Thursday, August 17, 2017

2016 Fascism Roundup

As the Trump presidency speeds toward disintegration, here is a chronological series of 2016 posts on that warn of fascism:
Feb 28,2016 : Question: What do ISIS and Trump Have in Common? Answer: Both are Backed by US Power.  
The American media only mentioned in passing that ISIS had taken over oil fields until Russia started bombing the (white Toyota) trucks transporting oil to Turkey for sale.

Similarly, until today, the American media has indulged in all-day, wall to wall coverage of the Donald Trump phenomenon: a billionaire businessman known for shady deals who galvanizes working class American voters. Today, CNN - the only major channel on news duty Sunday afternoons - had to unequivocally criticize Trump for alleging that he “knows nothing” about white supremacist, David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, who endorsed him.

(From Wikipedia: The  "Know Nothings" were members of the semi-secret American Party party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, "I know nothing." Outsiders called them "Know-Nothings", and the name stuck. In 1855, it was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values, and as being controlled by the Pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, the movement strove to curb immigration and naturalization, but met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant men.)

Like everything else that Donald Trump has done in the campaign, this slip-up (curiously preceded by “I disavow”), will probably not dent his support, nor is it likely, in the long run (which, in the news cycle is a few hours, days at most ) to substantially alter the media’s fawning coverage. Trump is such a ‘good story’, it matters not one whit whether or not he is good for America.

At four-thirty, I tweeted that Trump may have seized upon the Duke endorsement as a convenient way to end his campaign, then I remembered that yesterday a poll revealed that 20% of his supporters believe it was a mistake to free the slaves. 
As for ISIS, like the Taliban whom we supported in order to spoil Russia’s party in Afghanistan (which consisted mainly of efforts to liberate women and try to get some modern industry going, efforts that were condemnable because lead by ‘communists’) we support the latest Islamic avatar in covert ways because it is located on the right end of the political spectrum, pretending to ‘know nothing’ about the fact that it is a dictatorship more brutal than anything to have hit the front pages in decades (Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot), having expeditiously replaced gas chambers with always ready-to-use head-choppers (as Donald calls them). 

Our case against ISIS is that it is a ‘terrorist organization’ that could in future take on the Homeland. We don’t mind at all when it inflicts pain on a present enemy such as Bashar al-Assad, whom we want to dislodge from power, or even against the Iran-friendly Iraqi government that we put in place. 

US power is a one-track system that seeks ever increasing control of greater parts of the world.  It is not interested in ‘doing good’, or even in ‘saving the planet’ since there are a myriad of other planets out there, virtually guaranteeing that one of them will turn out able to support life. Until that planet is found and made ready for human habitation, expediency dictates that the few dispense their backing for whatever and whoever is likely to keep the many at bay.

March 13, 2016:
The Second US Revolution is Starting

When the time comes to write the history of the second American revolution - or perhaps the second civil war - no one will be able to say that they didn’t see it coming. We have seen it build day after day on our television screens: A big, sexually active, square-jawed billionaire decides that a weekly tv show isn’t enough to feed his ego, so he runs for the presidency, getting 24 hour coverage.

Like every media star, he plays to his strengths, led by a stream of consciousness filled with the same dirty words we hear on television, encouraging his followers to attack those who disagree with his plan to ‘make America great again’.  It has only taken a few months for violence to appear, but Trump gets away with calling Bernie Sanders protesters ‘Communists’, blaming them for the incidents, when they are constitutionally against violence, whether at home or abroad.

The Sanders candidacy allowed the American left to come out in favor of social democracy.  Almost a century behind the rest of the Western World, it is finally possible for a socialist to appear on national television. Last August, I wrote that we could be faced with a Trump/Sanders election, and nobody believed me because Sanders is facing a presumptive front runner. Today it’s clear that his uphill battle for the nomination is helped not only by Hillary’s foibles, but by Trump’s embrace of violence.

Most Americans have long believed that our country would continue its middle-of-the-road course, avoiding both fascism and communism. But they allowed money - always an ally of the right - unprecedented freedom to create never-before-seen disparities of wealth. With our international quality of life scores embarrassingly low, reasoned condemnation of that policy sooner or later had to break through the pretense of exceptionalism.

