, Browne hasn't stereotyped all Trump voters, only those who are white. (According to the always imprecise exit polls, Trump also received 29 percent of Hispanic votes, 29 percent of Asian-American votes and 8 percent of black votes.)
He describes Trump's white voters as "a massive, like-minded sect" built out of free-flowing hatred. "Now we’re faced with a clear reality," he write, "one group that hates us all."
For the record, did Trump "turn [these white people] out in record numbers?" We're not sure he did. At present, Trump's vote total stands below that attained by Candidate Romney in 2012.
At any rate, Browne is talking about more than 50 million people in the passage we've quoted. That include's Kristof's neighbors in Yamhill, several of whom Browne has never met, not even on a Paideia field trip.
There is no room inside Browne's head for complexity, nuance or difference. Kristof's ironic observation is rather plainly actualized in the passage we've quoted: few racists of the old-fashioned type ever generalized—"stereotyped"—more freely than Browne does here.
As Kristof suggests, this tendency is rather common among us modern liberal. We'd say the tendency is especially common among us unskilled pseudoliberals, some of whom are asked to publish in the New York Times.
We pseudos! We've made it clear in the past 25 years—our intellectual skills are remarkably slight. This problem seemed hard to ignore when we read the Sunday Review.
On page one of this Sunday's Review, Maureen Dowd's column was the featured piece. Twenty-four years after Katherine Boo warned the world about the creep, Dowdism is the defining intellectual strain of the modern Times.
In our view, Dowd's column was the usual high-profile embarrassment. But as we read the Sunday Review, the problem only grew.
Dowd shared the front page of the Sunday Review with Jill Filipovic, a former Cosmopolitan writer who graduated from NYU in 2005. The mental style of the New York Times seemed to be on display in her piece. We watched the analysts' shoulders sag as they reviewed her efforts.
As with Browne, so too with Filipovic. We thought she showed considerable skill at playing with Us and Them.
More and more, the ability to invent The Demon is a prevailing pseudoliberal trait, especially among the kids. We groaned at this Vox piece by 26-year-old German Lopez, a piece to which Filipovic linked.
It seemed to us that Lopez displayed exactly one skill, the skill of inventing The Others. In the interest of time, let's look at one point in Filipovic piece where she showcased this unhelpful skill.
Stereotyping—"gross generalization"—turns on the ability to turn "some" into "all." Excitement grows as the writer sidesteps this basic distinction, as Filipovic does here:
FILIPOVIC (11/6/16): The differences in how men and women interpret the same information is evident in responses to Mr. Trump. As of early October, more than half of men believed that Mr. Trump respected women either “some” or “a lot.” That poll was conducted after the Republican nominee was on record calling women pigs and dogs, commenting about his own daughter’s sex appeal, and labeling a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, “Miss Eating Machine.” At the same time, nearly two-thirds of women said that Mr. Trump didn’t respect them. While more men now agree that Mr. Trump doesn’t respect women after the vulgar “Access Hollywood” tape came to light, more than four in 10 continue to say that Mr. Trump respects us. Which really makes you wonder what these men think respecting women looks like.Our view? At the end of that highly recognizable passage, a bit of snark is used to mask the consummate absence of skill.
To what extent does Donald Trump "respect women?" For ourselves, we're disinclined to answer such inkblot questions, which mainly exist to keep academics, researchers and pseudojournalists employed.
That said, Trump did seem a bit less than fully respectful in that Access Hollywood videotape. In our view, he was modelling pitiful attitudes and recommending appalling behavior.
Many people said it was a shame that girls had to hear that tape. We'd say it's a shame that boys were exposed to it too.
For Filipovic, the tape became the latest chance to play with Us and Them. "Plays compulsively with The Others," her report card might say.
According to Filipovic, "the differences in how men and women interpret the same information is evident in responses to Trump" both before and after that tape. Every word she says in the passage we've posted can be defended as technically accurate. But she's delighting in images of Us and Them. She's stressing difference between two groups where similarity is much more prevalent.
What do we mean by that? Thanks for asking:
Before that tape appeared, Filipovic says, "more than half of men believed that Mr. Trump respected women either 'some' or 'a lot.'...At the same time, nearly two-thirds of women said that Mr. Trump didn’t respect them."
After the tape was released, those numbers changed:
"While more men now agree that Mr. Trump doesn’t respect women...more than four in 10 continue to say that Mr. Trump respects us. Which really makes you wonder what these men think respecting women looks like."
Admittedly, the snark was pleasing. That said, let's consider the actual numbers.
After the tape had been released, 43 percent of men still said that Trump respects women. But as you can see from Filipovic's source, 30 percent of women said the same thing.
(69 percent of women were now saying that Trump doesn't respect women. 55 percent of men were saying the same thing.)
Without question, 43 percent is more than 30 percent! But there was much more agreement among the two groups than difference. To illustrate the point, let's consider a type of statistic which may already exist:
Suppose you were seating a colloquium at which you planned to pair 100 women and 100 men. You planned to pair them based on their response to that survey question.
Based on the numbers from which Filipovic is working, 85 of the 100 women could be matched with a man who shared her view about Trump's respect for women. Only 15 women would have to be paired with a man who had expressed the opposite view.
There's much more agreement within those two groups than there is disagreement. But Filipovic posed this as a marker of "the differences in how men and women interpret the same information."
Snarkily, she wondered what the 43 percent of men "think respecting women looks like." She didn't ask the same question about the 30 percent of women who stated the same view. Rather typically, she didn't mention the fact that those women exist.
Everything Filipovic says in the passage can be defended as "technically accurate." You can defend the claim that the data in question show "the differences in how men and women interpret the same information."
You can defend that claim as technically accurate, but the claim tends to be misleading, especially when conjoined with a snarky closing remark. It tends to suggest the existence of two groups, Us and Them, with The Others holding an incomprehensible view, as opposed to the enlightened view We hold Over Here.
In our view, Filipovic's essay displayed a shortage of skills throughout. (This is unfortunate because she was discussing important topics.) When we clicked her link to the Lopez piece, the analysts keened and wailed.
In this part of her piece for the Sunday Review, Filipovic plays with Us and Them. Today's youngish pseudoliberal will often be deeply invested in this unhelpful, misleading skill. It's the skill of inventing The Other, of finding demons under all beds.
As Kristof suggests, this has always been the bigot's top skill. Now it belongs to Us.
Assuming President Trump's aides prevail, we really ought to try cleaning this up. Almost surely, our insistence on playing with Us and Them helped elect President Trump.
Tomorrow: David Leonhardt, scripted but unskilled