The day after the election of America’s 45th president, I flew to the UK to speak at one of the thousands of Shabbat events that took place on November 12.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world united in the celebration of a special Shabbat. The atmosphere in the shul where I spoke was typical of the rest. To use the Hebrew phrase, there was ahavah, shalom, v’reius – love, peace, and friendship.
Unfortunately, there was a shortage of precisely those qualities back in post-election America. Demonstrations erupted all over the country. The losers were not happy. But it was not just that they were not happy; they were literally in shock and experiencing all manner of psychological crises.
Before I flew out I’d heard WNYC’s Brian Lehrer tell his station’s left-wing New York listeners that in the wake of the Trump victory, the entire morning would be devoted to taking phone calls from people who were distressed about “what to tell their kids” and how to explain “fascism” [sic] to them.
A surreal and frankly silly pronouncement to be sure – but not in the least bit surreal and silly to Lehrer and his fan base. To them it was very real.
And about those “largely peaceful” demonstrations:
The same news media that failed to understand the mistake they made in running openly partisan and sometimes truth-stretching campaigns against Trump now continued manipulating the news just as they had before. This was despite the damning verdict on their bias delivered by tens of millions of Americans.
The anti-Trump demonstrators said they were protesting because they feared waves of racism, misogyny, and fascism were about to overtake the United States – although they saw not even the slightest irony in the fact they were on the streets challenging the American democratic system of government, which, if you ask me, seems like a rather fascist-like thing to do, as was the violence many of them perpetrated.
Mrs. Clinton’s media chums portrayed the demonstrators sympathetically. I heard one report claiming that the chants being heard across America were “Trump Has To Go” and “He’s Not My President,” when in fact the chants often employed different words – words I would not write and The Jewish Press would not publish.
“How did this happen?” wondered an anguished liberal establishment. “How could it be?” asked bewildered Democratic Party officials and voters.
I was almost certain I knew the answer they would come up with and I was not too far off the mark.
After the Brexit vote in the UK, similar bafflement erupted throughout the UK’s political establishment. The media had been mostly against leaving the EU. Dire consequences were predicted if it would come to pass, including financial collapse and a country more susceptible to terrorism.
The people simply didn’t believe the media hype and voted to leave. Naturally, those afflicted with political narcissism were baffled. Someone actually wrote on my Facebook page:
I know I’ll be criticized for arrogance, but I have to be honest.
If these early results are borne out, and the Leave Campaign wins, it will be held up as a prime example of two things:
1) “Ordinary people” are [expletive] idiots and should never be trusted with important decisions.
2) Britain is so preoccupied with blaming “the other” it can’t see what is in its clear self-interest. Scapegoating is alive and well and lives here in the UK.
To which I responded:
I am the author of ten books. I voted Leave. My son is about to start his Ph.D. in Oxford. He voted Leave. Another of my sons is an architectural technologist. He voted Leave. Yet another founded a company which designs software for market “Futures” prediction. He voted leave. I have friends who are professors and bankers who want Britain to Leave the EU.
This unacceptable word, democracy (unless ordinary folk vote your way), is roughly predicated on one person, one vote. The “Person” is by definition usually “ordinary” including of course most of the people on the other side who voted Remain.
Personally I have found ordinary people quite reliable, from juries to elections.
The losers in the U.S. presidential election have come up with an intriguing variation of this condemnation of the downright dangerousness of “Ordinary People.”
It is based on a very real challenge to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
Increasingly, the losing side has identified the real culprits responsible for Hillary’s defeat. It was not, of course, anything she did wrong. It was the FBI (previously adored for dismissing her e-mail scandal) and…Facebook! Let me repeat that in case your eyebrows traveled so far up your forehead they have embedded themselves in your hairline: Facebook.
Political experts were apparently not aware that Facebook allowed people to create…pro-Donald Trump pages!
The BBC (not a Trump fan) ran a piece titled “Donald Trump’s Hidden Army.” It said:
Donald Trump’s spectacular victory in the U.S. presidential election on 8 November took many by surprise.
Polls seemed to significantly underestimate his support and few pundits gave him a chance.
But many Trump voters, it turned out, were hiding in plain sight – on Facebook.
Thousands of home-grown Trump support pages populate the social networking site. They are a mix of closed and open groups. Most have a few hundred members. But many have thousands. And a few, like American Patriots for Donald J. Trump, have hundreds of thousands of followers.
Do you hear that, America? Forget about alleged Russian interference in the presidential election and James Comey (the louse) turning on poor Hillary –the real culprits were ordinary people who actually talked to each other on Facebook and other such venues.
These ordinary people are no longer listening to what we in the media tell them to do. Our highly paid TV anchors, with Hollywood looks and fabulous dental work, no longer persuade them. They are actually speaking directly to each other without us! (Gasp, shriek, choke.)
And now there are serious intellectuals arguing that Mark Zuckerberg and his company have to be brought to heel. Such demands hide themselves under concern about the “fake news stories” that are claimed to abound on Facebook. Anyone making this argument must assume that ordinary people are so naive as not to notice that the mainstream media, both left and right, sometimes also circulate highly dubious and even false news stories.
Mark Twain, perhaps America’s greatest man of letters, is alleged to have once quipped, “If voting made any difference…they wouldn’t let us do it.”
In the wake of the most bitter and fractious American election in living memory, and despite the rights enshrined in the First Amendment, it may be worth tweaking that phrase to read: “If speaking to each other on social media made any difference…they wouldn’t let us do it.”
Keep an eye on those who in the wake of the election of America’s surprise 45th president are arguing for precisely that – and who will now try their best to make sure that ordinary people speaking to each other on social media won’t be tolerated.Rabbi YY Rubinstein