Justice Department enters ‘struggle’ for free speech on college campuses

For the free exchange of ideas

From the Professor Watchlist homepage.

2017 Writing Department Contest

"The Watchlist has its eyes on you"

Justice Department enters 'struggle' for free speech on college campuses

College Professors fear autocratic rule from Washington

By Justin Henry

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared on Tuesday the Department of Justice (DOJ) would file a statement of interest in a court case as a part of a crusade to maintain free speech on college campuses in remarks at the Georgetown University Law Center.

In a press release from Tuesday, the DOJ sided with students in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski who alleged the speech codes of Georgia Gwinnett College restrict their free expression unconstitutionally. Sessions said there will be more statements of interest like this in the weeks to come as the Department of Justice takes a closer look at institutions of higher learning to see if their speech codes abide by the First Amendment.

“Freedom of thought and speech at the American university are under attack,” Sessions said in his address. “The American university was once the center of academic freedom, a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas. But it has transformed into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”

In his remarks, Sessions said the DOJ would work to enforce federal law and defend the free expression of students “from whatever end of the spectrum it may come.”

Sessions pointed to several recent incidents of protesters violently shutting down controversial campus speakers like Charles Murray, a social scientist who wrote The Bell Curve and Milo Yiannopoulos, a former editor of Breitbart News.

Sessions’s condemnation of an academic climate that is too “politically correct” has professors worried of a reactionary suppression of cultural criticism among progressive academics. Asma Barlas, professor in the Ithaca College department of politics, was unsurprised by this kind of autocratic move by the Trump administration. The attack against leftist echo chambers, she said, was just a ruse to assert control over the conversations on college campuses.

“There is no real Left in the United States,” Barlas said. “What this is is a clamp-down on any kind of political dissent.”

Republicans are split on the issue. Some view Sessions as overstepping in his role of Attorney General while others view the initiative as a necessary move to ensure the First Amendment rights of students are upheld on college campuses.  

Caleb Slater, President of IC Republicans, said the Attorney General was within his rights to hold public institutions to strict observance of the First Amendment since they receive government funding.

Sam Mariscal, regional field coordinator with the Leadership Institute, an organization training young conservatives, said he was uncomfortable with Sessions’ involvement of the federal government in an issue which should be resolved in civil society.

“I personally don’t like the national level stepping into most things,” he said. “I don’t like his reach. For public universities that do receive state funding, then I think we have to look at them.”

For the free exchange of ideas

October 2017 issue

The origin of the Trumpocalypse

By Graeson Michaud

Since Donald Trump was elected after running a campaign on national apocalypticism, claiming both that America’s greatest days were behind it and that America’s current track was sure to meet complete annihilation, it is clear that a message of imminent threat has resonated with a significant portion of American conservatives.

According to polls conducted by YouGov, 90 percent of republicans believe that the United States is headed down the wrong track politically, with another poll conducted by Pew Research estimating about two-thirds of republicans believing life to have been better 50 years ago. This represents a deep division from the heralded golden era of Ronald Reagan’s republicanism classified by both entrepreneurial optimism and concerted effort in the face of soviet danger.

“The difference between an American and any other kind of person is that an American lives in anticipation of the future because he knows it will be a great place,” Reagan said in his 1979 announcement that he was running for president.

Is this new shift to apocalyptic rhetoric in the Republican party truly warranted? James Pethokoukis, a writer at Vox, argued that it is not supported by the data, especially following the country’s steady recovery following the 2008 financial crisis.

“The stubborn facts, both from within and outside government, paint a much different picture than that presented by the apocalyptarians,” Pethokoukis argued.

Pethokoukis reported more than 15 million private sector jobs have been generated during the recovery. He also reported over the past year the jobless rate has dropped to 4.9 percent from 5.1 percent, even as the labor force has grown by 2.4 million. Also encouraging, he said, has been the rise in total earnings — higher hourly wages combined with hours worked — by 3.5 percent during the past year.

“That’s pretty decent, especially with inflation so low,” he said

Pethokoukis is also quick to point out a period of similar pessimism and fear that was present in American politics during the 1980’s, with fears of Japanese expansion similar to that of China’s today. He said the key economic advantage of the United States, its entrepreneurial market, has remained intact and vibrant, allowing for greater economic recovery and success than our European counterparts.

The United States has consistently experienced greater economic growth than Europe; it maintains earnings per capita significantly higher than that of the largest economies of Europe—France, the United Kingdom, and Germany—and unemployment is significantly lower. This hard data, however, does not completely disprove the fears of the American conservative for the future.

Although the specific fears propagated by Donald Trump, such as immigration, poor trade deals abroad, and too much involvement in foreign wars, may each have their own nuances to them, the fears of the Republican party have remained consistently abstract. Pethokoukis mentions the American ability to innovate as the key to its economic flexibility path past and present, and Republicans have historically reciprocated this. Capitalism, the system in which an entrepreneur invests in a business venture and profits from the success they create, is the lifeblood that keeps public funding available and American wages rising at a faster rate than the socialist counterparts in Europe.

Although a strong capitalist economy is something often regarded as invincible, it does not withstand social anxieties perpetuated in conservative circles. Republicans increasingly see their country shift from their self-reliant capitalist ideal to the left-wing would-be utopia of social engineering. From programs like universal healthcare to state involvement in the religious definition of marriage, it is easy to see an ideological divide is forming within the country that allows for apocalyptic interpretation.

A study conducted by Harvard University has found that 51 percent of people aged 18 to 29 do not support capitalism, while as many as 33 percent said they supported socialism as an alternative. For a party that prides itself on the free market, these numbers are terrifying, and certainly a potential harbinger of the end times of capitalism or America is a whole.

Even if the specific fears of any one institution may be unwarranted, as prosperity has continued to allow for borrowing by the American government to pay for social programs without default, the foundation of American prosperity has been brought into greater question by the American conservative’s worldview.

The responsibilities of free speech

Photo by Sarah Stuart-Sikowitz

For the free exchange of ideas

From the Professor Watchlist homepage.

2017 Writing Department Contest

"The Watchlist has its eyes on you"

The responsibilities of free speech

By Rachael Weinberg

On Aug. 12, journalist and white nationalist David Kessler organized the “Unite the Right” rally to protest the tearing down of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The Charlottesville rally was prefaced by tiki torch-wielding neo-nazis marching throughout the University of Virginia campus, shouting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us”. The death of Heather Heyer and the injuries of 19 more have been written in headlines of each newspaper and broadcasted on every major news network.

While these events are utterly despicable, it is still important to understand what these people are rallying for. We all know that neo-nazism is un-American. But how do we condemn those who believe it’s their fundamental right to speak up for their beliefs? How can the blame be on both sides? In order to understand this we must look at who these people are.

