The Video Loss Newsletter is a weekly digest of media, politics, and dreams.
Two weeks ago, we learned the Trump administration engages in a policy of separating children from their families at the border of the United States. We also learned the separated children are sometimes kept in cages.
Last week, after trying to blame the Democrats for a policy they simultaneously tried to claim didn’t exist, the White House went back on family separation. There was no clear procedure for reuniting the children with their families. Also, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a restaurant because she works for Donald Trump.
Guess which one we are still talking about this week?
Our President has many flaws. He is dumb. He is evil. His evilness and his dumbness often combine in ways that are unexpected and jarring. However, one thing he is undeniably good at is bending a narrative. It’s basically been the one skill he has continuously demonstrated in his life.
It helps that most of his opponents and the press continuously fall for it.
Countless words and television segments have been spent over the last week debating the question of whether or not White House employees deserve to eat a meal undisturbed. It’s a complicated question; sure, yes, people should be allowed to eat (it’s essential to life after all!) but also right of service refusal is legally allowed, I guess. More importantly, as Alex Pareene pointed out on Twitter, we live in a country where many people don’t have the expectation of being able to eat a meal in peace. And those people don’t even work in the White House! So it’s a pointless question, we stopped living in a country with civility the moment we decided some people don’t deserve civility because of their skin color. The only good and just answer is to burn it all down, etc etc.
But it’s also a silly question at this moment because suddenly cable news is talking about Stephen Miller eating a burrito instead of the families that are possibly forever fractured because of Stephen Miller.
But down the rabbit hole we go: the newspaper editorials that whine about this moment in history and the justifying incivility, the inevitable galaxy minded take saying “this sure does seem a lot like racial segregation”, the politicians expressing the right opinion or the wrong opinion and maybe even responding to someone else’s opinion.
Suddenly we are fighting a culture war instead of a humanitarian war. There is one person that benefits: Donald Trump. And there are thousands of people that don’t benefit; specifically, the 2,700 people separated at the border through an inhuman policy.
Donald Trump tweeting about the Red Hen is very dumb. He is, after all, the President, and there is a longstanding expectation that the President will not use his platform as the most powerful person in the world to get angry at a restaurant. It is also evil because over the weekend he tweeted that he doesn’t want due process for immigrants at the border and the media barely noticed because they were all too busy talking about the Red Hen.
We didn’t need to have this debate now. We weren’t going to when Stephen Miller got chased away from his burritos because that was objectively funny but also because Trump and the White House didn’t make it a big deal. Now they did and we are.
Meanwhile, on the margins of another exhausting cycle of thumb-nosed civility olympics, the White House announced it would be holding the separated children effectively hostage until their families agreed to be deported without a legal trial. A subtle, but chilling expression of power in the midst of another bombastic and dumb artificially created debate. I wonder what David Axelrod is going to say about that!