By Yannick Marshall
They’ve dragged the white elephant slowly and steadily into the room. Amidst the flashing cameras and microphones shoved under its tusks the press is on pins and needles to discover if, indeed, a white elephant has been dragged into the room. Everyone is waiting for it to trumpet, to prove it is indeed an elephant. But the elephant has been trained not to trumpet. And because of this no one can report that there is a white elephant in the room. Because it has not trumpeted no one can claim to have seen a white elephant. This, as it turns out, is a remarkably efficient way to surreptitiously transport elephants.
Implausible deniability is a dance for two. Media figures must continue to perform bewilderment and ask fatuous questions such as why did the president use the term “invaders” immediately after the New Zealand mosque shooter used it? Did he do it on purpose? Was it a coincidence? Is that a white supremacist elephant speaking at the podium? At the same time white supremacists holding public office must agree to limit their nazism to actions and not words; a feat they surprisingly find difficult. The media gets its intrigue, white power gets its policies, and all is right with the world.
It has become the central role of the news media to make tantalizing what remains banal, to make thrillers of the commonplace. Every downpour is a hurricane, every Nazi salute is followed by an “are there Nazis?!?” They are not tasked with examining reality seriously but with providing mini-dramas and repeatable phrases for water-cooler conversation. This narrative-producing function along with the drive to sensationalize and draw attention leads to empty but excitable talk. It is not that nothing sticks to Trump, but in a world where click-bait always wins over examination there is no one available to do the sticking. An investigation or analytical piece on the threats of a Nazi sympathizing president is unthinkable. Andrew Jackson portraits in the oval office, Steve Bannon security clearances, winks to Marine Le Pen are all curious, new developments rather than exactly what a Nazi president would do. It is in this world that the white supremacist pamphleteers can roam free. As long as they are not caught uttering the N-Word they can move in all manner of white nationalist thought into the spotlight and there is no one available to perform a critique. All of the reporters are occupied waiting for the bombshell admission — microphone in hand — while SS mobilizes truckloads of their manifestos and equipment behind them. In white supremacist society, white supremacist governance can never be breaking news.
It is clear to both audience and anchors that Trump is not making a series of errors. The panelists are all lying when they say they don’t know why Trump won’t condemn white nationalists, and are disingenuous in their lament that he missed an opportunity to do so. It is clear to the administration as well that as long as he Trump does not use say “I am a white supremacist” they can do whatever they wish in front of that made up red line. And all the while white supremacist militance is publicized, circulated, faux-argued over and ubiquitous. And the capitalist press, its reluctant cheerleader, will one day profit from the public apologies given over ashes.
White supremacy continues to define the American public sphere as it has done for centuries. You don’t have to open your eyes to discover that the white elephant was in the room the whole time. You notice white elephants.