One of the current complaints of the Trump right concerns the treatment given to Alex Jones by Facebook, which has temporarily banned the Internet radio host for videos that violated “community standards.” According to Lou Dobbs of the Fox Business Network, “freedom of speech [is] under attack.” Fox News television personality Tucker Carlson has also come to Jones’s defense, saying sarcastically, “I know we’re supposed to think Alex Jones is way more radical than, like, Bill Maher.”
.. Well, yes, that is precisely what we should think. At various points, Jones has promoted the belief that
- 9/11 was an “inside job,” that
- Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria, that
- NASA had built a child slave colony on Mars in order to harvest blood and bone marrow, that
- the Oklahoma City bombing,
- the Boston Marathon bombing and the
- Sandy Hook school shooting were government “false flag” operations, that
- some shooting survivors were “crisis actors,” that
- “globalists” are intent on committing genocide and that
- Democrats are on the verge of launching a second civil war.
.. President Trump has made a great many unpleasant things unavoidable. He has appeared on Jones’s Infowars program and assured Jones that his “reputation is amazing.” The White House briefly gave Infowars a press credential. And Donald Trump Jr. has retweeted Infowars stories.
.. It represents not only a certain approach to political strategy but also a certain approach to morality, pressed to its logical extreme. Trump is not a dogmatist; he is an egotist. He judges others not by their convictions, or even by their hold on reality, but by their fidelity to his person. It is a form of identity politics in which all that counts is one man’s identity. So Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), being faithless to Trump, is an enemy. And the revealer of child slavery on Mars is a friend.
.. Remember when a white man in Boston, spouting Trump slogans, beat up a homeless man outside a subway station? Trump responded: “People who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”
.. Remember when a Trump supporter punched an African American man at a rally? Trump said that his follower “obviously loves his country.”
.. Remember when the alt-right provoked violence in Charlottesville? Trump pronounced some white nationalists to be “very fine people.”
.. The president has a nearly impossible time criticizing his fans, even when they are guilty of hate crimes and violence. In Trump’s own private creed, they are absolved of guilt by their loyalty to him.
.. This commitment
- transforms their cruelty into the proof of passion; their
- prejudice into an expression of patriotism; their
- lawlessness into the embrace of his higher order. ‘
Just ask former Phoenix area
- sheriff Joe Arpaio, pardoned after his abuse of Hispanic migrants. Or
- Oregon cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, pardoned after defying the federal government.
All were justified and sanctified by their devotion to Trump.
.. Any political movement is defined not just by what it aspires to, but also by whom it excludes. And the alt-right, the Alex Jones right, the white nationalist right know that they are fully included in Trump’s definition of his movement.
.. They know that their loyalty to him has been rewarded with a legitimacy they have craved for decades. And they are full, enthusiastic partners in the Trump project — to delegitimize any source of authority and information but his own.
- .. Genuine populists are discredited by consorting with people who accuse elites of arming for mass murder.
- The religious right is caught in bed with a diseased, seeping moral relativism. And
- Fox anchors come to the defense of a man who verbally defiles the graves of murdered children.
As Teilhard writes, “To worship was formerly to prefer God to things, relating them to him [sic] and sacrificing them for him. To worship is now becoming to devote oneself body and soul to the creative act, associating oneself with that act in order to fulfill the world by hard work and intellectual exploration.”
On the first anniversary of his inauguration, President Trump spent the day blasting Democrats for the government shutdown, suggesting that women marching in protest of his presidency were somehow celebrating it, and embroiled in allegations that he paid off a porn star to keep her quiet about their relationship. Melania Trump, meanwhile, commemorated the anniversary by tweeting a single photo of herself on Inauguration Day on the arm of a Marine. Her husband was nowhere in sight, and she did not mention his name. A few days later — on what happened to be the Trumps’ 13th wedding anniversary — she canceled her plans to accompany Mr. Trump to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
She may not be progressive. She may not be political. And yet Mrs. Trump may end up doing more than any of her predecessors to upend our expectations of the slavish devotion a first lady must display toward her husband.
.. With the exception of the Clintons, there has not been a more complicated first couple in modern history: Mrs. Trump is the third wife of a man who once told the radio host Howard Stern he would “give her a week” to lose the baby weight after their son, Barron, was born.
.. First ladies are expected to accept their husband’s infidelities and cruelty and to remain their strongest champions, no matter what the circumstances
.. They are expected to be adoring.
.. The day after President Clinton testified before a grand jury and came clean to the country, Mrs. Clinton marched across the South Lawn together with Bill, their daughter, Chelsea, standing between them, holding both of her parents’ hands, as they headed for Marine One to embark on their annual summer vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. It was the photo-op the president needed.
.. Mrs. Obama was also the first first lady to challenge people to accept a woman who refused to play the role of the saccharine, adoring spouse. “I can’t do that,” she said in 2007 Vanity Fair interview. “That’s not me. I love my husband. I think he’s one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever met, and he knows that. But he’s not perfect, and I don’t want the world to want him to be perfect.”
.. This quiet rebellion started with her decision not to move into the White House until five months after her husband took office. It gathered force when she swatted her husband’s hand away on an airport tarmac in Israel last year. By the time the Trumps leave the White House, Mrs. Trump may have done more to change our notions about this archaic position, which has no job description and no pay, and comes with impossible expectations, than most of her predecessors.
Would it have been beneficial to Donald Trump for his wife to stand beside him in Davos and show a united front, as we have come to expect from first ladies? Absolutely. Does she care? Probably not.
In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has achieved at least three things that few presidents ever have.
- His approval rating is in the 30s.
- His former aides — and reportedly the president himself — are under federal investigation.
- And members of Mr. Trump’s own party are running what has been described as a shadow campaign to replace him in 2020.
.. The more Mr. Trump’s candidacy was said to flatline, the more life I saw in his crowds.
.. In August 2015, a month after a high-ranking Republican National Committee operative promised me that America would never tolerate a man with no military service disparaging an American military hero, I was standing on a football field in Mobile, Ala., surrounded by 30,000 screaming Trump fans, an unheard-of turnout six months before a primary. Were they mad about the candidates words on Mr. McCain? No. The opposite. “He’s not afraid of anybody,” one woman told me.
.. But then, as now, the view from armchairs in Washington and newsrooms around the country missed something that it was impossible to miss out on the trail. Mr. Trump’s supporters were tired — of Washington, of the media, of waiting. And that fatigue allowed them to overlook a lot. They knew he was flawed but at least, they thought, he was on their side.
.. “Why do people fighting for a raise relate to all of this?” I asked a man in a tuxedo. “Because deep down, they know he’s one of them,” he said.
“Trump sees us,” his supporters would tell me, everywhere we stopped. “You don’t.”
.. Sure, they liked a lot of his policies and ideas, but they weren’t married to any of them. They wanted the man above all. And if he said it, they’d find a way to support it, even if he reversed himself the next day.
.. I once asked a man heading into a rally why he supported Donald Trump.
“Because he is going to build a wall,” the man said.
“What if he doesn’t?” I countered.
“I trust his judgment,” the man said.
.. The building blocks of political life are too complex to predict, too unstable to rely on. But I do know what political devotion looks like, and I do know what happens when you choose to discount it.