While the first amendment of the constitution gives the people the power to assemble, protest and express themselves freely, the legal standing of this amendment has been debated in the nation’s highest court. The 1925 U.S. Supreme Court Case Gitlow v. New York set the groundwork for boundaries of freedom of speech and the responsibilities that each citizen has while speaking, protesting or writing for publications.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Edward Terry Sanford, said the government has the power to condemn and eradicate speech that explicitly states a clear and present danger to the federal, state, or local government.

“That the freedom of speech which is secured by the Constitution does not confer an absolute right to speak, without responsibility, whatever one may choose, or an unrestricted and unbridled license giving immunity for every possible use of language and preventing the punishment of those who abuse this freedom, and that a state in the exercise of its police power may punish those who abuse this freedom by utterances inimical to the public welfare, tending to incite to crime, disturb the public peace, or endanger the foundations of organized government and threaten its overthrow by unlawful means, is not open to question.”

So, what does this mean? How do these neo-nazis disrupt the welfare of the United States? This answer lies in that these men were trying to incite violence. They were successful in their goal with the death of Heather Heyer, the injuries of those ran over by said car, and the countless counter protesters beaten with clubs, guns, and sticks. In essence, they disrupted the peace.

President Donald Trump claims that the blame was on both sides and that the supremacists had a permit in an attempt to justify their actions. Yet this doesn’t mean that shouting racial slurs, saying “there will be blood” and acting as if Heather and the others ran over by the car got what was coming is protected by America’s fundamental rights. In actuality, these supremacists are acting in violation of our country’s groundwork.

Since the American Revolution, we have depended on our inalienable rights to protect us from tyranny. Often we combat opposing opinions with the term “free speech”. It’s irresponsible to merely claim that Charlottesville was an act of exercising free speech. The origin of this right was to display injustice within a governing power. Instead those rallying for free speech are more interested in oppressing another group of people because of their skin color, sexual orientation or religious background.

Even though we all have the power to speak our minds freely thanks to the constitution, it’s up to each and every citizen’s responsibility to utilize language to the fullest extent, argue, protest, or simply speak for those who cannot. Words are weapons, but they must be used to protect yourself and others instead of slaying your opponents. It’s no longer okay to be complicit and silent; we must all take responsibility for our actions and exercise our fundamental rights.

For the free exchange of ideas

From Medieval classics to climate activism




Creative Nonfiction


IC Chronicle

For the free exchange of ideas

October 2017 issue

From Medieval classics to climate change

Keeping up with former English professor Michael Twomey

Michael Twomey retired from the departments of classical studies and English at the end of the Spring 2017 semester. During his 37-year career at Ithaca College, he taught courses like Literature of the Bible and Medieval Literature.

Twomey’s teaching career concluded at the end of the Spring 2017 semester when he left to pursue a new life as a climate lobbyist with the Citizens Climate Lobby. Ashley Stalnecker, layout and design editor, spoke with Twomey about his training as a climate lobbyist and activism in the age of Trump.

How long have you been involved in activism?

Michael Twomey: Since last fall. I joined the Citizens’ Climate Lobby maybe a year before that… I was just a member and didn’t really do anything but last fall I actually got active. So, that’s the one organization I’m involved in.

“Our consistently respectful, non-partisan approach to climate education is designed to create a broad, sustainable foundation for climate action across all geographic regions and political inclinations.” - Citizen’s Climate Lobby

Were you involved in activism before the Trump administration?

MT: I wouldn’t say wasn’t involved. I was definitely paying attention and I was studying climate change and I was writing about climate change in my scholarship but I wasn’t actually politically active until the election.

Once the election started heating up and once Trump was elected especially, I got seriously involved in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby because of his appointment of Scott Pruit as director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and because of the things [Trump] was saying; his denial of Climate Change.

Share some of your experiences training as a lobbyist

MT: I’m sort of in the pre-lobbyist path, doing the phone calling, the town meetings, writing letters to the editor and presentations to public groups. That’s still a long way from being an actual lobbyist but that does mean that I’m supporting the organization and working toward sensible climate practices through it.

It’s a process. Not everyone is asked to be a lobbyist. We’ll see whether that happens or not but I also realize there’s a special set of personal skills that those people have. They have to be extremely knowledgeable for one thing. I don’t think that’s a problem for me, but there’s also this ability to talk to strangers and really get them to understand you and that’s a really rare gift. We’ll see if I have that or not.

How has the scene for activism changed since Trump was elected?

What I’ve noticed, and what I’ve been reading about, is that many many more people, private individuals who previously were not politically active have become politically active in all kinds of organizations.

People are, to a certain extent, stepping up either by just giving contributions to organizations like Sierra Club or with actual political actions ranging from protesting in the streets to working behind the scenes which is pretty much what I do in the Citizens Climate lobby.

You probably saw the Women’s March the day after the Inauguration. That’s a pretty good indication of people’s involvement... I’ve just seen lots more of that since the election than I did before.

Why do you involve yourself with activism and what does it mean to you?

I thought about this pretty hard. Especially after the election I realized there were so many things that needed attention but I also realized that I couldn’t possibly get involved in all of them so I made a decision to just focus my attention on one issue and to join an organization that is actually making progress on that issue.

For example, health insurance, social security, Medicare, immigration, women’s issues and then climate—all of these things are important to me but I had experience in the environment so I decided that’s where I had the most knowledge and that’s where I could actually make a difference.

I joined the Citizens’ Climate Lobby because...I wanted to focus on that one issue but...because I think it’s a really really good model of political activism should do.

“I realized there were so many things that needed attention but I also realized that I couldn’t possibly get involved in all of them so I made a decision to just focus my attention on one issue.” - Michael Twomey

MT: When you think of lobbying, you imagine these shady characters with briefcases full of cash lurking around…Congress, bribing congressmen but we don’t pay money. We lobby in the sense that we do talk with congressmen. And one issue we talk about is climate change. And one issue that we have is what we call a carbon fee and dividend.

This proposal is that the government would charge a fee on oil companies that produce carbon: For example, extraction, which would be through mining or drilling; importing, so that when you import goods that have been manufactured in such a way to release carbon into the atmosphere; and manufacturing itself. So, that just about covers all the ways that carbon is released into the atmosphere.

CO2 is...one of the major greenhouses gases, the other being methane. What the carbon fee does is it collects money from all of these producers of extractors or importers but it’s different from a tax in that the purpose of a tax is to raise money for the government. We’re not doing that. What we’re doing is collecting a fee which then would be returned to taxpayers and that’s the dividend part. So, we don’t raise money for the government; the net cost of governing doesn’t increase because we’re using the IRS and so it’s economically efficient.

