International Takes On A Trump Presidency

[Artwork by Iraqi cartoonist Ahmad Falah shows Trump with a red paintbrush; behind him, the White House has been painted blood red to reflect the violence of Trump’s statements, via Niqash.org]

Three weeks have passed since 62 million people voted for Donald J Trump. His 290 electoral votes guarantees he will be my president, barring a miracle.

Hate crimes have spiked during this period with many expecting “the situation to get worse in the future.”

My colleague here at IC, Andy Tenido, experienced the violent and racist atmosphere at a Trump primary event in Albequerque, where he was assaulted by Trump supporters and security while filming undocumented-rights protesters.

 

The wave of hate crimes in this country while alarming has actually inspired anti-Trump protests around the country. Students, immigrant-rights groups, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, and others have mobilized large protests in places like NYC, Oakland, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, and Portland. Trump hasn’t been sworn into office yet and I can see these protests continuing well into the first months of his administration, hopefully longer.

I’m a news junkie that probably spends too much time monitoring the AP, Reuters, and AFP wires on my phone, in addition to Twitter.

What I read about his transition team scares the hell out of me. Donald Trump is appointing dangerous people.

His potential CIA director? Loves waterboarding.

His potential Attorney-General? He was the “the second nominee in 50 years to be denied confirmation as a federal judge,” viewed the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation,” and allegedly had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan until he learned they “smoked marijuana.” Though remember, he was only “joking” about the latter…

I could mention his chief White House strategist, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, but other outlets have done a great job.

An exiled Syrian summed it up the best to me: “He’s choosing those people who hate and provoke others. His nominees for ministry of defense and foreign affairs are clear example.” They went on to say, “Racism has been there all the time and ignoring it doesn’t help. It’s always good, but hard, to face the reality and stop hypocrisy.”

I try to connect with other media activists around the world. While the fight in the US may not be the same as in London, Rio, Beirut, Cairo, or Gaza, we can learn from each other.

So I decided to interview four media activists that I have collaborated with in other independent media groups about the inevitable Donald Trump regime. Han Wan Tan of Mangal Media, Kareem Chehayeb of Beirut Syndrome, and Mark Bairden and Noor el-Turk of The New Arab and Middle East Eye agreed to participate.

What was your first reaction to the election?

Kareem: I was up at five in the morning to see how the elections were going. I felt it was going to be very close, with Clinton just edging it…we all know what happened, obviously. I was shocked that Trump won by such a margin, at the same time, something told me never to rule out Trump, despite it seeming like the odds against him were very high.

Noor: I had to reread the results a couple of times. And even then, I checked multiple sources–despite acknowledging his popularity, I never expected him to win. I think I’m still waiting for him to turn around and say “Ha! Fooled you!”

Han: I watched the election coverage until late in the night, and before I went to sleep, the moderators and guests in the panel (all, except for one, Hillary-supporters) were pretty mellow. Everyone was confident the polls were right and Clinton would win, as was I.

But then I woke up to blank faces on TV. The result surprised me, but neither in a positive nor negative way. The same people who already cheered the assumption of a first female president, though, were saying things like “Maybe Trump will be more moderate when he’s a president.” So their reaction was to immediately relativize everything Trump has said before.

Mark: Dismay was the first reaction. HRC wins no favors from me, but to have someone win on an overtly racist ticket is very worrying.

Have you followed Trump’s policies and who he’s nominating for positions in his administration?

Kareem: I have to admit that I’m also keeping a close eye on the formation of Lebanon’s new cabinet as well! But I certainly have been following Trump’s policies and so on. It’s a scary time, to be honest. Steve Bannon’s appointment alone is a cause for great concern.

Noor: In the ever-connected world we live in, everyone is aware that Trump’s policies will not just affect America, but will have far-reaching ramifications. As yet, it’s unclear how many of his policies he will actually choose to follow through with, but the current cabinet nominations aren’t a hopeful indication so far of what will come.

Han: Yes. It is disturbing, but also in a skewed way funny and not at all surprising, to see how easy it is for a racist government to put off their mask of political correctness and just go full-mode white supremacists.

Mark: Yes I have been following events since and his administration forming. To a large extent I feel that this is a distraction. Many people do not see the US as a regime, as having a deep state. It does, and the more serious question is how that state reacts. It may see it as a green light for repression.

