I think it’s important to prefix this post with the obvious: I am not a fan or apologist for Donald Trump. I think he’s nakedly undermined the workings of democracy, and has used the authoritarian playbook to build a movement that is, at its heart, anti-immigrant, anti-inclusion, and anti-progress, and shares at least some DNA with fascist movements of the past.
But I don’t like the mugshot.
I understand the glee that some people greeted it with. Of course I do; the catharsis is real. But let me lay out my disquiet:
The first is the principle. A mugshot is not a conviction. Many news organizations stopped the practice of publishing mugshots because, even if the person is exonerated, they tend to last online. As the Marshall Project wrote a few years ago:
Publishing mugshots can disproportionately impact people of color by feeding into negative stereotypes and undermining the presumption of innocence, said Johnny Perez, a formerly incarcerated New Yorker who is currently director of U.S. prison programs for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Clearly Trump isn’t a vulnerable person, nor a person of color. But publishing the mugshot normalizes the practice of publishing mugshots, which is in totality more harmful than it is healthy.
The second is that I believe his base will love it. Here is this outsider leader of their movement that the libs hate so much that they’ll try and throw him in jail. The image far eclipses the real, extensive crimes that he’s been accused of. As Jesse Watters from Fox News said: “he looks good and he looks hard.” It’s real collateral for the 2024 election.
And last but not least: I’m just so fucking tired of seeing his face. It just gives him and his movement oxygen. He thrives on attention, like a vampire that sucks on primetime TV audiences. If he is found guilty, as I believe he will be, I would like him to sit out his time in jail without any more eyes, any more attention. I’d love to move on.