Powerful economic interests want the country to continue its foreign wars, making it impossible to close the quality of life chasm. We may eventually discover that bankers and weapons manufacturers actually called on Trump.  As US workers began to discover that every other developed nation has better schools, free health care, free universities and a host of other benefits that flow from the conviction that the community must stand in solidarity with its individual members, just as do families, the 1% may have decided that it will not suffice to have brought the European welfare state to its knees to prevent them from demanding equal treatment. Even if the Islamist threat ensures continuing ‘patriotism’, they may need to feel certain that the thousands of militiamen and other Second Amendment fanatics at home will turn their guns on a resuscitated left rather than on them.

Trump may sincerely believe he can will the country back to  ‘greatness’, just as Hitler believed his ‘master race’ would rule Europe. But as the almost imperceptible drip drip of information about how the rest of the developed world lives reaches a critical mass of Americans, the many demanding equity will be met by the few defending power. 

America’s role in the world is also at play, as religious fanatics reject a ‘city upon a hill’ that has descended into a gutter of commercialism in which everything has a price, embodied by female forms. As shown by attacks on European women by Muslim immigrants, this doesn’t help Muslim men accept women as equals.

Most liberal Americans still believe that Sanders doesn’t stand a chance of getting the Democratic nomination, and those who support him see him as primarily a domestic reformer. But Bernie’s attitude is also what is needed to heal a rift with the Muslim world, for it was Christians who undertook the crusades that destroyed its rule over half a continent, (a rule that accepted Jews).

If Bernie can build on the stance he took the other day when he welcomed a hijab-clad student of political science to his microphone, telling her: “I am a Jew. Members of my family perished in the holocaust,” he could be seen as the right president for the United States, both domestically and internatio-nally.

Journalists are finally daring to play back to us Trump’s encouragement of violence when he denies it, but they are only slightly more inclined to condemn him outright than are his challengers for the Republican nomination. All should review 1930’s German history, when democratic socialists failed to meet a similar challenge, before it is too late.

The rule of physics called ‘the arrow of time’ tells us that once a process reaches a certain momentum, it can only continue in a forward direction: the arrow of time is irreversible.

June 9, 2016: It’ s Our Turn to Fall Apart

For decades, the carefully scripted Anglo-Saxon world has been gloating at the sight of lesser polities’ perpetual political turmoil: whether it be European — France’s successive ‘Republics’ - currently the Fifth — or the escapades of Italy’s media tycoon turned politician - or Latin America’s succession of what Fidel Castro called ‘politicheros’ - or Africa’s long-term dictators - the US has always been above such confusion, our two parties participating in regularly-scheduled two and four-year election cycles.

Hence surprise and incomprehension among both actors and commentators, as the Republican Party finds itself saddled with a candidate chosen by a rambunctious people rather than party hacks, while the Democrats are unable to see that Hillary’s coronation comes eight years too late: Democratic youth have finally discovered socialism, and are unlikely to vote for Hillary because she has not. 

2016 will go down in history as the year the US strayed beyond the boundaries of the Democrat/Republican duopoly, the elephant and the donkey, the blue and the red, into a free-for-all in which the media no longer has to soup up ‘stories’ to increase ratings (which have replaced rational analysis). Many have commented on the ‘bandwagon’ that accompanies American elections, few have considered that they are made to appear more meaningful in terms of policy than they are.

But never have we seen such grasping at straws! While third party candidates have always been tagged as “spoilers” (think Ralph Nader, who may have cost Al Gore the fateful 2000 presidency…), in this extraordinary situation, the Republicans are frantically seeking anyone who will run against their presumptive nominee, and Democratic voters are trying to convince Bernie Sanders to ditch the party and run as an independent. News shows reveal major Republican movers and shakers desperately try to pull out of a hat someone who has not already been defeated by Donald Trump in the primaries, and who would be willing to take on ‘the Donald’ as he is referred to, as a third party candidate whom they would back, even though they were previously pressured to promise they would back ‘the nominee’…) Such disarray has probably never been seen in Washington, and it signals that there is a real right and a real left in this country, both of which have left the two ‘ruling’ parties behind.

