A bunch of writers think Donald Trump is bad.

So they signed a petition saying he’s bad. But the petition itself is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. Aside from the very first clause—“Because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power;”—it’s mostly a laundry list of criticisms of Trump we’ve heard over and over again for the past several months. (About that semi-colon: The only really notable aspect of the petition is that it’s written in an entertainingly inept faux-legal style.)

This is, I think, a missed opportunity. Trump has made very clear threats to free expression. He wants to loosen libel laws, for instance, to make it easier to sue journalists. In a world where Peter Thiel—a Trump delegate—is funding an attempt to bankrupt Gawker by lawsuits, this is a very big deal!

Similarly, Trump’s entire worldview is one in which art and the arts do not have much value. Fiction is one of the best vehicles we have for making sense of difference and difficulty, but Trump’s approach is to steamroll diversity of thought and opinion. There’s an argument to be made for the writer’s view of the world as an antidote to Trump, but it’s not one that’s being made here. Stephen King’s statement to BuzzFeed regarding why he signed the petition makes a much better anti-Trump case:

But the biggest problem with the petition is its naked self-importance. There is nothing brave or noteworthy about signing a generic petition saying you’re against Trump. Which may be why this is being framed as an attempt to speak not just for writers, but for real hard-working Americans. This tweet, from the group that organized the petition, is meant to be triumphant, but its bid for universality only makes the whole effort even more pointless.

January 20, 2017

Donald Trump’s inauguration speech echoes not Washington or Lincoln but Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.

Presidential speeches are often rich in allusion. President Obama in particular liked to echo phrases previously uttered by figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

President Trump’s inaugural speech also had an allusion but an unusual one. Bane is perhaps the most political villain in the Batman pantheon. In The Dark Knight Rises, he leads a populist revolution against the corrupt elite of Gotham City. In one speech he says, “And we give it back to you ... the people.” These words were repeated almost exactly by Trump. The inflection and pause were also the same. The prospect of President Bane is not a reassuring thought.

Alex Wong/Getty

Donald Trump’s inauguration speech was aimed at his supporters and no one else.

Trump will enter the White House with the lowest approval rating in recorded history. The expectation from pundits was that Trump would use his inaugural address to try to heal the country’s wounds and assure America that he would be president for everyone—that he would finally put his campaign behind him and start to govern the entire country, not just the parts that voted for him.

For nearly a year now, pundits have been waiting for Trump to pivot. It never happened, of course. Trump ran the same campaign in the primaries that he did in the general election, emphasizing economic nationalism and white grievance, while presenting himself as the only man who could save the country from ruin. The speech he gave at the inauguration could have been given at any point over the past 18 months: It was combative, radical, and alarming. It was delivered in a pitch that usually sends his supporters into a frenzy.

“American carnage” is how Trump depicted this country, a dark, decimated place where “rusted-out factories [are] scattered like tombstones.”

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you.

Trump set up a dichotomy in the speech: There was honest, hardworking America and there was corrupt Washington D.C., which stole the jobs and wealth of hardworking America and gave it to themselves and to foreigners. Trump promised those days were over. “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own.”

He claimed that he wrote his own speech, but it had Steve Bannon’s fingerprints all over it. Real America vs. Washington D.C. had a double meaning. It channeled the grievances of his voters, who are predominantly white and rural and hostile toward both elites and multiculturalism in general. Trump’s promise was to return America to them.

Trump’s inauguration, as the BBC sees it.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is struggling to cover the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. “The success of Donald Trump may, uh, recalibrate the definition of success,” one commentator says. Furthermore, people appear to have come from “different parts” of the United States to attend. The journalists who are speaking leave long gaps between clauses. Melania Trump is “Slovenian; tall,” they observe.

“As your hat says,” a BBC reporter on the ground says to a Louisianan man named Rob, “you are a Donald Trump supporter.” Rob doesn’t seem to understand her accent. Michelle Obama walks out onto the inauguration platform and you can hear the smiles in the commentators’ voices return.

As Trump’s speech ends, the BBC observes that it was 20 minutes long. “I don’t know why we thought that Donald Trump would do a standard political speech,” one BBC woman muses. She observes that the camera is panning now across “all those establishment people that Donald Trump has just told off.” The camera lingers on Elizabeth Warren’s face with all the tenderness a machine can express.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Overheard in Slack.



“Delicate baby hands”

“But like the Virgin Mary as American Revolution soldier”

“Michelle is in ecclesiastical purple”

“Barron does not want to be there”

“This is so Mike Allen-y”

“Trump always looks so restless during prayer. Like a kid forced to go to Sunday school”

“God, this is like a wedding. Of people you hate”

“Why does this choir look like they’re watching a quidditch match”

“Everyone who likes choral music should be jailed”

“This is what today needed—satanists”

“The whole point of being an atheist is you don’t have to wear dumb robes, in my opinion.”

