Writing over at the Boston Review, Christopher Lebron has a must read essay on Donald Trump and totalitarianism. Words have meanings. Definitions matter. While the so-called liberal news media was poo pooing if Trump was indeed a fascist authoritarian (you know where I have stood on that issue for more than a year) smart folks knew better. Trump's political ideology (if we can call it that) is readily apparent. Trump is the Fascist in Chief of the United States and a white nationalist.
It does not take a full-on, totally successful, or even intentional totalitarian coup to put a democracy’s integrity at risk. You just need to weaken or destabilize enough key institutions, such as the EPA, to clear the way for your preferred perception of reality; you only need to offer a few “alternative facts” to distract the public from the real ones; you only need a handful of powerful friends in powerful positions to project your worldview nationally and globally. And as all this goes on, the rule of law that differentiates a democracy from other regimes begins to twist, constantly justified by security threats real, slightly real, or completely fabricated. And the twisting and deformation is persistently justified in the name of the people who must live with the new forms of surveillance, such as registries or enhanced facial recognition. The press is told to silence itself unless willing to describe all public celebrations of the president as affecting and tremendous, while legitimate knowledge producers, such as scientists, are muzzled. Suddenly it begins to seem as if you can see Russia from your house, no matter where you live.
In her alarmingly relevant book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), political philosopher Hannah Arendt writes, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exists.” This means it is up to each and every citizen to resist by refusing the power of deception and the allure of fabrication. If the first week of Trump’s presidency is any indication, in full light of his personal history, every American, even his supporters, should begin to ask what, exactly, does it take to make America not great. The answer, you will find, is on the news every hour of every day.Where do we go from here? And what do We the People do next?