What do you think of the anti-Trump protests? Is the international media covering it? How are they framing the protests?

Kareem: I’m all in support of them. I don’t buy that democracy is just voting every few years. There are tons of communities that Trump has threatened, and I can understand why people are horrified. I just hope that these protests aren’t a mere reaction to his election, and that they pave the way for more grassroots political work starting a local level.

Local TV stations here are covering it, but not intensely, especially given the recent presidential elections, the current cabinet formation process, and Syria next door. But they don’t seem to reveal any support or opposition to them.

Noor: The anti-Trump protests really highlight the anger and fear on the streets. The people protesting are doing so not necessarily out of any love for Hillary, but more out of fear for what is clearly a rise in fascists feeling empowered. Popularly-backed fascism doesn’t make it correct and President-elect Trump needs to recognise the very real threat a large swathe of Americans are facing and work to settle those fears to prevent American society from becoming more polarised.
Coverage of the protests in international media outlets has been fair in my opinion, the protesters are angry–rightfully so–and it comes across in the coverage.

Han: I support the idea of civil disobedience. The protests mustn’t lead to choosing Clinton to be president, though. I just hope protesters of color (and maybe very woke white allies), LGBTQ-folks and virtually anyone who isn’t brainwashed or profiting from white supremacy, will realize who they are fighting and protesting against. It’s not just Trump or Trump supporters, but centuries of discrimination and white power.

German news outlets are in favour of the protests. They focus on marginalised demographics in the US, but also how this is the first time US citizens are protesting a presidential outcome.

Mark: Protest is now more vital than ever. Coverage that I have seen in the media here in Europe and in Russia (which I have an interest in) has concentrated on the Trump-as-Spectacle and the emerging alt-right back story. There has been little or no serious reports of protest.

Do you think Trump voters are racist? What would you say to Americans that voted for Trump?

Kareem: I mean you can’t make a blanket judgement, right? I’ve been looking at mixed reports, some indicating that most of the people who voted were rich folks, and others were actually rather poor. I’m sure a huge group of racists and bigots supported the Trump campaign, let’s not kid ourselves.

If I could say anything to them it would be that…Trump isn’t anti-establishment. Trump is very pro-establishment. He’s a billionaire. Also, immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ people are your allies, not the cause of your suffering or poverty.

Noor: Like every society, there are numerous things at play, and I don’t think it can be reduced to one binary. The issue here is that voters have chosen to vote, if not for, despite President-elect Trump’s rhetoric, and what’s baffling is their decision to not view it as a deal breaker.

At this point in time, the only thing that can be said to the Americans who voted for Trump is: Whatever your reasons, I hope you’re ready for the consequences of this uncertain period. It is your duty now more than ever, to speak up if you see your vote exploited and to defend those who feel persecuted.

Han: Probably not all of them, but a racist would vote for Trump. Like my dad says: if there’s a turd in the soup, you throw all of it away.

I’d like to ask the PoC that voted for him, why they did. I wouldn’t talk to the white Trump-voters though.

Mark: I would answer this by saying America is racist. It is built on racism. This facilitates anyone who seeks to whip up racial prejudice as a means to power. What Trump has done is turn this full throttle in an alarming way. To people who voted for Trump, I would say that you have been duped. You allowed someone to tell you that division was a form of unity. They will now use that division to take from you and oppress you even further.

How do you see the next four years under a Trump presidency playing out?

Kareem: I’m scared to be honest. I wouldn’t be happy with a Clinton presidency either, but Trump’s another level of scary.

Noor: Unfortunately, for those who hoped that a Trump presidency would bring about the end of the establishment, that seems incredibly unlikely. The system itself doesn’t accommodate for anything working against the current establishment, and you’re unlikely to see major policy changes happening. Peddling dangerous rhetoric however has enabled the far right, and the coming four years will likely see a major platform given to fascist voices, which will embolden them further.

Mark: I fear the American people do not have the luxury of four years. If large scale organization and action against the state is not taken up soon it looks likely that mass oppression will occur. That could regress the working class cause generations of hard won progress.

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College dropout. News junkie. Hip hop nerd. Johnny is a social-media extraordinaire and a node of worldwide activist networks.

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