The bottom line for this is that this idea has been gaining traction among Republicans. The second part of our activism is that we talk with congresspeople and we try to get them to join an organization in the House that’s called the Climate Solutions Caucus….It was formed by two, a Republican and a Democrat...but we do a lot to promote it. The rule about that is if you’re a congressperson and you want to belong to this caucus then you have to get a member of the other party to join with you so there’s always an equal number of Republicans and Democrats in the Caucus.

“The Caucus will serve as an organization to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply and public safety,” according to documents filed with the Committee on House Administration.

Right now there are 52 people in this Caucus altogether which is double the amount at the beginning of the year. So, membership of this Caucus is growing and includes our local Congressman, Tom Reed, for the twenty-third district which is where Ithaca is. What’s notable about that is he was one of the first Republicans to come out in favor of Donald Trump. And yeah, there is that he’s a conservative Republican who’s opposed to raising taxes and he has done a lot that indicates that he might be a climate change denier but, on the other hand, he’s in favor of a healthy environment and he’s in favor of creating jobs. By promoting the carbon fee in dividends, what we’re doing is indirectly promoting the growth of renewables and that’s something Tom Reed is actually in favor of because it means more jobs for people in New York State.

In a nutshell, that is what we do. We have people who lobby in Congress by going to talk with congresspeople but the local chapters like ours do a lot behind the scenes in terms of phone calling congress people. We go to town meetings. We write letters to congresspeople and we do all that we can to bring new members in, educate people about climate change.

What was your best and worst experiences with activism on your own and with the organization?  

MT: There is one thing that I think is a really great indication of what we’re capable of. In July, a bill came before Congress for military appropriations. This bill specifically called for cutting military research on climate change. The bill that was supposed to be rushed through Congress.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby has a special group within it called the Climate and Security Action team. Within half an hour, this Climate and Security Action team mobilized, calling Congress people and helped to drum up enough votes. I shouldn’t say they did it all by themselves because there were already a number of Republicans and Democrats that wanted to vote this thing down. They wanted to restore the Climate Study funding to the bill.

So enough people voted against the bill that it had to be revised and passed with the funding intact for climate study. I think that’s a really good example of what this organization can do. So, that means the money for climate study was kept in the military appropriations bill...The army wanted this, by the way. They want climate study because they’re really really aware of what climate change can mean from a military point of view.

When you join the organization, you start at the bottom. This means that you’re taught about how to write letters to congresspeople, how to call them, what to say, what not to say. It’s really a training experience that you get. I have been working with a biologist and the two of us have given presentations, one at Cornell and one at Ithaca College. In the Cornell presentation, essentially, I didn’t say anything because it was my first presentation so I just watched and observed. At the presentation at Ithaca College, I did actually speak for about 10 minutes and then I turned it over to the biologist. So, I’m being given more and more responsibility in terms of the public.

For me, I can see that I’ve learned some things about how to talk to people and I’m working on getting to the point where I can make a presentation by myself. So that means I don’t have any great accomplishments to point to at this point because this is a very disciplined organization in which they just don’t let you out in front of the public unless you’re a known commodity and you can be relied on to do the job properly. I’m a college professor. I’ve been talking to students for a long time, and even so, I still have to start at the bottom and that’s one of the things I just really like about this organization. They’re not just taking chances by letting people run wild in public and ruin the reputation of the organization.

In terms of accomplishments, what have I done? I’ve called Tom Reed’s office and I’ve talked with his staffers a couple of times and that’s gone very well. I got a letter to the editor published in the Ithaca Journal. These are pretty small accomplishments but they mean something to me.

One of the things we do at the monthly meetings is what we call motivational interviewing. The idea behind this is to practice talking with non-members but specifically people who are either ignorant to climate change or in complete denial about it. And it’s a really interesting exercise and it’s incredibly frustrating because I have spent most of my time talking to people who agree with me. If I talk to fellow professors or even members of my family, because my family is all Democratic and liberal, everyone I talk to essentially understands climate change and agrees that we have to do something about it and is trying to do something. When you actually try to talk to somebody who is opposed to renewable, who is in favor of mining coal, what do you say to them? And so, those exercises have been the most frustrating because suddenly i’ll find myself completely unable to function.

The way that we do this is somebody pretends to be a climate change denier so you have to try talking to this person. This person is hitting you with all the usual talking points of climate change denial. And, you know, I thought, it’s really really hard to break through that and it’s frustrating for me.

What is your prediction for the next four years and the general future of American politics?

MT: I voted for Hillary Clinton and when I went to bed on election night, I was positive that the following morning we would have the first female president and I was totally wrong about that so don’t ask me for predictions. I don’t feel like I can make predictions right now.

I’m concerned. I think that it’s important for ordinary people to step up and do what they can because what I’m seeing is that the government is in a state of disarray. And although there are many people of good will who want to do the right thing, there are many people who don’t care in the government, people who don’t care to do the right thing. They have their agenda, and so i can’t predict what’s gonna happen. I just hope that more people step up and more people turn this around.

What is your goal in your activism?

MT: The ultimate goal is to get this carbon fee and dividend passed as a law. That would be great. That’s my personal goal, that’s the organization’s goal, so that’s what I would really like to do.

Then, we’ll see what happens after that but that’s the immediate goal. That’s why I really like the organization because it has a very specific and focused goal and it has very practical ways to achieve that goal and we’re working in the right direction. It seems like it’s happening. It’s all positive so far.

How did you get involved in environmentalism and lobbying and why?

MT: It starts with one of my kids. I have two daughters. The second one has always been an environmentalist, at least in terms of her interests… She went to school to be a landscape architect so she and I used to talk about the environment and she got interested in what is called sustainable landscape design.

The idea is that when you design a landscape, let’s say it’s a park, then it has to be sustainable which means that you have to develop ways for it to collect water by itself thus using more water. Or you use sustainable materials; if you’re building park benches or playgrounds, sustainably harvested materials.

I started to get really interested in that just by talking with her because she was learning all kinds of interesting ways to use renewables and to save water... From there I discovered a movement in literary criticism called “ecocriticism” which studies human responses to the environment. I started to write about that.

“In such areas as the study of narrative and image, ecocriticism converges with its sister disciplines in the humanities: environmental anthropology, environmental history, and environmental philosophy.” - Literature and Environment, Harvard University

From there it was only a short step to finding out about the Citizens Climate Lobby. It was actually a colleague of mine, Nancy Jacobson, in the biology department who actually I met at a climate change workshop and she started talking to me about the Citizens Climate Lobby and she urged me to join. She brought me into it.

