29 May 2016

PEGIDA and the True Meaning of Irony

Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West or PEGIDA is a German organization.

Its purpose is clearly stated in its name. They are against Muslims because they say that they cannot be assimilated.

In the last two years, it has been organizing large anti-Muslim rallies which were joined by thousands of Germans.

Recently, the PEGIDA leadership became incensed by an advertising campaign.

Kinder, a famous German chocolate bar manufacturer, known for the Aryan kid pictures on its packaging, committed a horrible sin.

This is the traditional package.

This is the recent package.

Did you notice the problem? 

PEGIDA folks were outraged. Will they stop at nothing, they hollered. Tweets and social media postings blasted the company for pandering to Islamists and immigrants.

It turns out that the pictures were childhood photos of members of the German national soccer team. The one above is Ilkay Gundogan, who plays for Borussia Dortmund and the one below is Jerome Boateng who plays for Bayern Munich.

In other words, these are exactly the kind of kids that PEGIDA is dead set against allowing into Germany. And now they are part of an elite squad. And when they score during the World Cup, Germans will have to cheer them on despite their less-than-Aryan identity.

This is very much like the point Banksy was making with Steve Jobs whose father was a Syrian immigrant.

All of this is ironic enough. 

But do you know why I used the expression "true meaning of irony" in the heading?

PEGIDA has a "19-point manifesto [that] says the movement opposes extremism and calls for protection of Germany's Judeo-Christian culture."

Yes, Judeo-Christian culture. 


You know, the people who needed to be exterminated because they could not be assimilated.

19 May 2016

The Donald vs the Chairman

If you are wondering who the Chairman is you are not familiar with American politics. He is the Chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes.

If Nixon was the architect of the Southern Strategy, Roger Ailes was -according to GOP strategist Ed Rollins- its Michelangelo.

What that means is that he elevated the idea of using white resentment to divide and polarize a society into an art form.

He was already the "go to guy" as a political consultant but he got bored with retail polarization and wanted to move up to wholesale. In 1996, he convinced his buddy Rupert Murdoch to get him a shiny new toy, the Fox News.
The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.
He applied the tried and true GOP formula to make it into a very effective and profitable tool. And he used himself as the mold.
To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that’s held to the same standard of evidence as a late-­October attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican Party. 
It was thanks to him that Koch brothers pet project called Freedom Works was transformed into the Tea Party as we know and love today.

He not only made conservative politics acceptable (even though it kept moving to the right and had no anchor) he also became the referee who decided what conservative was to become the darling of the right.

Until the Donald.

From the get-go Trump adopted an adversarial position vis-a-vis Fox News. It was a typical alpha male posturing. He famously attacked Megyn Kelly in sexist and disparaging terms. He demanded money to appear on Fox News, as he claimed his presence amounted to a rating bonanza. He even boycotted a Fox News debate.

The Chairman responded with virulent coverage of Trump's campaign. He enlisted all the big stars in the GOP firmament to speak out against Trump. They relentlessly accused him of everything under the sun. The same echo-chamber that so successfully destroyed many Democratic candidates like John Kerry or managed to get the House and the Senate back to GOP in 2012, turned against Trump.

And, surprise, surprise, nothing happened.

Trump continued to climb in the polls, won most of the significant primaries and eventually became the presumptive nominee.

In the cynical conservative world, this was a major catastrophe. The invincible Chairman was shown to be vulnerable. This is a man who convinced millions that one of the most conservative Democratic Presidents of all time was in fact a Kenyan Marxist out to destroy America with his extremism. This is a man who could sell any statement or any position no matter how outrageous that is.

The Donald showed that it was no more. If he couldn't destroy a man who says the first thing that comes to his mind only to reverse himself two days later why should anyone fear him.

The magic spell was broken.

Since then you see a huge effort to mend their relationship. As Trump knew he couldn't finance his own campaign (news flash, despite his bombast, he is not that rich), he decided to go to the GOP establishment to ask for their help to raise money.

And they said, sure, but you first go and make it nice with the Chairman.

And they told the Chairman, no more attacking the Donald.

That is why, the other night, Trump was explaining his bimbo tweets to the target of those tweets.

And that is why Kelly, who accused him of sexism in the past, was telling him "you're so powerful" against a backdrop of Central Park.

Megyn Kelly interviews Donald Trump at Trump Tower.

These are the folks who will block Merrick Garland's nomination claiming the new President should be the one to choose and will vote him in during the lame duck session, if Hilary Clinton wins in November.

The word cynical doesn't even begin to cover them.

But that is why the Chairman is so important. He can make such contradictions disappear and turn cynicism into a moral virtue.

That is why he is the Chairman.