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“Autocracy: Rules for Survival” Essential reading for everyone in Trump’s America

Maximum Leader Trump
Maximum Leader Trump

If there’s a part of you that still holds out hope that, for all his autocratic tendencies, Donald Trump will revert to a sort of political normality as president, you need to read Masha Gessen’s chilling but essential article “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” in The New York Review of Books.

Gessen, a journalist who has devoted much of her career to making sense of Russia under Vladimir Putin, offers a number of hard-won lessons for surviving in the autocracy that we may soon find ourselves living in here in the US.

The first and in some ways most important lesson for those still holding out hope for a more-or-less normal presidency:

Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. 

I think we’re going to have to suspend Godwin’s Law for the length of Trump’s presidency; the comparisons are simply too apt.

He has received the support he needed to win, and the adulation he craves, precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted “Lock her up!” They, and he, meant every word. … Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out. These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.

Gessen’s other rules:

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Consider the financial markets this week, which, having tanked overnight, rebounded following the Clinton and Obama speeches. Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people. …

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. …

Rule #4: Be outraged. …  [I]n the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. …

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises.

The final rule offers up a little bit of hope:

Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. 

Gessen ends her piece with a call for “resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged.” Thousands of Americans are already taking to the streets in cities across the country to let the world know that Trump — who after all lost the popular vote — is not their president. He’s not mine either. We need to join those in the streets — literally, figuratively, or both — to make clear we don’t want, and won’t stand for, Putinism in the United States.

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Rabukurafuto
Rabukurafuto
4 years ago

Applauds

Now this Gessen can tell it like it is, knowing how these dictators operate. The part about Putin taking over the media really scares me though.

Latte Cat
Latte Cat
4 years ago

I feel like I should be glad I don’t live in the US. But somehow I’m still horribly depressed and anxious about this whole thing. Knowing he lost the popular vote and seeing the amount of protests has restored a bit of my faith in humanity, though. I stayed up to catch the results as they came in on election night, which was a school night – in the UK, that meant staying up until about 6am. I didn’t and couldn’t sleep – I was positive, after everything, Hillary had it in the bag. It’s amazing the huge effect this has had on everyone.
Still – Alec Baldwin will have (presumably) 4 years of material, I get to keep my “Make Donald Drumpf Again” Chrome add-on, and I think I’ll recover in time by binge listening to Boards of Canada and drinking gallons of green tea.
My sympathies to all of you people actually living in the US! This is hopefully just the (pretty big) dying gasp of the conservative/right wing types who are too scared of a changing world. No matter the setbacks, the progressives always win eventually. History repeats itself. This time Adolf comes in a lovely deluxe orange!

CPphazor
CPphazor
4 years ago

I think autocracy may be tad much. BUT then again, he IS considering Ben Carson for department of education… and then there’s Mike Pence…

Tovius
Tovius
4 years ago

BUT then again, he IS considering Ben Carson for department of education

Are you fucking kidding me? *sigh* What a shitshow.

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
4 years ago

The cabinet is basically “1000 ways to hurt Americans”

Dan Kasteray
Dan Kasteray
4 years ago

I’m very pleased with the anti-Trump rallies.

Let’s all give President trump the same respect and courtesy that President Obama got.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
4 years ago

I want to give Ms Gissen a big hug.

Latte Cat
My sympathies to all of you people actually living in the US!

Thanks, we really need all the sympathy and support we can get.

This gives me some faith in humanity and I hope that the same people who protested at those rallies have the same energy to do the same at Standing Rock.

I can’t wait till I get the money and car (or someway I can travel without driving which is better tbh) so I can go to these rallies.

Belladonna
Belladonna
4 years ago

I’m not sure I was quite ready for this scariness. Especially number 3. I’ve been thinking, okay, maybe I get more involved with the ACLU. Maybe a really strong ACLU can help save us. But without the media, electoral system, or especially, the judicial system, what would the ACLU be able to do?

