Thursday, August 17, 2017

White Privilege Kills in Charlottesville

I offer the following thought experiment.

Last weekend, hundreds of white supremacists and other right-wing extremists descended upon the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. They planned their “Unite the Right” rally months ago on the internet and in other public forums. The organizers encouraged their followers to bring weapons to Charlottesville. Many did so.

On Friday night, hundreds of white supremacists marched through the city, torches in hand, channeling the brutality and evil of the American Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis of Hitler’s Germany. These white supremacists encircled a black church and threatened to burn it down — and by implication kill all the people inside. This same gang of thugs then surrounded a group of University of Virginia students and beat them.

The violence escalated on Saturday, when hundreds of white supremacists rampaged across Charlottesville. They verbally assaulted people with racial slurs and other epithets. But words were not enough. White supremacists and their allies also attacked anti-racism counter-protesters (as well as bystanders) with bats, sticks, shields, fists, pepper spray and all manner of weapons. Many of the right-wing hooligans were also armed with pistols and rifles. The right-wing mob even attacked members of the clergy. They also bullied the Charlottesville police, pushing back those police officers who dared to interfere. Virginia’s governor would offer an excuse for their inaction: Police were “outgunned” by the fascists.

Ultimately, the Charlottesville police looked on and did very little to stop the white supremacist maelstrom. The orgy of white violence culminated with an ISIS-style attack when a speeding car crashed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and leaving many dozens injured. The alleged attacker was later arrested by the Charlottesville police. He was taken alive.

Imagine this: What if the white right-wing thugs in Charlottesville had instead been African-American or Hispanic?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sorry, Mr. Trump: White people are not oppressed in America

Donald Trump is a political rock star who is stuck on an oldies tour.

He plays the greatest hits because that is what his fans want.

Steve Bannon, Michael Anton, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller are Trump’s songwriters and band members.

Over the last few weeks Trump has played an arena-scale concert where the unifying themes of his music are racism, bigotry, nativism and prejudice.

He has threatened to end civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, announced that transgender soldiers would be kicked out of the United States military, directed his surrogates to launch a full-on effort to end “affirmative action” programs in higher education because they “discriminate” against white people, told America’s police to brutalize suspects (i.e., black and brown people), offered macabre tales about young white women being tortured and killed by Mexican gang members, promised to change America’s immigration policy to give preference to English-speaking immigrants (white people), and continues his efforts to ban Muslims from the United States.

Trump knows his crowd. They were enthralled by his performance, reacting like hungry jackals, gobbling up the political red meat he threw into their salivating mouths.

Public opinion and other research has repeatedly shown that Trump’s voters think that white people are victims of racial discrimination in America. This deranged belief is not uncommon. Research by Samuel Sommers and Michael Norton suggests that as of 2011 the average white American actually believes that white people face more racial discrimination than African-Americans.

Racism is not an opinion. A belief that white people in America are “victims” of “racism” and are somehow “oppressed” is the worst type of magical thinking. Such claims are not new, they are old — and part of a centuries-long national derangement.

Even when black Americans were owned as human property by the millions and were only several years free during Reconstruction, white Americans bemoaned their fears of “Negro Domination.”

Such sentiments are not too different from those felt by Trump’s “nostalgia voters” who “wanted to make America great again” by voting in a white champion to undo and beat back the symbolic and literal progress embodied by President Barack Obama. Trump’s voters were yearning for a mythic past where black and brown people were fully obedient to whites, women had not been seduced by feminism, and gays and lesbians were locked in the closet.

Such feelings are still familiar to tens of millions of white Americans. It is a fear born of power. And like most such fears, it clouds the mind and imperils one’s ability to think intelligently.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Conversation With Van Jones About How Best to Resist Donald Trump and His Regime

Note: this week's podcast was recorded on the Friday evening before the white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Van Jones is the first guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is the president of Dream Corps, a two-time New York Times bestselling author, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, an activist and organizer, as well as commentator on CNN. He is currently traveling the United States as part of the WE RISE tour in an effort to mobilize voters to stand up against Donald Trump by working for systemic change on a local and national level.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Van and Chauncey discuss America at six months under Trump's regime, the Democratic Party's failure to mobilize its voters, Trump's so-called "white working class" voters, what resistance should look like in this moment, and the responsibility that Bernie Sanders' and other third party voters who chose not to support Hillary Clinton on Election Day share for the national disaster that is Trump's presidency.

This week's podcast also features two other great guests.

