Alex Wagner is a CBS News correspondent and an editor at The Atlantic, so she’s a leader in telling normal people what to think. According to Wikipedia, she’s half-Burmese, and a self-described “progressive.”
She just posted an article that does a good job of illustrating what liberal support for Nazism looks like. The title and subtitle are: “Taking a blowtorch to debate: Steve Bannon and Colin Kaepernick share little in common, but the backlash each faces is rooted in a common rage.” We’re talking about this because Nike signed Kaepernick, causing conservatives to burn their shoes on social media. Around the same time, the New Yorker was going to host an event and pay Steve Bannon to be a Nazi on stage, but the other famous people started backing out so they disinvited him. Won’t somebody think of the free speech?
Stating the obvious: rage at Nazis and rage at niggers are not the same. Her tactic is to acknowledge that without meaning it, then compare them.
The fury of the Kaepernick wildfire, which was ignited and burned through social media within 24 hours, was not the same as the relatively contained brush fire that had erupted (virtually) one day prior, when The New Yorker revealed the lineup of its annual festival. On Monday, the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, announced that the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon would be a headliner for the event, featured in a one-on-one onstage interview with Remnick himself. “I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Remnick told The New York Times.
This assurance was apparently not enough: Other festival speakers, including Jimmy Fallon, Judd Apatow, Jack Antonoff, Jim Carrey, and Patton Oswalt, announced that they would no longer attend if Bannon was appearing. The Donald Trump adviser’s presence, according to critics, either “normalized hate” (Apatow) or normalized “white supremacy” (Antonoff). Remnick rescinded his offer
Stating the obvious: Nazis would love to be described as a furious wildfire in comparison to liberals and their wimpy, “relatively contained brush fire.”
The idea of propaganda is to write as if your point of view is already taken for granted, not to make arguments for it. Here, the use of “apparently not enough” tells the reader that deplatforming is ridiculous and Remnick was going to heroically defeat the Nazi on stage. What she very deliberately avoids talking about is the social consequences of dignifying Steve Bannon in this way. She avoids the reality that people not committed to her milquetoast liberalism will interpret the events differently. The medium is the message. Steve Bannon is respectable.
The way to make a false analogy is to pick the irrelevant, incidental, or highly abstract similarities of two things and emphasize those. Good and bad are the same thing because they’re both value judgments, right?
Progressives had not actually taken blowtorches to their sneakers in protest, but the sentiment was the same: Not on my watch.
There are differences, of course. On its face, the Nike campaign aims to be inspirational. “Believe in something,” the ad says. “Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick, who has in effect sacrificed his career to draw attention to social injustice, would seem to be living these values—he is, in many books, a hero. But belief in something—anything—at the risk of all else is a stratagem advised equally on the right and the left, a page torn as much from Bannon’s playbook as it is from Kaepernick’s. As such, it is an inadvertently dark reminder of the times in which we live. Sacrifice everything for your beliefs—whatever they are.
More to the point, though, the Nike ad is simply that: a piece of promotion for Air Huaraches and Impact sports bras. For the Americans who did not wake up this morning furious at their swoosh-emblazoned ankle socks, the anger may seem confounding: It’s just an ad, after all. But Nike is more than a company; it is a touchstone of American culture, on par with the golden arches and Coca-Cola. In choosing Kaepernick as its spokesperson, the institution has placed its bet on liberalism and progressive values; on America’s future, not its past.
Both sides do in fact have an agenda they’re trying to advance. And?
She’s clear that Kaepernick is not doing anything heroic or admirable, that any honor in what he’s doing is only apparent, a misperception.
Use baseless armchair sociology: now is the time of people sacrificing everything for their beliefs, because Alex Wagner says. Don’t point to any current events to illustrate the trend. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that now is a time marked by exceptional cravenness, to where John McCain is as good as the integrity gets?
Pretend not to understand the base motives Nazism comes from. Why would anybody ever get mad at an advertisement?
Take progress for granted, like America’s future is preordained and liberal. This makes the “left” complacent and triggers the right. Alex Wagner is too smart not to know this. She’s also smart enough to know that liberal disdain only makes them stronger:
For the men and women who do not abide these principles, but have found themselves—through their footwear and athleisure—the unwitting supporters of a company that champions these values, the sense of outrage and rejection and displacement is a rude awakening, however overdue. Torching your own Air Maxs seems like a fairly stupid idea, but it is evidence of just how jarring this awakening may be: Their impulse is to destroy. It is futile to point out the illogic of ruining a product upon which a company has already turned a profit—the big loser here is the person who forked over $100 for something that will end up in the garbage—but that’s not the point. Rage is the point, and it is blinding.
Obviously, those people aren’t going to stop buying Nike products. But for now they think they are. It’s the same as framing veganism only as a boycott, studiously avoiding the existence of symbolic gestures and the fact that the idea of marketing is tying products to people’s sense of identity. Never call out conservatives for something like cowardice. Make sure there’s something off and point-missing when you do it, to feed their sense of aggrieved superiority.
The New Yorker Festival, meanwhile, is a three-day symposium dedicated to the exploration of the arts and letters, a ticketed convocation that pairs Jeffrey Toobin with Sally Yates (no doubt to discuss executive power and executive lawlessness), Andy Borowitz and Adam Schiff (perhaps to chuckle about collusion and corruption) and Michael Avenatti with Felix Sater (presumably to talk business arrangements gone terribly wrong). Where Nike, a for-profit company that trades in sweat-wicking garments and performance cushioning, is transparently middlebrow, The New Yorker trades in highbrow intellectualism; it is a redoubt of journalistic integrity. Which makes the backlash—and subsequent decision to cancel Bannon’s event—the more distressing of the two.