Then again, we are not Russia. If we are surveillant and fight hard enough, it might take much longer to dismantle our institutions. So if we do all the others, maybe 3 won’t happen.

Kat
Kat
4 years ago

Trump will probably be bad as president. He might be really awful — or even worse.

But although I appreciated Masha Gessen’s thoughts, I don’t think we should necessarily believe all the disgusting things Trump says. He’s an abusive politician, not an abusive boyfriend. If I had an abusive boyfriend, he might not be sophisticated enough to lie — especially given that I might spend a lot of time with him. It would be quite a feat of acting to lie to my face all the time. So I should take his awful statements of intent very seriously.

A politician, on the other hand, might espouse some terrible point of view for political expediency — but walk it back once the population reacts badly.

It wasn’t so long ago that Donald Trump was praising Hillary Clinton as a fantastic senator. His current views (if he has any) seemed to develop overnight. If he doesn’t really hold any views, then he might be able to change his policy once he experiences pushback.

And I have to wonder if all autocrats operate in the same way.

Gessen is from Russia. And the former USSR, including Russia, has had very little experience with democracy. IMO that’s why the USSR careened into totalitarianism after the Bolsheviks took over. And that’s why Russia isn’t a democracy. The USA, on the other hand, has almost 250 years of experience with democracy. We have very different expectations than the Russians do.

Gessen makes some excellent points. But if Trump doesn’t fulfill every one of them (and I think he might not), I don’t think we should relax our guard.

I’m taking everything Gessen said into account. And I’m also preparing myself for the unknown.

rugbyyogi
rugbyyogi
4 years ago

@Kat – I also don’t believe all that Donald Trump says – because he says all kinds of stuff, mostly contradictory. But I think we must absolutely be prepared for the worst of what he said. Because there are people who support him who voted for him for the worst of what he said and would love to enact it.

Donald Trump doesn’t have the attention span to follow through with the worst of what he said – even if he meant it -, but he’s a good delegator by many accounts and many of the people who he’ll be appointing are of the ‘tear it all down’ variety.

Fishy Goat
Fishy Goat
4 years ago

@rugbyyogi Exactly. It’s not Trump I’m worried about so much as the people propping him up.

Ray of Rays
Ray of Rays
4 years ago

He’s an abusive politician, not an abusive boyfriend.

If I remember right, he is an abusive husband, though, to at least one of his previous wives.

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
4 years ago

I agree, it’s not Trump we need to keep an eye on. It’s the people just behind the curtain.

There are a lot of Republicans as well as Democrats who wouldn’t mind seeing Trump impeached – he’s a loose cannon (despite being easily led due to his short attention span and disdain for facts, reading, and boring meetings), and he’s very damaging to their brand. There is also the fact that being president is one of the hardest, most physically grueling and psychologically taxing jobs in the world, and Trump is incredibly lazy. It will take a severe toll on him, and I don’t get the sense he’s in terribly good shape (all that “stamina” and “sick Hillary” stuff seems like pure projection). Honestly, I’d be surprised if he lasts four years. But then, as Gessen points out, failure of imagination is how we all got here.

Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
4 years ago

I will live under the assumption that the worst that can happen can actually happen. Trump gets no benefit of doubt. Whatever he or his cronies say, I’ll believe to be a distinct and approaching probability. If he changes what he says, I’ll believe that too

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
4 years ago

Yeah, after seeing a billion parallels to other despots I really do not have any desire of giving benefit of doubt.

Neveragaine (got lost in the Iron Republic)
Neveragaine (got lost in the Iron Republic)
4 years ago

@Kat
Please, please don’t underestimate the situation. Yes, Trump is a pathological liar, and yes, the bast-case scenario is that he will just go back on all the promises (as he has already started doing). But that is just the best outcome. Everyone needs to be prepared for the worst one. I wrote a lengthy rant in another thread about this, which boiled down to: I’m from Poland. We also thought that it can’t possibly be THAT bad. And not that much has changed on the surface, but the country and its democratic systems are slowly being dismantled from within (and I can see Putin smile all the way in Kremlin).

