Thursday, February 22, 2018

De-legitimizing the Florida teens

Donald Trump mastered the technique of de-legitimization.  It works in the current political and media environment.

We are seeing another iteration of it now.

The school shooting incident in Florida has a new twist.  Unlike the mass shooting incidents in Las Vegas or Sandy Hook or San Bernardino this one produced angry, well spoken survivors who took to the microphones and camera to denounce the failure of the adult world to protect them.

David Hogg, 17:   Click: 40 second video.
The teenagers are photogenic. Several of them are camera and TV-adept. They adopted the talk radio/Fox News tone of indignation and outrage, which works on TV.  They accuse and denounce Trump.

"In response to your most recent tweet where you said that the Democrats had not been able to get anything done when they controlled the House and the Senate and the presidential executive branch.   

How dare you!

You are in that exact position now and you want to look back at our history and blame the Democrats?   That's disgusting.  You're the president.  You're supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us!   How dare you!  Children are dying and their blood is on your hands because of that.  Please.  Take action. Stop going on vacation to Mir a Lago. Take action.  Work with Congress.  Your party controls the House.  Take action.  Get some bills passed. And for God's sake, let's save some lives."

It is powerful because it is passionate.  It points right at Trump personally.  Stop going on vacation and do your job.  

Not all the teenagers were so nice.   One teenager responded to Trump's "prayers and condolences to the families of the victims" tweet by writing a tweet of her own: "I don't want your condolences, you fucking piece of shit. . . .Do something instead of sending prayers."

The de-legitimization begins immediacy.   

Click Here for more
Trump's conservative allies attack the teenagers personally, accusing them of being very different from what they appear.  They are fake. Ignore their argument and look closely at them.  There is something wrong with them and they are the issue.  

The leading edge of attacks on the teenagers is Alex Jones, who posited that the entire Florida shooting was perhaps a false flag con

This has bled into the usual suspects of pro-Trump media positing their accusations are  fake in some way.  So far I have heard these lines of de-legitimization: 

1.  They are actors, and this didn't really happen.
2.  They are paid to do this by others, perhaps by George Soros.
3.  They could not possibly arrange to go to Tallahassee and elsewhere without some parental or organizational support, so let's focus on their support structure.
4.  The kids are badly raised and out of line for disrespecting authority (Sheriff Clark said his father would have backhanded him across the face had he challenged authority like that.)
5.  The kids are examples of kids whose parents are crazy liberals.
6.  The most adept speaker, David Hogg, is the son of a retired FBI agent and the son is protecting and diverting attention from the FBI.
7.  Maybe there were scripts and talking points about guns written before the event and the whole thing was pre-planned as an anti-gun hoax.
8.  These are just silly kids, mouthing off in their ignorance. ("Adults-1, Children-0")
9.  The teenagers are knowing participants in an ugly bit of "moral blackmail", cynically using their tragedy to force people to listen to them.

Will de-legitimization work?   

It already partly has. Teenagers are already going on camera denying they are actors. Their legitimacy is now a matter in controversy.  Conservative media can report on the controversy, thus repeating the charge they are, maybe, fake.

Trump media also focuses on who is assisting the teenagers. This makes it harder for teenagers to organize and be effective, since the next steps inevitably involve getting institutional support, which the Trump-allied media has defined as nefarious.

Dangerous for a Trump to do
The power of de-legitimizaiton is so great that the attackers are going forward even thought the teenagers are bad targets. De-legitimization of politicians seems like fair game.  But not kids. 

The teenagers are young and attractive.  It is punching down and trivializing people angry over dead teenagers.  Standing in tee shirts in front of cameras, they look like what they are: too young to vote. Their essential argument, that they are dis-empowered by adult rules that put them at risk is affirmed by their very look and status. 

Donald Trump, Jr.'s "like" was a mistake.  Trump needs to let others do the dirty work of de-legitimizing teenagers.  


Peter Coster said...

If this movement spreads throughout the country, high school kids, college kids rallying, protesting, and denouncing the politicians who let it happen, perhaps those in power will change their tune. If they still support the NRA (the most dangerous organization in the country), then they might be voted out of office. That threat could be real. The Baby Boomers changed our course in Vietnam through protests and marches. If they can get organized and do it right, things might just change. The mood of the country could turn against the NRA and their supporters. Even Trump might notice. It could be a major point in the elections that would help the Democrats. For one, I'll take whatever it takes to get those mass people killing weapons off the streets. Those are military guns and should be kept there.

Jeff said...

The first comment seems right. These youngsters--some of them stunningly clear, concise, to-the-point--have cut through oratory and distilled the issue to its nub such that inaction will be harder to pull off. A lot of awakening is going on.

Thad Guyer said...

This teen movement is already doomed. Your linked video clip of the kid's attack on Trump and Mar-a-Lago personally shows how broad-based gun politics and left media swiftly coopted the movement. It's unrealistic to think banning future sales of assault rifles is the answer to school mahem in a country saturated by high powered guns. A large majority of voters don't believe Democrats have a viable answer.

The only credible solutions for school security unfortunately are being covered predominantly by Fox and conservative outlets. It's awful to acknowledge, but conservative media now has a far more credible voice on solutions than liberal media. Fringe kooks are trying to delegitimize the students, but mainstream conservative media is very effectively showing that CNN, MSNBC and the Washington Post are not credible voices on the Florida massacre. This will be yet another big win for Trump and the NRA.

Peter Coster said...

Maybe Thad is right. Maybe this will all blow over. But, it will be a talking point in the next election. I predict that a Democratic congressman will introduce a bill to ban the sale of military style weapons. I also predict that it will die in committee so it never comes up for a vote. That way the congressmen won't have to show their hand. However, they can't hide from the money they took from the NRA. That's on record and can be used against them in the election.

Right now the NRA is on the defensive throwing up all sorts of things to see what sticks. Maybe the country will see it for what it is. Not a protection of rights. Not a way to defend yourself. It's a way to sell your product. It's all about the money, not your freedom.

Seeing white high school and college kids protesting and marching is a powerful picture. It's not immigrants or blacks or illegals or anyone else on Trump's hit list. These are normal kids who see what adults have allowed and can tell right from wrong. They want it stopped. They want to go to school without fear. They want to see what the adults will do about it.

It can go one of two ways: They big hoopla will die down and things will continue as is with maybe a bone tossed out by Congress. Or, it could spread and grow like the Vietnam era protests. Back then, the adults were wrong. Never trust anyone over 30 was a rallying cry.

Anyway, we shall see.