Monday, October 16, 2017

Donald Trump Forges an Alliance with Christian Fascists at the Values Voters Summit

Over the weekend, thousands of conservative evangelical Christians gathered in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit. That label leads to a natural question: What values were actually encouraged by the speakers and attendees at this event?

The answer is clear. Bigotry, intolerance, hypocrisy, divisiveness, dishonesty and violence.

Donald Trump, the first sitting president to attend the event, was a featured speaker. He is a man who almost literally embodies the Seven Deadly Sins as explained by the Bible. Yet the so-called Christians at the summit gave him a 20-second ovation and repeatedly interrupted his speech with cheers. He told them, "We don't worship government, we worship God" and proclaimed, "We are stopping all our attacks on Judeo-Christian values."

Roy Moore, the Republican senatorial nominee in Alabama, was also a featured guest. He told attendees: "When you forget God, you can forget politics. When you forget God you forget, just like it says, your heritage, your rights, your freedoms."

We forget that what they really want to do in this land is remove the knowledge of God. That won’t happen, as far as I can see, because I think the people of God are rising up in this land today. In 2016 we were given a new lease, a new reason, and it’s upon us now. This is not complicated.

For Moore, the commandment to "follow God's law" is allied to his belief that gays and lesbians are committing blatantly immoral acts akin to bestiality.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has since returned to his role as the head of Breitbart News (which a recent investigative report by BuzzFeed has revealed to be a white nationalist and alt-right propaganda clearinghouse) told the audience, "This is not my war. This is our war. And y'all didn't start it. The establishment started it. But I will tell you one thing — you all are going to finish it."

Even in this swamp of radical right-wing talking points and political con artists who confuse some version of revanchist conservatism with "God's will" and "Christian values," former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka's comments were perhaps the most dangerous.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Conversation with Tom Nichols About Donald Trump, "the Madman Theory", and Nuclear War with North Korea

Tom Nichols is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College and also teaches at the Harvard Extension School. He is the author of seven books including "No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security" and “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.”

This is the second time that Dr. Nichols has been a guest on the show.

During this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Tom and Chauncey discuss Donald Trump's nuclear saber-rattling, "the madman theory", what would happen if a mentally unhinged president tried to launch America's nuclear weapons, and the likelihood that the United States goes to war with either Iran or North Korea. Dr. Nichols also highlights some frightening moments when the United States and the former Soviet Union almost attacked each other with nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

Writer and podcaster Alasdair Stuart also sits down at the virtual bar and salon to share his thoughts about Blade Runner 2049. Alasdair and Chauncey critique the film, reflect on the many ways that it can be interpreted, and ponder Blade Runner 2049's likely sequels--and if they are indeed necessary. Alasdair also tries to convince Chauncey to give the horrible Star Trek: Discovery a second chance.

In this week's episode, Chauncey DeVega has the cooties and explores the science which justifies wearing an acifidity bag and also shares some insights about Trump's cult of political personality and how the Great Leader uses empathy to manipulate his sad and dangerous human deplorable foot soldiers. And at the end of this week's podcast, Chauncey shares three positive and uplifting stories about people having good fortune, children finding a forever family, and human heroes who save their animal friends.

This episode with Tom Nichols 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.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The new "F-Word": Why are so many journalists and politicians afraid to call Donald Trump a fascist?

Donald Trump is a fascist and a racial authoritarian. For several years, I have tried to warn the readers of my essays here at Salon and those who listen to my podcast of this fact. Trump has revealed his core values to the world at almost every opportunity. Yet somehow, too many Americans appear stuck on a treadmill of daily shock at his behavior. It is sad to watch. Why is any of this a surprise? Trump is a crude man. He has never been subtle in terms of sharing his values and beliefs.

For example, Trump signaled his presidential aspirations by accusing Barack Obama of being a black usurper born secretly in another country. Perhaps even more insulting to Barack Obama -- and by implication to Black America -- Trump even dared to suggest that the first black president of the United States was a fraud whose accomplishments and intelligence were the result of imagined unfair advantages somehow (against all empirical evidence to the contrary) granted to black people in the United States. In essence Donald Trump told a black man in the 21st century to "show me your papers," as though the latter were a slave and Trump a paddyroller on some dusty road in the antebellum South during the early 19th century.