Also, I’ve found this. It’s from early May, before all this happened, but especially the beginning about Plato’s ‘Republic’ was chilling.

losername
losername
4 years ago

Can we talk about how to reach Trump supporters? I see so many of them railing against how they feel attacked by the left. How they are angry with us because we call them racist.

We have been using shaming as a tactic to fight bigotry and it backfired. I’m not saying it’s morally wrong to shame bigots, I’m saying that we can’t afford to. We have been using bigot-shaming as a strategy, thinking that it would teach people that bigotry is wrong. Instead it taught them that bigotry is a social faux pas, not that it is actually wrong. Millions are furious with us for what they see as enforcement of an unnecessary social rule.

I totally get that sometimes people won’t have the energy to quietly explain things to racists and we will all lose our cool at times. I have also dealt with so many concern trolls who pretend they are open to a discussion when they are really trying to manipulate.

Sometimes we will all do things that they register as shaming because we are so upset. The privileged can sometimes be such precious flowers that they will feel attacked at the slightest implication they are wrong.

But at the very least we need to stop using bigotry shaming as a deliberate tactic. It only drives bigots into the closet, where they become even more bigoted and more angry with us and more focused on plotting their revenge.

Kat
Kat
4 years ago

No way am I going to underestimate the situation.

And yeah, Trump was, IMO, an abusive husband — even though Ivana walked back her accusations.

I guess my point was that he’s not our abusive boyfriend. He’s our abusive politician — a role that has a lot of smoke and mirrors and advisers involved.

And as rugbyyogi pointed out, Trump says a lot of contradictory things. So really we can’t believe everything he says. Probably not even all the bad things.

My point was also that maybe things would play out somewhat differently from what Gessen said.

And I have a lingering hope that he won’t try to do all the bad stuff he promised.

But yeah, he’s surrounding himself with some go-getters, and that’s not good.

Luckily, we’re go-getters ourselves. Let’s make those people with evil designs on our democracy rue the day Donald Trump won the presidency.

Whose country? Our country!

Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
Axecalibur: Middle Name Danger
4 years ago

@losername
Can we not call calling out bigotry a shaming tactic? Cos, like, shaming people for their appearance or sexual history is wrong. Not outta some strategery but cos it’s just wrong. Criticism =/= shaming, and I’d rather not have the terminology crosspollinate like that

Laugher at Bigots, Mincing Betaboy
Laugher at Bigots, Mincing Betaboy
4 years ago

Calling out bigotry is a shaming tactic. But unlike with most other shaming tactics, this shaming is well-deserved. Bigots ought to be ashamed of themselves.

losername
losername
4 years ago

@Axecalibur

That’s exactly what I mean where I say that the privileged will sometimes claim they are being shamed just because we point out that they are wrong.

But actual shaming that is used as a deliberate tactic is backfiring. Things like this: http://publicshaming.tumblr.com/

@Laugher at Bigots

Calling out bigotry can be education and criticism. It’s the hyperprivileged delicate flowers who want to believe they are being shamed every time someone points out that they are wrong.

I can absolutely agree that bigots deserve to be shamed, but when shaming them gets Trump elected, I think we need to use another tactic than giving them what they deserve.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
4 years ago

The ironic thing is, a lot of republicains would be even worse than Trump. Maybe some would be better than him, but it’s arguable at best. Would anyone want Ted Cruz over Trump ?