Can you share any more experiences with activism?

MT: This summer I spent a fair amount of time in Germany. One of the things that I wanted to look at is I wanted to see what Germany is doing for sustainability and I was really blown away… First of all, the transportation is really really good. You can go just about anywhere on a train, or if not on a train, then on a bus so most people who live in cities don’t really need cars but Germany does have cars because they are just as much a car culture as the U.S. is…. But, their cars are much more efficient. Very few people drive SUVs. Gasoline is very expensive because it’s taxed so heavily. All of that is good for the environment and we could learn from that.

Another thing is that when you drive through the countryside or take the train through the countryside, you see windmills producing electricity all over the place. It seems as if they have a lot fewer objections to the sight of windmills in the landscape. It’s just amazing that wherever you go there they are.

And the other thing is I saw many more solar farms than we have in this country—really big solar farms and people with solar panels on their roofs. So they’re doing a lot to cut down on their solar emissions… It’s a very densely populated country but the air is extremely clean and the streams are very clean. Countries like Denmark are shooting to be They do a lot more for environmental protection than we do in this country.

100 percent sustainable by the middle of the century and they’re getting really close. And Chile. The amount of sustainable energy produced in Chile is skyrocketing. They’re going to be 100 percent renewable within a couple of years at the rate they’re going. So, what I found really discouraging is how kind of willfully ignorant so many Americans are about change and about the possibilities that sustainability offer for us.

The Meme-ification of Trump

For the free exchange of ideas

From the Professor Watchlist homepage.

2017 Writing Department Contest

"The Watchlist has its eyes on you"

The meme-ification of politics

From Pepe to the Presidency

By Lily Spiro

If in a millennium from now historians were to search the archaeological remains of the Trump presidency for an understanding of public attitude, they would find no better evidence than internet memes. Sad Melania, Tiny Trump, Trump Draws, and Trump's Speech all demonstrate the public's disdain for the president, as well as its ability to capitalize on Trump's well-documented overconfidence in his own intelligence, sexual prowess, and masculinity.

Similar to the political cartoons of yore, anti-Trump memes function as a mode of critique. Not only do they present the president and those closest to him as caricatures to mock, but they also criticize his public policy, shown best through the Trumpcare memes. While Generation X attends town hall meetings to vent their grievances, a new generation of tech-savvy Americans has turned away from public discussion to spread their political ideas through the Internet.

Just as light cannot exist without darkness, the irreverent Sad Melanias and Tiny Trumps would be nothing without their counterparts: the meme cache of the alt-right. Nurtured on 4chan, a messaging board founded in the early 2000s, these memes offer a different perspective on the Trump presidency, one of both amusement and admiration. Unlike leftist memes, which 4chan users deem to be "normie," or those that have been filtered and simplified for a mass audience, the alt-right memes are imbued with complex histories. Many of them were created in the mid-2000s and have undergone several incarnations throughout the years. In most instances, these memes originated from 4chan chat boards like /pol, a forum devoted to discussing current political issues, and have been altered to carry whatever meaning that users find amusing. Due to the quick attention spans fostered on the Internet, the significance of alt-right memes can change rapidly.

In his essay 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump, Dale Beran explains 4chan's alt-right adoption of the meme Pepe the Frog, which up until the 2016 presidential campaign was mostly innocuous. Pepe began as a character in a web comic, moved to 4chan, was adopted by Tumblr, and then, as an effort to reclaim it from "normie" culture, was transformed by 4chan users into a symbol of white supremacy. Under alt-right interpretation, Pepe acted as a way of expressing the community's shared belief of what Beran describes as "utter, contemptuous despair." To them, Pepe represented the world-weary, “I don't care” attitude that they wished to emulate in their real-life interactions, but were forced to express only through online forums and memes. Disgruntled by the current social change that they viewed as an affront on their community, 4chan used Pepe to communicate their disapproval on their home turf, the Internet. When Pepe gained prominence as an alt-right symbol in the real world, it proved to the 4chan community that their trolling could have just as much effect on the American populace as on an insular internet community. The significance of these memes does not lie in their denotation, but in their potential as blank canvases.

The newly found focus on internet-based "activism" is logical considering the community it stems from. The site is frequented by mostly males, the majority of whom have more success interacting in the virtual world than outside. As the breeding ground of memes like "forever alone" and movements like Gamergate, its reputation as a hypermasculine, anti-female site isn't unearned. Hypermasculine communities like TheRedPill have become more visible on normie-friendly Reddit, but they owe their existence to the original "alpha males" of 4chan. It's not just 4chan critics who stereotype the average user as an unsuccessful, virginal loner with a video game obsession, it's the users themselves. According to Beran, the bulk of 4chan users wear this identity as a badge of pride. There is no shame if they are unemployed, single, and living in their parents' basement when millions of other users share the same experience of rejection and disenchantment with the outside world.

It's no surprise that this community chose Donald Trump as their figurehead. When early supporters hailed him as a rejection of the political norm, they didn't realize how fervently members of 4chan and other alt-right watering holes would latch on to the rejection of normalcy as a validation of their alienated worldview. For them, voting for Trump wasn't only a refutation of the standard political spectrum, but of American culture as a whole, a culture that encourages "social justice warriors" and "cucks" to inhibit 4channers' right to treat the internet as a free-for-all.

4chan alone was not responsible for Trump's presidential victory, but their "meme magic," as they called it on the night of his win, was and still is influential enough to propel their ideas out of the alt-right underbelly of the internet and into mass audiences. The key to their success is that these memes, whether they be Pepe the Frog or any other iteration, are completely open to interpretation. Trump is a perfect example of this inconsistency. When he first entered the stage as a presidential candidate, Americans had no clear idea what values he represented, or what he would offer as a candidate. As the race continued, the outline of Trump was filled in like a page in a coloring book— different factions collected his breadcrumb statements, each believing that he represented their unique interests. The alt-right users of 4chan understood that the most important quality of a meme is its malleability and its ability to go viral. From the start, Trump was inconsistent and comical, more suited to a SNL skit than a political rally, but to 4chan, he was more than a favored candidate, he was the living embodiment of a perfect meme.

Now that he's been elected, where does Trump fit into this continued volatile meme crucible? He is at the center of a battle between two sides: the "normie" left, which aims to ridicule him through memes that paint him as a childish, incompetent fool, and the alt-right, whose memes portray Trump as a lord of chaos and most importantly, a troll of the Establishment. He is not the first president to be memefied (Thanks, Obama), but he is the first president whose ascendancy could be ascribed to meme culture. It is certain that with each misstep Trump makes, the left will continue to use memes as their method of critique, but as for the alt-right, their actions are more unpredictable. The alt-right helped a meme become president, but even normies know how quickly a meme can go out of style.