During the 2016 campaign and now as president, Donald Trump has met almost every criteria of a fascist leader adapted to fit American society.
  1. He has contempt for democratic norms and procedures, and has repeated undermined them;
  2. He has threatened violence against his political enemies;
  3. He espouses militant nationalism;
  4. He is patriarchal, hyper-masculine and misogynist;
  5. He uses racism, ethnocentrism and bigotry to advance his political goals;
  6. He lies compulsively in order to twist reality to his will and keep supporters enthralled;
  7. He stokes a sense of racial grievance and victimhood among his voters;
  8. He acts with contempt and utter disregard for the law;
  9. He uses his position as president to personally enrich himself, his family and his political allies;
  10. He openly admires authoritarian leaders from other countries;
  11. Through voter purges and other means, he is trying to ensure a permanent Republican majority and de facto one-party state;
  12. He believes in "blood and soil" racism;
  13. He is trying to remove any regulations or other types of restrictions on corporations;
  14. He appears to be a malignant narcissist who believes he is above the law;
  15. He grants pardons to his political allies;
  16. He has utter contempt for freedom of the press and the concept of "checks and balances";
  17. He views intellectuals and artists as his enemies;
  18. He is trying to destroy labor unions;
  19. He encourages police and other paramilitary forces to abuse racial and ethnic minorities;
  20. He has been acclaimed by white supremacist and other right-wing fascist groups as their leader.
On Wednesday, Trump demonstrated his fascist beliefs again. At an Oval Office press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he said:
It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it.
Again, there will be predictable upset by the news media, pundits, opinion writers and journalists. Democrats and maybe a few Republicans will appear on evening cable news programs to voice their concerns about Trump's tenor and behavior. But the dreaded "F-word" will likely not be uttered.

Given the obvious facts, how do we explain this avoidance of calling Donald Trump a fascist?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Conversation with Nancy MacLean About the Radical Right-wing and Her New Book "Democracy in Chains"

Nancy MacLean is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University and author of the new book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.

Democracy in Chains is also one of the five finalists in the 2017 National Book Awards for non-fiction.  

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Nancy and Chauncey discuss how right-wing libertarians allied with the Koch brothers are working to systematically undermine American democracy, the intellectual origins of their dangerous ideology, and the various personalities involved in this movement. Professor MacLean also reflects on the intense backlash against her new book and how the radical right-wing is desperately trying to undermine the very idea of expert knowledge and are trying to remake American higher education in their own image.

On this week's show Chauncey dares to tell the truth about toxic white masculinity, the color line, and the Las Vegas massacre which killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 last weekend. Chauncey also tells a story about being invited to appear on Tucker Carlson Tonight which airs on Fox so-called "News" in order to discuss his recent essay on white men and mass shootings in America. And in this episode Chauncey gives an enthusiastic endorsement of the new film Blade Runner 2049.

This episode with Nancy MacLean can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A white man commits a mass shooting in Las Vegas and a familiar script is followed

As I watched the news unfold about the horrible mass shooting in Las Vegas during the late-night hours of Sunday and Monday, I said to myself, "Please God, don't let these killers be black." I doubt I was alone in such sentiments. In a country stuck in the grip of a white backlash and resurgent white supremacy, black and brown folks don't need any further troubles.

As the initial news reports twisted and turned, I remembered how many initial reports about mass shootings are rife with inaccuracies, born of panic and chaos and the human desire to make sense of mayhem and murder. I then said to myself, "Please God, don't let this killer be a Muslim." I doubt I was alone in those sentiments. Muslim Americans are overwhelmingly a peaceful and law-abiding people. The challenges they face in America are already too great.

I had another fear as well. If the mass shooting in Las Vegas had been committed by a Muslim or a person of color, it might have presented an irresistible opportunity for Donald Trump -- who is a racial authoritarian and (as I believe) a fascist -- to expand his power. As historian Timothy Snyder has warned, Trump is waiting for his own "Reichstag Fire moment." A terrorist attack on a major city could well provide that opportunity.

I breathed a sigh of relief when it was revealed by Las Vegas police that it was a white man who rained down death and pain into a crowd of concertgoers. I doubt I was alone in such a sentiment. His barbaric actions killed at least 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

Whenever a white man commits an act of mass gun violence in America -- politically motivated or otherwise -- there is a cultural script that is closely followed by the mainstream news media, politicians and too many members of the public. This narrative is obvious and predictable. Alas, it provides some small measure of comfort to many, even if that familiarity is rooted in gross hypocrisy and flagrant contradictions.

