Opinion / Facing Fascism

February 24, 2017

This is an ongoing compendium of articles concerning the election of 2016 and its aftermath:

 

"But, despite populism’s seeming ubiquity, it is a hard concept to pin down. Populists are often intolerant of outsiders and those who are different; and yet Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch populist leader, is a firm believer in gay rights. In the US, Trump’s presidential campaign was described as an anti-elite movement; and yet his administration is already practically a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs.While today’s populist resurgence comes from the nationalist right, some of the leading populist exponents in recent decades – such as Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chávez – were firmly on the left. What they share is a zero-sum view of the world, which necessitates the creation of scapegoats who can be blamed for all problems. Moreover, because populist leaders claim to embody the uniform will of a mythical “people,” they consider democracy to be a means to power, rather than a desirable end in itself.But populists have more in common than an obsession with cultural boundaries and political borders. They also share a recipe for economic governance, one that Project Syndicate commentators have been tracking since long before today’s brand of populism began dominating the world’s headlines. Guided by their insights, we can begin to understand the origins of today’s populist resurgence, and what is in store for Western countries where its avatars come to power.

- Project Syndicate, The Anatomy of Populist Economics

Full Story: HERE

 

 

 

"Here’s a simple truth about a politics of dishonesty, insult and scandal: It’s entertaining. Politics as we’ve had it for most of my life has, with just a few exceptions, been distant and dull.Now it’s all we can talk about. If you like Trump, his presence in the White House is a daily extravaganza of sticking it to pompous elites and querulous reporters. If you hate Trump, you wake up every day with some fresh outrage to turn over in your head and text your friends about.Whichever way, it’s exhilarating. Haven’t all of us noticed that everything feels speeded up, more vivid, more intense and consequential? One of the benefits of an alternative-facts administration is that fiction can take you anywhere.Earlier today, at his press conference, the president claimed his administration is running like a “fine-tuned machine.” In actual fact, he just lost his Labor Secretary nominee, his National Security Adviser was forced out in disgrace, and the Intelligence Community is refusing to fully brief the president for fear he might compromise sources and methods.But who cares? Since when in Washington has there been a presidential press conference like that? Since when has the denial of reality been taken to such a bald-faced extreme?"

- Bret Stephens, Don't Dismiss President Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity, Time magazine

Full Story: HERE

 

 

"Evola became a darling of Italian Fascists, and Italy’s post-Fascist terrorists of the 1960s and 1970s looked to him as a spiritual and intellectual godfather.They called themselves Children of the Sun after Evola’s vision of a bourgeoisie-smashing new order that he called the Solar Civilization. Today, the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn includes his works on its suggested reading list, and the leader of Jobbik, the Hungarian nationalist party, admires Evola and wrote an introduction to his works. More important for the current American administration, Evola also caught on in the United States with leaders of the alt-right movement, which Mr. Bannon nurtured as the head of Breitbart News and then helped harness for Mr. Trump."

- Jason Horowitz, Steve Bannon Cited Italian Thinker Who Inspired Fascists, New York times

Full Story: HERE

 

 

"During his first week in office, Mr. Trump reiterated the unfounded charge that millions of people had voted illegally. When challenged on the evident falsehood, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, seemed to argue that Mr. Trump’s belief that something was true qualified as evidence. The press secretary also declined to answer a straightforward question about the unemployment rate, suggesting that the number will henceforth be whatever the Trump administration wants it to be. He can do this because members of the Trump administration feel confident that the alternative-reality media will provide air cover, even if they are caught fabricating facts or twisting words (like claiming that the “ban” on Muslim immigrants wasn’t really a “ban”). Indeed, they believe they have shifted the paradigm of media coverage, replacing the traditional media with their own. In a stunning demonstration of the power and resiliency of our new post-factual political culture, Mr. Trump and his allies in the right media have already turned the term “fake news” against its critics, essentially draining it of any meaning. During the campaign, actual “fake news” — deliberate hoaxes — polluted political discourse and clogged social media timelines."