Dalillama
Dalillama
4 years ago

@losername
As the old saying goes, what do you mean ‘we’, white man? * Who has been calling out bigots, shaming them, making them talk about feeling ‘attacked’? Because, in the main, it has been the victims of bigotry who have been ‘bigot-shaming. It hasn’t been people the bigots see as their peers. By and large, white people cheerfully ignore racism, men dismiss misogyny, straight people let homophobia slide, and cis people throw trans folks under the bus. “Aw, well, Bob’s a great guy, he’s just a little rambunctious with women.”
“Sure, Aunt Marge talks about putting the [racial slurs] back in the fields where they belong, but she makes a mean pecan pie.”
And the ever classic “It’s just a joke, don’t take it so seriously.”
Those are much more common reactions to bigots among the privileged than actually calling them out or shaming them for their horrible views. Which is rather the problem, in fact. Because the privileged laugh off systemic bigotry, it persists, and, much like herpes, erupts into an acute stage periodically. However, unlike herpes, there is a possibility of an actual cure, which means dismantling systemic bigotry, which means rooting bigotry out of culture to the greatest extent possible, which means, among other things, to fucking shame them. It means not cutting racist (or whateverist) bullshit any slack, ever.It means calling it out even in minor manifestations, even if it’s supposedly well meaning, even if it’s done in ignorance. Because the one thing a free and equal society (not that the U.S. has one, or anything close, but that’s the goal here) cannot abide is bigotry, of whatever stripe.

*Yes, I’m white, and I don’t actually know your race or gender; that doesn’t affect my point, though.

Bodycrimes
Bodycrimes
4 years ago

Trump’s victory is a victory for the far right everywhere. Marine Le Pen, for one, is openly crowing and European commentators think she may have a real shot at the French government now. It’s telling that Breitbart is now recruiting for writers in France and Germany, the two countries where the far right is taking hold.

Gessen is right. We have to believe what people say about themselves. Trump himself may not be an ideologue in any real sense. He could just be in it for the adulation. But the people who surround him and support him are very, very clear about what they want and none of it is good. They want nothing less than to remake the West according to their own twisted ideas. They have actually said so.

All these movements – Alternative fur Deutschland, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Trump supporters etc etc – are feeding into each other, with the help and encouragement of Putin’s very slick propaganda machine.

The most telling thing to me is what Trump isn’t saying – he’s not coming out to calm down the country and put everybody’s fears to rest. That speaks volumes.

Zatar
Zatar
4 years ago

losername:

Eh I don’t think its so much call outs backfiring that got Trump elected as much as it was Trump pandering to them in a more open way then previous republican candidates did. And I really don’t think that trying to reason with bigots is necessarily that helpful. A well reasoned argument doesn’t really do much against someone who is set on hating people, especially since bigotry isn’t really based on logic.

ElizabethRegina
ElizabethRegina
4 years ago

Racists should be shamed.
Racism is shameful.
Part of the reason why we are here is that we are we are too constrained by decency.
Every time someone says something which targets a group of people in a discriminatory way, we should (do the equivalent of) leaning into the mic and grunting WRONG.
That seems to be standard of debate people want to hear, let’s slap down every bit of bigotry we come across, intelligent arguments didn’t work.

losername
losername
4 years ago

@Dalillama I am a privileged White middle class person and a million times I have cried out in frustration “Arrrgh, you’re just a horrible racist” or some equivalent because I was too pissed off to sit down and engage with them diplomatically. I’m sure that by antagonizing them I have made them worse. It is exactly people like me, the privileged people who actually care, who have the responsibility to grit our teeth and keep our cool and perform a sort of hostage negotiation.

That is who I am addressing. Those who are privileged enough that we can do this without fearing for our lives.

@Zatar, @ElizabethRegina
Some of them definitely can’t be reasoned with. I know that from years of trying to. But some of them can and it often takes an infuriating amount of patience, but it works.

We need to approach this how police approach a hostage negotiation or how diplomats negotiate ceasefire. There are too many of them with too much power and they are too dangerous for shaming them to be effective.

When we look at a hostage situation and shame the hostage-taker, we can feel good that we gave him what he deserves, but it isn’t what saves the hostages.