Speaking of France, Francois Hollande is the least popular president of the Fifth Republic. His socialist party kowtows to the global financial mafia, (demurely known in French as ‘the market’) following upon similar behavior in Iceland in 2011, Cyprus, 2012-13, Greece, on-going since 2009, Spain and Portugal, ditto. French workers responded to Hollande’s supine acceptance of the ‘market’s’ demand for looser labor laws by paralyzing the country and threatening to desert its 58 nuclear power plants. 

Seen in the context of America’s diverse machinations abroad, it’s no surprise that the major TV outlets announced that Hillary had clinched the nomination before California voters went to the polls, causing many Democrats to stay at home, depriving Bernie of that crucial state’s delegates - or that they voice confidence that although the Attorney General met with Bill Clinton “on the tarmac”, i.e., in her private plane, for a ‘chance encounter’ the FBI will not upset the apple cart. 

As fear rises like fumes from a swamp, in a country in which feminism has become more important than fascism or the threat of World War III, the City Upon a Hill has descended into the real world alongside the rest of humanity, and it hasn’t a clue what to do.

June 13, 2016: US Election: Ignorance in Charge

Republican despair over the fact that Donald Trump has managed to become, for all intents and purposes, the Republican nominee for President, shows one striking thing: for one man, one vote, to ensure enlightened governance, democracy has to be backed up by a very high quality compulsory education system.

Donald Trump won more primary votes than any other American candidate ever, forcing the Republican establishment to anoint him as their candidate, against their better judgement. But if you are going to limit voter education to TV reality shows and video games, you should not be surprised if anger over government failings leads a lot of ordinary people to vote for the candidate who encourages them to have a gun. Donald Trump didn’t become a billionaire by being a couch-potato or toting a gun, but his message is clearly designed to appeal to such voters.

That message is the equivalent of Hitler’s appeal to disenchanted 1920’s and thirties German voters, who longed for past glory, and it’s a stinging indictment of a century of compulsory eduction. Television is a wonderful means of mind control, and when its appeal began to fade, video games and smart-phones came along to pick up the slack. Technology opens up a world of unlimited information if one cares to look for it, but obsessive use of computers and its offshoots leaves little time for independent thinking, which requires a silent environment without too much visual stimulus.

In mid-nineteenth century America, education was seen as the key to democracy: voters needed to master the three r’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), to make meaningful decisions in the voting booth.  But at some point, the decision to invest in advertising in order to sell more stuff, rather than in schools, meant that more money was invested in ‘fun’ than in knowledge, filling the coffers of manufacturers while emptying minds. Most progressive analysis since the end of World War II has focused on the ever-growing role of publicity in consumer choices.  But advertising also plays a crucial role in deterring voters from paying attention to what goes on beyond their neighborhood or town - not to mention their ability to do so meaningfully.

The American population can be divided into two main groups: an overwhelming majority that hardly knows there is a world beyond our borders, and a very small minority - probably no more than 10% - that pays attention to international developments, but believes America should always be top dog.  

That is why a year-long presidential campaign - longer than those of any other country, by far - holds Americans spell-bound, to the exclusion of wars or natural disasters occurring elsewhere. And when someone like Donald Trump comes along bragging about his commercial - not academic, scientific, artistic or spiritual - accomplishments, large numbers of voters, especially men who have seen their dreams of success (those promised by TV ads) fade away, leaving as only recourse access to a gun with which potentially to alter reality, literally rise up, as we have seen at countless rallies, giving him the primary votes needed to become the candidate of a Republican Party whose 2012 candidate was the milk-toast Mitt Romney. 

June 18, 2016: This is How it Starts

Too bad they haven’t yet invented a time machine that could take us back to the nineteen thirties. We would probably recognize ourselves in the Germans of that time, as Hitler was taking over power by ‘electoral means’, his lusty rednecks soon to wear brown shirts.

