The Many Standards of Anger

Greg Sargent addresses the question, “Why is the mob angry?

President Trump and Republicans have adopted a closing electoral strategy that depicts the Democratic Party and “angry” leftist protests against Trumpian rule as the only real reigning threat to our country’s civic fabric and the rule of law. A new Republican National Committee video juxtaposes footage of leading mainstream Democratic figures with that of angry protesters, while decrying “the left” as an “unhinged mob.” …

… But much of the resulting debate over all this is hollow, because it is not putting these basic realities front and center: Trump, more than any leading U.S. figure in recent memory, has actively tried to stoke civil conflict on as many fronts as possible. He has concertedly subverted the rule of law, not just to shield himself from accountability, but, more to the point for present purposes, with the deliberate purpose of exciting his minority base — and enraging millions on the other side of the cultural divide — in a manner that is thoroughly corrupt to its core.

Witnessing this gaping hole in the debate is akin to watching a team of doctors diagnose a patient with advanced stages of brain cancer without acknowledging the existence of his tumor.

In a larger sense, this goes back to the question of who gets to be angry. See “Who Gets to Be Angry” and “Who Gets to Be Angry II.”

In the first “Who Gets to Be Angry” post I pointed out that right-wing white men are the only demographic in the U.S. allowed to display anger without social or cultural penalty. Right-wing white women are allowed to display anger if they are standing next to a white man who is angry about the same thing — call it ladies’ auxiliary anger. Otherwise, women who display anger are labeled “hysterical” or “whacky,” whereas a white man doing the same thing is “strong.” Men who are not white must also take care to be gentle of temperament, because right-wing white men have a pathological fear of black men displaying so much as mild pique. Or wearing hoodies.

Even white men can be slammed for anger if they are also “liberal” or “lefties,” although younger white guys generally aren’t used to being sensitive to the privilege rules and don’t hold back expressing themselves in angry ways. If there’s a big leftie demonstration, if somebody acts up and behaves badly it’s nearly always a young white guy.

One of the not-often-spoken rules we’ve all followed all these years is that only right-wing white men are allowed to be angry. This was plainly illustrated by the Kavanaugh hearings, in which Christine Blasey Ford was careful to be calm and unemotional, although she clearly was frightened, while the Right rewarded Kavanaugh for his unhinged hostility to the Democrats who questioned him.  Literally, he was entitled. If Ford had behaved the same way, they would have crucified her for it.

The same multiple standards apply to group demonstrations. Right-wing mobs are celebrated as the voice of the people; leftie demonstrators are condemned as violent extremists on George Soros’s payroll. Even Karen Tumulty noticed right-wing hypocrisy on that one.

There was a time, less than a decade ago, when the sound of red-faced protest was music to Republican ears.

That, of course, was when Barack Obama was president, and the tea party movement was hijacking congressional town hall meetings with shouts of “Tyranny!” There were plenty of shoving matches, and Democratic lawmakers were burned in effigy. The police were regularly called in to bring a semblance of order.  …

…Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) lauded the conservative agitation as a pure expression of the frustrations and values of ordinary Americans.

“You’re the people who prove the politicians wrong when they say that all this activism and unrest was crafted, somehow, in a boardroom, down on K Street,” he said. “The grass-roots movement isn’t Astroturf, as they like to put it. It’s something that started at your kitchen tables.”

The tea party really was more astroturf than grass roots, but let’s go on …

Now it is the Democrats who are making the noise, and the argument is playing in reverse.

“You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law — not the rule of the mob,” President Trump tweeted Saturday about the demonstrations that erupted after the Senate voted to confirm his nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

I’ll go back even further. Remember the Brooks Brothers Riot? Those guys really were paid political operatives. They stopped a legitimate vote count and helped steal a presidential election. What did Democrats do to retalitate? Nothing.

BTW, while googling “Brooks Brothers Riot” I came across this opinion piece at Jacobin that’s worth reading.

Today Democrats are re-evaluating Michelle Obama’s famous words, “When they go low, we go high.” A few days ago, Eric Holder said, “When they go low, we kick ’em. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.” The Right, naturally, has been outraged, never might that they declared open season on kicking, punching and even shooting Democrats a long time ago.

I’m still opposed to violence. I’m not opposed to pulling whatever legal, political levers can be pulled to destroy the Republican party, however. Voting rights reform and putting an end to gerrymandering would go a long way in that direction, and Democrats damn well better get to work on those if they take back the House. No more Mr. Nice Political Party.

We’ll know better after we get election results, but I’m seeing indicators that Republicans finally broke the Bigger Asshole rule. To review:

The Bigger Asshole Rule

Effective demonstrations are those that make them look like bigger assholes than us.

That’s because the public will turn against whichever side is the bigger asshole. So, if demonstrators are seen as bigger assholes than the Powers That Be, public opinion will support the establishment and turn against the demonstrators. But in the Kavanaugh debacle, I sincerely believe that a majority of the public saw the Republicans as the bigger assholes, and most recent polling backs that up. Even now right-wing commenters are crowing that the Democrats damaged themselves on Kavanaugh, but I don’t think so. And I think the backlash against Republicans for the Kavanaugh debacle is just beginning, and it will continue for a long time.

