Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Primo Levi's Monsters and Protesting Donald Trump's Inauguration

The coronation of the American Il Duce Donald Trump is scheduled for Friday. At approximately 12pm EST he will become the next President of the United States. What are you plans? Are you protesting? Staying home and in bed, drunk, high, or otherwise with altered mood? Are you planning on a day of not working or shopping? 

There are the usual voices who are trying to normalize the election of Trump and his imminent presidency by whispering in our collective ears to "give Trump a chance" and "it can't be that bad". Other voices--such as President Obama earlier today in his last press conference--maintain an enduring faith in America and our culture's ability to move forward and to weather this fascist storm. I have little faith. The Americans who elected a fascist are capable of anything. I do wish they would receive their comeuppance in isolation, but alas, the rest of us will be collateral damage. 

The Trumpthuglicans are my countrymen by birth but not affinity, creed, or spirit. 

As Friday and the long years that will come afterwards are imminent, I have been thinking about the following wisdom from Primo Levi:
“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
Are my worries misplaced? Am I unfair in my condemnation of Trump and his ilk as America's version of "Little Eichmanns", those authoritarians and their human tools?

Monday, January 16, 2017

From Martin Luther King Jr. to Donald Trump: The Long Arc of History Does Not Always Bend Towards Justice

The long arc of history does not always bend toward justice.
In the United States, Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King was a martyr, assassinated because he dared to try to tear down the barriers created by prejudice, bigotry, poverty and racism in American society. Friday is Inauguration Day, when Donald Trump will officially become the 45th president of the United States. He is determined to resurrect the barriers of prejudice, bigotry, poverty and racism in American society.
Dr. King weeps. Donald Trump and his human deplorables smile.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a public ritual in America. To that end, King, who when alive was one of the most hated and unpopular people in the United States, is transformed into a public saint and hero.
Many parties will claim him. Global corporations will run commercials adorned with King’s image for greed and profit. Television shows and sporting events will feature obligatory montages of black “celebrities” who are somehow depicted as being the fruit of King’s struggle. The Democrats will summon Martin Luther King Jr. by locating him in the same lineage as President Barack Obama.
The Republicans will claim King as well. They will do this by constructing a fictionalized narrative where he was a “black conservative” instead of a democratic socialist. The Republican Party will also claim that they are the “party of Lincoln” and thus the true heirs and defenders of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and the broader Civil Rights movement. Of course, this too is absurd. Such claims ignore how for at least 50 years of the racist “Southern strategy” — culminating with the election of the American fascist Donald Trump — the Republican Party has become a band of modern-day defenders of the Confederacy and the values of Jefferson Davis and Jim and Jane Crow.
Laughably, the Republican Party will also trot out black conservatives as part of the annual public ritual. As professional “best black friends,” their main purpose is to serve as a human mask and distraction for the Republican Party and its deep affinity for racism and white supremacy.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Conversation with Kelly Baker About "Good White Folks", Racism, and the Ku Klux Klan

Kelly Baker is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. She is the author of Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930, as well as The Zombies Are Coming!: The Realities of the Zombie Apocalypse in American Culture.

In this week's episode of the podcast, Kelly and Chauncey talk about the "good white people" problem and racism, white identity politics and Donald Trump, the history of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the various genres of hate mail and white toxic masculinity. Chauncey and Kelly also talk about their shared love of zombies and the not so hidden gender and racial politics of The Walking Dead TV series.

During this week's podcast, Chauncey talks about going to see Barack Obama's farewell address as a member of the press, shares a fun story about the naming practices of the ghetto underclass, and gives his thoughts on what is really going on with Donald Trump's golden shower scandal. At the end of this week's episode, Chauncey also shares some thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s radicalism and the inauguration of the American fascist Donald Trump.

