Unmasked and Unhinged

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S1: Following program may offend those with delicate constitutions and. Wednesday, July twenty ninth, twenty twenty from Slate, it’s the gist. I’m Mike Pesca. In a sane world, Louie Gohmert would be an important voice of the French New Wave, or perhaps the pseudonym that Hyrum Silverbush used when penning his romantic novels of The American West. But now this is an insane world. And Louie Gohmert has a quanti sane legislator from the great state of Texas. Today, Louie Gohmert announced his current state to the world.

S2: Apparently, I have the Wukong virus.

S1: That’s right, Louie. Keep your eyes on the real challenge here. Labeling this infection the thing that could kill you in a manner that’s entirely consistent with your political talking points. If shot, I suppose Louie Gohmert will call out. Oh, no. I’ve been subject to the free exercise of a citizen’s Second Amendment rights. Gohmert, a chief congressional supporter of Donald Trump and a very vocal mask skeptic, had a theory as to why he may have contracted covid-19. And that theory blame the mask.

S2: It is interesting and I don’t know about everybody, but when I have a mask on, I’m moving it to my comfortable and I can’t help wonder if that, you know, put some germs in the mask to keep hands off your mask.

S1: If there were germs on the mask clinging on the outside, then without the mask, wouldn’t they just be on your face or lips? Or if they were on the inside of the mask, then the virus is already inside you. It’s coming from inside the house. Cassaday Gohmert, the Gohmert Pie Hole movie is so screwy that you can’t even know where any of the logic will lead. Masks don’t need them. Caught the covid blame the masks before you ended the sentence I’m about to play, I had actually no idea where it was going to land here. Listen to this.

S2: Rand Paul was just texting me that says that in ten days or so I should be really, well, dead on a ventilator.

S1: What did Dr. Rand Paul opthamologist? But still, what did Dr. Rand Paul say? What happened to a sixty six year old covid-19 patient in ten days should be immune? Oh, yeah. Well, I guess that’s the hopeful outcome. And now. Well, first of all, we do wish the congressman well, of course. And thank the good Lord that this was caught in time before he could join the president on Air Force One, who we also hope the footage of him walking unmasked with Attorney General Barr will amount to no more than, you know, just a couple of vids who don’t catch the covid like in that Lake of the Ozarks pool party. So you might be thinking, OK, Louie Gohmert catching the virus. Maybe it’ll be a wake up call. It won’t. Not unless he gets very sick, because if not, it’ll be those antibodies that Rand Paul promised. And then back to the conviction that Corona is nothing more than a flu. Now, for some context as to the Gohmert mindset, here is the congressman from back in April in an interview he did with East Texas ABC affiliate KTLA TV, there is a powder that can be two teaspoons in a gallon of water.

S3: And anyway, it’s being used in Germany as a missed health care workers go to a misting tent going into the hospital so they end. It kills the coronavirus completely dead, not only right then, but any time in the next 14 days that the virus touches anything that’s been sprayed, it’s killed.

S1: The Austin American Statesman asked German health officials about this and they said, quote, What your congressman said is absolute nonsense. That was from Dr. John Vikner, a spokesman for Deutche Crank Shaft or the German Hospital Association. Sebastian Gould of the Federal Ministry of Health also said he is aware of some hospitals that are using tents for screening symptoms of the virus. But he did not have any knowledge of a product like the one Gohmert described. Again, that is Sebastian Gould, the spokesman for the Ministry of Health, or as they say in Germany, the Buddhist mysterium for good, tight, yeah, good tight health care center. That’s where we get it. So gesundheit. And also, God bless Louie Gohmert, as they call him in Germany. Foreign minister, as we say in the United States. Mr. Mister, do look at your time and covid recovery as a chance to take those broken wings and learn to fly again, though not on Air Force One and not so close to the sun that you fall to the sea unmasked and out of the cell phone range of Rand Paul. On the show today, the paper from the nation’s capital bestows a capital on all whites. Yes, The Washington Post announced a style guide that said whites, the people, people like me are getting their own capital. So we’re going to put this spiel in the W column. But first, let us consider for a second the man who wrote these words. I am happy to inform all of the people living their suburban lifestyle dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood. Donald Trump isn’t very good at his effort to be a demagogue. That’s the walk the walk part. But man, does he try to talk the talk. And that’s the part that is the subject of our discussion. Demagogue for president, the rhetorical genius of Donald Trump, the author of that book, Jen Murgia, up next.