‘Trumpism’ as a repressed American politic

For the free exchange of ideas

From the Professor Watchlist homepage.

2017 Writing Department Contest

"The Watchlist has its eyes on you"

Trumpism as political performance art

By Justin Henry

In 2016, the United States realized the strength of grassroots politics. Among candidates on both sides of the political aisle, the harshest critics of an aloof political and financial establishment were elevated to the status of cultural icons.

Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump ignited dissent from the mainstream philosophies of their parties toward anti-establishment politics. This shift in support forced policy makers from within each party to begrudgingly follow suit in order to stay in good favor with their voter base.

For Democrats, this meant embracing the democratic-socialist views of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who were considered radical in the Democratic party of the 1990s. For Republicans, it meant embracing Trump’s right-wing populism or else be ousted from constituent favor.

Trump’s campaign was unprecedented for its irreverence toward the “political machine”—crony crossbreeding between politicians and wealthy Wall Street bankers. He stoked the fire of a long-repressed rage in the hearts of Americans in “fly-over” states, sneered at by liberal elites and disillusioned by the Republican party. Trump pledged to be their mouth-piece in Washington, offering change.

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the costs,” Trump said in his inaugural address, an indictment of the career politicians with whom he shared the stage. “Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.”

Change is what Rick Hock of Shreveport, Louisiana, hopes Trump’s presidency will bring— ironically using the tagline from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He said he hopes Trump’s presidency would rebel against Washington’s career-politicians and reduce the scope of government.

“Make the government a little smaller, more efficient and treat it like a business,” Hock said.

But for many Trump supporters, such a change applies equally to Republican politicians as it does to the big-government Democrats. Erick Erickson, former editor-in-chief of the right-wing blog RedState, said throughout the second part of the 20th century the Republican Party failed to deliver on several key points of conservatism. For example, the Republican free market pathway toward prosperity led to the outsourcing of American factory jobs and Republican politicians advocated against the entitlement programs for workers who consequently were laid off.

“The Republican party created Donald Trump because they made a lot of promises to their base and never kept them,” Erickson said.

"Trumpism" as a lost American dream

On the morning of November 9, 2016, grey clouds hung low on the Ithaca College campus as students struggled to cope with the tragic outcome of the election. Referrals for suicide-prevention hotlines flooded Facebook. However, in a different America, drivers honked their horns and neighbors cheered in the streets. Thousands of the “forgotten men and women” started planning to make the pilgrimage to D.C. to witness the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Hock and his wife Ricky traveled from Shreveport to witness the inauguration, as proud supporters of the 45th president. Rick Hock compared the euphoria of Trump’s election to the United State’s declared victory over Japan ending the second World War.

“Everybody was definitely happy,” Rick said. “World War II was pretty monumental, but this was pretty monumental as well.”

“Trumpism”, the people’s politics that the media and career-politicians tried to suppress, had won.

Trumpism riotously dissents from the mainstream political discourse of both the left and the right. It combines the social values of right-wing conservatism with the economic arrangements to restore America to a post-World War II industrial powerhouse.

Hock’s comparison to V-J Day isn’t purely sentimental; it references a bygone American dream, a utopia for industry and thrift.

Just imagine it: you’ve been underbid by some desperate developing world laborer caught between prostitution and working seventy-five cents an hour in a sweatshop. You’ve got no skills that make you desirable in the modern labor market so you work for minimum wage at a department store in order to provide food for your family.

Tom, an inauguration attendee from Kentucky who wished to not have his full name published here, works for General Motors, which was planning to build a factory in Mexico until Donald Trump threatened to implement unaffordable import tariffs to protect American workers. GM has since withdrawn their plans to outsource, a move which Tom attributes to Trump’s tough-talk.

“He’s already making an impact before he became president,” Tom said.

But for all Trump’s nationalistic promises, Trumpism contains contradictions. Trump’s voting base was a combination of the disaffected rural poor, Tea Party libertarians and ideological conservatives who considered Trump a lesser of two evils—an unsustainable electorate.

The latter group appearing ready to shift their votes to a candidate with a proven conservative record. The first two groups at irreconcilable odds with each other,due to the overhaul of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a social program meant to expand coverage to impoverished Americans that conflicted with the Libertarian idea of a private healthcare market.

Juan Arroyo, assistant professor in Ithaca College’s department of politics, said Trump’s brand of populism allows for vague and contradictory distinctions of patriotism because it allows him to argue on behalf of abstract terms like putting “America first”.

“Let’s say two or three years down the road, he can say the conditions are different and move ahead,” Arroyo said. “People will say, wait a minute, you’re going back on what you said. He’ll say no I’m not. It’s good for America...I don’t think he’ll have a problem with that inconsistency at all.”

Following the failed repeal of the ACA, which was a major talking point for Trump during his campaign, some have noticed the inconsistencies of Trumpism and have come to view it as a demagogic ruse.

"Trumpism" as the manifestation of cultural clash

The cultural divides in the United States that came to the forefront of the 2016 election have roots in the birth of the nation. On one side of the divide are urban communities and postgraduates who encourage social programs and foster progressive philosophies. On the other side are isolated rural communities and working class laborers, fearful their lack of population density will render them voiceless in national decision-making.

Beginning in the 1960’s working class Americans and conservative intellectuals like William F. Buckley Jr. and Barry Goldwater protested the “rights revolutions” of women and African-Americans. They feared politicians used this as a precedent for the federal government to invade the everyday lives of its citizens.

“As a conservative, I don’t believe that we have to come up with answers that’s posed by an individual or another party,” Goldwater said on Buckley’s television program “Firing Line”.

In the campaigns of Richard Nixon and George Wallace, conservative candidates began their appeal to working class, white Americans who were resentful of the overbearing liberal elitism that had worked its way into Washington. Both made their appeals for a stoic federal government and a society constrained by “law and order,” a coded attack on the Civil Rights movement’s expansion of government power.

“As president, I shall within the law turn back the absolute control of the public school systems to the people of the respective states,” Wallace said in his 1968 presidential campaign advertisement, challenging the Supreme Court's decision to integrate public schools.

Richard Nixon, the seeming savior of the conservative movement, instituted the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Environmental Protection Agency, both with the explicit goals of reducing carbon emissions. Industries soon found it more profitable to outsource their production to China, Mexico and other countries without the United States’ altruism and environmentalism.

Nixon and Wallace’s proclamations for maintaining traditional values and a small-government were compromised for the sake of political expediency and compromise. The Nixon administration made Washington Post headlines in the most scandalous big-government move of all: the Watergate Scandal.