Unlike the impulsiveness he has shown when Muslims are accused of committing a terrorist act, either in the United States or abroad, Donald Trump will be reserved and careful in his statements. The American news media will respond by observing that Trump has now magically become "presidential," as if his sins could be washed away by a chattering class desperate to make the abnormal into something palatable and routine.

The National Rifle Association and the Republican politicians whom they own will default to irrational talking points: "Now is not the time to politicize a tragedy" or "It's too early to talk about gun laws." Gun manufacturers will see their stocks rise in value. America's addiction to guns will continue unabated even as it kills tens of thousands of people a year. Somehow the gun fetishists like Bill O'Reilly will mouth such absurdities as "guns are the price of freedom" without soiling themselves from uncontrollable laughter.

The alleged shooter is a man named Stephen Paddock. He has been described as a "lone wolf." The Las Vegas police have now offered up two new entries for America's mass shooting lexicon: Paddock is a "sole perpetrator" and a "local individual." He is not a "terrorist," since that term is almost exclusively reserved for nebulous brown people.

Stephen Paddock is being humanized as a man who "liked to gamble," "listened to country music" and "lived a quiet, retired life." When white folks commit horrible crimes their actions are often placed in a context where they are described as "good people" and "all American." This is all so "surprising" and "unimaginable," we are told, because this person was so "ordinary." By comparison, when black or brown folks or Muslims commit horrible crimes they are usually depicted as one-dimensional monsters.

There will be no "national conversation" about the connection between toxic (white) masculinity and American gun culture. In the mainstream news media and broader public discourse there certainly will be no discussion of the fact that white men are 31 percent of the population but commit 63 percent of mass shootings. Such a fact is forbidden or explosive, because it connects race, gender, guns and death.

The mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night is the 273rd such event in America so far this year. It will not be the last. When the next mass shooting occurs I might just as well take this article and update it. The facts will likely not be much different. America is addicted to guns. The sickness will not be cured until, like an alcoholic or an opioid addict, the country admits it has hit rock bottom.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Conversation with Frank Miller About "Batman", Life, and a Career in Comic Books

Frank Miller is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is one of the most influential voices in contemporary American comic books. During his 40 year career Miller has written such notable comic books and graphic novels as Daredevil: Born Again, Sin City, 300, Ronin, and Give Me Liberty. He is most known for his work on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One and the new Batman: Dark Knight III: The Master Race.

Miller has also won every major award in the comic book industry and is a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Frank and Chauncey discuss his career and experience writing Batman, life wisdom, learning about film from Robert Rodriguez while making the Sin City films. Frank also offers some reflections about failing and learning from his work on the Robocop 2 and Robocop 3 films.

Comic book writer and editor Dirk Wood from IDW Publishing also sits down at the virtual bar and salon to share his thoughts about his exciting new arts and culture magazine Full Bleed. Dirk also give advice about how to break into comics, tells some stories about falling in love with comic books, and the ways that comic books and graphic novels can help literacy. Chauncey and Dirk also discuss how best to adopt toy and film properties such as G.I. Joe, Ghostbusters, Transformers and others into comic books.

On this week's show Chauncey calls out the cowards among the American people who do nothing to resist Trump and the Republican Party. Chauncey also acknowledged the strength and honor of the disabled brothers and sisters who helped to stop the monstrous Republican and Donald Trump "healthcare" bill. And in this episode, Chauncey cannot help but to ponder if Trump is a racist who does not care about the people suffering in Puerto Rico because they are not white.

This episode with Frank Miller and Dirk Wood can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Conversation with Dallas Penn about the black blogosphere, hip-hop, life, Bill Cosby, and collecting

Dallas Penn is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is a pioneer in what was once known as the "black blogosphere", birthed the term "Internets", and has been a contributing writer to such hip-hop magazines as Mass Appeal, XXL Magazine, and The Source. He is also a founding member of the film-making collective, iNternets Celebrities.