S4: It was way back in twenty fifteen, June 30th of 2015. In fact, a time when Donald Trump’s candidacy was being taken as a joke. But Eric Zorn, writing in the Chicago Tribune said in politics, simple cells and Trump is a consummate salesman. I don’t see him as a fearless truth teller. I see him as a populist demagogue. So we called it early. But what was he calling? What is the difference between a truth teller and a demagogue? Luckily, it’s all laid out in Gen Machias new book, Demagogue for President The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump, Professor Mushie and a friend of the Gestae, just favorite joins us once again. Hey, Jen, how are you?

S5: I’m doing well. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

S4: So I never really dug down on what truthteller meant. Demagogue, I knew was simply from the Greek phrase for leader of the people, although it’s come to mean more than that. But there are aspects to truthtelling or the rhetorical the classic Greek version there of that I think are very interesting when it comes to Donald Trump. So I don’t want to try to pronounce that word that you talk about, but talk about the question, is Donald Trump a truth teller? And what did the Greeks mean when they talked about a truth teller?

S5: Yeah, it’s such an interesting thing because he obviously claims to be a truth teller. So, yeah, I think it’s important to sort of try to figure out if he really is one. They they had some specific criteria. You know, you had to be, I guess, what we would say now speaking truth to power, right. You had to be like in a one down position. You had to be speaking your truth, you know, everything that you knew to be true because you felt obligated to say it. It had to be a risk to your personal safety in speaking that truth. And you had to feel like it was part of what you owe to the community to speak that truth.

S4: Right. So this word is perhaps. Am I saying it right?

S5: Sure.

S4: Do you know how to say, well, OK, let’s say it’s power possessed a fearless truth teller who, like you say, had to do it. The essential element was risk. So this is putting aside that Trump has been fact checked twenty thousand some odd times. Yes. Stipulated he’s not actually telling the truth, but the concept of a truth teller or what people say or mean or what they’re invoking when they say truth teller has this other essential aspect that Donald Trump does not represent, which is that he is not saying this at any risk to himself. He is only saying it for his own glory.

S5: That’s right. That’s right. And, you know, this is a pre Cartesian view of truth and understanding of truth. And so for the Greeks, in a sense, that risk meant that what you said was verifiably true. If you spoke the truth and you could possibly be killed for it or ostracized or whatever, you could face real consequences, then that actually proved the truth of the veracity of your truth that you told. And so Trump Trump doesn’t risk himself in any way that I can tell you. He certainly didn’t risk himself in twenty sixteen when he claimed to be a truth teller. And he was saying things like, you know, Jeb is low energy or Hillary Clinton is crooked or whatever, like those weren’t things that were a risk for him.

S4: Right. So I want to and let me make clear to the listeners the book. What it does is it goes through Trump’s rhetorical tactics. It is called The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump. And we can then future historians, rhetoricians, people who were wondering how it all came to this can look back and said, oh, these are the exact techniques he used that fueled his rise. But how I used the book was it reminded me of the things that worked then three and a half, four years ago. And I applied it to today and I kept asking myself, well, why isn’t it working now? And not just based on who I am and what my post Cartesian understanding of knowledge was, which is it’s not working as people know he lies. So, for instance, I think that let’s get back to the idea of a truth teller. Obviously, he doesn’t tell the truth, but the reason why his rhetoric then might have appealed to people who were working within the context of little context. Right. And it wasn’t like they were weighing his statements against objective reality. They were just regarding them in and of themselves, ipso facto statements. The reason it might have worked then and appeal to people that he was telling the truth is that, oh, my God, no one else is saying this. No one has said this before. That seems. Brave, that is different, whereas doing it a second time in this election, you’re just automatically going to have so much less of that effect and the audience will be less inclined to think that there is some brave truthtelling going on. Just because you’ve done it so often before, it’s not unusual.