11 thoughts on “The Many Standards of Anger

  1. maha,

    Don't worry too much about too harsh a backlash for Republicans.

    Our MSM is always ready to soften any blows to the GOP.

    Even if those " news" "reporters" have hard evidence of conservative politician's lying, cheating and stealing on a national scale, they'll find some "both sides do it" action even if all they find is some rookie back-alley Dem village political wannabe who lost, and gave the remaining campaign money to cancer research.  SCANDAL!!!!!

  2. Steve Bannon has said that while our side wants to play nice, his side will do whatever it takes.  What he didn't say, was that lying and deception are absolutely critical to "do whatever it takes" to avoid the Bigger Asshole Rule.

    So they wrap themselves up with Jesus and Patriots and Founders.

    Anybody sane, who steps back to take an objective look at the winner Brett Kavanaugh vs the loser Merrick Garland, will see a mediocre elite-entitled party bully vs a talented lifelong-disciplined achievement nerd, (who probably got beat up by bullies).  The problem is with so many people only able to see Jesus and Patriots and Founders, the more clear-thinking independent is the one to be persuaded.  Maybe they won't fall for the lies this time, if Dems are smart enough.

  3. "If dems are smart enough."  That scares me.  Even though Holder had the right idea the other day, they still seem inclined to bring butter knives to the GOP machine gun battle.

    The idea of Trump calling out the left as "violent" when he stokes violence damn near every time he acts out at one of his rallies, and their current theme of an angry left-wing mob, just reminds me of the rich body of clap back opportunities the GOP offers the dems if they'd just take advantage of it.   And clapping back doesn't mean be ignorant and ugly as they are, but they can be, what we used to say back in the day, "nice nasty."  Example of that was Andrew Gillum responding to Trump's racist attempt to smear Gillum over crime in Tallahassee.


  4. Right wing anger at "the mob from the left" is largely a kabuki act designed to rally their base (and strike fear into the left), and should be laughed at.

    Kavanaugh had a variety of ways he could've responded to Dr Ford's testimony, he chose to go Trump, itself also an act. And it worked – as Josh Marshall wrote (sorry no link): by the end of Ford's testimony, it looked like Kavanaugh was in deep trouble; after he finished his angry display, he prevailed.

    See The Constitution of Knowledge, a great article about “social epistemology” – how we as a society decide what is true and false, and how the right plays this. It includes a great discussion about trolling, and how Trump is the ultimate troll (something he saw as a compliment):

    …In 2013, someone using the handle @backupwraith tweeted, “i firmly believe that @realDonaldTrump is the most superior troll on the whole of twitter.” Whereupon @realDonaldTrump took the trouble to tweet back: “A great compliment!” We can’t say he didn’t warn us.

  5. “Why is the mob angry?"

    The question should be why does the right-wing get to define us as a mob? We liberals always do this, we use the language of the right to define ourselves and them. We started calling ourselves progressives when they made liberal a dirty word. We went along with them and let the right wingers be re-defined as the "teaparty" when the GOP was in the tank. The only thing the GOP'ers are good at is branding and slogans, I don't see why we should empower their only real strength, fuck them. I'm not in a mob I'm a democrat! I know I've missed the point of your post here, I get what your saying, I just don't like arguing on their terms?

  6. Anger, or something that looks like it, is observable in many species. As such it seems to exist in less complex and generally more primitive brains.  That republicans more frequently seem to show it is therefore not so remarkable, as they seem to have problems with higher cognitive functioning in other ways. Moonbat's link to Constitution of Knowledge was a good one in this regard.

    Krugman talks about the new age republican as moving from reality bending to just plain lying and deception is his recent NYT piece.  He contends their recent positions on health care are a prime example. To continue to use this kind of a tactic is an insult.  I suppose they consider themselves so superior, that they can make up facts and fantasy and expect no push back.  All should remind them a broken bullshit meter is a sure sign of an inferior human and their high level of self esteem is misplaced.  

  7. Ed, I'd be perfectly happy if things returned to the saner times of a somewhat-more-meritocracy before all the neoliberal/neocon kleptocratic lies and a 'republican' government which only represents the 1%, back when it was America that did all the great stuff and other countries did all the evil.  One way to keep our increasingly "violent" youth from knowing the way things once were, might be to take away all the history books and nostalgia videos about the good ole days.

    Robert Reich has some good little videos about reaching the other side.  Not sure if he has videos about countering kleptocratic lies though.

  8. Reich wing Republicans are brainwashed.  Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc., are the right's answer to Tokyo Rose.  How you counteract all this brainwashing, I don't have a clue.  I think we need the Fairness Doctrine put in place again; but, being able to think for yourself is a lost and possibly dead art.

  9. Given that they may yet need to be removed by force, they should think twice about spurring us on. There’s a lot more of us than them.

  10. @ Bonnie Oct 13, 2018 @5:34 pm

    <i>the right's answer to Tokyo Rose</i>

    Not fair.

    Tokyo Rose was coerced; Fox News, Rush Limbaugh are willing <strike>fools</strike> tools.

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