- Charles J. Sykes, Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying, New York Times

Full Story: HERE

 

"Snowden, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and their immediate circle of allies come from a radically libertarian hacker culture that, most of the time, doesn’t believe there should be an N.S.A. at all, whether or not it remains within the confines of its legal charter. Epstein, conversely, is a strong supporter of the agency’s official mission of “communication intercepts,” which he sees as an essential element in the United States’ ability to participate in “the game of nations.” To him one of the lessons of the Snowden case is that the agency’s reliance on private contractors like Snowden instead of career employees has made it dangerously vulnerable to security breaches."

- Nicolas Lemman, Is Edward Snowden a Spy? A New Book Calls Him One, New York Times Book Review

Full article:  HERE

 

"The Five stages of fascism:

1. Intellectual exploration, where disillusionment with popular democracy manifests itself in discussions of lost national vigor;

2. Rooting, where a fascist movement, aided by political deadlock and polarization, becomes a player on the national stage;

3. Arrival to power, where conservatives seeking to control rising leftist opposition invite the movement to share power;

4. Exercise of power, where the movement and its charismatic leader control the state in balance with state institutions such as the police and traditional elites such as the clergy and business magnates; 

5. Radicalization or entropy, where the state either becomes increasingly radical, as did Nazi Germany, or slips into traditional authoritarian rule, as did Fascist Italy."

- Robert O. Paxton, The Five Stages of Fascism, Journal of Modern History Vol. 70, No. 1. (Mar., 1998)

 

"... Andras Racz, a Russia expert at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said it fit into a scattershot strategy of placing small bets, directly or through proxies, on ready-made fringe groups in an effort to destabilize or simply disorient the European Union. PhotoIstvan Gyorkos at a neo-Nazi-related trial in Budapest in 1995. CreditAttila Kisbenedek/European Pressphoto Agency. Most of these bets fail, but reaching out to those on the margins costs little and sometimes hits pay dirt. That happened with Jobbik, a once-marginal far-right Hungarian group that is now the country’s leading opposition party — and a big fan of President Vladimir V. Putin, as is Hungary’s prime minister, Victor Orban. At a time when Russia’s relations with the West, or at least with established parties there, have soured dramatically over Syria, Ukraine and accusations of interference on all sides, Mr. Putin has enjoyed an extraordinary run of apparent good luck, as exemplified by the surprise election victory of Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly voiced admiration for the Russian leader. Pro-Russia candidates won presidential elections recently in Bulgaria and Moldova, and France’s National Front, which received bank loans worth nearly $12 million from Russian banks, is now a serious contender for the French presidency next year.

- Andrew HigginsIntent on Unsettling E.U., Russia Taps Foot Soldiers From the Fringe, New York times

Full article:  HERE

 

"A fascinating and sobering new paper by Thomas Piketty, Emanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman lays out in great detail how in recent decades the benefits of economic growth have gone almost exclusively to those at or near the top of the SES pyramid. The paper attempts to capture the changing distribution of 100% of national income, including earnings from labor, capital, fringe benefits, and government redistribution. The authors divide the seven postwar decades into two equal periods. Here is some of what they conclude:

From 1946-1980, pretax national income grew by 95%. From 1980-2014 it grew by 61%. So income growth slowed by about a third over the past 35 years compared to the immediate postwar period. But the real story is the extraordinary shift in the distribution of income growth.

For the bottom 50% of the population as measured by income distribution, pretax income grew by 102% from 1946-1980. From 1980-2014 it grew by 1%. (That’s ONE PERCENT in case you think this is a typo).

For the middle 40% pretax income grew by 105% from 1946-1980 and 42% from 1980-2014.

For the top 10% pretax income grew by 79% 1946-1980 and 121% from 1980-2014.

For the top 1% the comparable figures are 47% and 205%.

For the top .1% the figures are 54% and 321%.

For the top .01% the figures are 75% and 454%.

For the top .001% pretax income grew by 57% between 1946 and 1980, and by 636% between 1980 and 2014. In 2014 this cohort featured 2,344 individuals, and the average income enjoyed by each of them that year was $122,000,000."

- Paul Campos, A False Dichotomy, Lawyers, Guns & Money

Full article:  HERE

 

"Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from across the fearful 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today:

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You've already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom. 2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don't protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning. 3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges. 4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary."

