WE HAVE NOTHING TO STOKE BUT FEAR ITSELF

2020 has seen certain uncommon words become common place amongst our everyday vernacular, words such as COVID-19, coronavirus, lockdown, and asymptomatic. Another word that I have heard over and over is apocalypse. In the original Greek, apokalypsis, it means more a revelation or unveiling. Apocalypses are not really the end of the world, even though they can be, so much as they are moments in which a curtain gets drawn back and we see reality more clearly. Many of us have found ourselves thinking about this a lot as March’s lockdown became April’s cabin fever became May’s claustrophobia boiled over into June’s civil unrest, unleashed by people who took to the streets, some seemingly for the first time (welcome white people), to call for justice after a black man was slowly murdered on camera.

Like any apocalypse, this pandemic is indeed pulling back a curtain that was hung to hide many uncomfortable truths about our society. Race is one such uncomfortable truth. Race was a key theme throughout the recent Republican National Convention. The RNC took place a few weeks ago in the States, both virtually and in person on the grounds of the White House (which apparently is illegal but, hey, in the last 4 years the Republicans seem to be making and breaking rules on a daily basis).

For those of us who saw it all or even part of it, the RNC was many things. At times it felt like an other worldly séance marked by an orchestrated festival of lies, distortion, fear mongering and cult-like worship of Trump. This Trump-engineered coronation blasted out pro-Trump propaganda on every broadcast network and news channel, even the ones who claim to dislike him (here’s looking at you CNN).

At other times the convention tried to create a Disneyland administration out of a dystopian nightmare, which made it a perfect epitome of spectacle, a notion devised by the French Marxist philosopher Guy Debord in 1967. Debord said a central theme of spectacle was that it was a “glaring superficial manifestation.” The RNC was nothing but.

The satirist John Oliver commented that, like almost every other week in 2020, the week of the RNC was another week of incredible darkness, and for many reasons, the RNC being the main one. He went on to say that the main theme of the convention seemed to be “telling lies in front of flags” as it was four days of a full-throated denial of objective reality. As Trump and his media ecosystem continued to deliver their blizzard of lies, the gulf between the RNC and objective reality visibly grew right before our very eyes.

The RNC was also Trump’s gift of himself to a grateful party and to the 30% of the electorate who are still with him. The whole thing had the feel of a cable TV ad for an extravagant Las Vegas resort hotel development that one Donald J Trump is bringing to the market. But keep in mind that when you work in casinos, you’re always betting on one thing: that the people lose.

But mostly the RNC was a desperate attempt by mainly white people to reassure the country that America isn’t racist, while simultaneously fear mongering about violent crime threatening law-abiding citizens, and by law-abiding citizens please read white people who live in the suburbs (as opposed to black people in the inner cities).

Oliver ended his analysis of the RNC thusly: “The RNC this week actually ended up being a pretty good reminder that where we still might end up going is genuinely terrifying. Because if it showed us one thing this week, it’s the danger in continuing to be governed by an administration that encourages the ugliest forces in American society, that lionizes threats of violence against peaceful protest, that tells us there is no conflict between supporting law enforcement and “our African-American neighbours,” and that insists that the “best is yet to come,” which, given everything we’ve seen in the last four years, is sounding less like a promise and more like a fucking threat.”

During his speeches Trump once again proved that it’s not just that he’s lying. It’s the fact that he doesn’t care at all for the truth. What he says is only meant to make him look good. That’s the context in which he claims time and time again that he’s passed laws he never passed and built border walls he never built. And that is also why when he speaks, it’s perpetually difficult, nigh on impossible, to say if he’s telling the truth or merely reciting self-serving bullshit.

His closing speech may have been a rambling 70-minute mess, but the optics of it were powerful, but for all the wrong reasons. His posture, his demeanour, the underlying subtext to pretty much everything he said, was Trump trying to play the tough guy, the all-American hero. It was so bad that the journalist Matthew Stevenson wryly remarked that “Trump is a radio shock jock, not an orator, and reading his speech he sounded like a fourth grader trying to recite the Gettysburg Address. He paused for punctuation marks as if they were German umlauts.”

But the problem with such grandiose macho alpha white right-wing posturing is that you can see clearly just how fake it really is. I watched the movie Molly’s Game recently (highly recommended), and there is a line in it that says “Tough guys try to look tougher when they’re insecure.” This describes Trump perfectly. The tougher he tries to look, the more insecure he gets. The more insecure he gets, the more fear mongering he projects. The more fear mongering he generates, the more scared his base become, and thus rely on him even more to save them. And around and around we keep going. Or to put it another way, fear strengthens tribalistic instincts and tribalistic instincts amplify fear.

Not to be outdone Vice President Mike Pence ended his main RNC speech by asking the American people to let him and Trump “Make America great again, again.” In context, it was essentially a request for a mulligan on COVID-19, which is truly absurd. Also, how on earth can any satirist hope to top such lines as that?