We’re beyond the time when we could say with confidence ‘It Can’t Happen Here’.  Events that no one can control are carrying us forward: one thing leads to another, no one (or at least very few) are doing ‘this’ deliberately, but if our grandchildren survive, they will wonder how we (yes, we!) let the United States birth a fascist takeover, not of one continent, but virtually the entire world.

Europe was probably in a much more ‘normal’ state in 1930 than it is today, not to mention the US. When Americans were first introduced to the ‘Red Scare’, radio was a novelty, and so, comparatively were airplanes.  Ford T’s were still on the roads. Americans were clearly divided over entering the First World War: the battle was fought through the 1916 election: Woodrow Wilson won, and the following year took us to war in an early version of R2P.
Today, our abuse of R2P has upended a good part of the world, sent hundreds of thousands of innocents fleeing governmental or rebel violence, much of it indirectly caused by the industrial/financial complex seated on Wall Street.  Our rush to ‘protect’ is about bottom lines, not people.  As for the American people, they would be hard-pressed to point the finger at one guilty party, or one turning point.

Enthroned on our ‘hill’ we have watched with uninterrupted schadenfreude as those whom God did not choose saw their governments fumble and tumble, or grow into monsters, thinking to our superior selves “How unfortunate for these people that they have not the good fortune to live in the United States!”

It has taken a century for the shoe to move to the other foot, but Americans are as powerless today as the Germans were then.  The citizens of a country who’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed it was their duty to replace a government that failed to obey their will with another, were made to be mortally afraid of the Revolution that put an end to autocratic rule in a country that had scarcely outlawed serfdom.

The House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was created as early as 1938 “to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties.”  It was not abolished until 1975. In other words, this committee, that summoned ordinary people to testify on friends, family or co-workers, operated for almost 40 years, roughly the same amount of time that, in the Soviet Union, ‘Stalinism’ held sway. (Stalin become the country’s undisputed leader in 1923 and died in 1953, thirty years later…).  

It took decades for Stalin’s legacy to be replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost, and the Yeltsin years that followed his dissolution of the Soviet Union, saw the sacking of the country’s patrimony and the rise of the oligarchs and Russia’s billionaire class. Less noticed, in the US, HUAC was succeeded seamlessly by Neo-Conservatism, that carried forward under more sophisticated disguises the HUAC ideology.  

Literally as I write this, I notice a post on the same theme on by no less an authority than Bill Moyers, tracing Trump’s close political operative Roy Cohen back to McCarthy!

The most accurate label to describe the progressive media to which I belong is that is inhabited by hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of powerless voices that can only cry in the wilderness, today’s equivalent of the Victorian ‘wringing of hands’.  On the rare occasions when Bernie Sanders’ supporters become feisty, they are quickly condemned by the media. The many, many more occasions when Donald Trump’s supporters demonstrate their propensity to violence, draw only mild condemnations from news anchors, while Trump eggs them on.

Trump’s headline comments on the Orlando shooting by an ISIS admirer, far from joining very belated congressional calls for better gun control, were that lives would have been saved had even just one person among the revelers had a gun. Make no mistake: the Republican Party’s failure to forcefully back a credible alternative to Trump is a folly that has its reasons, however disputable.

And this is how events that history looks back upon with disbelief come into being.

July 8, 2016: More Than Ignorance 

The Public Broadcasting Channel (PBS) is running a series on the war in Ukraine that would make the inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk furious if they could see it. In the first episode we meet government soldiers who claim they are fighting for the country to stay unified. However, when one of the rebel soldiers (a woman, by the way) says forcefully that she would rather die than live under a fascist government, the narrator claims that she is evoking Russia’s role in World War II, (when it fought Nazi (or fascist) Germany). He failed to inform the viewer that the 2014 coup in Kiev deposed a democratically elected pro-Russian president for a pro EU-regime imposed via chains and truncheons wielded by descendants and followers of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who fought alongside Hitler against Russians and Jews in World War II.

In the second episode, the narrator acknowledges approvingly that the new uniforms of Kiev’s police are copies of US police blue, complete with the vizor cap, instead of reporting that US military are training Kiev’s army.