Friend of the podcast and contributor to Jacobin magazine "Werner Herzog's Bear" stops by to share some stories about his recent pilgrimage home to Nebraska and how "Trumplandia" is often misrepresented by the mainstream corporate news media.

Writer and journalist Jared Yates Sexton also sits down at the virtual bar and salon to share his experiences fighting Trump's and other right-wing trolls online. Jared and Chauncey also make some predictions about the violence that Trump has unleashed in America and what they feel is the very real possibility of imminent death and mass mayhem across the United States caused by white supremacists and their allies. 

As is their habit, Jared and Chauncey also spend some time discussing professional wrestling, the upcoming WWE Summerslam pay-per-view, and of course Mayweather vs. McGregor. This is bonus content that can be heard at the very end of this week's podcast.

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega reflects on Trump's threats of nuclear war with North Korea, the white supremacists in the White House, and pleads with listeners to prepare for what seems like obvious and predictable violence at this weekend's Charlottesville white supremacist hate festival.

At the end of this week's podcast Chauncey also shares a story about how small the world really is and why we should all count our blessings.

This week's episode with Van Jones, "Werner Herzog's Bear", and Jared Yates Sexton can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.



Friday, August 4, 2017

A Conversation with Randi Weingarten About Fighting Back Against the War on America's Public Schools

Randi Weingarten is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. She is the president of the American Federation of Teachers and one of the country's leading advocates (and defenders) for public education and a true "we the people" democracy. 

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Randi and Chauncey discuss the war on America's public schools and teachers being waged by Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, how "privatization" and other neoliberal "reforms are actually hurting American society, race and class and the Commons, gangster capitalism, and the ways that the battle for health care and public education intersect.

This week's podcast also features a special segment honoring the life and work of the American auteur and master filmmaker George Romero who passed away several weeks ago. 

Author Joe Lansdale stops by to offer his thoughts on Romero's legacy and the politics and impact of Night of the Living Dead. "Champion" Joe also tells a great story--as only he can--about seeing Night of the Living Dead at a drive-in theater during its initial release in 1968.

Writer and podcaster Alasdair Stuart also sits down at the virtual bar and salon to offer his insights about George Romero's impact on the United Kingdom in addition to sharing some thoughts on the present state of zombie horror cinema. 

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega reflects on how in Donald Trump's America history may not be repeating itself but it sure does rhyme. To that end, Chauncey shares a newspaper column from The New York Times that was written in 1922. The author's conclusion? Hitler did not really hate the Jews and was just pandering to get support from an ignorant public. 

This episode with Randi Weingarten, Joe Lansdale, and Alasdair Stuart can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Conversation with Tom Nichols About How Anti-intellectualism and the Death of Expertise Helped Lead to the Rise of Donald Trump

Tom Nichols is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a professor of national security affairs at United States Naval War College and also teaches at the Harvard Extension School. His new book is “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.”

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Tom and Chauncey discuss the ways that anti-intellectualism, greed, and societal affluence led to the victory of Donald Trump, the American public's increasing disdain towards experts and the very idea of expert knowledge, the role of the internet and social media in the country's broken public discourse and politics, and how the importance of reading and literacy has become increasingly suspect in the United States.

Historian John Broich also stops by the podcast to discuss his great essay over at Slate about the new movie Dunkirk and what it gets right (and wrong) about that epic World War 2 battle.

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega is both horrified and very entertained by Donald Trump's very special week that involved the child-king emperor telling boy scouts about his very rich friend's orgy on a yacht, encouraging America's out of control police to brutalize black and brown people (i.e. "suspects"), and sharing torture porn stories about how drug gangs are ravaging good and innocent (white) American women.

Chauncey also gives thanks and honors the kind folks who donated to the June fundraiser to support the podcast and his other work.

This episode with Tom Nichols and John Broich can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Personal Responsibility? Donald Trump is the Fault of the American People

In many ways, the presidency of Donald Trump is not new. Shakespeare perfectly understood leaders such as Mr. Trump and described a man of such ilk as:
I grant him bloody, 
Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin That has a name.
Mr. Trump is intemperate, boorish, a political thug, an American fascist, ignorant, racist, violent, misogynistic, does not read, idolizes authoritarians and despots, and acts like a tyrannical impetuous child-king.

In total, Mr. Trump is an illegitimate president.

A mountain of evidence shows that his presidential campaign was aided and abetted by a hostile foreign power who wanted to undermine the country’s electoral system with the goal of installing a leader who they could manipulate in the service of their interests.

Three million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Mr. Trump. At present, more Americans want Donald Trump to be impeached and removed from office than support him.