Feed the theme of out-of-touch liberal elitism. Miss the point that the problem is precisely the idea of paying Bannon to look like a serious intellectual, lending their credibility to his Nazism. Don’t actually have contempt for Bannon, to where engaging with his arguments is beneath you.
Unlike the Nike ad, which asks nothing of its subject other than a close-up, Remnick proposed to prod the subject of his interview, to provoke him, and, ideally, to get at the truth—in short, to do the work of good journalism, only in front of an audience of several hundred. Bannon himself believed as much: “The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation,” he told the Times.
The ludicrous assumption here is that we don’t already know everything we need to know about Bannon.
Money grubbing sellout niggers, like we ain’t seen that before, in contrast to Steve Bannon’s noble motives:
Certain detractors of the New Yorker event raised objections to the fact that Bannon was to be paid an honorarium for his event (Bannon said that he gave “no thought” to the honorarium when he accepted the invitation). Many prominent figures are offered honorariums at many festivals without much in the way of outcry, but assume, for the moment, one accepts the premise that integrity is inversely proportional to profit. What, then, to make of Kaepernick taking a presumably much-larger payout from Nike? Surely Kaepernick’s struggle, his hard-fought campaign, is not lessened by his choice to appear in an ad campaign.
Again with deliberately missing the point about audiences:
And yet, detractors on Twitter equated this live interview with the editor of The New Yorker to “putting onstage a man who recommends everyone read Mein Kampf & letting him promote his new company.” Surely one of the country’s best editors had more in mind than promoting Nazi propaganda? Logic, though, did not seem to be the point of this criticism; dismissal and disavowal—a more controlled form of rage—seemed to be the point.
Who cares what the useful idiot New Yorker editor thinks he’s doing?
The sheer velocity and fury of Trumpism has done many terrible things to this country, but chief among them is to blind us to one another and ourselves—both our adversaries’ strengths and our own hypocrisies. This week shows us the sun-blotting nature of this national anger: Should we come across something enraging, the impulse is to boycott it or pour lighter fluid on it, or to otherwise—through Twitter or Instagram—destroy it.
The worst thing Trump has done is blind us to the strengths of Nazis? The worst thing Trump has done is caused “the resistance” to engage in insufficient self-flaggellation?
Acting on anger is wrong. Always. Emotion without a purpose. Dangerous. Best avoided. Settle down, there.
The ending is amazing:
The day’s events might have prompted a useful public debate. But it is a debate that will probably never be had, if only because neither side of this deep divide has any interest in speaking to the other. Pretending that the other does not exist—or at least, willing it not to exist—is one way of coping with a difficult national moment. It is also, given the fact that our states remain united, an impossible solution.
Again, the disagreement is about whether this is a useful public debate. It isn’t.
Liberals live in their bubble, and of course they don’t really mean it when they will Nazis not to exist. Conservatives in no way pretend the other side doesn’t exist, and they most definitely, most literally will the other side not to exist. “Willing it not to exist” sounds good to Nazis. Will is manly. Bad readings of Nietzsche.
If the status quo is an “impossible solution”, and we can’t just coexist and mind our own business, does that mean a final solution is in order? That association would surely come right to mind for any Nazis reading this.
The entire article insidiously supports Nazis, and Alex Wagner is what the media calls progressive. That right there is what Steve Bannon has been trying to accomplish all along, and she’s giving it to him.
Meanwhile, also on The Atlantic front page today, an article on the alarming rise of Nazism in Germany.
The riots in Chemnitz were the most dramatic manifestation yet of an anti-immigration backlash that has been building for some time, and that found particular focus in Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome more than 1 million asylum-seekers into the country. A number of high-profile crimes involving asylum seekers, such as the murder of a 15-year-old girl in southwestern Germany last year (her boyfriend, believed to be an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, was sentenced on Monday to eight-and-a-half years for the murder) have helped stoke anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as opposition to Merkel’s refugee policy. Such opposition, as my colleague Krishnadev Calamur reported, comes despite the fact that asylum applications and crime in Germany are both at historic lows.
But the statistics haven’t consoled the Germans who remain concerned over crimes being committed by immigrants, nor have they hampered support for the AfD, which has capitalized on those fears. This is particularly true in places like Chemnitz and elsewhere in the eastern German state of Saxony, where the number of immigrants remains low relative to the rest of the country. The AfD beat out every other party in Saxony in last year’s general election, and a recent poll shows the AfD’s support ahead of next year’s state election stands at 25 percent, just three points behind Merkel’s ruling Conservatives.
Andreas Zick, a researcher who studies extremist groups and conflict at Bielefeld University, told me many of these attitudes date as far back as the reunification period in the 1990s. “In the former east, a lot of people didn’t see any improvement and they started to focus on the risk and fears,” he said, noting that the populist right in Germany has proven effective in stoking those fears. “The right-wing populists did a very clever campaign saying that society lost control of immigration—Merkel lost control.”
Though there has been a historic presence of neo-Nazi groups in Saxony, what happened in Chemnitz was largely unprecedented—and not just because of the scale of the riots. “What is interesting about this is you obviously had a mix of people on the far-right side,” Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel, told me, noting the confluence of AfD supporters with more extreme groups such as the far-right, anti-Islam nationalist movement Pegida. Though the AfD has attempted to distance itself from groups like Pegida in the past, some within the party have called for making common cause with them in order to mobilize more supporters. In Chemnitz, Dirusus said, “it seems the radical wing of the AfD won out.” Indeed, one of AfD’s lawmakers, Björn Höcke, was pictured last week marching alongside Pegida founder Lutz Bachmann.
The Atlantic is capable of covering these issues without the obfuscation.
This is exactly what’s happening in the United States. Why would anyone ever think it’s important not to normalize Nazism?