On Sunday the anonymous writers of the Washington Post editorial board lobbed a doozy of a stink grenade into the public discourse with an editorial demanding, per the title: “Let the Trump team eat in peace.” It bemoaned that “strong political feelings have spilled into what used to be considered the private sphere.” It grumbled that “social media have blurred the line between work hours and private time.” It pouted, in an odd little aside, how ubiquitous cellphone cameras “make it ever easier to intrude.”
All of this was in service to the notion that a small, private restaurant was in the wrong to refuse to serve one of the top public faces of what any informed reader of their own paper could conclude was the most corrupt, and most dishonest, administration in modern American history. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the White House press secretary; more than that, she is a figure known nationwide for flagrant lying to the public. For gaslighting. For fudging facts, and for refusing to address any of the administration’s ongoing scandals (including, it should be noted, the investigation into whether the staff of the current president conspired with a foreign nation to commit a treasonous act).
The sin requiring the immediate public condemnation of the editorial board of one of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers was a restaurant owner serving Sarah Huckabee Sanders a (free) cheese plate and then politely telling her to get hell out.
And so the chains around “suitable” public discourse for anyone who is not an elite pundit continue to tighten—but only for one side. The supporters of Trump are allowed to parade around with rifles attached to their backs; this warrants no editorial mention. Republican rallies continue to lead the assembled crowds in chants demanding Trump’s one-time opponent be “locked up”—no alleged crime is specified. The White House is cribbing language from neo-Nazi theories of “invading” refugees, and is borrowing the language of dehumanization from those that advocate for ethnic cleansing; this is deplorable, to be sure, but we are told that the dozen people in America most responsible for pushing the language of genocide should not be inconvenienced during their dinnertime.
The allowed public response to this, especially if you are not on television and do not own a newspaper, is nothing. It is apparently literally nothing; if the architects of these policies show up in your private business, you may not even refuse them service. Other patrons may not make their own displeasure known, either: For the enablers of human rights abuses, this is their down time. You must not make it slightly uncomfortable for them. There is no avenue of protest one may engage in, unless it is out of sight of the elites you are protesting and, above all, does not inconvenience them during non-work hours.
But at the tail end of this comically pretentious and self-serving editorial—the pages of the Washington Post have included those that advocated for torture and war crimes, those that intentionally broadcast false information to the public in order to justify taking the national to war, and uncountably many demands to do willfully racist things under the pretense of urgent public need, and so the editors of the paper have more than a little vested interest in ensuring the public ladle out no consequences for the advocates of horrific acts—is this dangling thought that either paints the entire column as willfully dishonest or the product of an office filled with coma patients:
How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?
Imagine? Imagine? We are talking here of an imagined America in which judges who go against the wishes of the far-right are the victims of mailbox bombings, and doctors who perform procedures that go against the “beliefs” of the right are summarily executed by proclaimed warriors for Jesus, and individuals who have the slightest connection to clinics are regularly followed home, their children stalked, have learned to take circuitous routes to work each morning, who field constant death threats, who rely on volunteer assistance to protect their patients from being assaulted on their way in and out of their offices?
Is this satire, aimed at the “opponents” of clinic murders? Is it supposed to be funny? We, who live in a world where the religious right and racist right regularly murder their opponents in churches and on the streets, are supposed to imagine the horror of a world in which abortion doctors are treated with mere scorn during a public dinner?
No, seriously—is this intended as a joke, or did the editors of the Washington Post truly wish to compare not being served beyond a complementary cheese plate to fifty years of domestic terrorism?
This requires an explanation. This is not one of those things that the paper’s editors can hide behind the drapes on; you cannot dribble out a plea against peaceful, polite public protest by suggesting the reader imagine the nation’s domestic terrorists stooping to the same minor slights. Because it makes you look either viciously insincere or demonstrates you to be ivory tower idiots unaware of the goings-on anywhere in the nation that is not your own office or the five restaurants closest to that office. It is pathetic. It ought to be humiliating.
So we are forced to ask the question. Washington Post editors, was this a joke? Did this not come off as intended? Did the authors of this piece truly forget that the example they used was one in which the opponents of “civility” have, for decades, been committing acts of repeated terrorism? Was the comparison of “cheese plate” to domestic terrorism intended?
This is not something that can be squirreled out of. This requires a response. What, for the love of God, were you people thinking.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.