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What a Real Conspiracy Looks Like

October 16, 2016

I would like to describe an incident where the media, the American public, and the political establishment were in cahoots to tear down an American personality for no good reason.

In 2004, Justin Timberlake exposed a great deal of Janet Jackson’s right breast during the Super Bowl halftime show. The fallout from the “wardrobe malfunction” was swift, certain, and laser-focused. Janet was disinvited from the following week’s Grammy telecast. Her records and videos were yanked from rotation at all media outlets. Janet was compelled to deliver a humiliating video apology which did absolutely no good in restoring her to anyone’s good graces. Then-FCC chairman Michael Powell laid the condemnation on thick, declaring the incident to be a “classless, crass, and deplorable stunt.” Janet spent a decade in media exile while the firestorm blew over. Now that she’s 50, pregnant, and modestly dressed at all times, she has been informally deemed worthy of our respect again.

This, my friends, bears all the hallmarks of a media and government hit job.

Here is why I believe this to be true:

  • Marginalized status. Janet Jackson, despite her fame and seemingly infinite public goodwill at the time of the incident, was, at the end of the day, a black female.
  • Clearly differential treatment from others who don’t share said marginalized status. White females such as Madonna, Courtney Love, and Cher had cultivated boundary-pushing media images for years prior to the 2004 Super Bowl without anything approaching the media blackout to which Janet was subjected. Even more directly, Justin Timberlake was the one who actually made the infamous reveal, and he, a white male, suffered virtually no fallout AT ALL. For his participation in the exact same incident.
  • Inconsistency of conduct. If Janet had a history, like Courtney Love in particular, of recklessly disregarding broadcast standards, then the outrage might be a bit more understandable. If she had a history, like Madonna in particular, of explicitly challenging social taboos visually, then the behavior could be construed as deliberate. It is true that Janet had spent over a decade carefully cultivating an overtly sexual image, but she was always careful to play by the rules. As a pertinent example, she often self-policed her speech on TV talk shows; she would often ask the host demurely if she was allowed to say something a little risqué before coming out with it. When the Super Bowl incident occurred, it was completely unlike anything she had done before, and completely unlike anything she has done since. Yet no one in any position of authority spoke out about her three decades of exemplary public behavior prior to this incident or possibly giving her the benefit of the doubt because of it. No one.
  • Admitted government pandering. Michael Powell stated in 2014, “I had to put my best version of outrage on that I could put on.” The government wanted to know that the offended conservative housewives of the Heartland felt they had been heard when they called in their thousands upon thousands of complaints over less than a second of nipple.
  • Circumstantial evidence of government pandering. It should be mentioned that 2004 was a presidential election year, that the pressing issue of the election was the Iraq war, and that Michael Powell is the son of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Bush administration. There’s nothing like a hollow moral crusade to distract Americans from more pressing issues. I will leave my argument at that.

OK, so why rehash this 12-year-old incident?

For those of you who know me as a fervent Janet fan, there’s the obvious personal affront to me and to my hero, who spent a decade as a pariah and was thwarted from breaking even more music records because of the comparative standstill imposed on her music career. I have not let it go.

But for the purposes of this particular blog post, it is an example of how this can happen In Real Life.

In Real Life being contrasted with the murky amalgamation of thoughts that has vomited forth from Donald Trump’s mouth over the past week (and for many months prior, truly). He states that he is being subjected to something similar. He says the media and the government establishment are all conspiring against him to ensure that he loses the election, trotting out alleged victims of his unwanted sexual advances at this convenient time immediately prior to the election.

Aside from the mounting evidence that the Russian government, in possible collusion with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign itself, is coordinating precisely this type of attack on the Clinton campaign (which dovetails with my theory that Trump’s only line of defense is projection), this accusation is so hollow that Trump’s voice involuntarily echoes every time he makes these claims.

In reference to the prior bullet points about actual coordinated smear campaigns:

  • Trump, as much as I hate to include him in any group with me, is a white male. He was born into a successful family, and he used his father’s wealth as a crutch to overcome his glaring lack of business discipline until he got lucky and managed to make profits based on his perverted Darwinian business philosophy (i.e., screw them over before they have a chance to screw you over, which is also his philosophy of governance). His entire career has been predicated much more on unwarranted positive press than any native business acumen he possesses. The media built him into a superstar businessman, labeled him the de facto authority on training budding businesspeople, and anointed him a special expert on presidential birth certificates. He earned none of those designations, but since he was a blustery, obnoxious white male with money, people listened to him.
  • All of the allegations against him are entirely consistent with his prior conduct and speech. He has consistently objectified women on the record; he has consistently called women demeaning names on the record. Now, with the Access Hollywood tapes, he has been recorded admitting to a pattern of sexual assault. Now that possible corroborating evidence has been brought forward for this pattern of comments, he wants us to believe that it is all a coordinated effort to discredit him. How has he not discredited himself through his unrelenting, consistent chauvinism?
  • As regards the government establishment’s alleged role in this Trump smear campaign, I can only shrug and say that political groups get together and decide who they are going to support. That’s quite literally how politics works. For him to complain of this treatment is to underline his fundamental misunderstanding of how to leverage the existing political system. To think that this political skill is irrelevant (which is what his supporters appear to believe) is to assume what he has intimated in numerous other campaign comments–that he wants to dismantle the existing government altogether to suit his whims. In that event, he shouldn’t have even bothered going through the formality of pledging to a party and participating in the process.
  • Donald Trump was not a registered Republican. If there was a conspiracy, the party could have effectively shut him out from competing in the primaries. If there was a corresponding media conspiracy, they could have declined to give coverage to his campaign. Both groups were overly welcoming and generous because they knew that his celebrity would generate much-needed buzz that would benefit them. Trump has trafficked in and basked in the undeserved attention of the sensational for at least four decades. Now that the monster he has hitherto harnessed for his own benefit has turned against him, he is whining that the whole thing is fixed. The truth is that his very fame and notoriety, the fact that we even know who Donald Trump is, is one colossal fix: the elevation of a mediocre business mind to worldwide prominence because he knew how to make a spectacle of himself.

Of course, I know that I am only one of a million voices crying in the wilderness, trying to   convey the urgency of the situation to the obscene 30-to-40 per cent of Americans who are supporting Trump for president.

I am only one person with one opinion, and I am not the arbiter of political truth. I can only point to what I feel to be the inevitable conclusion that Trump’s last stand in this election is to convince people that all the awful things that are easily available for Americans to know about him are in fact untrue, and are instead the result of a carefully coordinated plan to steal an election from him that he is utterly unqualified to win. And that last stand is a flimsy house of cards that falls under the slightest examination.

And, finally, as someone who acknowledges marginalized lives, it is personally offensive to me that a rich white male who has held a national platform for his thoughts and ideas for over a generation is claiming the mantle of systemic victimization as he stands in front of millions of Americans daily with repeated opportunities to string together a coherent sentence to explain what he believes in and how he proposes to translate those beliefs into action as President. And failing miserably each time.

That’s not a conspiracy. That, at long last, may actually constitute justice.

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