Skiriki
Skiriki
4 years ago

Hey folks, please do not take the election of Tangerine Hitler as a single instance of stuff in what makes history, present and future.

You absolutely HAVE TO remember that our future becomes from a tangled weave of events.

It is not JUST Trump.

It is not JUST Putin.

It is not JUST Brexit.

It is not JUST rise of right-wing populism all around the world.

It is not JUST ongoing climate change (for the worse).

All of these things and tons more interact with each other, and the mix becomes explosive.

Consider: If Marine Le Pen wins in France next year, UN Security Council will be controlled by these people.

http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cw_WDAuXEAAzOmI.jpg

Consider Umberto Eco’s ur-fascism. If I have to rank my own country, and check what features are starting to creep in…

Cult of tradition, check
Rejection of modernism, not quite, but there are suggestions of it at the background
Action for action’s sake, fuck yeah, we had MEN OF ACTION demanding and quickly preparing laws that flopped due to unconstitutionality and you wouldn’t believe the amount of bawwwing about that
Disagreement is treason, yep yep, those serious men in action think it is, fortunately people still say “NO” a lot
Fear of difference, yes, pretty much always
Appeal to a frustrated middle class, yes
Obsession with a plot, yes
Ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies, hot topic of the year — refugees have CELL PHONES OMG you dipshits, they’re refugees from a nation that was on par with ours in wealth, not time-travelers from 18th century
Life is lived for struggle, yup very much the ideology
Contempt for the weak — and how!
Everybody is educated to become a hero — what Pepe Boys are apparently hankering to be
Machismo, well, right now our govt. is busy trying to slash anything that makes life easier as a family or woman with kids and thank goodness that it was the previous Parliament which secured the rights of equal marriage laws
Selective populism, not yet, but I can see it creeping close
Newspeak, yes, sortakinda.

I’m worried for my country.

Neveragaine (got lost in the Iron Republic)
Neveragaine (got lost in the Iron Republic)
4 years ago

That’s a very frightening checklist, not only for the USA. And that UN Security Council is horrifying.

…I think I need to go and watch something cute.

Psycho Gecko
4 years ago

If there’s anything I can criticize that article about, it’s the same thing I want to criticize people about any time they claim Trump is a populist. It’s part of my “bad history” pet peeve. The Populist party of the United States was indeed made up of farmers and people in the rural part of the United States, but they were nothing like these modern-day types. Probably the biggest difference is they actually pursued policies to alleviate the debt they had to undertake as part of farming.

One of the major defining issues of the Populists was their criticism of the gold standard. It made sure there was too little money in the nation, which made things harder and harder on people who owed money. They felt that the solution was inflation in the form of adding silver to the standard. This would increase the supply of money and make it easier for people to pay their debts, while also not completely upending the system as people thought going off gold would do.

They talked about poor blacks and whites working together for their common self interest (though there were also plenty of racists in the party. This was late 1800s rural America, after all). They pushed for a graduated income tax, an 8 hour work day, and government ownership of all railroads, telegraphs, and telephones. Though some of them also had that whole view of Jews as being shadowy international finance figures, but it’s safe to say that didn’t dictate the party’s policy.

In the United States, the Populists didn’t used to be a bunch of ignorant right-wing puppets. I find it offensive that anyone tries to say these Tea Baggers of nowadays are any relation to the old Populists in any way except for the racist aspects. But now, the closest you get to the Populist Party is a bunch of people who want less money because someone once told them inflation was bad, even though they owe money on houses and cars. Instead of being a party for collective action of farmers and workers to advocate for their rights, they’re running around giving up rights and hoping they’ll be paid almost nothing so they’ll have a job that competes with Chinese sweatshops.

And to think, Trump’s collective of buffoons thinks they’re the ones entitled to outrage.

LittleLurker
LittleLurker
4 years ago

re: Reaching people who voted for Trump/didn’t vote/voted third party.