Mr. Trump, both during the 2016 presidential campaign and his short time in office, has repeatedly shown a deep disdain for the principles of American democracy such as freedom of the press and the rule of law. Mr. Trump has repeatedly violated centuries of tradition regarding how the American military is to be kept out of domestic politics.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump may possess the coercive power which comes with the presidency, but he lacks both moral authority and respect from the American people (and the world).

Mr. Donald Trump is a 71-year-old man.

Despite what his enablers and defenders have argued, Mr. Trump is wholly responsible for his behavior. However, Donald Trump’s calamitous presidency is the fault of the American people.

If the country is to ever be healed, this basic fact must be confronted and resolved.

Tens of millions of white Republican and right-leaning independents voted to put Donald Trump in the White House.

Republican leaders circled the wagons and supported his presidential nomination. They continue to protect Mr. Trump from accountability for his many scandals — and of course traitorous behavior with Russia — after he won the White House.

Largely because he is worth billions of dollars in advertising ratings, the American corporate news media attempted to normalize Donald Trump’s fascist behaviorduring the 2016 presidential campaign and his first few months as president.

The Democratic Party’s leaders and consultants who misallocated resources underestimated the threat posed by Mr. Trump and his followers, did not sufficiently mobilize key parts of their base and failed to develop an effective branding and marketing campaign for Hillary Clinton, which allowed Mr. Trump to slip into the White House.

The tens of millions of Americans who stayed home on Election Day and chose to not vote against Donald Trump made this national calamity possible.

Third party as well as Bernie Sanders’ voters who did not rally behind Hillary Clinton helped to elect Mr. Trump.

Is redemption possible?

The Republican Party is a revanchist and destructive force in American society. Mr. Trump is not an aberration or outlier for today’s version of conservatism; he is all of its worst aspects magnified and made fully and nakedly grotesque. The Republican Party in its present form cannot be salvaged as a force for the common good and American democracy.

Republican voters, generally, and Trump’s supporters, specifically, have made a political blood pact with Donald Trump. He is their hero and avatar. His despicable values are their values. Until they actively reject Donald Trump and the Republican Party, these voters cannot be redeemed.

The Democratic Party made many errors in their campaign against Mr. Trump and the Republican Party. To find redemption, the Democratic Party’s leaders must reject the cowardly urge to chase the Republican Party further rightward in order to find “consensus.” They must also accept that weak slogans and childish principles such as “when they go low, we go high” will only lead to further defeat by the Republican Party and its candidates. Most importantly, redemption is possible only when the Democratic Party realizes that victory will come by embracing truly progressive policies, mobilizing their base, improving their messaging and communication style, and not partaking in the fool’s gambit that is chasing down “white working class” voters.

And what of those Americans who stayed home, supported third party candidates, or otherwise did not vote against Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton? Redemption is possible. They can find it by participating in the corporeal politics of protests, marches and strikes. These Americans can also find redemption through voting in support of Democratic and other liberal-progressive candidates as well as working in their neighborhoods and communities to effect positive social and political change. Ultimately, redemption comes through resisting Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s agenda at every opportunity — be it through calling representatives, attending town halls and voting with your pocketbooks and wallets against those businesses and media outlets that support Donald Trump and his family financially.

Politics has few saints and of course many more sinners. But politics remains a space for people to make choices about the good life, justice and the type of country and world they would like to live in. Personal accountability and self-reflection are part of this struggle. Six months into Mr. Trump’s presidency, the American people need to look in the mirror and ask themselves, are they part of the solution? Or are they part of the problem? The United States will succeed or fail based on their answer.

Whatever then happens, the fault truly is in our hearts and not in the stars.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Conversation With Sociologist Randolph Hohle About Neoliberalism and the Color Line

Randolph Hohle is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a professor of sociology at SUNY Fredonia and the author of several books including Race and the Origins of American Neoliberalism as well as Black citizenship and authenticity in the Civil Rights Movement.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Randolph and Chauncey discuss how the color line and white supremacy intersect with neoliberalism, the ways that the language of "free markets" and "opportunity" do the work of color blind racism, white elites in the aftermath of Jim and Jane Crow, and how markets help to perpetuate racial inequality. Randolph and Chauncey also share some stories about growing up as members of the working class, life paths, social capital, and neoliberalism's assault on higher education and learning. 

