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“I am not that political”

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Brett Easton Ellis, as you may recall, wrote a book about how everyone is too sensitive these days and Moonlight shouldn’t have won the Oscar. I quoted heavily from Andrea Long Chu’s magnificently nasty review, which pointedly skewered not only Ellis’s arguments, such as they are, but his entire sad pose as a middle aged man who would like to be at the vanguard of the culture but isn’t willing to educate himself, or even bring himself to care, about the issues of the day.

And that, I thought, was really all that needed to be said on the topic. But I was so delightfully wrong. Because, good people of LGM, Brett Easton Ellis agreed to an interview with Isaac Chotiner:

You have a section in your book where you talk about President Trump’s comment about Mexicans being rapists. And then you have another section where you talk about Michelle Obama being “breathlessly condescending” when she said, “When they go low, we go high.” I am trying to understand why one of those things sets you off and the other you seem kind of neutral about.

You know, I think “sets me off” suggests that I am enraged, and I think the voice in the book is pretty chill and neutral. And what I am talking about is all in context. With the Trump thing, that is true. He said that once, in his very first speech, and didn’t say it again, and there were people who had picked up on it and were still repeating it a year or two years later. Without putting that in context, yeah, I guess that bothered me.

O.K., but Trump says lots of racist things. We can all agree on that, right?

[Pauses] Sure.

So he says lots of racist things. This thing was only said once. Why does people being upset about it, or people being upset about the fact that we have a President who regularly says bigoted things, bother you?

No, no, no, no, no. That just twisted up what I meant.

Tell me what you meant.

You think I am defending a racist.

No, I asked why liberals repeating Trump’s remark about Mexican immigrants being rapists bothers you so much.

Because it didn’t seem to be truthful, and it seemed to be exaggerated and said over and over again. You think I am defending Trump somehow? I am bothered by people using that one thing two years later.

As vacuumslayer has said: oh my god, he’s doing it.

There are a lot of things to get angry about: children being separated from their parents, Trump saying nice things about marchers in Charlottesville. What is it that bothers you about this?

You do know that plenty of people don’t think that? You do understand that?

Don’t think what?

Don’t think all these things you are saying about Charlottesville. What does he have, a ninety-three-per-cent approval rating, or, let’s say, a hundred per cent, from his base? Let’s say it is, over-all, way up, from thirty-eight per cent to fifty per cent, or even higher. And let’s say Latinos are now fifty-per-cent approval for Trump.

That’s not true, but O.K.

Well, whatever.

I am looking at the FiveThirtyEight average. He is at forty-two per cent.

O.K., but whatever. There is another side of the aisle.

To be honest, Ellis is kind of a waste of Chotiner’s talents. He comes across as both bored and boring, constantly defending himself from having to defend his own words. But what Chotiner does get out of him, and what gives the interview added value over Chu’s review, is the admission that this isn’t about any kind of trenchant views about the state or direction of the culture. It’s about Ellis wanting some peace and quiet. He wants everyone to shut up about things that don’t interest him, because as a rich white man he’s insulated from most of them. Which is fine, I suppose, but most people who want that don’t get massive book deals and hundreds of pages to express that sentiment.

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