What are the alternatives to reaching out to at least some of the people whose voting behaviour caused this and convincing them otherwise?
You will need more people to vote your way next election.
Or is there any other chance?

Mish of the Catlady Ascendancy
Mish of the Catlady Ascendancy
4 years ago

@Skiriki,

Jebus, that list also applies to Australia. Not all counts, but enough to give me pause.

Skiriki
Skiriki
4 years ago

@Mish of the Catlady Ascendancy

Well considering the situation regarding Manus and Nauru… I think that’s couple of checkmarks to “this is terrifying and alarming” column.

(For those who haven’t kept up with the news, Manus and Nauru are islands where (non-white) refugees who were headed towards Australia are detained under conditions worse than Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and I am not much exaggerating here.)

Mish of the Catlady Ascendancy
Mish of the Catlady Ascendancy
4 years ago

@Skiriki,

Absolutely, yes. And the govt is currently trying to pass a law to the effect that if a person has sought asylum here by boat (not plane) they will never be allowed to visit, not even as a tourist or business person. Even if their refugee status is found to be legitimate.
Already, anyone who comes by boat will never be granted refugee status. So if this law passes, not only can they not come in as a refugee, they can never, ever come in under any circumstance.

And no, you’re not exaggerating in the least about the conditions. From what we know, that is, given that ‘whistleblowers’ face jail time and most media are not allowed anywhere near the detention centres.
Manus has closed but those people won’t be settled here.

In a final twist, a deal is being considered by the US to take some of Australia’s refugees.

Valentine
Valentine
4 years ago

Lot of people been saying it but I’ll just like to say the differences between Putin and Trump are far more than similarity. The mind of Russian people is also very different from Americans. It is strange that Guessen overlooks this if she has been living in or studying Russain politics. The history that allow Putin to do what he does is not at all the same as the situation that lead to Trump. Not even slightly.

To compare them is false.

But all that said, she is right with one thing. He should not be underestimated. And even if he does nothing for four years, by even existing he has given altright and nazis and racists the permission they need to act on their beliefs. Just a few days since and we see his effects already.

She compares to Putin because that’s hat she knows but she is wrong on that one in my opinion. I can’t agree.

bluecat
bluecat
4 years ago

Thanks for this David. Very good advice.

Just reading an amazing and depressing book about Putin’s Russia called “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible” by Peter Pomerantsev. The politics of the spectacle. I recommend it.

Herbert West
Herbert West
4 years ago

Doesn’t matter that he lost the popular vote, even the Nazi Party never had the majority alone in any democratic election (they needed the help of another far-righ party, the more snobbish, elitist German-national People’s Party).
Note that no big good guys are left anymore, and the EU might fall apart, we’re probably in for THOSE times again (we seem to every century).
It’s best to flee to Iceland or New Zealand, places no one cares about and that would almost certainly survive a nuclear war.
Other options include the Congo, the middle of the Amazonas, Greenland, small Indonesian islands etc.
Well, it’s better to wait first, maybe King Fettgesicht fails utterly and gets backstabbed by the GOP, [inappropriate stuff deleted by DF] but always consider to run away to Nowhere. Because even then the tenor of American politics might be ruined forever, and the US might have finally entered it’s final ultrapopulist and undemocratic state. Then a less incoherend and more competent leader will inevitable arise. And the EU is probably doomed anyway.
You know, they could have really waited another 60 years before going through all of this crap again.

ramen
ramen
4 years ago

@losername

You are suggesting that people should accommodate white nationalism. In your defense, you’re not alone. In fact, history says this is exactly what the Democratic Party will hurry to do.

On the other hand, THIS IS BULLSHIT. We should not, in point of fact, act in violation of the principle that PEOPLE ARE FUCKING HUMAN BEINGS.

