So there’s a metaphor with which I hope most people will be familiar: the Leopards Eating Faces Party. The basic idea is that a bunch of leopards, who are, naturally, in favor of jumping up to clamp their jaws on human faces and thrash around until they rip a fair bit of human flesh free for eating, form a political party. The leopards also want power and lots of it. They wander around showing off their sleek pelts and seductively asking people, “Wouldn’t you actually enjoy it if I ate the face of that person over there that you hate? Well, I could do that if only there were no animal catchers to stop me. Unfortunately, this world has animal catchers, so you’ll have to vote me and my fellow leopards into power. Then we can do away with all our opposition & go eat that person’s face for you.” Surprisingly enough, some people vote for the LEFP.
The leopards do not, of course, immediately do something other than what they’ve promised, but they don’t have enough power. “More votes!” they plead. And more votes flow in. Eventually the Leopards get enough power to do away with animal catchers altogether. And then what happens? The leopards get on with the agenda of eating faces.
Now, maybe the leopards are a bit pissed off at some of the people who did NOT vote for them, especially the people who opposed them and called them ruthless killers willing to maim people on a whim – after all, that’s not civil. So it wouldn’t be surprising if those anti-LEFP folks get bit first. But remember, they’re leopards. When they eat the faces off the anti-LEFP folks they don’t just stop eating faces! They eat more faces!
This inevitably leads to eating faces of people who were not only not anti-LEFP, not only those of people who were neutral to the LEFP, but the faces of people who were actively pro-LEFP. At this point the pro-LEFP folks whose faces are being savaged and swallowed shriek their shock and surprise: “But why would you eat my face?!?!!?”
This has been an economic metaphor where small retail business owners shop Walmart then are upset when a Walmart moves into their town and their small retail business dies. It’s most often used as a metaphor for the Republican party, of course, and it serves fairly well there, too. But damned if it doesn’t have wider applicability than that.
Today wealthy, prominent journalists are outraged, outraged! that the Trump administration concealed the fact that they had been exposed to the novel coronavirus and may even have had that exposure develop into COVID-19, and yet continued to travel with journalists & speak to journalists all without wearing masks in flagrant disregard for the safety of those reporters – and ultimately those reporters’ families.
Well, of course they knew that Trump lied. They knew the administration lied. But the administration lied so brazenly and the administration lied about so many things that people who where keeping up knew to be lies, that to the reporters it may have seemed like the administration was only lying to the rabble, the great unwashed, the hoi polloi. Those educated reporters, they were in the know and there were no secrets from them!
And sure, the Trump administration was telling lies that genuinely hurt people. And yes, they even felt some shock now and again at bullshit like injecting bleach to cure COVID-19. But again, they knew the truth all along. The lies were dangerous … but not to the journalists!
And, sure, Trump called the journalists “Enemies of the people” that one million times, but they knew that was a lie too. After all, they knew Trump loved to have his face in the news, and they dutifully put his face in the news, and they made money from putting his face in the news, so even if he said they were enemies of the people, could they possibly eat the faces of the journalists? The very same journalists who made him famous, who made his lavish lifestyle and ultimately his election to the presidency possible?
To ask the question, for a beltway journalist, is to laugh at the obviousness of the answer.
But then there came a time when Trump had a reason to lie to the journalists about something they weren’t already privileged to know in a way that literally put them at risk to the same degree as some rube who thought if the president said drinking bleach was a good idea then maybe she should just drink a gallon of bleach.
And guess what? Trump told the lie. The communications department told the lie. The press secretary told the lie. The people on Air Force One told the lie.
And now that coronavirus is eating the faces off of these privileged, wealthy journalists on Trump’s say-so, these journalists are surprised.
But… my face?
They are yelling. And I have an answer for them:
Yes. Your face. You with your bullshit about how important your industry is because having good information saves lives, you with your smug confidence that you have the good information, that the culture of lying won’t hurt you, you with your brutal fatalism towards the less informed, you who make money off of spectacles built on lies, you who promoted the biggest leopard in the jungle, one who never had control over his face-eating impulses, you are having your faces eaten.
And while as a human you have a certain inherent worth, and while I do not wish this harm on you, by default my sympathy towards your plight is going to be tempered. If you want me to feel not some fraction of the horror you’re feeling at this life-endangering series of lies that has now put you at risk, if you want me to feel the full horror and deliver to you all the empathy and support I’ve been delivering to others this past six month, you’re going to have to make an individual confession that you were part of the machine that put the Leopards in power.
I’m going to have to hear you show some insight gained through self-reflection. I’m going to need to hear you list a few actions that you personally took, so omissions you personally made that benefitted the LEFP’s quest for power. I’m going to have to know that you can recognize the small temptations, the everyday failures, that led to this savaged economy, these dead Americans. I can’t make do with some general mea culpa written by one mega-journalist and shared around by the others. If you can’t identify that your faults lie not merely in journalism’s stars but in yourselves, then you are still, inevitably, going to support the Leopards in any number of ways.
In this time of multi-generational disaster, the full measure of my sympathy is not available to everyone at once. It is an exhaustible resource. And until you journalists get your shit together and stop crying about how shocked you are that a leopard ate your face, and start rooting out every bit of tolerance for leopards eating anyone’s faces, for liars lying to anyone, for fascism even when its guns are pointed at peasants, I’m going lavish every extra bit of sympathy I have on the people who have been hurt and sickened and killed without having acted to put them in power.