Notes on the Politics of Outrage
On January 27, 2017, exactly eight days into his presidency, Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order No. 13769 suspending the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and suspending the United States Refugee Admission Program for 120 days.
On February 1, 2017, White House Counsel clarified to the Acting Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security that portions of the Executive Order did not pertain to legal permanent residents.
Popularized as a ban on Muslims entering the United States, the world became outraged. Or, did it?
A central concern—perhaps the central concern of this article, is the basis upon which such outrage has been founded.
The American social critic, Harold Cruse once wrote: “On the face of it, this ideal that America, which idealizes the rights of the individual above everything else, is in reality, a nation dominated by the social power of groups, classes, in-groups and cliques—both ethnic and religious. The individual in America has few rights that are not backed up by the political, economic and social power of one group or another.”
I maintain that the “Muslim ban” narrative emerges from highly politicized media interests vying for control over the presentation and exclusion of information.
Democracy, directly translated, means “the people rule.” Who exactly “the people” are and how their voice gets communicated to and by whom, in U.S. politics, is very much in contention—as evinced by the Trump administration’s running war with the American press corps over the much debated “Muslim ban.”
Here is why.
All Things in Context
First, in The Intercept’s “EXCLUSIVE: New Email Leak Reveals Clinton Campaign’s Cozy Press Relationship,” Glen Greenwald highlights internal strategy documents exposing several members of the U.S. media as unofficial “surrogates” for the Clinton Campaign. Clinton staffers not only wrote and placed stories in the media, but highlighted messaging that was deemed “on the record.” ABC, CBS, CNN, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, MSNBC and the New York Times were all identified as news organizations “favorable” to Clinton.
This might make sense given that Gallup found that, “Not only do the slight majority of U.S. registered voters believe the media is biased in favor of Clinton, but 87% of voters who perceive any media bias believe that bias favors Clinton.”
Then, to prove just how much the American people did not want Trump, Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, made more money recounting votes than she did on her election bid.
As if that were not enough, we also learned—after the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats without conclusive proof—that the Russians neither hacked the DNC, the U.S. election, nor its electric grid.
Kellyanne Conway, Counsel to President Trump: “Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit, who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump, has been let go. They’re on panels every Sunday, they’re on cable news every day.”
Michael Wolff would go a step further saying that “the media believes that everybody believes what it believes.”
By that logic, that would also apply to conservative media’s unwavering support of Donald Trump. The difference, however, would be that there were no revelations of impropriety on the part of conservative media to work specifically on behalf of the Trump campaign.
Built as a “mad” rant, President Trump in his most recent press conference chided the media for what he saw as consistently negative coverage, seeming to– although jokingly, to downgrade CNN from so-called “fake news” to “very fake news.”
While Trump is in no way obliged to like or agree with the press coverage that he receives, the back and forth between this president and the American press corps centers around how this administration is represented vis-à-vis the accuracy of the information given regarding not just about his policies, but about the him and the method to his presidential madness, as well.
It is against this backdrop that political discourse surrounding Trump’s Executive Order should be understood.
Roundly criticized for banning over “roughly” 200 million people from coming into the United States, The New York Times’ Editorial Board ran, “Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Cowardly and Dangerous.” CNN ran with, “Trump’s latest executive order: Banning people from 7 countries and more.”
Google recalled employees it thought to be negatively affected by the “ban,” the Organization of Islamic Cooperation decried the move as “selective and discriminatory,” and airports and highways were mobbed, all to oppose Trump’s executive action.
The messaging was clear: the president of the world’s most powerful country just banned an entire religion from coming into the United States.
The Donald fired back.
Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world – a horrible mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
As has already been well-covered by Williams A. Jacobson and Seth Frantzman, the Department of Homeland Security, under Obama, continued the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 by adding Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as “countries of concern” to a list that had already targeted Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria from 2011.
On the seven states identified in the Executive Order, Deputy Assistant to President Trump, Sebastian Gorka told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “…That’s where ISIS is, and that’s where Al-Qaeda is, ok, Somalia, Yemen, and that’s also Iran—a state sponsor. We have to take down ISIS. What do you think is going to happen when we squeeze that balloon, Jake? Where do you think they’re gonna go?”
There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter our country. This was a big part of my campaign. Study the world!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
While the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of Trump’s Executive Order noting that the government did not show what due process requires, such as prior notice or hearings prior to travel, the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), as cited by the United States District Court of Massachusetts clearly states that, “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
“But no one from the seven countries has been involved with terrorism.”
The Center for Immigration Studies cites June 2016 Senate Subcommittee hearing findings confirming that 72 individuals involved with or associated with terrorism did indeed come from the seven countries listed in the Executive Order.
Consider also that as early as 2013, ABC reported that the FBI may have allowed “dozens” of al Qaeda-Iraq operatives into the U.S. as “refugees.”
In 2015 Islamic State operatives admitted to smuggling more than 4,000 “covert ISIS gunmen” into Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, and Turkey, “like refugees,” and last year, Germany’s Angela Merkel walked back her own open-door policy suggesting that if she could turn back time and change her policy, she would.
While much will be debated on the legality of Trump’s Executive Order, the president rightfully exercised his broad authority, under Section 212 (f) of the “INA,” “in order to ensure that resources are available to review screening procedures and that adequate standards are in place to protect against terrorist attacks.”
That 55% of Americans support Trump’s executive action—despite negative favorability ratings, should not be lost on anyone.
‘Immigration Ban Is One Of Trump’s Most Popular Orders So Far’ pic.twitter.com/wAelwuQ4BE
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
Bombs Over Baghdad
Were one to concentrate, for a moment, on, what Cornel West calls, the “morally obscene and spiritually profane” ways in which the lives of Muslims have been aggrieved by the United States government, travel restrictions pale in comparison.
In a 1995 State of the Union address, Bill Clinton received a standing ovation when he said, “Illegal immigrants take jobs from citizens or legal immigrants, they impose burdens on our taxpayers…That is why we are doubling the number of border guards, deporting more illegal immigrants than ever before, cracking down on illegal hiring, barring benefits to illegal aliens, and we will do more to speed the deportation of illegal immigrant’s arrested for crimes. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws that has occurred in the last few years.. and we must do more to stop it.”
Consider also The Economist’s report, “Barack Obama, deporter-in-chief,” “at nine times the rate of 20 years ago, nearly 2m so far under Barack Obama, easily outpacing any previous president. Border patrol agents no longer just patrol the border; they scour the country for illegals to eject. The deportation machine costs more than all other areas of federal criminal law-enforcement combined. It tears families apart and impoverishes America.”
Barack Obama openly embraced Bush 43’s drone programme, expanded the hyper-militarization of Africa vis-à-vis AFRICOM, relaxed a 2011 arms embargo on Libya, and deployed 4,000 troops and 2,000 tanks to the Russian border as part of a NATO buildup to war.
By the time the 2009 Nobel Laureate left office, he presided over the sale of $200 billion in military weaponry, more than any other president, and in 2016, alone, dropped 26, 171 bombs on Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The record speaks for itself.
While the compulsion to subordinate all things Trump to racist cum fascist policy reminiscent of 1930s Germany makes good copy, Glen Greenwald’s observation that—and I’m paraphrasing, to act as though Trump is some sort of political and cultural anomaly, is just another way of “whitewashing what we have collectively endorsed and swallowed,” is an understatement…to say the least.