This week the Trump non-presidency posted what may well go down in history as some of the weirdest photographs ever taken in the White House, featuring Melania Trump as the spirit of Christmas. One of them shows the First Lady walking with a fixed grin through what looks alarmingly like a giant silver vagina, but turns out to be a corridor of Christmas trees. In another she is standing on a marble floor surrounded by a little copse of snow-covered Chrismas trees in her white dress and heels, looking like the wicked witch of Narnia in search of a dancing partner.
But the most striking image shows Melania standing on a red carpet in a white dress and her arms by her side staring through a phalanx of ballerinas. It’s an image that is both surreal and also an inadvertent homage to the horror film genre, because Melania looks an awful lot like Sissy Spacek with that stare and dress, and you can’t help wondering what might happen to those dancers if a bucket of pig’s blood was thrown on her.
You certainly wouldn’t want to leave her alone with the baby Jesus for long. As is often the case with Melania Trump, it’s difficult to know whether she is Rapunzel or Countess Dracula in this Mar-a-Lago winterval. Is she reveling in her power or is she too a prisoner of the dystopian sci fi satire made flesh that we are all forced to inhabit? Either way, these joylessly saccharine images are unlikely to win the ‘ War on Christmas’. This is partly because this ‘war’ is a figment of Trump’s imagination, and also because nothing and no one can conceal the fact that the howling beast who inhabits the White House walls has nothing to do with the message of peace and brotherhood that Christ’s birth was intended to bring to the world.
Trump isn’t the first world leader to fail to get this message. Hitler was also a big fan of Christmas:
And he liked Santa too:
I know I’m probably being a bit of a killjoy posting such images, or maybe even going over the top a little, when all the White House wants us to do is think of tinsel and reindeer. But that isn’t the only Christmas message that’s come out of the White House this week. Because Trump has now retweeted none other than our own Britain First – a fascist would-be paramilitary organisation that specialises in anti-Muslim hate speech, whose name was quoted by the man who shot Jo Cox to death.
Even our PM, who up to now would have swum naked through a lake of cold sick to get a trade deal from the US, has said that Trump was ‘wrong’ to do this, without going too deeply into what his ‘wrongness’ consists of. May has too few friends to risk cancelling the state visit on which the British diet of chlorinated chickens depends. But even what she did say was too much for Trump, who tweeted back contemptuously that May shouldn’t be focusing on him, but on the ‘ destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism Radicalism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.’
Let’s just pause here and take stock of this. The president of the United States retweeted anti-Muslim videos from a fringe fascist organisation – videos that don’t even depict what they purport to depict. When accused of retweeting videos from said fringe fascist organisation, Trump ignored the fact that most of the videos were fake and told Theresa May off for saying that he was ‘wrong’ to retweet them and criticized her instead.
All that is bad enough, but I fear that its badness hasn’t been fully-digested. Because some commentators, our own government amongst them, continue to imagine that Trump ‘crossed a line’ or ‘went too far’ as if these retweets were some kind of gaffe that can be rectified. But Trump’s retweets and his response to the criticism he received make it clear he hasn’t crossed a line. On the contrary, he is moving very firmly along the tajectory that was established during his campaign, when he first reached into the fascistic underbelly of the GOP and US society: he is deliberately bringing fascism and racism back into the mainstream of American politics and pushing American society further towards the far-right.
He knows what he’s doing, and his closest supporters know it too. This is what the Bannon project is all about. It’s what sexy/cool provocateurs and fake cultural insurrectionists like Milo Yiannopoulos are all about. As the brilliant Buzzfeed investigation into the Bannon/Yiannopoulos nexus recently showed, these people are conduits seeking to open up new channels through which far-right and even openly Nazi politics can re-enter the political mainstream and break down the barriers to such progress.
When Trump dubs calls CNN ‘fake news’ and tells the most jaw-dropping lies without even the slightest remorse or concern about whether he’s found out, it isn’t just because he is a narcissistic sociopath: he is deliberately shattering the intellectual context that makes evidence-based argument or rational discussion possible.
In Trumpland, there are no ideas that have to be respected, only feelings and instincts that don’t change when confronted with facts that contradict them. Trump knows that his base has no interest in facts or truth and will love him as long as he sticks it to the ‘liberals’ or ‘lefttards’. He knows that he can rely on the support of the intellectually and morally debased Republican Party, many of whose representatives either care only about their career or would not mind taking off their suits and putting on a paramilitary uniform should the opportunity arise.
They certainly don’t have to wear uniforms now, because 21st century fascists don’t do that until they are absolutely certain that they can get away with it. Until then, they are content to allow their poisonous ideas to percolate, until what once seemed abnormal and unacceptable becomes a new normal. This is a long haul task, but Trump has powerful helpers: reactionary millionaires and Domininionist billionaires; Fox News, Breitbart, bullying shock jocks and many other fora that understand his game perfectly and have the same lack of scruples.
So Trump’s inadvertent tribute to the self-styled ‘Warrior for Christ’ Jayda Franzen isn’t just because he is a lazy, ignorant buffoon who can’t even be bothered to check a source – it’s exactly on a par with his tributes to the Nazis in Virginian and his praise for the Confederacy. He is promoting her because he agrees with her, and because he wants to poison our politics as he’s already poisoned his own country. Admittedly that isn’t too difficult to achieve in the toxic world of Brexitland, and Trump has lots of willing helpers swimming in the same dank waters.
These include not just the marginal crypto-fascist freakshow that is Britain First, which he has now transformed into a national brand. Trump’s British co-enablers are way more mainstream than that. They include Katie Hopkins, Farage, Arron Banks, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch, all of whom have used anti-Muslim hatred as the acceptable face of racism and a kind of intellectual Trojan horse to insinuate far-right narratives back into the mainstream – just as Trump did yesterday.
All of them, like Franzen and David Duke, can look to the white supremacist fascist enabler in the White House who is clearly dreaming of a white Christmas everyday, and the sooner we recognize Trump for what he is and treat him accordingly, the better chance we have of stopping him – and them.