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega ponders if Americans are addicted to chaos in the Age of Donald Trump, discusses some new polling data which shows that Republicans would support the child king tyrant Donald Trump even if he shot someone dead in the street, and does a little reading from a great essay on rural white Americas's ignorance, racism, and religious fundamentalism. Chauncey also shares some fun hate mails in this week's episode as well.

There is also a bonus segment at the end of this week's show where Chauncey drives to the casino with Mama DeVega during his recent trip home. 

This episode with Randolph Hohle can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Like father like son: Donald Trump Jr. is a traitor who may have committed treason

The maelstrom of chaos, apparent confusion, and political effluence that is emitted by Donald Trump’s White House on a near daily basis is overwhelming. This is partly by design from Trump’s handlers and also as a function of coincidence. It is a near impossible task to fully document each of those moments and to put them in proper context. Disorientation and confusion are one of the primary weapons of a fascist; Trump and his inner circle have mastered those techniques.

As the truism suggests, the news media is obsessed with what is “new.” The 24/7 cable news cycle has only amplified that tendency. As such, the Trump treadmill continues unhindered. Too many important details about Trump’s many scandals — as well as his vision for the country (contrary to liberal schadenfreude and mocking glee he has actually enacted many extremely harmful and dangerous changes in public policy by fiat) — have not received sufficient commentary or analysis.

Consider the following example.

Donald Trump is a master liar. By comparison his son is a bumbler who has not yet learned the dark arts of expert mendacity. This is not for lack of trying. Donald Trump Sr. just has many decades more practice.

Last week, Donald Trump Jr. publicly released emails in an effort to preempt The New York Times and its story about his meeting with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. There he was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. This meeting is the clearest example so far of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia.

In response to the initial rumors and eventual “revelation” about this meeting, the Trumps responded in a predictable pattern. First, there were denials that any such meeting took place. Then the narrative shifted to suggest that the meeting took place but the topics discussed were innocuous and trivial. The lies would develop to now emphasize that a meeting did take place between Trump Jr. and Russian representatives but that nothing came of it. Consequently, no harm (or crime) was committed. As more details emerged — including how senior members of Trump’s campaign were present including Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner (both of whom are under investigation for their highly suspect connections to Russian interests) — the lies evolved again to focus on how collusion with a foreign power to win an American election is somehow not illegal. Now it is known that this previously secret meeting was also attended by a former Russian spy as well as a Russia-connected financier who has been investigated regarding his involvement with money laundering.

Often lost in this story are the 12 words included in Trump Jr.’s emails regarding the information to be offered at his Russian meeting. They are: “but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Donald Trump Jr. was not surprised by this offer. He did not ask what Rob Goldstone meant by that verbiage. Nor did Trump Jr. show any caution or restraint in his acceptance of this meeting and the potential information to be shared there. It was all rather routine and somewhat matter of fact. In total, Donald Trump Jr.’s conversation with Rob Goldstone about Russian information that could hurt Hillary Clinton and help his father win the presidency clearly indicates an on-going relationship and pattern of coordination.

This meeting was likely not the first time that Russian assistance for Donald Trump’s campaign had been offered; it was also likely not the first time that information and other resources were shared (either directly or indirectly) between Russian operatives and Trump’s inner circle.

I asked Rolf Mowatt-Larssen for his opinion about my conclusion. He is currently Director of the Intelligence and Defense Project at the Belfer Center which is affiliated with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. In addition to serving for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer, Mowatt-Larssen has also been a former Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy.

He told me via email that, “I would subscribe to your analysis that the email exchange suggests an on-going relationship.” He also offers an important qualifier, “although whether this relationship is implicit or explicit remains to be seen. In my view, despite all of the disturbing indicators (reported meeting dates, nondisclosures of meetings between Trump associates and Russians, etc.), charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians have not been proven.” Mowatt-Larssen concludes, “That said, the June 9 meeting has to be considered in the broader context of events that were not known at the time, but which have been established beyond reasonable doubt, i.e., the Russians had been assiduously gathering information on both candidates and were using various intelligence means in order to influence the election in Trump’s favor.”

Donald Trump Jr.’s desire to coordinate and collude with Russia must be located in the following context:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hearts and Minds: Donald Trump's Supporters are in Love With Him

Donald Trump is amazing. At this early point in his tenure, Trump is one of the most unpopular presidents ever. Political scientists and other experts will most certainly rank him among the worst presidents in the history of the United States.

Donald Trump’s “accomplishments” as president are legion. He has surrendered America’s global leadership to China, Germany and Russia. He has also made America much less respected around the world. He is a plutocrat billionaire with fascist leanings who may have allied with Russia and Vladimir Putin to undermine American democracy and steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton and her voters.