This episode with Kelly Baker can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

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

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Goodbye My Black President: Some Personal Thoughts on Barack Obama's Farewell Address

Somewhere in another dimension of the multiverse, I hope that President Barack Obama returned home to Chicago to give his farewell address. As his music began, Obama walked up to the podium and paused. He looked to the crowd at the McCormick Center Place, arched his eyebrow, stared up at the lights in the ceiling and channeled professional wrestler and movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, bellowing, “Do you smell what Barack is cooking?”
Obama would then pause, letting the silence expand for a moment and then proclaim, “Finally, Barack has come . . . home.”
Of course, this is not our President Barack Obama. That is OK. Our version of President Barack Obama is more than fine just the way he is.
During his farewell address last night, Obama was passionate while also restrained. Yet he wrapped the facts of American history in a soft but still durable glove and beat Trumpism and today’s Republicans about the metaphorical face and body.
During his farewell address, the professor turned president of the United States lectured while never sounding arrogant, aloof or preachy. To that end, Obama was eloquent, intellectual and confident. He was a role model of calm, cool reflective black masculinity: a man utterly at home in his own skin and at peace with his legacy as president — even while being quite concerned about the future of the country under Donald Trump and the Republican regime.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Of Manchurian Candidates,"Pod People", and Spies: How “National Security” Republicans Became Russian Tools

As indicated by a newly released report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, it appears that Russia’s intelligence agencies, orchestrated by President Vladimir Putin, interfered with the 2016 United States presidential election with the goal of helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. They were successful: On Jan. 20, Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

The revelation that one of America’s greatest global rivals and its mortal enemy during the Cold War manipulated the 2016 presidential election (as part of a broader plan to attack Western democracies) is the stuff of spy movies and techno-thrillers. But instead of paranoia and fear, Putin’s interference has been greeted by learned helplessness on the part of many Americans, impotence from the Democrats and a combination of indifference, obfuscation, denial and outright lying by the Republican Party.

The latter is particularly fascinating. Over the course of several decades, Republicans created a narrative for themselves (largely untrue) that they had and have the party of “national security.” For many years the Republican Party imagined itself as comprised of the “coldest” of the Cold Warriors. Yet during a bizarre political season when American fascism is ascendant with Donald Trump, a party and right-wing movement whose political DNA consists of conspiracy-driven John Birchers, paranoid McCarthyites, Christian fundamentalists and Ronald Reagan fetishists have apparently been “flipped” (to borrow from the language of spies and espionage) to support Putin’s Russia.

This is not an episode of Rod Serling’s classic science-fiction TV show “The Twilight Zone.” It is the reality-TV-show-obsessed “post-truth” America of 2016, when, as Neil Postman warned some years ago, “we are entertaining ourselves to death.” As a result, our political culture is in deep crisis.

In many ways, this outcome was predictable. Authoritarianism has been on the rise among the American people for at least 20 years — especially among Republicans and, of course, Donald Trump supporters. Adherents of conservatism, a type of motivated social cognition, are attracted by demagogues and political strongmen. Crude masculinity and nationalism are also alluring to conservative authoritarians. In Trump and Putin, American conservatives have found two heroes to swoon over in a right-wing bromance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Got My Fancy Pants and Expensive Shoes On and Am Going to Barack Obama's Farewell Address Here in Chicago Later Today

Fingers crossed, I am on the list to see Barack Obama's farewell speech here in Chicago later today. I was not able to go to the White House conference I was invited to over the summer. But, through some well-timed emails, and the power of the Force and Crom, I should be pretty close to the stage when America's first black president gives his farewell address here in Chicago. If you see a turtle-like and grotesque looking black man with an odd looking goatee, please do yell at the TV machine and give Chauncey DeVega some love.

In his speech, Obama will channel George Washington. He will be cerebral and reflective. He will cut his own version of a pro wrestling promo on Donald Trump--in a dignified way of course. There will be some tears in the house for sure.

I am excited to witness this in person. I am also saddened to see one of America's greatest presidents say goodbye. I am disgusted with now being forced to reckon with an incompetent ignoramus and bigot named Donald Trump who will soon be soiling The White House. I doubt that I am alone in that sentiment.

Nothing fancy here. But I am sincerely curious. What do you expect from Barack Obama's farewell address? If you had a chance to ask him a question during these final weeks in office what would it be? And if you had an opportunity to speak with Barack Obama in private during this time what would you ask or request of him?

