Trump Learns That You Can't Fight A Photograph
The pathetic scene of a drowned Syrian boy on a Turkish beach stunned the world in 2015. Politicians on the European continent quickly understood this searing image may be worth a thousand words, but it had the potential to cost them hundreds of thousands of votes.
So they unlocked the doors. A singular image changed Europe forever, precipitating the immigrant flood that’s now threatening the political stability of the European Union.
The American Left is hoping that pictures of crying children at the southern border will do the same for their dreams of finally stopping their personal Hitler, Donald J. Trump. From Hollywood cartoon makers to the media Resistance wing to antifa, they assaulted the temporal lobe of citizens to return them to their accustomed perch at the head of the food chain.
What likely precipitated this media blitz was a week in which Trump had successfully brought North Korea to the bargaining table and the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that, yes, Trump had been correct that a cell at the FBI and the intelligence community was actively discussing the overthrow of his democratic election as president.
And so… hey, don’t look at those things… look at what’s been happening at the Mexican border where smugglers and illegal aliens have been doing a gang rush on the Immigration services. And look… crying babies! Children separated from parents (and smugglers) and put in holding facilities that have fences in them.
How good is it to be us? Thought the Left.
There are many nuances to the story. The government is enforcing zero tolerance on illegals in response to an enormous push by crime cartels in Mexico eager to land their confederates in the U.S. A large portion of the immigrant claims of imminent danger are proving false—if the border crossers even show up in court.
Of the 12,000 children in custody (in CAGES roar the critics), 10,000 came alone across the border. No mommy or daddy to cry about. That crying happened back in Mexico or Honduras. The human logjam is also a way to distract from the drug smuggling now going on up river And the collapse of societies in Mexico and central America now dominated by drug cartels feeds the fire.
This has all been trampled by crying babies in the media’s tell of the story. The people who work the U.S./ Mexico border have a far different perspective on gangs, traffickers and illegal immigration than people who make cartoons in Hollywood. (Gee, I wonder who I should believe?) Still, you’ll hear Bette Midler quoted about Hitler before the head of the Border Patrol about MS-13.
Which brings us back to our poor little boy drowned on a beach. A photo that goes viral is an attack on the brain’s amygdala, which receives input from other human brain functions, like memory and attention. When the emotions take over, rationality is a dead duck— as I described in this column about Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast Thinking Slow .
Certainly, arguing facts hasn’t worked lately for the The Trump Resistance, huddled in its TV studios and leafy academic buildings. They’ve been watching his polling rise and their hopes of a blue wave in the fall midterms shrivel. Desperate times called for yet another appeal to the emotions of Americans and the world.
If you need a refresher, cast your mind back a couple of months ago to the Parkland High School shooting when another emotional media opera linked dead teenagers to gun control to hammer Trump. Little Davey Hogg was everywhere as the face of a generation seemingly held at gunpoint. So far that’s been a loser in recapturing the middle class the Democrats abandoned a decade ago.
But now… crying babies!
Which is how we came to where we are this week, inundated by pathos, discussions of what constitutes a cage and the harsh separation of families. (Issues anti Trump forces showed next to no interest in just weeks ago.)
Trump played his role as the bulldozer, blaming Democrats who want him to personally carry the burden of the ugly images. )He finally signed an executive order Tuesday to re-unite the families while still in captivity.) There are a number of bills in Congress to soften the crying babies image, ranging from the status quo of the GOP right to the What The Hell, Everybody Come In And Stay For As Long As You Want Act from the Democratic left.
There are few easy answers, however, and the body politic— driven by cable news— is now inoculated against making any decisions that might inconvenience a focus group.
Whatever weakens the policy will be a “gentlemen start your engines” to smugglers and drug cartels to keep pouring hapless victims across the border. Continuing to separate the real families who come across the border will further infuriate the soccer-mom sensibility of the media.
You can’t fight a crying baby. Resorting to emotion over reason has already jumped the shark in Canada, where the prime minister weeps openly about pet policies, gender intersectionality and climate change. Boring old Stephen Harper is out, and public virtue displays— lapped up by the media— are in. (MSNBC host Rachel Maddow— not a mother— went on air to have a good cry, because, of course, it’s her feelings, not the facts, that run TV news these days.)
We have become fundamentally unserious about serious issues and hopelessly sentimental about images we don’t begin to understand. It’s the perfect recipe for an emotional mess. One which the Trump haters are sure to keep exploiting if it drives their polling. The kids? Hey, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on his website is Not The Public Broadcaster . He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand will be available this fall.