Sunday, February 19, 2017

The President's "Poverty Tour", Appalachia, April-May 1964

Donald trump signDue to his seemingly endless flow of the bizarre, the incompetent and the ridiculous, since his inauguration Donald J Trump has become even more of a figure of ridicule and hate. I can’t think of a media outlet apart from Breitbart which could be considered anything other than anti-Trump. In some cases I think the media has rushed to exaggerate and misrepresent. But he has made it easy, very easy for them to do so. I am not a fan of Trump, but I am drawn towards the people who put their trust in him at the ballot box, who saw him as being their last opportunity for change in the corporate-political empire.

At least now the media is doing its job again, having been sycophantic Obama-worshippers for the past 8 years (giving only passing coverage to bombing campaigns and drone strikes, for which statistics vary, the destabilisation of other nations through ’springs’, etc), and who right up to the last minute were openly backing Clinton, who was just another establishment candidate. Yes Trump is a billionaire. But the establishment – media, Democrats and Republicans – all openly hate him. And that's a big reason why so many people voted for him.

However, what this media Trump-a-geddon has done is wipe out some of the intelligent journalism which was starting to emerge during 2016, which sought to explain Trump's rise, and which revealed a hidden demographic - a forgotten, abandoned, American underclass far from the urban and coastal √©lites. The people of last year's bestseller Hillbilly Elegy, which became a bestseller because it connected the journalist class with people they did not know even existed. For a brief few months, those people had a voice, albeit a small one. Now they are once again forgotten as all eyes are focussed on Trump himself. 

So the ‘progressive’ chatterati are virtue-signalling at an industrial scale, every Trump gaffe causing Twitter-tsunamis. Mutual back-slaps of how right on they are. Middle class progressive evangelicals are just as prone to this as anyone else, except they add a bit of Jesus into the mix. They enjoy pointing out online how they are more like Jesus than others are. This used to be called "raising legitimacy to ultimacy", and is a form of Luke 18 Pharisaism. The posturing - whether just to make political points, or when also wrapped in a theological gloss, is tiresome and self-aggrandising.

Well, forget Trump. He is merely the outworking of those forgotten millions. And underneath the fashionable outrage, the progressives are as disinterested in the working class and underclass as ever before - whether Trump voters, UKIP voters, Brexit voters, post-industrial parts of Scotland that I have been to and know people in – or in our own context, people in estates which are still in the grip of paramilitarism. Few of Northern Ireland's 'trendy vicar’ types would be seen dead at a band parade or inside an Orange hall, either through their own choice or the soft policies of those they answer to within their congregations. I have seen many churches on the 12th July and on other parade dates, situated along the parade routes with hundreds of 'unchurched' people standing outside, but with the doors shut and the building deserted. It's not only bad evangelism, it's bad neighbourliness, it's bad community engagement.

Previous Presidents also made publicity capital from these forgotten millions. Below is a film of Lyndon Johnson in the ‘Rust Belt’ and Appalachia in 1964. You can imagine how these images were carefully staged for maximum effect. Just like today. This 2014 retrospective makes for interesting reading.

Whether President or progressive tweeter, they are one and the same, both are merely exploiting the poor for their own publicity advantage.

• PS - I know those who do care, and a number of young ministers who are not scared to get their hands dirty and get stuck in. They're not doing the posturing. They're doing the hard work, far below the radar. Full credit to them.

• PPS - after posting this piece, I see that the Lancashire Post in the north west of England has a similar perspective. I have always had a soft spot for John Pilger’s view of international politics, as this article demonstrates so well.