- Timothy Snyder, 20 Lessons from the 20th Century on How to Survive in Trump’s America, In These Times

Full article:  HERE

 

"U.S. intelligence officials say they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in efforts to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election, NBC News reported Wednesday. NBC’s bombshell story comes days after The Washington Post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency believes Russia sought to influence the election and help secure President-elect Donald Trump’s victory. Those efforts reportedly included hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and providing them to WikiLeaks. The New York Times, in an extensive report on the hacks, offered details on how the attacks were carried out and reported that Democratic House candidates were also targeted."

- Mollie Reilly, Report Says Putin Was Directly Involved With Russian Interference In U.S. Election, Huffington Post

Full arcticle,  HERE

 

"Contrast the Democrats’ do-nothingness to what we know the Republicans would have done. If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials. The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage.

... As Monday’s Electoral College vote approaches, Democrats should be fighting tooth and nail. Instead, we are once again left with incontrovertible proof that win or lose, Republicans behave as if they won while Democrats behave as if they lost. What this portends for the next four years is truly terrifying."

- Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen, Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans, New York Times

Full article,  HERE

 

"He promised the swamp would be drained,

Was elected, said “Rain!” and it rained

And the old crocodiles

Wore flesh-eating smiles

And the turtles were well entertained. 

It’s a wonderful satire right out of Twain or Thurber. A minority of the electorate goes for the loosest and least knowledgeable candidate, certain that he will lose and their votes will be only harmless protest, a middle finger to Washington, and then — whoa. The joke comes true. You put a whoopee cushion on your father’s chair and he sits down and it barks and he has a massive coronary. You wanted to get a rise out of him and instead he falls down dead. Very funny."

- Garrison Keillor, Thank you, Trump voters, for this wonderful joke, Washington Post

Full article:  HERE

 

"Trump is a child, the most childish politician I have encountered in my lifetime. The parent in this relationship is the American state itself, which allows the voters to throw a tantrum and join forces with the worst behaved kid in the class, safe in the knowledge that the grown-ups will always be there to pick up the pieces.... Under these conditions, the likeliest response is for the grown-ups in the room to hunker down, waiting for the storm to pass. While they do, politics atrophies and necessary change is put off by the overriding imperative of avoiding systemic collapse. The understandable desire to keep the tanks off the streets and the cashpoints open gets in the way of tackling the long-term threats we face. Fake disruption followed by institutional paralysis, and all the while the real dangers continue to mount. Ultimately, that is how democracy ends."

- David Runciman, Is This How Democracy Ends?, London Review of Books

Full Article:  HERE

 

"Just a week before the November 8th election, attackers set a church in Greenville, Mississippi, on fire. The historically black church was targeted in what authorities believe was an act of voter intimidation, its walls spray-painted with the phrase “Vote Trump.”

 

“This kind of attack happened in the 1950s and 1960s,” Greenville’s mayor said, “but it shouldn’t happen in 2016.”

 

The incident was just a harbinger of what has become a national outbreak of hate, as white supremacists celebrate Donald Trump’s victory.* In the ten days following the election, there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation. Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.

People have experienced harassment at school, at work, at home, on the street, in public transportation, in their cars, in grocery stores and other places of business, and in their houses of worship. They most often have received messages of hate and intolerance through graffiti and verbal harassment, although a small number also have reported violent physical interactions. Some incidents were directed at the Trump campaign or his supporters."

-  Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election, Southern Poverty Law Center

Full Article:  HERE

 

 

"Democrats are still stumbling around in the smoldering rubble of the 2016 presidential election, struggling to identify just what went wrong for them. Several theories are vying for primacy: voting fraud (or at least, inaccurate ballot counting), the Democratic Party’s disconnect with white working class voters, Trump’s bonding with the same, Trump’s uncanny tapping of surging nativist and xenophobic sentiment, the American susceptibility to celebrity, and Clinton’s bedrock weakness as a candidate."

- Glen Martin, Bye-Bye Balance: Skewed and False News Is On The Rise, California magazine 

Full Article:  HERE

 

"According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis. Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations."

- Amanda Taub, How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’, New York Times

Full Article:  HERE

 

"With the election of Donald Trump—a candidate who has lied his way into power, openly embraced racist discourse and violence, toyed with the idea of jailing his opponents, boasted of his assaults on women and his avoidance of taxes, and denigrated the traditional checks and balances of government—this question has confronted us as urgently as ever. After I wrote a piece about surviving autocracy, a great many people have asked me about one of my proposed rules: “Do not compromise.” What constitutes compromise? How is it possible to avoid it? Why should one not compromise?"

