Gleeful Indignation

From Roger Kimball:

It is curious how close certain seemingly contrary emotions can be. Consider, to take just one example, the feelings of glee and outrage. At first blush, they seem very different. Glee occupies a positive register in the metabolism of human emotions. There is such thing as malicious glee, of course—the German word schadenfreude captures that perfectly. But by and large, I believe, glee is a sunny, allegro emotion.

Outrage, on the contrary, is a dour beast. It glowers. It fulminates. It glories in moral indignation, which it eagerly manufactures whenever it is in short supply.

And it is there, in the manufacture, affectation, the pretense, of moral indignation that that outrage shades in smarmy gleefulness. You can see this in operation right now, today, by the simple expedient of turning to CNN and watching commentator after commentator explode in gleeful outrage over Donald Trump’s alleged comments about the relative desirability of immigrants from countries like Norway, on the one hand, and countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and various apparently unnamed African countries on the other. (I say “alleged” not because I doubt the substance of the report, but simply because the president has disputed some details of the reporting.)

Two questions: Were all those commentators at CNN (and the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other purveyors of sanctimony)—were they more delighted or unhappy about the president’s comment? Think carefully before answering.

Sometimes, the experience of outrage, and its accompanying moral indignation, is essentially a feeling of displeasure—at a wrong done or suffered, an injustice or cruelty observed, etc.

But sometimes, outrage is but a patina of indignation whose chief motive is incontinent delight. Which is it for the talking heads at CNN? Are they genuinely morally offended by the president’s comments? Or are they really absolutely delighted by the opportunity he has given them to say “shithole” over and over again while also running endless chyrons reminding viewers that the president referred to (if he did refer to) Haiti, El Salvador, etc., as “shithole countries” from which we should not seek immigrants?

I think it is the latter, and I believe there are two parts to the delight. One is the natural expectation of a ratings boost in the wake of all that potty-mouthed commentary. The other is the prospect, once again, of being given free rein to lay into Donald Trump and deplore how horrible, uncaring, racist, and vulgar he is. Maybe, just maybe, this exhibition of political incorrectness will turn the tide of public opinion against this most improbable president. Maybe, just maybe, it will administer the coup de grace against a man who is the walking embodiment of everything enlightened progressive opinion loathes.

Maybe. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Which brings me to my second question: Was the president right to question the desirability of accepting immigrants from places like Haiti? Let’s leave his colorful language to one side. That was just a bit of rhetorical salsa on the burrito. The coarsening of language in the public square (and the private hearth) means that virtually anyone not cloistered hears and/or utters much ruder language almost daily.

The real issue is whether we justly prefer immigrants from some places over others.

I would say that the answer is an unequivocal Yes. Of course we do. Not only was the president correct when, some time ago, he said that we should favor immigrants who knew English and brought with them marketable skills, he is also correct now when he suggests that someone from Norway, say, is more likely to bring those desirable qualities than someone from Haiti, El Salvador, etc.

He is further correct that the Haitis of the world are conspicuously undesirable places: crime- and disease-ridden trous de merde that we may pity and may endeavor to help but that are not necessarily good sources of helpful immigrants.

And here we come to a second curiosity in the preening and ecstatic outrage over the president’s comment. Everyone, near enough, knows that he was telling a home truth. It was outrageous not because he said something crude that was untrue. Quite the contrary: it was outrageous precisely because it was true but intolerable to progressive sensitivities.

In other words, the potency of taboo is still strong in our superficially rational culture. There are some things—quite a few, actually, and the list keeps growing—about which one cannot speak the truth or, in many cases, even raise as a subject for discussion without violating the unspoken pact of liberal sanctimoniousness.

Donald Trump, of course, does this regularly, delightedly. Hitherto, his brazenness has only endeared him to his base and driven his critics mad. Perhaps it will be different this time. Maybe the angry censors will descend en masse in effective indignation and drag him from the stage. Again, though, I wouldn’t count on it. Trump’s Haiti moment is cut from the same script as Trump’s “Rosie O’Donnell is a fat pig” mot. Uncouth. Crude. But was it untrue?

We live in a surreal moment when it becomes ever harder to tell the truth about sensitive subjects. Donald Trump has strutted across our timid landscape like a wrecking ball, telling truths, putting noses out of joint. The toffs will never forgive him, but I suspect the American people have stronger stomachs and are up to the task.

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We Can’t Spare This Man, He Fights

Shortly after the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, Pennsylvanian Republican Alexander McClure met with Abraham Lincoln in the White House urging him to remove Ulysses S. Grant from command:

I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once, and, in giving my reasons for it, I simply voiced the admittedly overwhelming protest from the loyal people of the land against Grant’s continuance in command. I could form no judgment during the conversation as to what effect my arguments had upon him beyond the fact that he was greatly distressed at this new complication. When I had said everything that could be said from my standpoint, we lapsed into silence. Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. He then gathered himself up in his chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.’

Today, the Republican establishment again wants to remove a fighter.

From Thomas Sowell:

Even those of us who are not supporters of either Donald Trump or Jeb Bush can learn something by comparing how each of these men handled people who tried to disrupt their question-and-answer period after a speech.

After Bush’s speech, hecklers from a group called “Black Lives Matter” caused Bush to simply leave the scene. When Trump opened his question-and-answer period by pointing to someone in the audience who had a question, a Hispanic immigration activist who had not been called on simply stood up and started haranguing.

Trump told the activist to sit down because someone else had been called on. But the harangue continued, until a security guard escorted the disrupter out of the room. And Jeb Bush later criticized Trump for having the disrupter removed!

What kind of president would someone make who caves in to those who act as if what they want automatically overrides other people’s rights — that the rules don’t apply to them?

Trump later allowed the disrupter back in, and answered his questions. Whether Trump’s answers were good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant to the larger issue of rules that apply to everyone. That was not enough to make “The Donald” a good candidate to become President of the United States. He is not. But these revealing incidents raise painful questions about electing Jeb Bush to be leader of the free world. The Republican establishment needs to understand why someone with all Trump’s faults could attract so many people who are sick of the approach that Jeb Bush represents.

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And here: