In just 140 characters or less, U.S. President Donald Trump has proven time and time again that words have meaning and, if you’re in a position of power, consequences.
With the nuance of a grade three student he, last week, publicly branded Malcolm Turnbull and the Obama administration’s refugee agreement ‘dumb’, in turn tarnishing a historically sturdy alliance between the two nations. The following day he decided it was worth ‘PUTTING IRAN ON NOTICE’, in capital letters for dramatic effect, via Twitter and tactfully adding that the nation ‘had been on its last legs’ and ‘should be thankful’ for U.S. assistance. On the same day he utilised a speech at a National Prayer Breakfast as an opportune moment to stroke his ego by calling for religious leaders to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on the Celebrity Apprentice, an issue clearly more pressing than the recent chaos that ensued following his executive order to ban immigration from seven Islamic nations.
It begs the question: at what point does a rejection of political correctness jeopardise national security?
It is difficult to precisely identify the conditions that gave rise to Donald Trump’s presidency. Part of Trump’s appeal to voters was policy based. His campaign promised to bring jobs back to the country and tighten national security. These issues definitely held an understandable appeal to a proportion of American’s who felt ignored during Obama’s presidency. The other draw card was that he stood for a new style of politics, seemingly devoid of the niceties and delicacy that had become synonymous with political discourse. He spoke his mind with a sense of unadulterated honesty and frankness that resonated with a large chunk of America who had grown tired of political correctness and a lack of personal connection to their political representatives. Thus, Trump was able to connect with voters by being personable and appearing to connect with the struggles of middle class America in a way that Hillary Clinton didn’t.
It is evident that a right wing political movement focusing on the rejection of political correctness and the mainstream media was imperative to the success of his campaign. The anti-PC movement, led largely by far-right news network ‘Breitbart’, became an integral component utilised by Trump’s campaign to instil distrust in the apparent hypocrisy of career politician’s like Hillary Clinton and the political correctness that underpinned mainstream news outlets.
The link between Breitbart and Trump’s ideology was indeed so interwoven that former Executive Chair of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, was ultimately appointed as Trump’s Chief Strategist following his victory.
Bannon, is a man who has openly made misogynistic, anti-Semitic, blatantly racist statements, acknowledged that Breitbart was a platform for the ‘alt-right’ (neo-Nazism) and has stated that it his intention ‘to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment’.
In a divided America, the appointment of a figure shrouded in controversy and seemingly driven by bigotry and self-interest does not send the message of hope and unity that a large proportion of the population has been waiting for post-election.
Like Bannon, it soon became apparent that many of Trump’s remarks made in the name of ‘honesty’ seemed to come at the price of demonising proportions of society or chastising opposition. Mexican’s were deemed ‘rapists’, refugees were characterised as a security risk, political opponent Carly Fiorina was publicly jeered at with a flippant, ‘who would vote for that face’, he declared that Republican Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he had been captured in Vietnam, African American’s of a low socio-economic background were called ‘thugs’, Rosie O’Donnell was named an ‘ugly pig’, Hillary Clinton was ‘bleeding from somewhere’, etc.
The consensus from some was that these statements were merely harmless banter or a rejection of political correctness that should be celebrated. However, to argue that taking offence to such rhetoric is a symptom of political correctness gone mad is to completely miss the point.
These statements represent a worldview that is both uncompassionate and lacking in the basic moral standards that we teach to children. I reject the notion that taking issue with these statements is to be a ‘special snowflake leftie’ and instead question the ethics of those that passively accept hate speech at all levels, let alone in the oval office. It is an issue that should have little to do with your placement on the political spectrum and more to do with being a decent human being
Equally as dangerous as inciting hate speech is his complete dismissal of mainstream media outlets that oppose his actions. In a tweet on the 6th of February, he proclaimed, that ‘any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election’. This statement is particularly alarming and reminiscent of the type of propaganda enlisted by dictators throughout history; including Vladimir Putin who has witnessed an estimated 34 journalists mysteriously die during his time as President.
Furthermore, the notion of ‘mainstream media’ as a monolithic entity with one common agenda is far too simplistic a way of critiquing opposition to the Trump Administration. Each news source is composed of individual journalists who, for the most part, have been taught at a tertiary level to uphold journalistic standards and keep the public informed. The media functions as a ‘fourth estate’, to provide a counterpart to governmental power and has the duty to remain vigilant on behalf of the public in regard to corruption. To disrupt that function by making unsubstantiated claims of ‘fake-ness’ and to proliferate ‘alternative facts’, as witnessed during the debate over the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd, is both negligent and dangerous. It attempts to silence the voices of journalists and political dissidents, which are integral components of a healthy Democracy.
In an age where global tensions are high, it is inexplicably dangerous to rattle off unsophisticated slander directed at international political figures and entire ethnic groups or countries in such a manner. It puts the safety of America and the globe in jeopardy to flippantly dismiss opinions he disagrees with as ‘stupid’ or ‘fake news’ and to put nations on notice via Twitter in an age where nuclear warfare is both tangible and engrained in our collective memories.
America should not have to grow accustomed to living the next four years in some perverse Onion article in which the Apprentice Ratings are considered a more pressing issue than human rights and ‘alternative facts’ are sprinkled daintily through life without a hint of irony. It is for this reason that we must hold Trump and his team accountable for their words and actions, as it is one thing to speak honestly and for that to be celebrated and another to forego diplomacy in the name of your own ego.