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Conversation with Political Scientist Lester Spence About Resistance, Neoliberalism, the Color Line, and Black Politics in the Age of Donald Trump

The guest, for this, the first official podcast episode of 2017, is Lester Spence. He is the author of several great books including Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics and is a frequent contributor to news outlets such as MSNBC, the BBC, and National Public Radio. Dr. Spence is also an Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.

In this far ranging and broad conversation, Lester and Chauncey talk about race and popular culture, neoliberalism and black politics, why Beyonce is not "politically resistant", social media "activism", police thuggery, and the role of "black public intellectuals" at the end of the Age of Obama and through to the nightmare that will be the Age of Trump. Lester and Chauncey also talk about analog vs. digital culture and the art of being a master of the turntables.

During this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey answers some questions sent in by friends and listeners of the show and also reads some hate mail.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

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

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

It was the racism, stupid: White working-class “economic anxiety” is a zombie idea that needs to die

On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will become president of the United States of America. Donald Trump is an authoritarian and demagogue who meets the definition of a fascist, as I have argued on multiple previous occasions. His election and the 60 million voters who supported him are a threat to American democracy.

How did this happen?

The first draft of this history is being written now. In the years and decades to come, we will have the benefit of hindsight, as well as more information and context, to make better sense of Donald Trump’s victory on Election Day 2016 and its implications for American democracy and global politics.

But in the immediate present, the dominant narrative for explaining the rise of Donald Trump and his fascist movement has been centered upon the “white working class” and its purported “economic anxiety.” For a variety of reasons, this is a compelling story for the American corporate news media, the pundits and other elite opinion leaders.

The white economic anxiety narrative is simplistic. It is also the result of a type of “path dependence,” whereby the answers offered are largely a function of the questions asked. The white economic anxiety thesis is also a way for the pundit class — with a majority of its members being white and from a very narrow socioeconomic background — to ignore the enduring power of racism and sexism in American society.

Here, a belief that it must be something other than racism (and sexism) that won Trump the election functions as a conceptual blinder for analysts and commentators who want to deny the ugly truth about the values and beliefs held by their fellow (white) Americans. In all, these factors are part of an effort, albeit a superficial one, to empathize with the supposed pain and anger of white working-class voters who feel “left behind” and by doing so normalize their egregious, irresponsible and hateful decision to support Donald Trump.

Most important, the economic-anxiety thesis is in many ways incorrect.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Am I a Bad Person Because I Have No Empathy for Donald Trump's "White Working Class" Supporters?

A two-part question. Am I the only person who has no empathy for Donald Trump's voters? Moreover, am I a bad person because I want all of his voters and other supporters--especially the so-called white "working class" to get their glorious comeuppance when the American Il Duce guts programs such as the Affordable Care Act which they are increasingly dependent upon?

In the last few days and weeks, there have been several essays which speak to these concerns.

