This week’s episode of Fever Dreams features the brilliant Atlantic columnist Adam Serwer, whose new book—The Cruelty is the Point: the Past, Present and Future of Trump’s America—builds off a 2018 essay to examine how President Trump weaponized racism and white identity politics to build in-group belonging among his supporters, as has happened countless times before in U.S. history.
The book was inspired by the shambolic Brett Kavanaugh hearings, where Christine Blasey Ford testified that she’d been sexually assaulted by the soon-to-be-Justice and that his laugh stuck in her head. Later, Trump mocked that moment in a speech to his loyalists—and they loved it. "To me, it was just very clear," Serwer tells our co-hosts Will Sommer and Asawin Suebsaeng. "It was like, at that moment that I sort of understood that this was not simply an act of cruelty against a supposed enemy but it was also a way of emotionally bonding between Trump and his audience...
“Cruelty is a way of—it’s not just a way of hurting people. It’s also a way of forming community and intimacy. And that’s how Trump cultivated this devotion in this subsegment of his supporters, [it] was just by repeating this message that you hear on Fox News all the time, which is that these other people who are different from you want to destroy you and your way of life. And so you are justified in doing anything you can to prevent that from happening... It’s part of human nature. But what I’m trying to do is talk about it as a part of politics, specifically, the way that it’s used to demonize certain groups so that you can justify denying people their basic rights under the constitution and exclude them from the political process.”
Serwer and our Fever Dreams team also discuss the time when Rudy Giuliani led a Klan-like rally of cops against a Black mayor, and the right’s idea of policing as a protection racket, and how the ancestors of Trump lieutenants like Stephen Miller, Giuliani, and John Kelly arrived in this country in the same disorganized and supposedly ‘improper’ way, marked as ‘undesirables,’ as the immigrants they railed against at the southern border during the Trump presidency.
Meanwhile, DOWN IN ARIZONA...
Our intrepid co-host Will Sommer recently traveled to the Copper State to hang out with QAnon promoter “Baby Q” and see the premiere of former Overstock CEO and amateur election fraud-hunter Patrick Byrne’s new election movie, The Deep Rig. A couple state reps and a state senator were in attendance. The movie involves lots of anonymous people talking in shadow or reflected in a broken mirror (who said the libs are the artsy ones?) and, of course, features Michael Flynn and his brother, Joseph, as "the Greek chorus to the film."
The main takeaway is that Patrick Byrne spends his time palling around with a conspiratorial group he calls “the dolphin speakers… cause, like, when you get together, you have no clue what they’re saying to each other.”
As Will notes, “Now you might say, ‘Hmm, I wonder if they’re so inscrutable. I wonder if their claims about election fraud will make any sense and they do not.’” Cue the credits.
And finally, don’t miss how Swin made Trump mad with his reporting on the former president’s vendetta against Saturday Night Live, and our very own conspiracy theory about why Tucker Carlson is claiming the NSA is surveilling him —has a colleague leaked his internal memos to the press and he’s trying to get ahead of the story? Tune in next episode and maybe we’ll find out.