In the globalizing world that proceeded, Republican resistance to entitlement programs to help those dissatisfied by such a global market advocated by their free-market philosophy led to a culture of “disappointment and betrayal” among their impoverished constituency, according to long-time Washington Post Op-Ed Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., in his book, “Why the Right Went Wrong”. Their conservative ideals, however, made them bull-headed toward the progressive politics of the Democratic party.

The lost conservative dream propagated by the likes of Goldwater and Nixon evolved into Trump’s pledge to deliver America into that post-World War II utopia of industrial thrift.

“Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a government that is controlled by you, the American people,” Trump said in one of his campaign advertisements.

In his book “How the Right Went Wrong”, Dionne speaks reverently of a much different conservative politic, before Republicans compromised their ethics by voting for Trump, before the obstructionism of Obama’s Republican congress and before the reactionary backlash of the Tea Party. Conservatism is, at its best, Dionne states , a wise check on the idealism of the political left.

“The radicalization of conservatism is thus not solely an issue for the Republican party, or for the movement itself,” Dionne wrote. “It is a problem for us to reach compromise and common ground.”

For the free exchange of ideas

From the Professor Watchlist homepage.

2017 Writing Department Contest

"The Watchlist has its eyes on you"

Point Counterpoint: Change the Electoral College?


By Lily Spiro, Essay Editor

The Founding Fathers were correct to fear “tyranny of the majority” when they created the Electoral College. They worried that states with large urban populations, like New York and Massachusetts, would drown out the needs of voters in less populated states. Therefore, they conceived a system that would give rural areas a voice equal to that of huge urban centers. Theoretically, this is effective. However, when one considers the party divisions in each state, the lines between majority and minority become blurred.

As an integral element in American democracy, the Electoral College was established to protect the United States from the “tyranny of the majority.” Yet with American politics reaching an unprecedented level of polarization, the tyrannical majority has been replaced with an evenly divided populace. When the losing candidate earns 49 percent of the votes, half of America’s voice goes silent.

The Electoral College’s reliance on the “winner-takes-all” system means that in every state, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the candidate with the most votes wins all of the electors. In thoroughly red or blue states, the winner-takes-all system accurately reflects the majority. But in mixed states, or “swing states” as they’re commonly known, the results of this system are less clear cut. If 47.6 percent of Michigan voters picked Trump and 47.3 percent picked Clinton, is it accurate to say that the majority of Michigan wanted Trump for president? Perhaps not, but regardless of the dissension within the voting pool, the current allocation system would still give Trump all 16 electoral votes. Even in states with margins of 5 percent between candidates, there is enough polar division to question whether if by allowing the winning candidate to take all the electoral votes, huge swaths of votes are unrepresented.

Proponents of the Electoral College argue that it preserves a spirit of moderation and stability.  The winner-takes-all system ensures that the two-party system will remain supreme, which prevents extremist right or left candidates from a chance at the presidency. It is true that a two-party system prevents a president from being elected with 25 percent of the vote, but as it stands now, the Electoral College’s “magnified” majority of electoral votes obscures the fact that half the country still does not support the elected president. It also means that it was necessary for supporters of non-centrist candidates like Bernie Sanders or Gary Johnson to vote for Clinton or Trump to see a sliver of their values represented. The system promotes compromise, but also the suppression of alternative ideas.

Similarly, the current allocation system devalues minority party votes. The approximately 40 percent of New Yorkers who voted for Trump could have burned their votes in a bonfire and had the same influence on the election. Defenders of the current system say that the winner-takes-all system deals with minority party votes in the same way that a direct popular vote would deal with votes for the losing candidate. Yet in a popular election, minority votes would still be counted toward the loser’s overall total votes. With the Electoral College, these votes are tossed out, worthless. By coloring states with broad blue and red strokes, the Electoral College oversimplifies voting demographics and diminishes political efficacy.

One way to lessen the negative effects of The Electoral College would be to replace the winner-takes-all system with a proportional vote system. The Proportional Popular Vote is a proposed alternative allocation method that awards two electoral votes to the candidate with the most votes in the state and awards the rest proportionally to the amount of votes each candidate received. If this method had been used in the 2016 election, Trump would have earned 267 votes, Clinton 265 votes and third party candidates 6 votes. Although this result would leave neither candidate with a majority and therefore send the election to the House of Representatives, it would more accurately represent America’s polarized voting demographics. Critics of the proposal have noted that with proportional allocation, the candidate will be elected with a plurality of the votes rather than the majority they would have with the current allocation system. With America’s closely split electorate, the House would find itself often deciding elections, but since the close margins represent a split populace, more deliberation seems appropriate.

The Electoral College is a timeless institution, but not all of its core elements have aged with the changing landscape of the American voter. Franklin D. Roosevelt won approximately 9 million more votes than his opponent in 1936, Obama won 5 million more votes in 2012, and Trump lost by 3 million votes in 2016. The majority candidate is transforming into the plurality candidate — an evolution the Electoral College should reflect in its allocation procedure. Several forms of proportional representation are used throughout the world, the only difference being that these countries are often governed by parliaments. Consequently, countries such as Germany, Sweden and Israel have representatives from more than two parties in their governing bodies. This can create friction and complicate parliamentary consensus, but it does provide for a more diverse range of voices in the legislature. Third party candidates flourish in governments with proportional representation, while the only purpose they serve under the Electoral College is as a megaphone for specialized platforms.

There is no need to abolish the Electoral College, but a change is necessary. The College’s inherent flaws weaken political efficacy and render millions of votes useless. Instead of preserving the rights of the majority, the system enforces a status quo with polarized parties and no room for diverse representation. If the United States is a representative democracy, our most important electing body should be a mirror, not a wall.



By Jeremy Werner, Staff Writer

Among the backlash of the results of the recent U.S. election, a debate about the Electoral College has emerged. The Electoral College is a system put in place by the founding fathers to help decide our elections. The debate on whether or not to abolish the Electoral College has been sparked by the fact that the last election is the second instance in the past five elections where the winner actually lost the popular vote. People think it’s unfair that the president isn’t picked purely by the person with the most votes. What most people don’t realize is that there is a reason for this. The Electoral College was put in place to assure that all states in this country could have a say in our elections.

The roots of this system can be seen in the Great Compromise of 1787. The agreement set up the two houses of congress that we have today. The Senate would give an equal voice to every state, while the House of Representatives would give representation proportional to the state’s population. Within this system, heavily populated urban states can maintain their power while still providing smaller rural states to have a competitive political voice. This is what the Electoral College is based around.

Each state has an electoral vote equal to their representatives in the house, plus their senators. With this system, large states hold most of the power while smaller states still have a voice. One can argue that everyone gets their voice heard in a singular voice system, and the person with the most votes is clearly better suited to serve all of America, but this is not strictly the case.

