Premium cable packages, Trump, and racism

I really liked this analogy from a John Scalzi post shortly after the election:

Let’s say you want HBO. So you go to your local cable provider to get HBO and the only way they’ll let you get HBO is to sign up for a premium channel package, which includes HBO but also includes Cinemax. Now, maybe you don’t want Cinemax, and you don’t care about Cinemax, and maybe never personally plan to ever watch Cinemax, but the deal is: If you want HBO, you have to sign on to Cinemax too. You have to be a Cinemax subscriber to get HBO. And you go ahead and sign up for the premium channel package.

Pop quiz: In this scenario, did you just subscribe to Cinemax?

And you may say, no, I subscribed to HBO, but I couldn’t get it without Cinemax. I’m an HBO subscriber, not a Cinemax subscriber.

And then someone points out to you, well, in point of fact, you are a Cinemax subscriber, look, there it is on your TV channel guide. Some of the money you pay in for your premium channel package goes to Cinemax and funds its plans and strategies.

And you say, but I never watch Cinemax or ever plan to.

And they say, okay, but you still subscribe to it, and you knew that in order to get HBO you had to get Cinemax, and you signed on anyway. You’re a Cinemax subscriber whether you ever watch it or not.

And you say, well, look, I really wanted HBO.

And they say, sure, enough that you were fine with accepting Cinemax to get it. Just don’t pretend you’re not currently subscribing to Cinemax, too. You clearly are. Look, it’s right there on your cable bill. You’re a Cinemax subscriber.

Now, to bring that analogy back to the point at hand. This election, you had two major Presidential providers. One offered you the Stronger Together plan, and the other offered you the Make America Great Again plan. You chose the Make America Great Again plan. The thing is, the Make America Great Again has in its package active, institutionalized racism (also active, institutionalized sexism. And as it happens, active, institutionalized homophobia). And you know it does, because the people who bundled up the Make America Great Again package not only told you it was there, they made it one of the plan’s big selling points.

And you voted for it anyway.

So did you vote for racism?

You sure did.

And you say, but I’m not racist, and I would never treat people in a racist fashion, and I don’t like being called out as having done a racist thing.

And others say to you, okay, but you knew that when you signed up for the Make America Great Again plan that active, institutionalized racism was part of the package. Your vote supports racism. By voting, you endorsed a racist plan.

And you say, but I didn’t want that part. I wanted the other parts.

And others say to you, that’s fine, but you knew that to get the other parts, you had to sign on for the racism, too. And evidently you were okay with that.

And you say, no I’m not, I hate racism.

And others say to you, but apparently you like these other things more than you hate racism, because you agreed to the racism in order to get these other things.

And you say, well, the Stronger Together plan had horrible things in it too.

And others say to you, yes, and you didn’t vote for that, you voted for this. Which has racism in it. You voted for racism.

And you say, stop saying that.

And the others ask, why.

I think Scalzi is basically right here, I’m just not comfortable going so far as “racism” which is a very loaded term.  The MAGA plan surely had ad it’s heart, white ethnocentrism, but that’s not quite the same thing as racism.  Or , at least, a less obvious form.  There’s surely many voters who happily voted for Trump’s MAGA plan who would not have done so had Trump said, “I want a return to Jim Crow.  If you don’t want N******s in your place of business or your swimming pool, that’s fine with me.  Let them have their own schools.” Etc.  Trump really would have been stuck (hopefully well) below 40% if he said thinks like that that code as obvious racism to even racially resentful rural whites.

Anyway, Trump voters really did embrace a plan based on white ethnocentrism and racial resentment.  And that’s disturbing and depressing as hell.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Premium cable packages, Trump, and racism

  1. If you haven’t seen it yet, this is a very good post about the whole “racism” charge:

    Actually, even if you have already seen it, it’s still a good post 🙂

    • R. Jenrette says:

      I didn’t see a mention of Steve Bannon and Beitbart, Bannon’s self announced platform for the alt right, in this long article. Yet Bannon’s appointment as National Security Advisor seems to argue against the thesis.
      Words can be reinterpreted, as Trump has done with his promise to prosecute his opponent and his promise to repeal Obamacare and other promises. Actions speaks louder than such words. He acted, he appointed Bannon. He sent a message. Mr. Turner got it and so did a lot of other people.

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