While the angry tweets, therapeutic Instagram testimonials and fiery speeches may comfort their fans, these left-leaning celebrities are also inadvertently energizing the opposition.Energizing. There's that word. It came up in that big NYT interview with Donald Trump. The executive editor of the NYT, Dean Baquet, asserted that Trump had "energized" the people who attended that "alt-right convention in Washington this weekend" and asked Trump if he feels that he's "said things that energized them in particular." Trump accepted the word and simply said "I don’t want to energize the group.... and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why."
But I'm thinking "energize" is a word that's having its day as an expression that works to create a sense that one person is responsible for what someone else does. A said X and B did Y. You couldn't say A caused Y, but you might say A energized B. It's vague, but it might feel incisive. And it's a way to tangle A up in demands to denounce B or explain why A didn't lead to Y. I'm going to keep my eye on this word. It might lull people into believing things are more connected and people are less autonomous than they really are.
Now, back to Amanda Hess, who took care to put "inadvertently" before her "energizing." The celebs are trying to reach people who, they assume, feel the way they do. But others can see it too, and they expose themselves to mockery. Rich, privileged folks can look pretty silly making a spectacle of their despair over the results of an election.
Conservative news outlets — most notably Breitbart News Network, the right-wing populist enclave — are perfecting the art of sapping Democratic stars’ name recognition and repurposing their words and actions into pro-Trump material....And it's not just Breitbart, it's also "nimble, often nameless online aggregators who quickly churn through popular culture and throw the most evocative stories to their readers, often without much commentary." Well, yeah, I know how that works. That's what much of the best of blogging does. But I say very short commentary can be great. Twitter is a testament to the fun of bouncing off of some news story.
Hess seems most interested in Breitbart (presumably because Breitbart connects to Steve Bannon and that gets us to Trump). Hess calls attention to a Breitbart piece — which seized upon a Dunham Instagram — "'Grieving' Lena Dunham Seeks Answers in Arizona Wilderness After Trump Win."
Hess endeavors to make this ridicule of Dunham seem ominous. Considering Bannon's closeness to Trump, "calling attention to Ms. Dunham’s Jewish faith feels like a bone thrown to the site’s white nationalist readers." Okay, let's go to the Breitbart article and see that bone in person:
In a separate post on Wednesday, Dunham said she had spent days “grieving” over the “loss of our country and the woman who inspired us,” comparing her experience to that of the “shivah,” a Jewish mourning ritual.The NYT article doesn't give a link to the Breitbart article. I got that for you myself. I think it's a safe bet that the vast majority of NYT readers assumed that Breitbart gratuitously inserted a reminder that that Dunham is Jewish, but the article doesn't even say Dunham is Jewish. It just quotes an Instagram of hers describing her grieving over the election in terms of a Jewish ritual. You don't even have to be Jewish to decide to talk about 7 days as a good period of mourning after which you "emerge from darkness" and "create light." Making fun of Dunham's treating an election loss like a death in the family is pretty far from anti-Semitism, but see how it's close enough to energize an accusation of energizing?
Another Breitbart piece highlighted in Hess's article is “‘Depressed’ Robert De Niro: Trump Election Makes Me ‘Feel Like I Did After 9/11.’” Lefty celebrities are serving up darkly hilarious bilge that doesn't even need rewriting to be funny. If I'd noticed that one, I'd have just used the quote and identified the author. It wouldn't have needed any commentary at all. Just showing it to you would have been enough to carry the message that I thought it was terrible and terribly funny.
And Hess knows that:
The real ideological action is undertaken by the audience, whose members read between the lines of these culture pieces and then scribble in the margins.Scribble in the margins. That's you, dear commenters. So, say what you will. I'm energizing you. And believe me, I have been attacked repeatedly — even by some of my own colleagues — for the things you say in the forum I've created.