The United States is a very large country, with many different issues and views all across the country. Whether they like it or not, people who live in large urban areas, like cities, cannot relate to the problems of those living in rural areas. Naturally, cities are filled with more people, and thus most of our population comes from urban settings. According to the latest U.S. census, 80.7% of Americans live in urban areas. But rural families, such as farmers, miners and factory workers, make up an important part of our infrastructure. Without these workers, our country would fall apart. It’s unfair to these workers to shut out their voice in our elections just because there are fewer of them. The Electoral College gives them a voice and allows their voice to matter despite making up less of the population.

One might argue that the Electoral College gives these states too much power, and it could be understood where they are coming from. It can be predicted and assumed how the larger states are going to vote. California and New York will go blue, while Texas will go red. Since these states are already set, candidates won’t bother spending time campaigning there and will instead focus on “swing states”. People claim that these swing states have more power because their votes might actually shift. This might be the real problem. The problem doesn’t lie in the system, but rather the candidates themselves.

We are in an America where a candidate won’t bother working for all Americans. It’s true that New York always goes blue, but imagine if a Republican candidate was to actually respond to the issues that New Yorkers care about, and was able to get New Yorkers to consider other Republican policies. Barack Obama was able to do it in 2012 with Alabama. Alabama is considered one of the most conservative states in the U.S. and hasn’t voted blue since 1975 with Jimmy Carter, yet Obama won the state because he was able to communicate with the people and get them on his side. The reason we have two major parties is because both parties only cater to half of America.

The Electoral College was created to give a fair voice to all Americans, but our candidates played with the system. It was a system set up so that smaller states could still have their voices heard, but our two-party system decided that meant it could segregate America into two separate categories. We need candidates who don’t label states as “blue states”, “red states” and “swing states”. We need candidates who can listen to all voices and respond to those issues. The Electoral College should help candidates know what matters to each individual state so that they can build a platform around those needs. The system may be flawed, but it isn’t broken. Our candidates are.



Letter to the Editor: ‘Say No to House of Representatives Bill’

Kiddo Media

By: Jonathan Ripic

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

On Jan. 24, the House of Representatives initiated H.R. 622, one of the first bills of the new administration. The bill aims to discontinue all law enforcement actions of the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Instead, the government would give money, through grants, to local law enforcement organizations to enforce federal law on the federal lands. Representative Jason Chaffetz, who represents the state of Utah, introduced the bill.

The bill would essentially keep the same amount of law enforcement in the areas through the state grants, but the primary focus of the agencies will not be on protecting our natural lands. This, in turn, will impart a lawless sheet over our national lands with no effective method for controlling it.

Our nation’s natural resources are one of our most valuable assets, particularly our largely undisturbed national forests and many other great nationally maintained and protected lands. The use of these lands ranges from tourist attractions to campsites to hunting grounds for the millions of great visitors our national parks see on a yearly basis. Our national parks provide an outdoor escape for all Americans and a point of view of nature many are not fortunate enough to enjoy regularly.

Yosemite National Park has over 400 species of vertebrates alone, with all of the national parks across the country having a tremendous diversity of wildlife. This diversity of wildlife is largely controlled through proper hunting practices. Hunting is a major protector and management system for animal populations and therefore the population health of many species, not only in our national parks but also throughout our country. Disbanding the very keepers of law and order within this special realm of outdoor sport would pose a grave threat not only to the animals, but to ethical and proper hunters. Poaching is a major problem within the outdoor industry not only for furs, but also for meat. The absence of proper law enforcement on our nation’s greatest treasures would not only invite poachers onto these wildlife-filled lands, it would encourage it. 

Most of the time, I am in favor of reducing the size of the federal government and giving more power to the states. However, in this case, it is antithetical to our nation’s interest to do so. Not providing federal protection for federal lands will put their vitality and sanctity at risk in a way that cannot be afforded.

We only get one mother Earth; we must protect her.

Say no to H.R. 622, protect what we have left.



Jonathan Ripic

Physical Therapy, Class of 2020

We Unhappy Many

By: Olivia Smialek, Contributing Writer

The early hours of Nov. 9, 2016 marked the first completely Republican government since 1928. Millions of young Americans watched in horror as an orange-painted bigot gained state after state in the frenzied climax of a hotly contested election. The entire process has divided us further on partisan lines, leaving our generation jaded by an allegedly democratic process. No matter how hard they pushed for Clinton or Sanders, or even Stein, their efforts were outmatched by the zeal and fervor of millions of disenfranchised blue-collar workers rallying behind Trump. Many of those anxious young people will spend the next four years in indignant protest, trying to unite and support each other. Those ideas are too idealistic for my tastes.

I have no problem with the idea of unity and solidarity in the face of chaos and such dominant conservatism. But I do take issue with those of us who believe this banding together can take place so easily among college-aged millennials. After nearly a lifetime and a complete academic career spent working in groups with my peers, I can confirm they are incapable of working together. Group work is an inherently dysfunctional method of forcing us to collaborate and work together, but group members almost always shove their work onto one of their more talented peers because they just don’t want to work. Be it a small project or a massive protest, millennials struggle to see past their own views, opinions and desires to compromise and create truly organized, collaborative efforts. Most of this concern is for ourselves — “is this project really worth wasting my time?” the millennial asks. “Will I gain anything for myself?”

If you consider American culture, we’ve developed an obsession with the idea of the self-made person, that one lucky guy or gal who left home, worked hard throughout their life and wound up rich. They worked hard and got to where they were on their own, and now they don’t have a single care in the world. “Care about your own interests enough, and you’ll never have to care about anything,” we believe falsely. Once you give it some thought, it’s quite a twisted mindset: one person must create their place in the world with no help at all. While this individualism has been admired since the country’s onset, touted by men such as Benjamin Franklin and later propagated through Horatio Alger’s dime tales of rags to riches, it has ultimately proven harmful to our cultural growth. In our current society, this staunch individualism has devolved into a stubborn narcissism that has done more harm than good to the millennial generation.

Narcissism has become a predominant personality trait of young Americans. In a study performed by psychologist Jim Taylor, 30 percent of young people identified as narcissists. In some cases, narcissism and apathy is societally valued and even encouraged. In David Brooks’ essay, “The Organization Kid,” he cites the creation of a newly enthusiastic brand of student fueled by an over-scheduled life of activity and goal setting. He has neglected to consider that these children did not always choose their own activities or make their goals; they were often shoved into these fields and interests at the behest of their parents. Already, millennials were given activities to do and schedules to follow, not learning or bothering to make choices based on their own interests. They did not learn to care about what they wanted or what would truly benefit them in the long run.