- Masha Gessen, Trump, the Choice We Face, New York Review of Books

Full article:  HERE

 

"None of us could stop Donald Trump, and comparisons to 1933 no longer seem ludicrous. What do we do now?We have crossed the river of history into a new country, and there’s no way back. Now we are stumbling around, amid the gathering darkness, and trying to figure out whether anything in this alien landscape is recognizable. Will the presidency of Donald Trump — an eventuality unforeseen by anyone, including Trump himself — resemble things that have happened before? Or is it a trip to an unknown planet, where all the things we thought we understood about reality and democracy and the nature of America no longer apply?Karl Marx’s famous maxim that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce, has itself been repeated too often, both in contexts where it fits and ones where it doesn’t. This time around, we damn well better hope it’s true. Farce, failure and incompetence are among the better possible outcomes of a Trump administration. The worse outcomes — which come more clearly into focus with every noxious new appointment, and every new report of a hate crime that the president-elect hasn’t heard about or blandly disavows — are almost too much to think about."

- Andrew O'Hehir, It can happen here: But has it? The 1933 scenario is no longer hypothetical, Salon

Full article:  HERE

 

 

 

"As The Times reported, Trump actually seemed to soften some of his positions:

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.

He said that he would have an “open mind” on climate change. But that should always have been his position.

You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that."

- Charles M. Blow, No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along, New York Times

Full article:  HERE

 

 

"Though it’s true that Trump did shift on climate, the exchange on this topic is, on balance, more worrying than not, and it perhaps deserves the most attention, because as I’ve argued, the question of whether Trump will really pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord is one of the most consequential we face... It’s good that Trump acknowledged that human activity might be connected to climate change. But the mere fact that this is seen as a major breakthrough is alone a reminder of how worrying it is that the incoming president is someone who previously said climate change is nothing but a “hoax.” What probably happened here is that Trump knew he could not tell this particular audience that climate change has no human cause without feeling or looking foolish. This may have been a driving motivator in making this concession, which, when you really examine it, is a pretty tiny one. Indeed, Trump also flatly says here that we may not ever know who is right in the dispute over whether climate change poses the dire long-term threat that the scientific consensus tells us it does."

 

- Greg Shargent, Trump’s new interview with the New York Times isn’t reassuring. It’s deeply alarming., Washington Post

Full article:  HERE

 

 

 

"The populist wave of 2016 that carried Trump to the pinnacle of international power and influence didn’t start in the United States. And it certainly won’t end there.  Instead, the biggest prize yet for a global movement built on a seemingly bottomless reserve of political, economic and cultural grievance is likely to be an accelerant to even more victories for people and causes bent on upending the existing world order." 

- Griff Witte, Emily Rauhala and Dom Phillips, Trump’s win may be just the beginning of a global populist wave, Washington Post

Full article:  HERE

 

"America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

 

Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently."

- Neal Gabler, Bill Moyers & Co.

Full article:  HERE

 

"I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says."

- Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books

Full article: HERE

 

"The room was filled in part by former heads of the Ku Klux Klan and prominent neo-Nazis, but one of the keynote speeches had been reserved for a Florida community college student who had just turned 19. Derek Black was already hosting his own radio show. He had launched a white nationalist website for children and won a local political election in Florida. “The leading light of our movement,” was how the conference organizer introduced him, and then Derek stepped to the lectern.

“The way ahead is through politics,” he said. “We can infiltrate. We can take the country back.”

- Eric Saslow, The White Flight of Derek Black, Washington Post

Full Article:  HERE

 

"I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.”

- Michael Moore, michaelmoore.com

Full article:  HERE

 

"The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy."

- David Remnick, New Yorker

Full article:  HERE

 

"Hillary did not simply fail to reach out to the working class voters that the New Democrats had turned their backs on for decades, she infamously attacked them as “deplorables.” This was exactly the group of potential voters that was enraged because it believed, correctly as Tom Frank keeps showing us, that the New Democrats looked down on them and adopted policies that rigged the system against the working class."

- Bill Black, nakedcapitalism.com 

Full article:  HERE

 

 

Photo: Dan Hubig © 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

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