November 22, 2016
Hot take: This Hamilton/SNL shit isn’t a joke, and Trump’s long game is real
by Joshua Stephens
No, it isn’t about bumping his $25 million settlement of the Trump University case from the headlines. He doesn’t care. We’re talking about a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, expressed pretty much zero contrition over it, and still got elected. The guy isn’t even phased that his Attorney General pick couldn’t lock down a judgeship due to his raging hard-on for the Klan. And can you remember the last time a rich person gave a single fuck about blowback over a settlement?
We’re not thinking this through.
Look at the threads that follow Trump’s tweets about Hamilton and SNL. Notice their tone. Notice the contours of what takes shape; the way his supporters identify with his aggrieved invectives against artists, actors, satirists. It doesn’t matter that the singular novelty he’s staking out in how he’s satirized, or how his VP is addressed in public, is wholly imagined. It doesn’t matter that this is standard fare for any public official, or that he is guilty one hundred times over of the very things he’s indicting, in years of outright slandering Obama.
What matters is the aggrieved collective identity he’s nudging into formation and its corresponding self-narrative. By the time he goes after the press in horrifying, unprecedented ways (as he’s promised to do, and as his placement of Peter Thiel on his transition team foreshadows) — it won’t be unprecedented for the people identifying with him. It won’t matter that the First Amendment is relegated to soaking up explosive, xenophobic diarrhea, or that journalists are being visited by the NYPD and forced to submit to psych evals. It’ll just be one more installment of what began with how unfair Hamilton is — and (pay attention!) how “overrated” (i.e. trivial and superfluous) it is.
The press already knows that’s coming. It’s why everyone is tilting at windmills, unsuccessfully trying to replace “alt-right” with neo-nazi; the editorial rooms of news outlets across the country know what happened to Gawker, and they know the man who engineered it is bending Trump’s ear. They’re treading lightly, because when Thiel came for Gawker, no one outside their world seemed to grasp the gravity of what that set in motion, or lifted a finger to fight back. Journalism cannot be altogether faulted for adopting a palliative posture, these days.
The question is: Do we get it, now? And if so, why the everloving fuck are we talking about a court settlement?
Joshua Stephens is the author of The Dog Walker. His writing has also appeared in Gawker, AlterNet, TruthOut, The Outpost, Jadaliyya, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.