I guess history will reveal if 2020 indeed is apocalyptic, but I think we can all agree it hasn’t exactly been the best of times. In an attempt to make sense of it all, and to have a bit of a laugh, please find below a peerless collection of wit and whimsy. It is a taxing job paying the slightest bit of attention to the societal collapse we’re currently living through, which is why I feel it is my solemn duty to share other people’s jokes whenever I can. As you may suspect, there are quite a few quotes about the RNC. As best as one can given, you know, everything, enjoy…


The US election will decide who gets to rule the burning embers of America from a morphine drip in a concrete silo. Finally, America will have a real choice this election, between narcissistic personality disorder and Alzheimer’s…It’s just going to be a campaign about who seems the least senile. I sort of wonder if the most powerful person in the world might be the carer of whoever wins. – Frankie Boyle, Sep 2020

Trump is at the limit of how weird a person can be and not die. – Frankie Boyle, Sep 2020

I was watching the RNC this week. It was a great week if you love reality shows but hate reality. Did you see Trump’s speech last night? By the end of it three fact checkers were taken into the concussion protocol. The people in the crowd were chanting “Four more lies! Four more lies!” It was so bizarre how at the convention they just kept talking about rioting and looting and vandalism that you can expect under a Democratic rule, except that’s happening now under Trump. And yet their theme is that all of the rioting and the violence you’re seeing now wouldn’t be happening if somebody like Trump was in the White House. This guy is some salesman because in 2016 it was like “I will end American carnage.” And in 2020 it’s like “There’s only one person who can stop what’s happening under me. Me!” And that’s why we must re-elect Trump so we can re-gratify America again again. – Bill Maher, from the TV show Real Time With Bill Maher, 21 Aug 2020

During the RNC Trump was doing what he always does, which is to narrow cast to white non-college voters with all the scare tactics that are involved, in that all the crazy antifa anarchist communists are coming to make you get gay sharia married. You know, the whole crazy talk…A lot of those things in the speech were just Trump going through a checklist, what I call the cultural Alamo, where he’s playing to the insecurities of the Trump base and the insecurities that Republicans have built up inside their own political silo. So Fox News is always telling people they’re going to cancel Christmas, they’re going to take away your guns, they’re going to take away your religion, they’re not going to let you do this and this and this. And so he was just going through that checklist. – Rick Wilson, from the TV show Real Time With Bill Maher, 21 Aug 2020

The Trump re-election strategy seems to be to argue that only Donald Trump can save America from Donald Trump’s America. – Dan Rather, 27 Aug 2020

Every RNC speech is like “This dangerous national unrest that is occurring now, three years into the Trump presidency, will NOT happen when Donald Trump is president.” – Zach Schonfeld, 28 Aug 2020

DON’T LET DEMOCRATS KEEP RUINING AMERICA WHICH IS STRONGER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN BUT ALSO MUST BE SAVED BY DONALD TRUMP WHO IS THE BEST PRESIDENT EVER AND HAS BEEN HINDERED AT EVERY TURN. ANY BAD THING NOW IS FROM THE BIDEN FUTURE AND UNLESS YOU VOTE TRUMP THE CHAOS WILL CONTINUE. – Alexandra Petri, 28 Aug 2020

I must say, did not expect the message “This country is a violent, shit-laden hellscape” from the party that’s been running the show for 3.5 years. – Justin Shanes, 25 Aug 2020

Weird, the closed captioning on Don Junior’s speech is just “Daddy, love me” over and over. – Shauna (@goldengateblond), 25 Aug 2020

I’m trying to watch the RNC Trumpathon but my eyes keep popping out of my head and trying to jump off the balcony. – Dave Foley, 25 Aug 2020

Why have I heard more about cancel culture during this convention than coronavirus? Which is weird because coronavirus has, actually, cancelled our culture. – Amanda Carpenter, 25 Aug 2020

The RNC is a collection of the country’s most culturally and financially powerful people complaining that people they dislike aren’t completely powerless. – Zach Heltzel, 26 Aug 2020

RNC: We have nothing to stoke but fear itself. – A.D. Miles, 26 Aug 2020

I’ve lost the packaging for my anti-stress medicine. I don’t know how much more I can take. – T’Other Simon

Just had a run in with a grammar Nazi. Turned out to be horribly anti semantic 😦 – Vivienne Clore

I am NOT a grammar Nazi! I’m alt-write. – Wilde Thingy

It’s called denial, maybe you’ve heard of it and then pretended you didn’t? – Nate Usher

The most memorable part of this pandemic has been washing 80,000 dishes. – Leah Spigelman, Aug 2020

I’m reading a book called “The History of Guacamole”. It’s not the best I’ve ever read but it’s ideal for dipping into. – Tony Cowards

Urologists are always looking after number one. – Gary Delaney

Trump made it to the White House on his third baby mama. That is impressive, white dudes. You can make it to the White House on your third baby mama. Can you imagine a black dude running for president on his third baby mama? And if you’re Latino then we’re not even going to discuss that. And a third baby mama that barely speaks English. Yeah, I said it, she barely speaks English. I’m not the only one who stares at the TV, squinting every time Melania opens her mouth. We all know good and goddamn well if she was black or Latino there would be subtitles under everything that came out of her goddamn mouth. No way they would let a black or Latino lady on TV talking like that. – Jon Laster, Apr 2020


As a bonus, if you want just a brief introduction to the mentality of the type of people who show up to the RNC, then look no further than the always funny and on-point Jordan Klepper on just how holy is Trump…

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