|Garbage truck outside Kenosha courthouse. Photo by Chuck Quirmbach via WUWM radio. I like the way the background hints that the square may not be a burnt-out wasteland, though the treatment of the truck itself was clearly pretty terrible.|
Interviewed by Laura Ingraham on Fox, Emperor Trump took a deep dive into Gothic narrative, of all things. Fiction has always been an important element of his work, of course, but mostly in the uncomplicated form of news items ("Portland has been burning for many years, for decades it's been burning"), scientific reports ("Paint is not—paint is a defensive mechanism. Paint is not bullets"), and of course the first-person memoir. This new venture, the painstaking construction of an atmosphere of dread in which his characteristic vagueness heightens the tension, is pretty remarkable:
by Donald J. Trump
"Who is pulling Biden's strings?"
People that you've never heard of.
People that are in the dark shadows.
They're people that are controlling
the streets. We had somebody
get on a plane from a certain city
this weekend. And in the plane,
it was almost completely loaded
with thugs, wearing these dark
uniforms, black uniforms, with gear
and this and that. They're on a plane!
I will tell you some time, but
it's under investigation right now.
But they came from a certain city,
and this person was coming to the
Republican National Convention,
and there were like seven people on the
plane like this person, and then a lot of
people were on the plane to do big damage.
This is apparently the basic Trump 2020 campaign theme, that after almost four years of the Trump presidency the country is thrashing in endless nightmare, so you should vote to re-elect him, which may sound odd. But the idea is that it's a Democrat-induced nightmare, because Democrats run most of our big cities, and the cities are where the horror is at home, paralyzed by riot, looting, and fire, so a Democratic president and Senate would probably make it worse.
If you're a New Yorker, you know that the deplorable looting in midtown Manhattan and the Fordham Road neighborhood in the Bronx that started on 31 May finished on 1 June and hasn't resumed, though demonstrations go on. If you're a Fox watcher, you have a confused sense that it's all Fort Apache at this point. The rioting that infected Minneapolis just after the murder of George Floyd ended by 29 May, but Sean Hannity was still running footage of it as terrifying news almost four weeks later:
Last night was June 24. But Fox primetime is still using B-roll from late May. pic.twitter.com/D4a0ETNQrj— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) June 24, 2020
And Portland, of course, hasn't been in flames for decades, and isn't even
slightly in flames at the moment, and was never especially enflamed—the police
exaggerated it as much as they could from the start:
As of July the police were already grossly inflating the damage estimates--they were just saying $23 million, but that was way too muchhttps://t.co/pFsvW0mQS1— Efforting Outreach (@Yastreblyansky) September 1, 2020
There probably hasn't been a fire in the 12-block area where Portland demonstrations take place since August 9 (when one was reported at the county courthouse), and that's why none are reported.— Efforting Outreach (@Yastreblyansky) September 1, 2020
Trump is still running against Obama, and the "darkness" and "blackness" of
urban America, because that's what he has to work with, and there's some real
reason to fear it could work for him, even though it would be happening, if it
were happening, on his watch as president, because the secret is that they don't
expect him to change or "fix" anything: Trump is an entertainer, an artist even,
and they expect him to express their inchoate feelings of rage and resentment.
And to inflict some representative punishment on a selection of
those they see as enemies—to work that into the show. And to win, with
your dramatization of the conflict, to win the contest, to be the American Idol.
The lead-up to Saturday’s “Trump cruise rally” generated fear of yet more violence from both sides. A post pinned to the Facebook event page, which drew some 2,500 attendees, discouraged people from openly carrying firearms and instead encouraged concealed carry.
A lot of commentators, including George Packer at The Atlantic, seem to think candidate Biden ought to accept the Republican narrative to some extent, making a bigger point of condemning the property damage putatively caused by "leftists" as he approves of the protests themselves, deliberately allowing his audience to confuse looting with protest:
Biden, after speaking with the Blake family, condemned both the initial incident and the subsequent destruction. “Burning down communities is not protest,” he pleaded in a video. “It’s needless violence.” He said the same after George Floyd’s killing.
How many Americans have heard him? In the crude terms of a presidential campaign, voters know that the Democrat means it when he denounces police brutality, but less so when he denounces riots. To reach the public and convince it otherwise, Biden has to go beyond boilerplate and make it personal, memorable.
I think Packer isn't sensitive enough to the difference between property damage, which is deplorable, and violence against persons, which is at another level. Trump can't disown his personal share in the worst: those provocateurs driving in and trying to turn demonstrations into streetfights like the Sturmabteilung brownshirts looking for "collisions" (Zusammenstösse) with socialists and communists in 1920s Germany.
And the best thing Biden is doing is pointing this out as part of his own approach to talking about the George Floyd protest season, as Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago note at Politico:
I think this will be a far more productive approach for Biden to sustain. There aren't any looters wearing Democratic merch, after all ("I Don't Watch Fox" or "Stand Up For Science" T-shirts). No graffiti on federal courthouses or Wisconsin garbage trucks says "vote Biden". If Aaron Danielson's killer was the "impulsive and irrational" 48-year-old former professional snowboarder and gun and drug offender who described himself as "100% antifa", as some rightwing outlets are claiming, he's calling for "Revolution", not for a Democratic Senate (and I'll bet nobody affiliated with antifa, which really does exist in Portland, knows him either).
Biden can easily disavow property damage and shooting both, because nobody who backs him will object. It's crazy that you'd have to say that about a politician, but in fact you can't say it about Trump, and Trump keeps proving it: his base demands that he approve of violence, and he's a member of the base himself.
Apparently Trump lifted his story about the dark-uniformed people in the airplane from some fool's Facebook post of 1 June, originally about "a dozen males" going to Boise for pure trouble, not Washington for the convention. I apologize for suggesting he was capable of making it up. Via NBC. Doktor Zoom was way on top of this (Wonkette had covered the original Idaho story).