It was not one of Meryl Streep’s better performances. She stood at the podium of the Golden Globe Awards, gasping for breath and denouncing the man who had abused his power by mocking a reporter with disabilities.
Never mind that the reporter, Serge Kovaleski, works for the New York Times and is capable of defending himself as he has done before with Donald Trump. Never mind that Trump has used the same clownish gestures to make fun of other people over the years, including himself, proving that he needs impulse control more than a scolding on national television. His posts on Twitter are proof enough of that.
And never mind that as a culture we are ruled by what Notre Dame moral philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre, calls “emotivism.” This occurs whenever we elevate our personal feelings to the status of moral principle and then judge others according to that principle. This is usually done in a whirlwind of emotions and panic. If it sounds like a mess, that’s because it is a mess, and it was on display at the awards ceremony.
The worst part of Streep’s performance, filled with sighs and breathlessness, is that it was based on a wrong assumption and then elevated that assumption to a moral principle. How could anyone condone abusive behavior toward the most vulnerable members of society? One would have to be a monster, which is precisely how Trump and his followers are portrayed, although not without reason. Never mind, again, that the bulk of the deplorable behavior seems to be moving from the political Left to Right.
To be fair, I have yet to see Clinton supporters beaten savagely or mocked by politicians and figures in pop culture. Jennifer Holliday had to back out of the inaugural celebrations because of death threats. By her own admission, she voted for Hillary. Funny, but I don’t remember this problem in 2012 and 2008.
But the real problem is that this thinking hides the underlying reality. Emotivism is a shell game, diverting our attention away from what is really going on and creating a false reality from which moral judgments are made. This is the essence of “fake news.” Social media–Facebook, YouTube, Twitter–are notorious for making one-sided moral judgments and then banning certain posts and/or customers. Fake news appears in both extremes, from hysteria on the Left to conspiracy on the Right. No one is immune, except, perhaps, those who take the time not to react in knee-jerk fashion.
For instance, the Russians are not coming. They do not have a nuclear submarine off Cape Cod, so we do not have to go to war with them. We have other options than amassing troops on the Polish border or escalating the conflict in Syria, although you wouldn’t know it listening to the NSA.
I find it amazing and deeply disappointing that so many in my generation have chosen the deep state over Trump, who has vowed to do what Kennedy could not: dismantle the “secret government.” Many have stood by and watched the suspension of habeas corpus; the deterioration of Congressional authority; the establishment of an imperial presidency; drone attacks that have killed thousands of innocent people, including children; and the invasion of countries under the pretext of national security.
The reporting of Trump’s alleged sexual habits was disgusting and unprofessional, but it was not a surprise. It capped off a smear and misinformation campaign against the President-elect that included post-election rioting, calls for recounts, Jill Stein’s court challenges, conspiracy to influence electors, charges of Russian hacking, and now a boycott of the inauguration by legislators who ought to know better. Add to that a constant barrage of negative media coverage.
All this despite Trump’s successes with Chrysler, Carrier, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Ford, which scrapped plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and instead will invest $700 million in a facility in Michigan. This is impressive, even with all of his acting out, since he hasn’t been sworn in yet.
If Trump is in Putin’s pocket or a Russian sleeper agent, he’s got an odd way of showing it.