Well, it looks like they got me. Yep. I’m guilty of once referring to a public figure as a “monkey.”
I’m not joking about that. I did it. The year was 2006, the publication was The Huffington Post, and the victim was George W. Bush. The article in question was headlined: “Bush Looks An Awful Lot Like A Monkey.” Frankly, I had completely forgotten about that piece until yesterday when dozens of alt-right trolls appeared in my Twitter mentions and in the comments under my Facebook posts with the following screengrab:
Go read the article for yourself. But you’ll notice a few things that make it entirely different from when Roseanne Barr referred to former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett as a descendant of a character from “The Planet of the Apes.”
First of all, I’d like to alert your attention to the fact that Bush was and is a wealthy white man from a patrician WASP family, a family that includes his former president father and his former presidential candidate brother, both of whom are also WASPs. Secondly, you’ll find that the headline was somewhat tongue-in-cheek insofar as I was suggesting that serious journalists and pundits shouldn’t have been joining up with Republicans in referring to Democrats as being similar to Bin Laden, an often overheard attack line in 2006. Likewise, I wrote, serious journalists and pundits shouldn’t market in the “Bush looks like a monkey” meme.
All told, I compared Bush to a monkey in the context of calling out its lack of seriousness. However, yeah, sure, I often broke my own rule during the Bush years. In my 2008 book, I wrote that my favorite Bush nicknames were “Chimpy McSmirky” and “Chimpy McFlightsuit.” Was it over-the-top? Maybe a little. Was it in bad taste? Yeah. Was it out of line with what hundreds of people were saying in the blogs at the time? Nope. Was it racist? Not by any definition of the word.
And that’s the problem. Neither the Red Hat army nor its cult-leader Donald Trump appear to know what racism is or why so many people, including the ICM agency, Ambien, CMT, TV Land, ABC Entertainment and its parent company Disney, along with millions of others, were offended by Roseanne’s tweet about Valerie Jarrett. They clearly don’t understand that calling a black woman an ape or a monkey is vastly different and significantly worse than referring to Trump as having been fathered by an orangutan (Bill Maher’s running gag) or circulating a meme in which various photos of Bush are matched with photos of chimps making similar facial expressions (see below).
The alt-right goons pursuing me this week thought they nailed me. They thought they nailed Maher. The only problem is that Bush and Trump don’t belong to a race of people, African-Americans, who’ve been demonized, subjugated, enslaved, slandered, lynched and attacked for the last 300-plus years on this continent. More specifically, African-Americans have long been disgustingly mischaracterized by white oppressors as being ape-like, thus stripping black people of their humanity, making them seem inferior and therefore easier to segregate and tyrannize. The idea was that as long as blacks were considered subhuman, they could be enslaved, either overtly or through political actions such as ginned-up wars on crime and drugs.
Seriously, Trumpers, show me when wealthy WASP legacy families were crushed under the same societal indignities as African-Americans have been and, if you can cite parallel examples, I’ll apologize and retract my “Bush looks like a monkey” memes from, you know, 12 years ago.
Don’t hold your breath. The Trumpers won’t do it because they can’t do it.
Forgive me for stating the obvious but the history of systemic racism in America, specifically referencing monkeys in many cases, is why it’s morally reprehensible to call any person-of-color an ape or similar. We’re decades beyond that now and it’s an embarrassing chapter in our history. Roseanne seems to have forgotten about history — either that or she simply doesn’t care about the long shadow of American racism because the most loyal Trump supporters happen to believe that, just because Trump “won” the 2016 election, all concerns about racism, homophobia or misogyny were disappeared like (spoiler) half of the Avengers after Thanos did his infinity-gauntlet thing. Just because Trump won, they believe they have complete latitude to say and do whatever awfulness pops into their worm-infested brains without any ramifications or accountability. Oh wow are they wrong about all that.
Turns out, to borrow from Maher, we’re still here.
Nothing changed since January 20, 2017 except the occupant of the Oval Office. Surprise, surprise — engaging in racist attacks, marching in the name of Nazism and white supremacy, or persecuting anyone who looks vaguely Mexican is all still horrendous, inhumane and worthy of rebuke. Whether it’s Trump himself, or that cellphone woman or the New York lawyer who was driven into hiding, the forces of decency and dignity are, in fact, even more active than ever before. Only now we have a better sense of who’s racist because the Red Hats feel artificially safe to blurt it all.
Shockingly, it turns out both Bill O’Reilly and Tomi Lahren agree that Roseanne’s tweet was unforgivable. So there’s some hope for the other side. Unfortunately, O’Reilly and Lahren are outliers. The rest of the Red Hat army is now seeking revenge against public figures like me who routinely condemn racism. This is Trumpism: no accountability, no apologies, no morality. Worse, the basis for their arguments is more misinformed than ever before. Today, the ruling faction in America deals in fact-free, inchoate screaming rather than cleverly constructed arguments in support of their policies. Gibberish rules the day in Trumpland. Hashtags like “ImpeachObama,” even though Obama can’t in any way be impeached how, as well as attacks like conflating Bush/monkey with Jarrett/ape don’t make any sense and yet they’re proudly circulating this horseshit anyway.
I suppose it’s all in the name of the first rule of Trumpism: troll and antagonize “the snowflakes” no matter what. Winning, in the small minds of the Red Hats, is defined by the volume of the outcry against them. They believe they’re winning whenever the Normals become outraged as a consequence of being trolled. They don’t realize how badly it’s backfiring, though, with pro-Trump trolls such as Roseanne driven from the public discourse nearly every week, thus illustrating how monumentally foolish they truly are. If this is winning, it’ll be a long time before I get bored with this kind of winning — especially when I successfully use their trolling against them. For example: Bush totally looked chimp-like. Sue me.