Here’s what we miss when we let our intellectual life be ruled by facile generalizations and social media memes. Aaron Novikoff, the Twitter user I wrote about a couple days ago, has written a long, well-structured, thoroughly-referenced, thoughtful response (the final comment on this entry–can’t figure out how to link to the particular comment directly). There are many things in it I could take issue with (and I plan to), but it is clearly not the work of a deranged, ignorant racist hell-bent on ethnic cleansing (as we too often characterize our opposition). My homework assignment for you, dear liberal readers, is to read it. It’s a little dense in places and there’s an applied math metaphor that will be obscure for many, but it’s worth diverting some of the time you might otherwise spend in social media rah-rah land to understand how a real person could come to different conclusions than you have. Also if you have some time during the Super Bowl commercials, you should also check out this old Salon piece that Aaron referenced. It’s takes a critical look (from a liberal) at how the narrative of Trump-as-Mexican-hating-racist developed, and whether it is a reasonable reading of his candidacy announcement speech in full context. Personally, I’ve never really been convinced that that particular speech was telling evidence of Trump’s inner racism; to me it seems more nativist/xenophobic. But it is interesting to note how the quote, which was at least superficially saying that some undocumented immigrants from Mexico are rapists (which, like a small subset of almost any population, is demonstrably true) morphed into ‘Trump thinks Mexicans are rapists.’ Many of you, as I did, probably thought his ‘and some, I assume, are good people’ addendum served to imply that the minority are good people (thus suggesting that the majority are rapists, drug mules and criminals). Many of you (as I did) probably also took these comments in the context of Trump’s birtherism and the parallel rhetorical devices of other self-described racists and read between the lines (aka listened for the dog whistle). I think that those are reasonable readings also, but the Salon author is right to ask whether the transformation of “Trump thinks some Mexican ‘illegal immigrants’ are rapists” into ‘Trump thinks Mexicans are rapists,’ is a fair change for journalists to make. It’s also well within the range of askable questions for Aaron to wonder whether this kind of decontentualization isn’t a result of political homogeneity within the corporations/individuals doing the journalism. I’d like to take some time to think that through.
By the way, Aaron, can you provide the reference for those citations in your text? I’d be interested to look some of those up.