I don’t know what my neighbor David Newquist ate for Thanksgiving, but the good professor cooked up a couple of smart, incisive blog posts over the long holiday weekend.
First, Newquist explains the buyer’s remorse ahead for working-class Trump voters by arguing that “Trump is the quintessence of the One Percent.” A prime exhibit is his choice of a Secretary of Education determined to destroy public education, the bedrock of working-class economic mobility:
He appointed billionaire Betsy DeVos who has been active in promoting charter schools, which cater to the wealthy. She works to dismantle public education, and give poor kids other opportunities. She has donated to a “think tank” that would repeal the child labor laws so that kids can be sent into the workforce to learn the virtues of hard work, instead of sitting in classrooms learning useless stuff. Other than attempting to dismantle it, DeVos has no experience in education [David Newquist, “A Happy Thanksgiving from the One Percent,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2016.11.25].
Newquist then digs into the Trumpist assault on language:
This past election campaign has been a nuclear-level assault on language. Donald Trump is an anti-language warrior such as has been seen only in dystopian fiction. His outbursts are incoherent, ungrammatical, and predication-free. News organizations have termed his lying as unprecedented. In checking out 334 statements Trump made during his campaign, Politifact found that 70 percent of his statements were false; 15 percent had a slight truth; and only 15 percent fell into the truthful category.
…The reign of Donald Trump signals the victory of the destruction of language. You can’t believe him. You can’t believe those who support him because their knowledge of the world about them is submerged in the muck of false, malevolent, and corrupt language. There can be no arguments of reason because the counterfeiting of fact-based language has destroyed any possibility of dealing with truth [David Newquist, “It’s the Language, Stupid,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2016.11.27].
If Newquist’s reference is not obvious, please review George Orwell’s clever appendix to 1984, “The Principles of Newspeak,” in which Orwell explains how his fictional Party whittled the English language down to a stream of uncreative and shamelessly counterfactual grunts. See also the Two Minutes Hate, a mind-control method that manipulates and enflames raw emotion to crowd out reasoned discourse. (An incurious, self-serving, sexist, racist fascist seeks the Presidency, but you’re mad and it feels good to shout “Build a wall!” and “Lock her up!” so you are absolved of your moral and intellectual responsibility to vote wisely and can go ahead and elect your imminent oppressor, and anyone criticizing your choice is just an arrogant elitist whom you can ignore.) See also Orwell’s Newspeak term prolefeed, “meaning the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses.”
Newquist is about as optimistic as Orwell. He sees defenders of modern language and reason occupying a place similar to that of our Lakota neighbors 150 years ago when our ancestors pushed them onto reservations and tried to take away their language.
Like the Native Americans have learned, for the survival of language as a tool and for our own survival, it is necessary for us to trust only language that is guarded and protected by those who value knowledge, facts, and the language that records and transmits them. Those who value those things won’t engage with those who use the defiled language. To do so is pointless and exposes honest language to the disease that destroys it. The survival of a useful and productive language is dependent upon enclaves of educational and deliberative institutions that maintain a rigorous and unrelenting standard for the use of language. It must be protected from those who seek to undermine human communication.
That means that there must be elite who protects language from any influence from the Trumps and those who support and condone him. And that means a severely divided America. The future of civilization and any viable culture depends on those who serve in reverence for knowledge and language [Newquist, 2016.11.27].
I understand the hazards of engaging the Trumpists and suffering their poisonous anti-rationality. But I also recognize the danger of dividing America. If we don’t engage, we will lose. If we run from Trumpism, we let Trump portray us (us? liberals? moderates? journalists? truth-tellers? intellectuals? teachers? First Amendment advocates? patriots?) as elitists, outsiders, people who don’t belong in his fantasy (masculine, white, entitled because I’m rich) America. We cannot feed Trump’s exclusion.
People like Newquist are the medicine for Trumpism. Without that medicine, the patient—America—will die.