During this relaxed and fun episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Dallas and Chauncey discuss the current state of hip-hop, digital versus analog culture, sneaker collecting and the pleasures of various subcultures, as well as the Bill Cosby sex scandal. Given that they are fellow online travelers Chauncey and Dallas also reflect on life, aging, their health, and the (obvious) mysteries of Donald Trump.

Writer and podcaster Alasdair Stuart also sits down at the virtual bar and salon to share his thoughts about the new movie It. Stuart and Chauncey critique the film, discuss questions of adapting Stephen King's source material for the screen, and the film's various problems with race and gender.

On this week's show, Chauncey DeVega reflects on the perils of Trump, North Korea and the "madman" theory of international relations. In this week's episode, Chauncey understands why folks may be upset at Trump's racist comments in Alabama towards black athletes who are protesting police brutality and social injustice--but cautions that the real issue is how Trump is a de facto financial con artist who is using the presidency to enrich his own bank account.

This episode with Dallas Penn 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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Is Donald Trump evil?

Political scientists often focus their research on institutions, behavior, public opinion and political culture. The study of political institutions helps us to understand the context and rules that influence how elected officials, other representatives and bureaucrats behave. Political behavior includes voting and social movements, which together impact the levers of power and decision-making in a democracy. The study of public opinion provides a barometer for the public's mood and how they feel about a given social or political issue. And political culture is one of the primary ways by which citizens and other members of a society are socialized into its values, norms, and rules.

Journalists and pundits spend their time trying to craft narratives about society. As has often been said, they are focused on the "new" in the "news" and the events that move the 24/7 news cycle forward.

At its best, in a democracy the Fourth Estate provides a check on power by holding elected officials and others accountable to the people. At its worst, the Fourth Estate is a vehicle for propaganda, succumbing and kowtowing to power -- and profit -- instead of speaking truth to it and serving the public.

The average American is relatively unsophisticated in terms of political knowledge and cares about politics only to the degree it impacts his or her immediate lives. Moreover, Americans' decisions about politics are based on a deep tribalism in which supporting "their team" -- and this is especially true of Republicans and conservatives -- is more important than civic virtue, the Common Good or rational decision-making. This is poisonous to a democracy.

In all these frameworks, how can we reckon with questions of morality, right and wrong, and the United States' collective national character as well as that of its leaders?

As repeatedly demonstrated by his words and actions, President Donald Trump is an authoritarian, a misogynist and a racist. (I have repeatedly argued that he is a fascist, although that term remains contentious.) But is Trump evil? How does his behavior fit within commonly understood definitions of good and evil? If Trump is indeed evil, does that mean his voters and supporters are evil as well?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Susan Neiman. She is director of the Einstein Forum and was a professor of philosophy at Yale University as well as Tel Aviv University. Neiman is the author of numerous books, including "Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy."

In light of the many examples of Donald Trump's cruel and heartless behavior, both as president and also during the 2016 campaign, do you think he is evil?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

There's "No Easy Way Out" When You are Bowling with Gangsters and Hustlers

This week's special birthday edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show features two guests.

Robert Tepper is the writer and singer of the classic 1980s song "No Easy Way Out" from the movie Rocky IV. He stops by the virtual bar and salon to share some stories about his career as a musician, life on the road, Sylvester Stallone, and how "No Easy Way Out" came into being. Tepper also gives some advice to up-and-coming musicians about their careers and enjoying the moment.

Sports journalist and writer Gianmarc Manzione is the second guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is Editor of Bowlers Journal and author of the book Pin Action: Small-time Gangsters, High-Stakes Gambling, and the Teenage Hustler who Became a Bowling Champion.

During this episode of The Chauncey DeVega ShowGianmarc and Chauncey discuss their shared love of the sport of bowling, common working class culture. Gianmarc then tells some great stories about the gangsters, crooks, hustlers and other colorful characters who dominated the big money "action bowling" (gambling) scene in the United States during its heyday from the 1950s to 1970s.

On this week's show, Chauncey DeVega reflects on his birthday and the health challenges that come with advancing decrepitude. In keeping with the spirit of sharing things that he loves on his birthday, Chauncey offers up some life wisdom learned from con artists and grifters and then reads from a wonderful story about the sloth--his spiritual avatar and one of his favorite animals.

This episode with Robert Tepper and Gianmarc Manzione can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We need to stop heaping such effusive praise on white folks like Margana Wood who publicly speak out against racism

In today’s America, effusive — and often undeserved — praise is heaped upon white folks who publicly condemn racism.