S5: Yeah, I think that’s right. And it was really the political correctness or incorrectness strategy that was the the core of that argument. Right. People thought he spoke the plain truth because he said things like you said, that nobody has said before. He said things in a way that we had not heard presidential candidates speak before. And now when people are asked, they say, I wish the guy would get off Twitter. You know, like I wish I wish he didn’t talk all the time. I’m tired of hearing that guy.

S4: And in your analysis, does the rhetoric work when it’s about something that’s abstract, like how ISIS kills people or Mexicans streaming over the walls and the rhetoric just can’t work when it’s about something concrete, like a pandemic that’s actually in your neighborhood?

S5: Maybe. You know, I think that Trump tried to make those other things, you know, the the ISIS or the wall or whatever. I think he tried to make those concrete like he really sorry. But you’re right. I think the firsthand experience makes it less plausible this time around. So in twenty sixteen people who lived on the border, in states where they had large migrant or immigrant populations, they were less persuaded by that rhetoric than people who were further away from those communities.

S4: Yeah, and maybe that explains why if you look at I guess the understanding was, you know, Trump is appealing to blue collar workers, but in fact, he really wasn’t. The people whose where that was a lived experience were less inclined to vote for Trump than other people whose reality was more the imagined plight of the blue collar worker. That’s right. Yeah. So it’s like the more you know about a subject, the less Trump’s rhetoric appeals to you about that subject.

S5: That’s exactly right. And, you know, and he plays into the communication environment that we have now where it’s hard to know if you know enough about a subject to be able to judge whether you are knowledgeable, you Google something and you think, you know, because you Googled it. But, you know, the difference between having the lived experience and reading a couple of pages on Google or whatever. Right.

S4: And it’s beyond even Google. You know, we can’t take this to whenever Larry and Sergey came up with the algorithm, as you cite some philosophers who talk about us living in the age of spectacle, which is as our experience becomes less concrete and it’s less about things we actually experience and more deferring to experts, it opens up the door to someone who can just sort of skew your represented experience when people’s opinions about things are mediated, have to be mediated by someone else. This gives the opening to someone like Trump. I mean, it gives the opening to someone like Obama, too. But Trump exploited it in a kind of pernicious way.

S5: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the thing about the spectacle that’s so fascinating to me, too, is that it’s commodified. And so, you know, what is true is what sells. That’s, I think, a part of Trump as well.

S4: I want to ask you about Trump’s use of hyperbole, some of it is really quite understood. He wants to talk about his properties as being the best in his policies, about being the best. There is a bragging quality to it. But then I also notice and his niece, Mary Trump, was writing about this, how there’s an oppressive quality, that everything has to be the best. And what it does is it robs you of your ability to use nuance in your own thinking. And it kind of is a rhetorical bludgeon.

S5: Yeah, people who have studied and written about hyperbole since Aristotle have thought that it was something used in meanness. Some people have written that hyperbole should only justly be used to describe the ineffable write the thing that can’t be described. And you’re right, Trump uses it in a way that is consistent and it’s about branding and whatnot. But it also does sort of take nuance away from things. Right? So if if if for him everything is hyperbolic, if it’s all ineffable, then there is no detail. There is no real it’s just hyperbole means to throw beyond. So it’s always beyond.

