Opinion

Trump, Fox News and Their Ally ISIS: The Triumph of the 12-year-old Male Mind

All three have shared values. We saw it best in the aftermath of the London attacks – how each benefits from hatred of Muslims and sowing fear of terrorism. How each caters to the 12-year-old male within

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewed by Fox and Friends co-host Pete Hegseth at the White House in Washington, April 6, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewed by Fox and Friends co-host Pete Hegseth at the White House in Washington, April 6, 2017.Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Deep inside many an adult male, this one included, is a 12-year-old with too much on his mind. Killing, for one thing.

It’s a dark and crowded place, that corner of the subconscious where the 12-year-old male mind hangs. The fleeting thought patterns may run to military valor or game hunting, homicide and/or suicide. But that’s only for starters.

It’s all right there: that passion for havoc, that worship of weaponry, that built-in emotional breeder reactor that runs on insecurity and inadequacy, and emits lying and cowardice and bullying and exaggerated self-satisfaction. There’s also that low-as-it-goes sense of humor, that cheap-as-it-comes streak of bigotry, that flimsy membrane of an attention span, that hair-trigger self-pity – and, not least, those images of a type of woman and a type of sex that do not relate to real sex or real women.

Which brings us to U.S. President Donald Trump. The 12-year-old mind stuffed into a 70-year-old body.

It’s right there, front and center, every single day. It’s right there on his Twitter feed, the ideology of governance by means of the expression “Up yours!” And here’s the ugliest part of all: it works.

Which brings us to Trump’s tailored sock puppet, Fox News. And to the ally of Trump and Fox in this era of the triumph of the 12-year-old male mind: the Islamic State group.

It works because Trump, Fox News and ISIS have shared values. Not only because all of them trade in and profit from disaffection, disruption and delusion. The shared values of Trump, Fox News and ISIS are those of the hormone-modulated, hothead 12-year-old male mind.

We saw it best in the aftermath of last Saturday’s terror attack in London. What we saw from all three was how each benefits from hatred of Muslims and sowing fear of terrorism. We heard it in their language, the pubescent, masculine mind-set gone ballistic.

There was no better example than the commentary of Fox News anchor Jesse Watters – a figure with few peers at Fox in his reflection of the level of the 12-year-old male mind.

Until recently, Watters was best known for conducting goofball, man-on-the-street segments, one of which, conducted in New York City’s Chinatown, was replete with so many humiliating, anti-Asian stereotypes that Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted in response that “The vile, racist behavior of Fox’s Jesse Watters in Chinatown has no place in our city. @FoxNews – keep this guy off TV.”

A woman walking past floral tributes near the scene of the recent attack at London Bridge and Borough Market in central London, June 7, 2017.
A woman walking past floral tributes near the scene of the recent attack at London Bridge and Borough Market in central London, June 7, 2017.Credit: STEFAN WERMUTH/REUTERS

More recently, Watters made a lewd, on-air “joke” at the expense of one of Trump’s daughters, Ivanka. Prominent conservative columnist and Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz was quick and unsparing in response. “Congratulations, Jesse Watters, you’re a disgusting pig as well as being a racist moron,” Podhoretz wrote.

This week, Watters – now officially a Fox opinion commentator with his “Watters’ Words” segment – dealt at length with the Saturday night London attack, in which three terrorists killed at least eight people before the attackers were charged by police and civilians, and shot dead.

“How much bloodshed are the Europeans willing to tolerate? Perhaps Europe’s bloody history from World War I, World War II, creates a higher death threshold,” Watters said Sunday. “But I’ll tell you this: This amount of terror will NEVER be tolerated in America. EVER.”

Listing ways in which he believed Britain had shown itself to be soft on terrorism, Watters said that “another mistake was the election of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim who cares more about fighting with Donald Trump than fighting Islamic terrorism.”

Watters then read from a May 2016 Khan tweet in which the mayor had responded to then-presidential candidate Trump’s statement calling “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

But just as Trump twice selectively misquoted Khan when the president mocked the mayor following the most recent terror attacks in Britain, Watters also chose to edit Khan’s words. “Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe,” Watters quoted Khan as saying. “It risks alienating mainstream Muslims. London has proved him wrong.”

“Actually, Mayor, you have been proven wrong,” Watters continued with a trademark smirk. “Since you held office, there have been two terror attacks in London. Since President Trump has been in office – there have been zero.”

For the record, Khan’s original May 2016 statement was this: “Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both of our countries less safe – it risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of extremists. Donald Trump and those around him think that Western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam – London has proved him wrong.”

But Watters, and Fox, were off and running. After Watters called the mayor “defeatist,” a guest – retired CIA officer Tony Shaffer – agreed, saying about Kahn, “If this’d been World War II and he was mayor, I’m sure he would have welcomed Hitler into the city. I mean, this is a complete surrender.”

Watters – ignoring the many in London who stood up to the terrorists on Saturday night, who challenged them despite the threat of apparent suicide belts; who slowed them with a range of hurled objects – then noted that “only 4 percent of British citizens are packing heat. I mean, why do you think London and these countries are such soft targets? It’s because no citizens are there to stop them in their tracks.”

Then it was time to foster hatred of Muslim Americans.

“ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for last night’s attack on London Bridge – the attackers could be heard shouting ‘This is for Allah!’” Watters said, adding, “The question is: Are American Muslims doing enough in the fight against ISIS? ... We had our people look for examples of Muslims in America protesting terrorism, and I gotta be honest with you, we didn’t find a lot of examples.”

When guest Dean Obeidallah, a Daily Beast columnist and Muslim American, replied that Muslim Americans had turned in extremists, that 1,000 Muslim Americans were currently serving in the New York Police Department, that 5,000 Muslim Americans were proudly serving in the U.S. military and that imams were working with the FBI, Watters appeared perturbed.

“I actually do think visually it would create a big kind of momentum shift if other Americans could see video of a massive amount of American Muslims out there on the streets protesting ISIS,” Watters said.

He added: “It seems like a lot of the Muslims here in America are more upset over Trump’s travel ban than they are [about] ISIS beheading people. What’s that all about?”

Obeidallah answered that while the voices of American Muslims are not always heard, “We don’t just denounce terrorism, we despise it. We want to see [the terrorists] eliminated, destroyed and killed, more than people of other faiths [do], because the backlash comes to our community.”

But the discussion turned into a melee when a second Muslim guest, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, lined up behind Watters’ contentions and said Obeidallah was “talking like a drunk at a bar, who’s saying that ‘We’re taking away the keys from the drunk drivers,’ but we’re really part of them.”

There was still one job left undone, and Fox attended to it a few hours later.

Just in case a terror attack should, in fact, take place in the United States in the future, it was important to know whom to blame, right here and now: the Democrats – Democrats who, in the view of former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, are keeping the president’s travel ban from being implemented. The ban, Bossie told Fox, “needs to be stopped being politicized by these Democrats who are really responsible for these future attacks.”

Then Fox brought on former UN ambassador John Bolton to agree: “In this continuing threat, the people who are trying to put up an anti-terrorism protective barrier for this country are faced by people here who [are] anti-anti-terrorism,” Bolton said. “They’re more worried about what the people trying to protect us are doing than they are about the people who are killing us.”

There you have it. A complete view of our world. Pre-digested and simplified for that 12-year-old male mind.

Only, a real 12-year-old might well tell you that the real threats, the real solutions, the real dilemmas are much more complicated than that. Worlds more. As for ISIS, Fox News and Trump, the real 12-year-old might well be sick to death of all of them by now.

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