“Is everyone aware that ‘trump’ means ‘to fart’ in the U.K.”

“TURTLENECKS”

“Oh my god here it comes”

“welp”

“Still refuse to acknowledge this is real”

“It’s like rain/On your inauguration day”

“This is dystopian”

“This is so racist”

“I hate to be this person, but I keep thinking about The Plot Against America

“haha”

Destroying D.C. businesses is absolutely the wrong way to protest Donald Trump.

In the hour before Trump took office, parading protesters in downtown Washington broke glass at at least one bus stop and smashed the windows of a McDonalds, Starbucks, and a Bank of America branch:

That corporate businesses were targeted doesn’t make this violence any less foolish. A full 90 percent of D.C. voters supported Hillary Clinton in November; some of them, surely, work in these now-damaged buildings. But more importantly, this behavior is detrimental to the cause of resisting Trump, because it lets conservatives cast the opposition as a fringe operation rather than mainstream movement that it is.

Kellyanne Conway is on another level.

Conway, perhaps the most skilled liar in the country, has seemingly leveled up over the past 24 hours—the inauguration of her boss, Donald Trump, bringing her new and hitherto unforeseen powers.

First, at Trump’s inaugural ball, her boss doted over her incredible ability to lie to everyone, even people who might point it out. 

“There is no den she will not go into. When my men are petrified to go on a certain network I say, ‘Kellyanne, will you go?’ Then she gets on and she just destroys them. So anyway, thank you, baby. Thank you, honey. Thank you. [As she walked down the stairs] Be careful.”

Everything about this is extremely weird. “No den she will not go into”? “My men”? “Baby?” This reads like a pervy speech from a bad modernization of Henry V.  

And then Kellyanne Conway said this, on the morning of Trump’s inauguration, which boggles the mind. 

None of this is even remotely true.

And then she showed up to the inauguration dressed like Raggedy Ann cosplaying as Light-Horse Harry Lee. 

God help us all. 

A lot more people attended President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Commenters are noting the sparse crowds at Donald Trump’s inauguration, with large empty swathes visible on the National Mall.

For comparison, here is what Obama’s inauguration looked like:

Win McNamee/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Alex Jones is having a bad inauguration day.

Protesters blocking one of the checkpoints to the inauguration surrounded a very, very sweaty Jones. Cops came to his rescue to escort him out of the crowd.

He also tried to unsuccessfully push his way through a blockade of protesters:

According to BuzzFeed, Jones, who called the protesters “mentally ill scum,” claimed that a female companion had been assaulted by them and that he was going to file a police report.

Jones, who runs the website Infowars, is dubbed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.” There is one drawback to tussling with the king of fake news: Jones will undoubtedly use the footage as “proof” of the “numerous plots” of “planned attacks on Trump supporters attending inauguration events.”

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images.

How will the foreign press translate Trump’s inauguration speech?

Traditionally, a translator must try to replicate something of the timbre, the je ne sais quoi, of the original text at hand. But what can a translator do when the timbre of the original is obstructionism, incomprehensibility, and repetitiveness?

Picking up on a piece by translator Bérengère Viennot in Slate last month, Le Monde today worried about the future facing translators at foreign newspapers. On the one hand, Trump’s speech is simple, so it is not hard for English speakers to understand him. But by the same token, his vocabulary is so repetitive and impoverished that a translator faces real challenges in turning them into proper sentences.

Trump’s language is characterized by the very features that make a text untranslatable. He uses intonation rather than vocabulary to express his meaning, making his words difficult to understand on the page. He repeats words over and over again: tremendous, great, horrible. So, the translator should repeat words, so that the reader can gain an accurate impression of how the most powerful man in the world expresses himself.

But this fealty to the reality of Trump’s speeches can inhibit actual understanding of his politics. A few days ago, Viennot elaborated at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

As a translator of political discourse, you also have the duty to write readable texts: so what am I to do? Translate Trump as he speaks, and let French readers struggle with whatever content there is?

Translators across the world will today struggle to extract the (deeply newsworthy) pieces of information embedded in Trump’s first speech. But foreign media outlets will be up against an unprecedented communication barrier: The president of the United States speaks like a fifth grader, even when the world is listening.

Watch the Obamas welcome the Trumps to the White House.

Amid unprecedented scandal, suspicion, and conflicts of interest, President-elect Donald Trump and wife Melania were welcomed to the White House this morning by the Obamas. Has there ever been a wider chasm between the values, humanity, and decorum of an outgoing and an incoming president? Not likely.