S4: Yes. It eludes fact checking or he hopes it does. Yeah. I even noticed in his interview with Chris Wallace at one point he said we had two beautiful world wars and it’s a beautiful, terrible world wars. But, you know, his brain just works where it goes to maybe 12 or 16 different words. And sometimes I guess he chooses the wrong one. I think he knew World War was big. It’s a big thing. And what is the usual adjective he ascribes through something big, tremendous or beautiful?

S5: Yeah, I had the opportunity to read the Trump You Playbook’s as part of writing this book, and they definitely recommended using words like that. They had a list of sort of like approved buzzwords that that science had supposedly said are always persuasive to people, beautiful love, things like that.

S1: So you wrote a book about Obama, The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations. And this book is about Trump as a demagogue, his demagogic rhetoric. Is there any other place for politicians to take it or are those the two polarities?

S5: There’s definitely a way that presidents, not just Obama, but all presidents, including Trump, run for office as heroes. Right. They they try to generate a crisis for the nation. By the way, Joe Biden doesn’t have any trouble in this moment. And they try to insert themselves into the crisis. Right. As this world historical figure who was sort of destined to lead in this moment as a heroic figure. And there are heroic demagogues for sure, people who justly lead the will of the people who to justly lead the people. And the difference between the heroic demagogue and the dangerous demagogue is whether or not they allow themselves to be held accountable. So the range of like presidential or leadership rhetoric, I guess, would be something like, you know, the heroic figure on one end who is earnestly and justly leading the people heroically in their time of crisis and the dangerous demagogue on the other side, who is an authoritarian, who is unaccountable, who uses rhetoric in a way that is compliant skating and not democratic. And then in the middle, you have these sort of bureaucratic examples or maybe a more charismatic somebody who uses leadership in that way. You have someone who just is an adequate performer of the duties of the office and is an interesting rhetorically at all. I think there’s probably a good span in between the hero and the dangerous demagogue.

S4: But then what tradition is Biden tapping into because he doesn’t seem to want to be the hero as much as the healer? Most of his rhetoric has been we can understand this tactically, especially because Trump is tearing us apart during this pandemic. But most of Biden’s rhetoric is that of a minister or a healer or someone trying to not take the people someplace, but comfort the people as to where they are.

S5: Yeah, absolutely. So we call that presidential rhetoric is the way we call that the priestly role of the presidency during times of crisis. The president, as the only nationally elected figure, is called upon to comfort the nation, to invoke the nation’s values and to talk to the nation about how this crisis is temporary, how our values will get us through, how. We need to live up to those values in order to get to the other side of the crisis and like Reagan did a great job of this with the Challenger speech to explain the moment in ways that helps the nation to move forward. And I do see Biden definitely playing the priestly role.

S4: I did want to ask you one thing about Barack Obama’s rhetoric, which I thought was great and soaring, and it spoke to me. But now there is a strain of thought on the left among intellectuals that he wasn’t really leading all the people. He would say, I don’t want to be the president of black America or white America. I want to be the president of all America. I think people thought that was heroic then. But now there is a strain of people who think that that’s less than heroic. In fact, I had a professor on the show who called him a coward. So what’s the analysis there that maybe we were wrong or that our definition of heroism in relation to the people is something we should always keep in mind?

S5: Who, in fact, are the people who were talking about a writer, a speaker, a president calls his audience into being his or her audience into being right? So we constitute the people as we position them, as we describe them, and people feel helth. Right. And then they see themselves in that and they respond to it and they identify as that. And what I think you have with Barack Obama is that initially people did feel Hayle. They recognized themselves as being constituted in the way when he talked about, you know, it’s not the blue states of America, the red states of America, it’s the United States of America. People heard that and they like that. And again, coming out of a crisis, the financial crisis, but also the Bush presidency, what Obama was saying sounded good for people, but then that was pretty quickly polarizing. And I think that it’s as much about the audience for at least some of America really rejecting that interpellation. Right. Really rejecting being hailed by Obama in that way and the way that, of course, the the news on the right constituted Obama himself as being divisive. I think people started to really see themselves as part of the other and not a part of the way.

