Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the American political scene could tell you what the reaction would have been.

"Disgusting but not surprising. This is the left today. They consider this acceptable. Imagine a conservative did this to Obama as POTUS?"

Okay. Sure. I'll imagine it. After all, the script is so well-worn that it doesn't need much actual imagining. "Conservative" reaction would be split (although "fragmented" is likely a better term), with some people denouncing it as somewhere between shameful and criminal, while others cited free speech the lack of a distinct threat. There would likely be as many opinions as there are Conservatives. Meanwhile, "Liberal" America would appear to have fallen into apoplexy, due to a rush of attention-seeking virtue signalling, in the form of breathless punditry about racism and hyper-partisanship. Although there would of course, also be a split there, as Liberals are about as monolithic and group-thinking as Conservatives are. In the end, the reactions of the political class would be mainly determined by the opinions of their constituencies. Congressional districts where the President was unpopular enough that people would vocally stand up to defend someone calling for his beheading would have to be more supportive of the image, and where he was popular, less so. The one constant would likely be political triangulation with an eye towards how much fundraising could be wrung out of it, on both sides.
OMG! Did you see what some random Conservative celebrity thinks about President Obama! Only a check to our fundraising arm will stop the hate from destroying the country!

Some Liberals I saw on TV are again seeking to stifle the free speech of Americans who criticize Obama! Only your donation stands between freedom and perpetual Socialist tyranny!
Because no controversy that can be used as a fundraiser would ever be allowed to go to waste.

There would, of course, be an outpouring of outrage and counter-outrage (with the requisite ironic lamenting of how easily people became outraged), based on the loudest and most unapologetic voices on both sides. Liberal pundits would decry the disrespect of it all, and seek to call out the Right for their perversity, which would set off a scramble by Conservatives for equivalent examples to demonstrate the perversity, and thus hypocrisy of the Left. Which would, in turn, lead to replies of "Well, that was different." The end result being yet another rehash of the Catalogs of Sins that both sides have compiled, going back to the Civil War, if not farther, as each tribe looks to justify a position of writing the other off.

The news cycle, endlessly seeking juicy conflicts to fill air time, would be hurriedly finding anyone even marginally well known to book onto shows to offer uninformed and partisan opinions on why one side or the other is heralding the end of the world. If they uttered a sound bite that set off secondary coffeepot conflagrations, and thus even higher ratings, so much the better. Meanwhile, a few hundred thousand potential news stories that don't involve the political pratfalls of the clueless would be ignored, by the media establishment and the public alike. (And bonus points if some tragedy were to befall a marginalized person, so that their community could loudly bemoan the lack of front-page coverage.) Cue the hand wringing over how the media's obsession with meaningless controversy was yet again destroying democracy.

Any corporations that the perpetrator was associated with would started judging whether or not they needed to cut ties to limit the public relations hits to their branding efforts. At the same time, corporations with no prior associated would started sizing up the situation to determine if it bringing them on-board would help them grab a few points of market share in their targeted demographics.

And, of course, on both sides of the political spectrum, those less invested in the tribalism of it all would simply shrug their shoulders and go on with their lives, either out of active disinterest or out of having bigger fish to fry. In the end, the single biggest difference is that President Obama would have likely taken it in stride.

Did I miss anything?

Personally, these teapot tempests don't really seem to serve any other purpose than to allow people to grandstand about how righteous their tribe is, and how perverse the other tribe is. And that might be compelling to fellow tribes-people, but of little interest to the non-tribal. Kathy Griffin's art piece it no more likely to sway my opinion of the Left of center people I know then Ted Nugent referring to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" swayed my opinion of the Right of center people I know.

To take Donald Trump Jr's lament that "the Left today" considers what Griffin did any more or less acceptable than anyone else is to not have any friends or acquaintances on the Left. Which in the end, I suppose, may be the point. That the only interaction that the Republican and Democratic tribes should have with one another is forcing the other to surrender.

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