Do you remember when words meant things?
I know it’s hard to imagine, but before Jan. 20, 2017, back in the pre-Trumpian era, during the salad days of U.S. history, when Muslims were welcome into the country and the president didn’t have the attitude of a petulant toddler, words had immutable definitions. Back in those days, you just couldn’t get away with calling a fork a spoon. Up was up and down was down.
Then everything changed. When the Darth Comb-Over took over, words ceased to have meanings, and definitions became fluid variables that anyone could change all willy-nilly. Terms like “bigly” and “alternative facts” made their way into our lexicon, while “truth” became subjective and totally dependent on the hearer’s acceptance. Words don’t mean things anymore.
When word spread Thursday that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) twice referred to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as a “white supremacist,” Donald Trump’s America collectively clutched their pearls and simultaneously exclaimed, “Well, I do declare!”
To be clear, no one was shocked that Trump had placed a white supremacist in his Cabinet. No one was upset when Trump hired the person responsible for the rise of the “alt-right” (pronounced “nee-yo not-zee”) to guide his administration. No one has expressed concern that the man who gave a platform to some of the most vile, racist public figures in America now holds a seat on the National Security Council. No one doubts that Steve Bannon is a white supremacist. They were just astonished that Nancy Pelosi called Steve Bannon a white supremacist.
And when I say “they,” you know who I mean. (See how the dog whistle works?)
“They” are the same people who don’t want you to call the Muslim ban a “Muslim ban” even though the text of the executive order explicitly states that the immigration restrictions don’t apply to followers of any religion except Islam.
“They” are the same people who wink and nod when they say “undocumented workers,” when they really want to say “dirty Mexicans.”
“They” are the same people who rebranded lies as “alternative facts.”
You know who “they” are.
Be sure to note that these rules apply only when “they” want them to. The people upset by Pelosi’s white supremacist “slander” are the same ones who railed against then-President Barack Obama for his failure to use the words “radical Islamic extremism,” even though experts said that there was no benefit in doing so, and it would most likely gin up more anti-American sentiment.
“They” are the same ones who forced Obama to distance himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright because of his too-black liberation gospel. They are the ones who made Obama disavow Minister Louis Farrakhan because of his anti-Semitism. “They” are the same people who call Black Lives Matter an anti-white, anti-cop “hate group.” (By the way, now that Bannon, who published pieces and paid people to call Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization,” has a seat on the small group that chooses the “disposition matrix”—the list of people the NSC can authorize to be killed as “enemies of the state”—how many people do you think are showing up at the next BLM rally?)
They don’t care that Bannon’s ex-employees described their work conference calls as “white supremacist” rallies. They don’t care that he said he does “not believe we have a major race problem in this country”—even after he admitted that his media empire was a platform for the alt-right and that it attracted white supremacists and white nationalists.
Is Steve Bannon a white supremacist?
There is a law in the U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B. The federal government uses this law to find, arrest and prosecute people who provide support for enemies of the United States. It uses this law to shut down social accounts. It uses it to jail citizens for sharing terrorist propaganda. Essentially, the law states that anyone who helps or gives a platform to a terrorist will be charged as a terrorist.
But they don’t want you to say “white supremacist.”
Just like they don’t want you to call their alternative facts “lies,” here are a few other euphemisms that the Trump administration will employ in the upcoming weeks and months:
Alt-love: As the number of homophobic, racist, anti-immigrant hate groups rises, I’m sure they’d prefer to be called something different.
Alternative white: Wypipo have long searched for a word that encompasses the n-word, Hispanic slurs, Middle Eastern epithets and anti-Semitic insults in one phrase. You’re welcome.
Fiction-adjacent: A description of every Kellyanne Conway interview and Sean Spicer press conference.
The Islamic unwelcoming: The Trump administration’s term for its Muslim ban.
Poll verification and turnout reduction: What the Republican Party will call its new voter-suppression efforts as soon as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is confirmed as attorney general.
I’m sure it sounds silly.
But do yourself a favor: Go back and read the entire interview between NBC’s Chuck Todd and Kellyanne Conway that birthed the phrase “alternative facts.” Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Did you notice anything strange? Did you notice that even when Todd pressed Conway vehemently on her newly created phrase and the Trump administration’s lack of honesty, not once did he use the word “lie”? Did you see how he avoided using the term “liar”?
If the biggest news organization in the world is willing to placate liars and racists in favor of some antiquated tradition of decorum and gentility, what chance do we have at ever getting to the truth? A lie is not an “alternative fact.” When you ban Muslims, it’s fair to call it a “Muslim ban.” Up will always be up and down will always be down. And there is an apt word for the man who made his fortune coalescing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racial purists under one tent and airing their propaganda to the world.
Most people call it “white supremacy.”