S4: Jennifer Makiya is a professor in the Department of Communications at Texas A&M. The book is Demagogue for President The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump. Thanks again so much. It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

S1: And now the spiel I’m Mike Pesca and I speak for the whites no, not the whites that do not wish to be spoken for as whites, but the whites who The Washington Post henceforth will capitalize as white as we challenge the idea of whiteness as upper class, they codify whiteness as upper case. The Associated Press a couple of weeks ago capitalized black. That seemed to make sense. Most black people think of themselves as black and think of blackness as a distinct heritage. That’s how the AP described it. Quote, The AP style is now to capitalize black in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as black. But the AP didn’t go so far as to capitalize white, but the Washington Post did. Writing stories involving race show that White also represents a distinct cultural identity in the United States, which we’ve known as far back as 1979.

S6: And I cooked you up your favorite meal salad on white bread with mayonnaise, a tab and a couple of Twinkies.

S1: It seems the things that from the Steve Martin documentary, The Jerk. I can’t. I can’t. It’s all in good fun. I find very few people take offense at the gentle good humor over whiteness. Sorry, whiteness. The Washington Post does offer this out clause. People who do not want to be recognized as a color also have the choice of representing themselves by their cultural background as they currently do, identifying as German, American, Irish American, Italian American or representations of national heritage. People who don’t want to be recognized as a color are advised to either camouflage or grab on to some European countries. Sorry, the Jews. Now, maybe you adhere to the idea which I was taught, that we should identify people as they wish to be identified. I definitely believe that. And I guess I assumed without really thinking too much about it, that identify people as they wish to be identified also and don’t identify them as they don’t. Maybe the second half is wrong. Maybe not wanting to be identified as capital w white is what is keeping whiteness entrenched. So all these whiteness denying whites simply need to have their whiteness thrust upon them. And it’s the Washington Post’s duty to do so. Not all whites with a capital W won’t want to be called white and the want is lower case top, lower case double if you’re scoring at home. What I’m saying is there are a couple of groups that will definitely love that their whiteness is being capitalized and those groups are the worst whites and the self-identified best whites. So Klansmen and Robin D’Angelo acolytes are both sure to welcome the white designation. Interestingly, the Post writes political terms used to promote racist ideologies or to advocate ethnic superiority or separation should remain lower case, i.e. white supremacist. All right. And since you’re hearing me and not seeing what’s written, the white and white supremacist is not kept up white, but L.C Dubh white. However, if you read everything else the post laid out in their decision to capitalize whiteness, it leads me to believe that white supremacy, the system will be kept up white. But you know what? Maybe this isn’t really shouldn’t be seen as that big a change. In fact, the definition, it’s one capital in one newspaper and the vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of Americans will not notice or give a them. But really, even among those who do, we should remember that the preferred word for whites just a little while ago was Caucasian and Caucasian was always capitalized because the idea was that white people came from the Caucasus Mountains, which is a proper place name, which gets the capitalization. That idea is, of course, is antiquated, discredited race science. But it’s stuck around for a long time because that is what the gatekeepers of yore almost entirely white, agreed to. Now that we have new gatekeepers, they’re definitely going to get it right or at least get it right unless the individual white in question pleads Norwegian American, which is perfectly acceptable pending a genetic test and a letter from at least one grandparent. This is definitely how progress happens. One shift plus keystroke at a time. And that’s it for today’s show that just was produced by Margaret Kelly and Daniel Shrader, they both vow to learn to live so free when they hear the voices sing, the book of Love will open up and let them in. But as for executive producer of Slate podcasts, Alicia Montgomery, she’s baffled. Mr. Mr. Mr. The Gist. Yes. Under the pseudonym Gister Gister, we were hired by the Brooklyn Nets to be the Go-Between to their talented point guard. Alas, our gig as Kyrie Irving liaison, it did not work out. Improved that Peruggia, Peru, and thanks for listening.