Trump is boorish, ignorant, bigoted, sexist and violent. He has encouraged such values among the American people. He and the Republican Party want to destroy the country’s already meager social safety net as a means of punishing the “useless eaters.” For example, their “health care” plan will potentially kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and leave millions more sick, in pain, homeless, financially ruined and otherwise miserable. Meanwhile Trump, his family and his closest associates are using the presidency to personally enrich themselves. They view it as a personal ATM and not as a means of serving the public good and the general welfare. Except for what he can force by fiat, Trump has accomplished none of his major campaign promises — and in the case of building his “amazing” wall and “draining the swamp” he has all but admitted such promises were snake oil and outright lies to con the rubes.

Nevertheless, Trump’s voters still enthusiastically support him. According to new polling data from the Economist and YouGov, Trump has an 88 percent approval rating among those people who voted for him last November — a higher proportion than supported him a few weeks earlier.

How is this possible?

American politics is highly polarized because of the Republican Party and right-wing media’s disregard — if not utter contempt — for consensus and compromise. Conservatives are also extremely tribal and authoritarian. Trump is their leader. He is not to be betrayed or abandoned.

The average American is not politically sophisticated. Moreover, Americans in general do not have high levels of engagement with or interest in politics and public policy. The average American also reasons backwards from conclusions he or she has already made about political matters, in essence selectively finding and processing information to justify decisions. Many Americans are also “siloed”: they self-select into groups and communities of like-minded people. This echo-chamber effect is especially pronounced among American conservatives and right-leaning independents.

Donald Trump and the Republican Party have mastered the use of white racism, white victimology and white grievance-mongering to win elections and shape public policy. Trump simply amplified the Republican Party’s “dog whistles” into an air raid siren. Republican voters are trained to follow its beckoning.

There is an additional explanation for the slavish devotion shown by Trump’s followers toward their Great Leader that is often overlooked by more traditional types of political analysis. Trump’s followers may actually be in love with him.

Sociologist Jeff Shantz explores this troubling dynamic in his recent essay “On the Messy Psychology of Trumpism”:
It has been well remarked that Trump shows a contemptuous regard for truth or facts. He is appealing to the constrained who do not want to be hemmed in or constrained by facts either, as they are by so much else in their lives. This is related to the wish to win that Trump so effectively conjured during his campaign (with his repeated emphasis on America winning again, winning huge, etc.). 
Primacy of the wish to win is related to the sense to which one feels dispossessed.
Trump tells an emotional truth for his supporters even if he is widely seen to be lying. This truth is his anger and the affirmation of his followers’ anger. This is the truth that comes to matter, a point rational critics generally overlook or misread. Omnipotent fantasy cannot be told the factual truth. There is a turn to emotional truth. Trust is based not on his truth claims but on the sense that he will do what really needs to be done. His supporters trust his promised power. 
There is a libidinal investment of the masses in the leader. They have fallen in love with him. The crowd enjoys vicariously through the leader. Trump, on their behalf will restore the lost narcissistic idea of the nation. He will “Make America Great Again.”
Shantz continues by connecting this one-way love affair between Trump and his followers to the long tradition of anti-intellectualism in American culture:

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Conversation About How Best to Resist Fascism and White Supremacy in the Age of Donald Trump

This week's very special episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show focuses on how to resist white supremacy and fascism in the Age of Donald Trump. There are four guests on this week's show.

The first guest is Ryan Lenz. He is an investigative journalist and researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Ryan provides some context for the rise of the extreme right-wing under Donald Trump, voter suppression, and violence by the so-called "alt right" and their affiliated groups.

The second guest is Walidah Imarisha. She is an expert on the white supremacist origins of Washington and Oregon as well as the broader Pacific Northwest. Walidah provides some local context and historical background on the recent white supremacist murders of two white martyrs in Portland that occurred several weeks ago.

The final segments features two representatives from the antifascist labor organization the Chicago General Defense Committee Local 3. Mike and Andy share their thoughts on how best to resist fascists and white supremacists in the Age of Donald Trump, offer some insights on working class identity and organizing, free speech and the role of self-defense, non-violence, and corporeal politics in this moment.

During this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega laughs at how Fox News brought in Superman to complain about his recent essay on flying the American flag upside down as an act of protest against Donald Trump and continues to mock how easily the mainstream media and the public are hustled by Trump's Twitter game.

This special episode on resisting white supremacy and fascism in the Age of Donald Trump can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes, Spotify and at Stitcher.