Remember before the election, right after Clinton won the nomination and Russia (bless their hearts) hacked the DNC and unleashed a massive wad of readily spun and quote mined e-mails during the U.S. election cycle?
Trump tried desperately to get Bernie supporters on board. Clinton was corrupt! Not nice! The last thing he wanted was for the Democratic party to unite against him. The best he could hope for is that the left would do his job for him. The left would quote mine the emails. The left would spin the most innocuous exchange as inherently “corrupt”. The left would repeat the mantra of *not caring about the source, only caring about the content* and then, well, not caring about either. The left would disseminate tapes of Clinton talking about young people with laughs edited in. The left would pick up the hatred of Clinton and run with it.
No group of people is a monolith. Being united in all things is certainly NOT the goal. The problem is that all he needed to do was hand the left a weapon and a significant number of folks were more than happy to stab each other with it *without question*.
You see. He didn’t have to make anyone love him that wasn’t already frothing at the mouth against “liberals”. He just needed to make us ambivalent enough about Clinton that we wouldn’t get excited. If the voters are not excited, they won’t show up. It worked just fine.
What is a liberal? A liberal is a bleeding-heart. A liberal is a weak over-emotional person who doesn’t have a brain in their head. They don’t think about practical concerns or money. They are better left to their little pet-projects and avoid hard decisions. All they want is free stuff and easy living. They are bad at math. The stand-in liberal stereotype is always a woman.
Every shitty stereotype of a “liberal” is just coded sexism. Liberal ideas have been characterized as feminine or flighty for decades. Conservatives, on the other hand, were ready to make hard decisions, fight and die. This has been the way it has been for a long, long time.
You will notice that Trump gained the presidency by little more than performing toxic masculinity to a tee. That’s all he needed to do to be taken seriously. He’s going to be tough. He’s going to “drain the swamp”. He’s going to yell and scream and change all the things!
The shitty sexist stereotypes about liberals haven’t changed – they are just coming in from all sides now. Sometimes the term is being used by radicals to differentiate their politics from liberals. (You know, in the universe where those two terms still have real meanings.) Often though, the term “liberal” is used as a pejorative to differentiate aggressive activism from the activism of “pussies”. Only recently has the phrase “elite liberal” (once an antisemitic code phrase) been used by the left against, you know, the left.
So, a few months ago, the gamergate crew came up with a new “argument”. All the sudden, multiple accounts were using the phrase “virtue signaling“. (It’s like they all consume the same media or something.) So, now whenever I explained that I thought something was wrong, I wasn’t actually having a discussion about a topic, I was “virtue signaling”. See – NOTHING I said or did had merit because *obviously* I just wanted other people to think I was a good person. There is NO WAY I could actually mean it. Also, apparently wanting to be seen as a good person is an unforgivable vice.
Now, after the election, the folks I know in my community are reeling. Their students are being targeted for anti-immigrant hate crimes after Trump showed up in Minnesota and said a bunch of racist shit. Small groups began to form and now they are beginning to network. Individuals I know that have always been solid on most social justice issues are being active in ways I hadn’t seen before and reaching out to me.
The first hurdle? Well, some of them are – you know – the weakest and doughiest of all women who obviously are useless when it comes to politics and direct action. You know, liberals. They aren’t interested in standing up or doing the work or literally taking the punches. They are just interested in fashionable virtue signaling.
Is that true? Fuck no. However, the first hurdle is always internalized misogyny. Then it is the tacit dismissal that we’ll face because we’re just a bunch of “whiny women”. Those are the things that we work against regardless of what we do. It’s tiring.
I once claimed that I would never say “quit attacking your allies” and I won’t. This is not that. This is a general sentiment that I am framing in the context of my own experience:
DO NOT PICK UP THE WEAPONS PLACED IN FRONT OF US by those we are fighting against.
These weapons might be as simple as a misquote, a talking point or a misleading headline. These weapons also encompass racism, transphobia, homophobia and sexism – keeping us too bloodied with splash damage to be as effective as we would be otherwise. We all need to look at our own arsenal and bother is figure out where the power of those weapons come from and what goals we seek to achieve by using them.