Writing at Salon, Conor Lynch argues that Trump's voters should not be treated as enemies by those who opposed the American Il Duce. He suggests:
A majority of these folks voted for Trump, of course, and he blamed Obama and the Chinese — among many other scapegoats — for very real problems. (These problems are largely a product of the inherent forces of capitalism, but it is much easier to scapegoat certain individuals or groups than to talk about a complex economic system.) What is needed when resisting the president-elect’s dangerous agenda is empathy and compassion for these Trump voters, not scorn and selfish indifference (something quite common among liberal elites). A politics of solidarity is the Kryptonite to Trump’s politics of resentment and division, and the goal should be to expose Trump as the dangerous charlatan that he is, not play into his game of demonization. 
Trump knows who his enemies are, and there’s no telling how he will use the presidency to seek revenge. His enemies are legion, of course, and just about anyone who criticizes him publicly can count themselves as a foe. Those who oppose him must encourage empathy and promote a politics of solidarity — but it is equally important to know who your true enemies are, and treat them accordingly.
At Psychology Today, Psychologist Michael Bader wrote a widely shared piece called "The Decline of Empathy and the Appeal of Right-Wing Politics". Bader does an excellent job of locating empathy in the context of systems level thinking and how a crisis in empathy has helped to create the swamp that birthed Trumpism and his brand of American fascism:
Adults, like children, try to cope with the stress of failures of recognition in the best ways they can. They certainly get anxious and depressed and may turn to drugs and alcohol to manage these painful feelings. In addition, when social trust is weakened and people are isolated, they try to find ways to belong, to be part of a community. The Tea Party is one such community. Others turn to their church communities. Their social brains seek an experience of “we” and often do so by creating a fantasy of a “them” that they can devalue and fight. Tribalism draws from our need for relatedness but, tragically, can also pervert it. Rejected by employers and government, they reject and demean others. All the while, they are trying to deal with the pain, powerlessness, and lack of empathy that they experience in their social lives. 
Donald Trump clearly spoke to this pain. He empathized with the traumatic losses and helplessness of the white middle and working classes. He helped them feel part of something bigger than themselves, a “movement,” which combatted their isolation. And he helped them restore a feeling of belonging by positioning them against demeaned others, primarily immigrants and countries on the other end of “horrible trade deals.”
The research on the development of empathy and the trauma resulting from its absence, on the links between economic inequality and physical and psychological suffering, and on the corrosive effects of social isolation has to lead progressives to renew their campaign for radical reforms of our economy and politics.
Vox profiled white "working class" Americans (read: poor and truly working class as opposed to whites who work in the skilled trades and elsewhere and that make more than the national average) who have benefited greatly from the evil black president's onerous "Obamacare" plan yet have chosen to support Donald Trump. The masses are asses:
I don't know. I guess I thought that, you know, he would not do this. That they would not do this, would not take the insurance away. Knowing that it's affecting so many people’s lives. I mean, what are you to do then if you cannot … purchase, cannot pay for the insurance?
You know, what are we to do? 
So I don't know. Maybe he's thinking about, you know, the little people that are not making the big money, like what they make in New York and Washington and all the places that, you know, this is not, you know, something — this is people’s lives that's being affected... 
I don't know. I guess the next four years is going to be different. I don't know what to look for.  
You're scaring me now, on the insurance part. 
’Cause I have been in a panic, so I'm afraid now that the insurance is going to go away and we're going to be up a creek.
The Vox profile is priceless...and I hope that these fools who voted for Donald Trump get everything that is coming to them.

Fellow Jedi, have I fallen to the dark side?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lesson number one in how to perform political fellatio on Donald Trump: Gerard Baker, Editor of The Wall Street Journal

I hope that you all had a restful holiday break. The new year is upon as and the doom that is Donald Trump's administration begins in several weeks.

Going forward, I am going to be documenting the many examples of how the news media, Republican cowards, and others are enabling the American Il Duce. The image that has struck me--and it is quite foul--is that of Donald Trump unzipping his pants and putting his orange penis in his supplicants' willing mouths. He plays with their hair as they kneel before him. Trump's little piggies are hungry and swallow his foul spunk and are eager for more. It tastes like garlic and old cream cheese.

The first entry in the "How to perform political fellatio on Donald Trump" file is Gerard Baker, editor of The Wall Street Journal. On last Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, Baker made obvious what observers have known for some time. The Wall Street Journal and other members of the American news media have no interest in telling the truth about the American Il Duce. Moreover, they are actively engaged in supporting his reign and the advertising money that comes from staying in his good graces.

From Politico:
Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker said that despite the fact Trump often makes “questionable” and “challengeable” statements, he’s instructed his staff to keep their social media postings straight laced in order to maintain the trust of the readers.\ 
Asked by host Chuck Todd whether he’d be willing to call out a falsehood as a “lie” like some other news outlets have done, Baker demurred, saying it was up to the newspaper to just present the set of facts and let the reader determine how to classify a statement.
"I'd be careful about using the word, ‘lie.’ ‘Lie' implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead,” Baker said, noting that when Trump claimed “thousands” of Muslims were celebrating on rooftops in New Jersey on 9/11, the Journal investigated and reported that they found no evidence of a claim. 
"I think it's then up to the reader to make up their own mind to say, 'This is what Donald Trump says. This is what a reliable, trustworthy news organization reports. And you know what? I don't think that's true.’ I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they've lied, I think you run the risk that you look like you are, like you’re not being objective,” he said.

Gobble gobble Mr. Baker. Is it all over your face? It is pretty clear that you enjoyed servicing Donald Trump. I hope your knees do not hurt.