For years, the Republican Party has been acting as though a moral emergency were underway, and they needed to respond with uncompromising principles. Now they have made it true, and Jesus fucking God I would like the Democrats to JUST SAY NO for once in my life. JUST FUCKING SAY NO.

losername
losername
4 years ago

@ramen We have been saying no and they took “revenge” on us by electing Trump. That’s the rhetoric I keep hearing. They’re sick of our “political correctness” of calling out racism when we see it and it makes them so mad that they elect a demagogue to punish us.

What if we used these kinds of tactics instead: http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2013/06/hostage-negotiation/

No, it is absolutely not what they deserve, but this isn’t for their sake, it’s for the sake of their victims.

kupo
kupo
4 years ago

@losername
I think there are degrees of racism and sexism that happen and there are degrees of relationship to the people doing those racist and sexist things. In the case of a microagression from someone you have an ongoing relationship with your advice isn’t necessarily wrong. When my colleague unintentionally says something racist, calling it racist in front of everyone is probably not going to be productive. He’ll go on the defensive and be unable and unwilling to accept this information. Especially if I don’t explain why. However, if I contradict him in a more informative way, he actually listens and he’ll start to modify his behavior. This is a tactic I’ve been using and it’s been working. But he’s not intentionally bigoted, he’s a Hillary supporter, and he wants to challenge his own assumptions.

But for pretty much every other scenario with racism I think we need to be louder. Before Tuesday, if I were in public and saw some bigot shouting racist bullshit I would have ignored it. I’m introverted and being in public is hard enough. Plus, everyone knows that’s wrong, right? Wrong. That is behavior I need to change and have been mentally preparing myself to change. Bigots need to know they’re in the minority. Victims of Bigots need to know that they’re not alone and don’t need to fight this alone. We can’t afford to allow people to continue grabbing women by the pussy and yelling at people of color that they’re getting deported. We need to get loud. We need to put our bodies between them and their victims. This terrifies me and I need to prepare myself so that when that moment comes I don’t freeze up. We can’t afford not to fight back. We can’t afford to be polite.

Skiriki
Skiriki
4 years ago

@kupo — for not-freezing-up I would suggest a martial arts class or self-defense class, if possible. You don’t have to learn to fight, per se, but unlearning the freeze reflex in one might help. Another option is theatre class, especially improv variety.

What has helped me, though, is tabletop roleplaying games (I’m sure LARPing can also help). Expect the unexpected, and I can run my mouth pretty fiercely these days. But, everyone’s different and one-size-fits-nobody.

ramen
ramen
4 years ago

@losername

No. No, no, no, no. Accommodating white supremacy is not going to help white supremacy’s victims.

How about this? For the sake of all the non-cis-het-white-able-bodied-male-Christian folks targeted by this asshole and his campaign, let’s please not even talk about meeting him halfway. Not just because that would be the right, principled thing to do, but because meeting him halfway WON’T HELP ANYBODY.

weirwoodtreehugger: communist bonobo

Oh please tell me “bigot shaming” isn’t the new “creep shaming.” This backlash isn’t evidence that pushing back against bigotry is failing. It’s evidence that it’s succeeding. It just doesn’t happen overnight. There’s always, always backlash against social justice. For example, when schools were forcibly racially integrated there were huge violent protests against that. I’m sure there lots of white people who thought that maybe it was too soon. Maybe we should ease into desegration more slowly. Blah blah blah. But instead, they continued on with it. Now, even though yes, there are plenty of things that effectively segregate schools but for the most part it didn’t take too long for people to accept the new reality. The only mistake we’ve made is underestimating the backlash and not pushing back hard enough.

I’m a white cishet atheist but culturally Christian woman. When I push back against a bigotry that affect me, the person being a bigot doesn’t get upset with me. Either they think of it as a fun political debate with someone they disagree with or they just dismiss me as a silly bleeding heart liberal. I see no rage directed to me at all. The only time anyone gets upset with me for pushing back against bigotry is when that bigotry is misogyny. As Dalillama said, they’re not mad about bigot shaming, they’re mad that social justice movements have been slowly but surely accomplishing their goals. They’re mad at the oppressed people for getting all uppity and thinking they might be people.