The third episode dispenses with reports on Ukraine’s civil war to focus on scare-mongering in Estonia, one of the three tiny Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union for seventy years, becoming independent when that multi-national country collapsed. Pretexting that the presence of large Russian-speaking populations could tempt President Vladimir Putin to try to take over these counties, the way he supposedly did Crimea, the narrator sets up his shot on a desolate looking Russian border, then cuts to massive NATO forces standing ready to counter any Russian incursion.  

The new Cold War that has been playing out since US-backed pro-EU Ukrainians carried out their coup in 2014, is attributed to Russia’s reprehensible ‘behavior’ — a word US foreign policy wonks favor, as if Russia were a wayward child. But the Kiev coup didn’t materialize out of thin air, among a population rightly fed up with corruption. It was carefully orchestrated by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Europe, who bragged at a talk to Washington journalists that the US had ‘invested’ five billion dollars in a campaign to ‘bring democracy’ to Ukraine.  This talk is available on-line, as is her conversation with the then US Ambassador to Kiev discussing which Ukrainian politician would make the best Prime Minister. Nuland referred to her pick as ‘Yats’ (for Yatsenyuk) and when warned he might not suit the EU, famously responded ‘Fuck the EU!’  Nuland had been repeatedly seen on news footage of the Maidan uprising handing out cookies to Ukrainians fighting for ‘democracy’.

Although two and a half years have passed since the February 2014 coup, even most college-educated Americans, who read the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Wall St Journal religiously, are unaware of these details.  Reporting on the Maidan was on the same level of accuracy as the current public television series on ‘Ukraine’.

Having made repeated efforts to enlighten friends and acquaintances about what they don’t know, I’ve come to the conclusion that the US public’s attitude toward Russia is not just due to lack of information. Older generations, especially (those over 45 make up the majority of voters for the first time, and tend to support either Hillary or Donald) don’t want to know what is going on. Confronted with evidence that crimes are being committed in their name, they cannot bring themselves to enlarge their news sources. The refusal of people who are normally open and eager to know about the world to take advantage of non-traditional or foreign news sites, can only be called pathological: they apparently believe that if they do not look at the evidence that everything they have believed about their country was a facade, that ‘inconvenient’ truth will eventually go away.

This attitude is strikingly similar to the fear Americans had of the word ‘communism’ during the Cold War. It was as though learning about communism would contaminate them, a subliminal fear of being brain-washed. This could be understood in that ‘Communism’ is a ‘doctrine, or worse, an ‘ideology’, in a country in which ideologies are rejected in favor of a straightforward ‘one man, one vote’ and may the best man win, as if all candidates were committed to the common good, i.e., the pursuit of happiness via equal opportunity, no strings attached.  (If you “play by the rules and work hard”, you will flourish.)

So the prevention against learning about communism - or even socialism - the two being interchangeable in the minds of most Westerners - is in a way understandable.  What is much less so is the refusal to consider the possibility that a country that has been tagged as an enemy, might in fact not be one at all in the minds of either its people or their leaders.

I’ve encountered this attitude time and time again - with surprisingly few exceptions - among professional seniors who believe they are abreast of world affairs. It suggests that after the presidential election, more Americans whose eyes are open will emigrate than during the Vietnam War.

September 1, 2016: Pick Your Fascism 

I was sure Donald Trump would get a bounce from his lightening trip to Mexico:  he would show that he can walk and chew gum at the same time, compared to a Hillary who would have planned the visit to a foreign president for months.

I was right about the bounce, but it’s clear that it has a whole other meaning: the meeting with the Mexican president forced Trump to show the dangerous side pundits have been warning of: vindictive, brutal, playing to supporters who worship these traits.

Little more than a month separates American voters from the chance to pick which form of fascism they will embrace: Hillary’s version that will whip so-called allies into line and if ‘necessary’, nuke recalcitrant nations like Russia, to advance the goals of Wall Street, or Trump’s cruder incarnation at the point of citizens’ guns.

Cuban famlies picknicking at Havana Book Fair, 2011

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