From these activities — sports games, piano recitals, pageants — and the constant encouragement of their parents, millennials gained a strange sense of self-importance. Though the world became more open than ever with the advent of the Internet and mass media, we grew up more closed off from it. Our parents kept us safe from the rest of the world, scheduling our lives like a series of computer commands. Rather than becoming organization kids, we were organized kids, delivered into our current lives by the demands of our parents and our society. We were the best of the best, the generation that was supposed to be invested in our world despite our lack of involvement in it. We turned inward on our own lives, believing the world was our oyster. Here, we developed a sense of entitlement — we were the best, so we deserved nothing less than that. Our own personal needs outweighed a more necessary social good, diverting our attention from caring for others. Instead, our peers became our competition, a series of roadblocks to move against rather than a herd to move with. How difficult it is to cooperate with these overtly paranoid values.

This unstable view of collaboration pushes millennials to create a more superficial level of social interaction based on mutual antagonism and unspoken distrust. Social interaction has devolved into a contest of who gets more attention and pity rather than building true connections based on mutual respect. The wave of cyber-bullying and harassment is a testament to this trend. Lacking their own source of self-esteem, some millennials berate their peers both publicly and through social media to gain a sense of self-worth. This behavior shows a need for both power and attention. They exemplify what psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne calls the “grandiose narcissist,” an individual who feels that they can do no wrong and should be given the attention they crave regardless of whether or not they deserve it. When called out for their behavior, grandiose narcissists will react angrily, exploding like a bomb constructed of insecurity, bratty entitlement and a desire for approval. Whitbourne theorizes this behavior stems from a harsh childhood full of discipline and rigid order — likely a component of the overly scheduled life of the organized millennial kid.

Going hand-in-hand with this growing narcissism is a distinct decline in empathy, almost 40 percent according to a survey performed by Jim Taylor, a psychologist at the University of San Francisco, on the self-identification of narcissism in young people. Growing up with such a competitive mindset would naturally reduce the millennial’s capacity for empathy. In the mind of the millennial, other people are not to be trusted or even considered people if they stand in your spotlight. Therefore, when they struggle, the narcissistic millennial will not care, only seeking to outdo the sufferer in their misery and regain the spotlight.

Given the figures we are taught to admire and imitate, it is no surprise that we have become so self-centered and uncaring. Take a look at the man we’ve somehow elected into office as our next president. Donald Trump exemplifies every trait of textbook narcissism: he has belittled and mocked his critics to defend his own fragile ego at every turn. When speaking to the public, he has always touted his past achievements and future plans for the country as the only ideas that could make our country great. Yet countless times, there has been little to no sense, logic or practicality in his policies. He is merely spouting whatever outlandish statements will get him the most free media coverage, treating the media as another social network site used to grab attention.

The most disturbing aspect of this spectacle is its success. He managed to sway at least enough of the country to follow his twisted, self-beneficial message, becoming a prime example of American narcissism at its finest. Millions of disenfranchised, white, blue-collar workers appealed to Trump’s boastful success — he is a white man who owns his own business and has a lot of money. In their eyes, he is the very definition of success, one deserving of such high self-esteem. These voters believed that if they believed in his ideals and gave him their support, they too would prosper, earning a self-confidence they lack and a dignity that was taken from them by immigrants and minorities. This trend exemplifies what Whitbourne considers “vulnerable narcissism” — a need for attention and validation to create self-esteem. Trump validates their anger, and, by doing so, emboldens their hatred against other groups in similar or worse plights. They can’t possibly be in the wrong if a future president believes in their cause, and so they have the right to express these beliefs without any care for the economic, social and political consequences.

Despite his grandiose image and gaudy displays of wealth, Trump lacks the confidence he projects to the public. Recall his acceptance speech on the night of the election: he looked scared, almost petrified to address the crowd. He did not take pleasure in his victory, appearing stressed and intimidated in all of his public appearances following the night of Nov. 8. He denied all future attempts at press conferences, becoming defensive whenever they confronted him. He refused to live in the White House, planning to live in his own New York City penthouse rather than the official presidential residence; he is more concerned with his desires rather than his duties as a public official.

When Saturday Night Live made several jabs at his nerves, cabinet appointments and outlandish policies, he took to Twitter with the following statement: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live — unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.” Here, we see that he shies away from the attention given to him by the popular media. Trump cannot handle criticism, so he lashes out; if his confidence was real, he would have recognized the parody as a mere joke in line with those made about countless political figures. Rather than accept criticism with grace, he defends his ego in a display of self-preservation and cocky power. Beneath the shiny gold penthouse, orange-sprayed skin and rapid-fire Twitter damnations, he is merely a selfish man seeking to expand his empire and get what he wants, America be damned if Trump fails.

If this overly-defensive mindset becomes a dominant factor in our culture, imagine how the next generation will grow up. Given that current millennials have spent more than enough of this election hiding behind social media and fake news rather than actively working to change its outcome, their prospects are uncertain. Will they look to this model of excessive self-preservation as a new norm, becoming more inwardly focused and self-centered? Their path will be lonely, pulling them farther away from others and deeper into the hole of stress and depression we’ve dug for ourselves.

Humans are a naturally social species — we naturally want to be together. Yet American culture is distinctly selfish to the point of social rejection. We live with an isolationist mindset that pushes us away from each other and our own social nature in favor of our own, stubborn ambition. What will happen when we inevitably realize the crisis we’ve caused and need to finally reach out to others for help? If and when that day comes, Americans will need to re-learn empathy and recreate a sense of community interest in our country. Our culture has been dominated by so-called “rational minds” — defined by scholar Wendell Berry as individuals concerned more for regimented productivity than human emotion and empathy — for long enough to create a toxic, impersonal environment. Such an excessive concern for the self can only make our lives more isolated.

In contrast, those with “sympathetic minds,” focused solely on emotion and sympathy, will not reverse the prevalent narcissism present in America. These efforts must be conscious and strategic, focusing on the vulnerable need for attention before tackling the grandiose hatred and bombast that comes with it. Once those ignored and insecure people receive their attention, they must use it to vent their complaints and resentments — the government’s neglect of the working class, the racial and social conflicts between incoming immigrants and existing citizens, the loss of American jobs caused by corporate machinations — as fuel for a solution. The community must work together to understand how these rapid changes have affected the neglected portion of the population, strengthening its tenuous bonds into those of mutual trust, and create a more equitable solution based on the needs of the neglected, unhappy many. Once this trust has been created and earned, perhaps we will be able to take on the grandiose narcissists who claim to have the answers to all of our problems at our own expenses.