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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meryl Streep stands up for Free Speech

DONALD Trump came under fire when he mocked a disabled reporter during a 2015, political rally. In an ugly video display, Trump flailed his arms around and imitated New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski’s voice before describing him as “poor guy”. It was a stomach-turning display.

Trump was slammed for performing an impression of New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a joint condition
Donald Trump pictured in his sickening mocking of New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski, a video attack on a disabled man and on his profession, protected by Free Speech

Many of us in the blogosphere and news media are rightly concerned about our First Amendment Free Speech rights being prosecuted away under a Donald Trump "bully pulpit". It seems as though Trump is the only person who is self entitled to Free Speech and the rest of us are "overrated". Now, the brilliant actress Meryl Streep has given us all hope as she spoke "Truth to Power" at the Golden Globe Awards. Instead of reacting to her Cecile B. DeMille award, Ms. Streep, instead, stood up for the right to Free Speech and criticized the bully Donald Trump for being cruel. 

When Donald Trump imitated a disabled journalist, he made a fool of himself by disparaging Serge Kovaleski and, morover, he called him a "poor guy".  Worse, because Kovelski is a journalist, it appeared as though Trump was also attacking Free Speech. 

But, that's until Meryl Streep spoke at the Golden Globe Awards.

Roger Cohen comments in The New York Times:
"Streep vs. Trump for America"

There are economic tensions in the United States, insufficient to explain the election of (Donald Trump) a petulant egomaniac to the highest office in the land, and there’s an all-out culture war that does explain it.

Donald Trump will become president next week because a sufficient number of Americans have had it with the confining, tiptoeing, politically correct form of speech and interaction favored by liberal elites on the coasts who believe they hold a monopoly on wisdom and the only key to progress.

It’s the culture, stupid.

The issues that afflict the economy — rising inequality, stagnant middle-class incomes, marginalization — are not enough to explain Americans’ 
decision to leap off a cliff and entrust their fate to a collection of billionaires and ex-generals under the diktat of a thin-skinned showman of conspicuous “cruelty and ignorance,” in the words of Garrison Keillor.

Meryl Streep, in a speech at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, waded into this culture war. 

She was Hollywood lambasting the people’s choice. Without naming the president-elect, she singled out his cruelty, as expressed in Trump’s mocking imitation during the campaign of a reporter with a disability. They did that in the Middle Ages, you know. Trump, goaded, is like a child whose candy has been taken away. He throws a fit. His version of a scream is a tweet (or in this case several) calling Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,” and a “Hillary flunky,” and claiming — grotesquely — that he never mocked the reporter, my colleague Serge Kovaleski. Trump finished up with his usual jibe at the “very dishonest media.”

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference (YES!). Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

Streep did an important thing in pointing to how Trump’s bullying allows open season for everyone’s inner bigot. A time of violence is upon us. She did another important thing in saying that, “We need the principled press to hold power to account.” If Trump sees himself as America’s “voice,” every counter voice is needed, loud and clear and persistent.

But will Streep’s words have any impact with Trump’s tens of millions of supporters, or will they redouble these people’s anger toward elites in Hollywood and other centers of dogmatic liberalism?

Meghan McCain, a conservative commentator and daughter of Senator John McCain, tweeted that, “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will get him re-elected.” She has a point. Trump lost the popular vote in November by 2.8 million. But outside California and New York, he won by 3 million. That’s America’s story in a nutshell.

Getting America out of its mess begins with the acknowledgment that New York and California do not have a stranglehold on truth, any more than Kansas and Missouri do. Out there in God-fearing gun country there are plenty of smart, upstanding Americans who, as Mark Lilla of Columbia University put it, paraphrasing Bernie Sanders, are “sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.”

Lilla, in the same important piece, identified the “moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message” as a principal cause of the Democrats’ defeat; and he also called out a “generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups” — specifically the working-class whites who voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

For this, of course, Lilla was widely vilified by the thought police of identity politics. His colleague at Columbia University, Katherine Franke, suggested he was doing the “nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again.” That’s an outrageous allegation but not one untypical of our times.

It’s not only the alt-right that wants to silence dissenting views. The alt-left is in full mobilization. Trump is a travesty. But just denouncing him without understanding him leads nowhere. 

As Michael Wolff pointed out in Newsweek, where liberals see an attack on free speech, Trump supporters see the media stifling “real speech.”

The weeks since Nov. 8 have demonstrated Trump’s contempt for his supporters. He wants to “drain the swamp” through nepotism, empower the marginalized through the coddling of the super-rich, and toss the ethics of hard-working heartland Americans out the window of that gold-daubed apartment atop his tower. 

It’s been a stomach-turning display.

With time, more Americans will side with Streep. They will see that a mean, shallow actor has duped them. But to finish with Trump, liberals will also have to reckon with how they lost sight of their country.

(Dear Roger Cohen- I would argue, the Democrats didn't loose sight of our country. Rather, my opinion is the Republicans lost their moral compass and civic compassion. Evil vitriolic fake-news (aka- made up news that nobody seems to be able to correct in real time) and conspiracy theories are the disgusting stuff of which Democrats abhor. "When they go low, we go high", said Michelle Obama. We might loose elections, apparently so, but we can't also loose the moral high ground.)

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