If you were wondering why Donald Trump said such goofy, inappropriate things during his publicity tour of hurricane-damaged Houston — noting what a “wonderful thing” it was, boasting of the crowd size and the “record-setting” devastation, encouraging everyone to have a good time — the answer is simple: He was just doing, in his own unique and depraved way, what his fellow conservatives were doing.
After all, rightbloggers and right-wing pundits spent the week milking the heroism witnessed in the wake of the storm as proof that God-fearing, Texas-style conservatism was saving the day, and denying Big Gummint could do anything for them — except give Texas the $150 billion to $180 billion in federal funds it was asking for, but that’s different because [deploys smoke bomb, runs away].
Leaving off the part about the funds (Trump has so far proposed far, far less money for Texas), the president was also trying to make the event redound to his glory in the only way he knows how — by saying how impressive the disaster is, as if it were some deal he’d made or his electoral college victory.
If he’s unable to demonstrate any real empathy that might make it more believable, well, the brethren don’t fake it that much better.
By and large the mainstream media has treated Harvey and Houston with the same maudlin inspirational tone that every major disaster in the United States gets. But that doesn’t cut it for conservatives, who need everything — TV shows, music, natural disasters — to be about their superior beliefs.
National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson, normally coldly contemptuous of unfortunate rustics, mainly appreciated the Harvey response as an advertisement for American capitalism. He bragged that thanks to Houston’s “decentralized, organic” building approval process, office towers there were built to withstand hurricane damage, and while he did admit that Harvey would “ruin many buildings in Houston, particularly older houses,” of the sort poorer people lived in, he bade their soon-to-be-former inhabitants take comfort by imagining “what would have happened if Harvey had hit a less well-built city such as Dhaka or Mumbai.” Congratulations, Texas, you beat out Bangladesh and India!
Conservatives made a special effort to explain, if that’s the word, that just because this red state would receive tons of federal aid to help repair the catastrophic damage doesn’t mean that federal aid is legitimate when other people in bluer states get it.
“It’s extremely odd,” argued National Review’s David French, “to argue that Texas may lose its sense of self-reliance when the crisis’s most enduring images are of the extraordinary response of private individuals.” In other words, check out that inspirational news footage — do these look like people who’d accept federal aid (notwithstanding that they will)?
“A spirit of self-reliance doesn’t require Texans to believe they never need help under any circumstances,” French continued. “It simply means that a person, as much as possible, takes responsibility for himself and his family, which is exactly what countless Texans did.” Liberals, on the other hand, just sit around in their sissy New York and New Orleans disasters and wait for government checks.
Some people understandably found this attitude a bit rich — like Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker, who did a panel showing a cowboy with a “Secede” sign and a Tea Party flag attributing his in-progress rescue by the Coast Guard not to the evil government that sent them, but to “Angels! Sent by God!”
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway devoted over a thousand words to yelling at this cartoon. Hemingway portrayed the drawing as “mocking flood victims” for their failure to worship “The God of Big Government.” She added that liberals had also done this after the San Bernardino shootings — “some progressives were upset that religious adherents prayed to God for mercy,” she explained. “Senators, journalists, and other progressives mocked those who prayed, saying that their prayers were nothing compared to meaningful government action.” (I think she’s talking about the general fatigue with “thoughts and prayers” responses to mass shootings after San Bernardino. Sometimes their misrepresentations get so baroque I can hardly tell what they’re misrepresenting.)
Hemingway also said the cartoon betrayed “theological ignorance” because “Christians do not believe that God must intervene supernaturally in order for him to intervene.” And don’t get her started on the joke about Catholic and Protestant heaven — that one’s full of faulty eschatology!
Conservative pundit Matt Walsh tweeted something about Harvey you’ve probably heard about, as it has attained infamy: a photo of a Harvey rescue with the legend “Woman cradles and protects child. Man carries and protects both. This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says.”
“This vision of what it means to be a man has been shattered over the course of the last several decades,” wept Ben Shapiro at National Review. “We’ve been informed by the feminist movement that the vision of man as protector is degrading to women.… We’ve been informed by the transgender movement that women can be men, and that men can be women, that gender is entirely malleable.… The result has been manhood in retreat.” Aside from the bigger paychecks, higher social standing, and getting believed at rape trials, it’s hardly worth having testicles anymore.
Others tried to turn the mockery around by showing pictures of males rescuing people and joking about “toxic masculinity,” ha ha, because that’s what they think we all do (also we all wear man buns under our berets and the women don’t shave their armpits). “Cue SJW heads EXPLODING: Here are the best photos of ‘toxic masculinity’ out of Houston (so far),” cheered Twitchy. How’s that for butch!
In a “viral Facebook post” (that is, one of uncertain provenance that was repeated and promoted by rightbloggers), Some Guy claimed that most of the heroes of Houston “are probably gun owners, and most probably voted for Trump” — not a sure thing, given Houston’s voting record, but forget it, he’s rolling — and furthermore, these “redneck duck hunters and bass fishermen” were “the people the Left loves to hate, the ones Maddow mocks. The ones Maher and Olbermann just *know* they’re so much better than.… They don’t wear masks and tear down statues.… And most have probably never been in a Whole Foods.… And the next time they hear someone talk about ‘the patriarchy,’ or ‘male privilege,’ they’ll snort, turn off the TV and go to bed,” etc.
If you don’t remember anyone writing in 2001 that the New Yorkers who fought their way back from 9/11 were “the people ignorant hillbillies love to hate…the ones Limbaugh and Coulter just *know* they’re so much better than…” that’s because whatever else New Yorkers may do, they’re not prone to piss and moan that no one appreciates them. (Also, didn’t Whole Foods start in Texas?)
Meanwhile, the president continued to pretend to care what these humanoids did and felt, which awkward spectacle was boosted by his sycophants (“It’s a side Trump voters know exists of the President, but so seldom hear about from the mainstream media”) and undercut by his own actions (“White House walks back promise about Trump donating his ‘personal money’ to Harvey victims”).
Still, his factota got his back. In some cases they did this via plain fraud — for example, spreading a false story about Black Lives Matter holding up rescue efforts, or pretending to be black looters terrorizing Houston, or accusing Barack Obama of not doing anything about Hurricane Katrina, which occurred years before he was president.
But mostly they found creative ways to portray liberals as more concerned with their stupid politics than with the victims. When it was pointed out, for example, that a thousand-year flood was a good opportunity to rethink climate change, Edmund Kozak of LifeZette wrote, “Many on the Left also jumped at the opportunity to use devastation in Houston as a chance to shill for ideologically motivated climate change policies.”
When liberals showed concern for minority victims of the hurricane, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson wrote, “THE LEFT IS TRIGGERED BY HURRICANE HARVEY BECAUSE IT PROVES AMERICA ISN’T RACIST.… The Alt-Left on Twitter has also feverishly expressed their desire to see the catastrophe impact only white people.”
In other words, it’s just a variation of conservatives’ traditional tactic of winning arguments by crying victim — and, as with terror incidents, using real victims as their proxies — but dumbed down considerably for the Age of Trump. Only problem: Isn’t anyone who’s dumb enough to buy it already on board?