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Laurie Penny: Sarah Palin’s video - what was left unsaid?

It’s hard to put your finger on what is wrong with Palin’s “Mama Grizzly” video.

Contemporary conservative propaganda, especially in the United States, works a little like Victorian stage-magic -- pandering to popular bigotry through sleight of hand, pantomimic charisma and misdirection, taking care not to give sceptics enough material to work out how the trick is done. For example: liberal, educated women all over the world understand that there's something subtly wrong with the former VP candidate Sarah Palin's pseudo-feminist "Mama Grizzly" spiel, but it's often hard to put one's finger firmly on what it is.

The video posted on Palin's Facebook page this week relies heavily on implication and suggestion rather than facts and statements, using the motif of "moms know best" to drum up a knowing, superstitious, traditional-home-remedy attitude to politics. There's a great deal of talk about "women rising up" and "common sense", but the only clue to what Palin is actually getting at comes when the viewer zooms in on a home-made placard encouraging passers-by to "Annoy Liberal".

"We don't like this change in our societies," brays the voice-over. "We're going to turn this thing around, no matter what it takes." But what thing? What, in plain English, is the change that Palin wants Americans to join her in reversing? Watch the video again and see if you can tell:

  

Did you spot a single American of colour in that video? Because I didn't, apart from one woman in part-focus in the background of a half-second shot. For a country which is between 25 and 35 per cent non-white, and which just happens to have recently elected its first African-American leader, that's a shocking pretermission.

Here, as with a great deal of conservative rhetoric, what is left unsaid is often more important than what is said.

Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.