By David Futrelle
Perhaps the most heartbreaking and enraging moment of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate came after Senator Patrick Leahy asked her to recall her most indelible memory of the night she said that now-Supreme-Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her. Ford replied without hesitation: It was, she said, “the uproarious laughter” of Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, two aggressive adolescent boys ““having fun at my expense.”
So it is perhaps not surprising that Kavanaugh’s supporters have responded to the accused would-be-rapist’s confirmation to the highest court in the land with their own cruel laughter — and a Twitter hashtag designed to memorialize the fun they are now having at Ford’s expense.
Let’s take a quick tour #BeersForBrett hashtag, celebrating the Supreme Court confirmation of a man facing credible accusations of alcohol-fueled sexual assaults that the GOP was happy to ignore and that the White House blocked from being properly investigated. The hashtag began before the final vote on Kavanaugh, but has picked up steam since his confirmation,
In it, Kavanaugh’s fans are happily gloating over their victory, mocking their opponents, often to their faces.
While many using the hashtag are simply posting pictures of their own alcoholic celebrations (with predictably gloating captions), others are coming with the memes:
There’s much gleeful talk about “triggering” liberals and women.
There are the inevitable jokes about “liberal tears.”
Many of those on the hashtag have revealed themselves to be as vindictive, as eager for retribution, as Kavanaugh himself seems to be.
Some are directing their cruelty at Christine Blasey Ford herself:
As the tweets directed at Ford suggest, the whole hashtag stinks of misogyny, with many tweeters taking special pleasure in the suffering of women.
For even more blatant displays of misogyny, see this horrifying thread.
Still, not all of those posting in the hashtag are overgrown frat boys; there are numerous women as well, reminding us that the overwhelming majority of Republican women supported Kavanaugh. (White supremacy is a hell of a drug, I guess.)
Misogyny isn’t the only form of bigotry on display. (I censored the first image somewhat.)
But the people supporting this hashtag aren’t just internet trolls and alt-right Nazis. Far from it. Not only are a wide spectrum of Trump supporters posting in the hashtag; prominent conservative publications — and politicians — are getting into the action as well, with the Daily Caller going so far as to troll anti-Kavanaugh protesters by trying to give them beer.
Ironically, despite the sneering disingenuousness of the Daily Caller’s tweet, it did manage to get one thing right. All these beers for Brett are intended to bring people together. Just not all people.
In a powerful essay in The Atlantic several days before the Kavanaugh vote, journalist Adam Serwer compared the Trump fans who laughed at the President’s mocking of Ford at a rally in Mississippi last week to the “respectable” white citizens caught on camera in 90-year-old photographs of public lynchings, standing only feet from the bodies of murdered black men, with huge grins on their faces.
“Their names have mostly been lost to time,” Serwer writes,
But these grinning men were someone’s brother, son, husband, father. They were human beings, people who took immense pleasure in the utter cruelty of torturing others to death—and were so proud of doing so that they posed for photographs with their handiwork, jostling to ensure they caught the eye of the lens, so that the world would know they’d been there. Their cruelty made them feel good, it made them feel proud, it made them feel happy. And it made them feel closer to one another.
Trump and his supporters are in many ways the contemporary equivalents of these men. While “[t]he Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track,” Serwer notes, Trump’s cruelty towards Ford, and the mocking laughter of his supporters, is going to remain indelible in the collective hippocampus of rape survivors for a very long time, to paraphrase Dr. Ford.
As the laughter at the rally made clear — and the collective gloating that is the #BeersForBrett hashtag has further underlined — for Trump and his fans, cruelty towards others is bonding experience, just as lynchings were for so many racist white men and women in the early 20th century.
As Server argues,
The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty toward women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. …
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.
As the headline of Serwer’s piece puts it: “They cruelty is the point.” Indeed, reading through the #BeersForBrett hashtag, it is hard not to conclude that for many of Trump’s most fervent fans, the cruelty — and the privilege it is designed to celebrate and protect — is practically the only point.
Trump’s fans don’t care if his reputation as a self-made business genius is utter bullshit, built on tax fraud and money from daddy (and possibly decades worth of money laundering). They don’t care if he gushes over Kim Jong Un, the brutal boy dictator he once threatened to nuke off the face of the earth. They may not even care if he never builds his infamous wall. They just like to watch him go off on “uppity” women, on people of color, on anyone outside the magic circle of white male supremacy. As long as Trump is “triggering the libs,” many of his fans don’t even care if his policies are screwing them over.
But by making this collective cruelty such a central — and such a public — part of their exercise of power, Trump and the GOP have ignited a righteous fury in the hearts of all of us who oppose him. The cruelty and gloating that accompanied Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court is bringing this fury to a head.
We were angry before; for many of us the 625 days since Trump’s inauguration have been a rollercoaster of rage and despair. But I’ve never seen so many people so angry before. The midterms are a month away. We need to win them, to push back against every obstacle that Trump and the GOP put in our way, to take back every seat we can and then some, so we can begin the process of tearing down Trump’s empire of cruelty.
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