During the 2018 Miss America pageant, Margana Wood, competing as Miss Texas, provided another example of this phenomenon. When asked about Donald Trump’s reaction to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Wood replied:
I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should’ve made a statement earlier addressing the fact and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.
Her comments were widely praised by journalists, pundits and across social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

For me, this moment evokes Chris Rock’s genius 1996 comedy special “Bring the Pain,” during which he mocked people who want credit for things they should be doing anyway, such as taking care of their children.

That Wood’s condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis is considered brave or especially laudable is one more indicator of how low the standards for truth-telling and acts of resistance against racism have fallen in the age of Donald Trump.

In a healthy society, it should be a given that decent and normal human beings would publicly condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis and their ilk. Alas, such basic standards of human decency have been upended by Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s racial authoritarianism and growing influence over American life.

In fact, Margana Wood’s comments provide an opportunity for one more “teachable moment” along the color line.

On Sunday, Wood provided an unintentional reminder of the complex ways that race and gender have long intersected in America. For example, the Miss America pageant — like most such competitions — are an example of the male gaze, a power relationship in which women’s bodies are objectified and commodified for the pleasure of men. For most of their history, the Miss America and similar beauty pageants were also racially segregated. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans were usually not allowed to enter these competitions because the very concepts of “beauty” and “femininity” were understood as being exclusive to white women. These attitudes about beauty, whiteness, purity and femininity still dominate American and Western society today, if perhaps in subtler forms.

One should not overlook how “white” women from Eastern and Southern Europe — as well as Jewish women — were for most of American history viewed as not embodying “pure” notions of whiteness. It was not until after World War II that “ethnic” white women were viewed as being able to equal the beauty standards applied to “real” white women whose ancestry derived from Northern and Western Europe.

The effusive response to Margana Wood’s comments condemning overt white supremacy also signal to the divide between public behavior and private thoughts in the post-civil rights era. Public and obvious displays of white racism are viewed as anachronistic and representative of an ugly bigotry that was supposedly vanquished from American society by the civil rights movement during the 1960s.

In reality, public opinion and other social science research has repeatedly shown that while some measures of “old-fashioned” racism have decreased over time, many of the most racist attitudes still remain. Because post-civil rights America has embraced a superficial “colorblind” ethos, overt white racism has moved to private spaces, online and to what is generally described as “the backstage.” This is especially true for those whites who came of age after the civil rights movement and for so-called “millennials,” specifically.

So it is not necessarily true that white Americans are any less racist against nonwhites but rather that those attitudes have been muted and — at least before Donald Trump’s ascension — transformed into “dog whistles” and other types of more symbolic or more subtle actions and beliefs.

White privilege consists of the unearned advantages, opportunities and resources that white people receive in American society because of the color of their skin. It also manifests in “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” where a well-intentioned white person like Margana Wood is praised for speaking out against white supremacy while black and brown folks who do the same — see the case of sports journalist Jemele Hill — are punished and marginalized.

How then should white people resist racism?

Words are insufficient. They must be followed by action.

Words are a beginning. But in most circumstances they are not an end on to themselves.

Corporeal politics — joining progressive associations and activist groups, working in your community to create positive change, making personal sacrifices and being willing to confront power by putting one’s body in harm’s way — is a necessity.

American history offers many role models for white people who want to fight racism. John Brown is an American icon. White abolitionists were crucial in helping to end the American slaveocracy. White Freedom Riders helped to defeat Jim and Jane Crow and bring down de jure white supremacy across the South. White heroes in Portland and Charlottesville have died fighting the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who support Donald Trump.

Of course, white folks do not have to be martyrs in order to effectively resist racism. Daily acts of resistance can help create a quiet revolution along the color line. One must not overlook the power of such acts to change the world.

Ultimately, those white folks who desire to be sincere and active anti-racists must do more than mouth obvious truths against easy targets if they are to be on the right side of history in this crucial moment.

Talking is easy. Taking action is much more difficult.

Margana Wood’s words were a beginning and not an ending. Those necessary next steps go beyond superficial discussion or condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and the assorted human deplorables of the “alt-right.” They involve remaking the social and political institutions that maintain white privilege and white supremacy in America, with the goal of creating a more just and democratic society.