Unfortunately, progress in social justice isn’t always linear. There are setbacks. That’s always how it’s been. That’s no reason to roll over and let bigots walk all over us. That’s no reason to act as though their bigotry is legitimized.

There was nothing I could have done to stop my Republican uncle from voting Trump and I don’t think I can stop his racism and homophobia. But at our last family gathering, what I could do is make damn sure his still too young to vote grandkids heard an adult pushing back against the bigotry. Not to do a sappy children are the future thing, but this is what’s important. If each generation is a little less oppressive than the last, we’ll always overcome these kind of horrific waves of hate eventually. That’s not going to happen if we act like bigots have some sort of legit point.

Sorry if I’m rambling and incoherent. Mornings aren’t my best time. I just can’t let the idea that we should be nice and intolerant towards bigots stand. Fuck them.

sunnysombrera
sunnysombrera
4 years ago

@ramen
I’m not sure people are saying we should accommodate white supremacy, rather that we argue against them in a less confrontational way. Same goal, just different method.

Apologies if this has already been linked, but Southern Poverty Law Centre has published a fantastic article on how to respond to bigoted statements from friends/family/etc in everyday life.

sunnysombrera
sunnysombrera
4 years ago

I still maintain that we should be firm, diligent and vigilant against bigotry from here on out, but to do it in a way that makes it harder for them to whip out the victim card and “you’re just as bad” tactic. God knows they’ll take whatever chance they can to do just that.

Zatar
Zatar
4 years ago

losername:

I feel like you may be taking the Trump supporters words at face value a little too much. I don’t think that the majority of Trump supporters have been called out nearly as much as they claim. I’ve seen perfectly logical arguments get the same results as angry call outs.

losername
losername
4 years ago

@ramen I absolutely don’t want to meet them halfway. I want to convince them to change their behaviour in a way they will actually listen to. If that means I have to grit my teeth and speak in a sweet soothing tone to a bigot to convince him to stop hurting people, then I am going to try and do that.

@communist bonobo You’re absolutely coherent. Sorry, I think my use of the word “shaming” was dumb, since it sounds like I’m calling them the victim. Bigots are absolutely not the victim. Maybe “antagonizing” would have been better. I also hate when people insist on baby steps to progress. I don’t want to soften on policy, I just want to change how we try to convince people.

Maybe you are absolutely correct that the antagonizing is the most effective strategy. That’s exactly what I want to discuss, the best way to convince people.

@Zatar Oh absolutely, that’s what I mentioned in my first comment. These precious flowers who throw tantrums as soon as someone points out their thinking is flawed. But there are also social justice advocates who are deliberately using shaming as a strategy and explicitly say so. I think that I myself have lost some potential converts because I lost my temper at them.

weirwoodtreehugger: communist bonobo

When people are wrong, facts just make them double down. There’s been research on this but I don’t have time to look it up. As Kupo was saying, there are certain instances when you can correct someone diplomatically. But when someone is determined to hate, the only thing that you can do is show others around you that it is not okay.

sunnysombrera
sunnysombrera
4 years ago

You know what. For all that talk of whether to be diplomatic or fierce as to which will be most effective…It probably depends on the individual you’re trying to correct. I can’t get angry at my mum because then she’ll flip it around and cry and be all “oh how could you do this” and then my dad comes running to defend her (always) and I’m the bad guy. That said, my dad could handle more forceful argument and sometimes that is how I’ve gotten through to him, just by firing up in my tone. Respectfully, but still assertively.

losername
losername
4 years ago

Thank you so much for this discussion. You are all so wonderful and strong and smart and I’m so happy to see people who really care about what is going on.

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