Monday, August 24, 2015

A Political Nagilum: Donald Trump's First 100 Days in Office, the Stock Market has a "Correction", and America's Slide Toward Authoritarianism

How was your Monday? Are any other folks including hundred dollaraires like me feeling a bit grumpy as their retirement and other funds took more than a minor hit this week and last?

[Alternatively, are any of you laughing all the way to the bank as you swooped into the global stock market and found some bargains? If so, I hate you.]

There were two great bits of writing and pundit-speculation-entertainment that I would like to share to begin the week.

Donald Trump's run as America's favorite "heel" continues unabated. Financial insecurity, a public that is angry at government for being ineffective--all the while the people they are turning to on the White Right are the very same folks who broke the government to begin with--toxic religion, Christian fundamentalism, the surveillance society, neoliberalism, and a pleasure/distraction machine that is unequaled in human history, are a perfect storm for fascist authoritarianism.

Donald Trump ascendance is the stuff of a bad speculative fiction story. He is not Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle. Trump is a 1980s professional wrestler turned President of the United States in the movie Idiocracy.

What would a hypothetical Donald Trump tenure as POTUS would look like? On the Media has a wonderful and disturbing retrospective on Trump's imagined first term in the Oval Office.

In his new essay at CounterPunch, Henry Giroux turns a critical eye to the Right-wing performance art turned quasi normal politics in the America of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. As we simultaneously mock the human zoo that is the Republican Party's 2016 field of prospective presidential candidates, one should never forget that they are shadows of Platonic forms, reflections, and a valence for the rot in our collective political and social culture.

Giroux, as he did when he sat in at the virtual bar known as The Chauncey DeVega Show, reminds us that authoritarianism evolves, changes, and takes many forms.

Giroux offers a great synthesis of this dynamic here:
Historical conjunctures produce different forms of authoritarianism, though they all share a hatred for democracy, dissent, and human rights. It is too easy to believe in a simplistic binary logic that strictly categorizes a country as either authoritarian or democratic and leaves no room for entertaining the possibility of a mixture of both systems. American politics today suggests a more updated if not different form of authoritarianism or what some have called the curse of totalitarianism. In this context, it is worth remembering what Huey Long said in response to the question of whether America could ever become fascist: “Yes, but we will call it anti-fascist.” Long’s reply indicates that fascism is not an ideological apparatus frozen in a particular historical period, but as Arendt suggested a complex and often shifting theoretical and political register for understanding how democracy can be subverted, if not destroyed, from within. 
The notion of soft fascism was articulated in 1985 in Bertram Gross’s book, Friendly Fascism, in which he argued that if fascism came to the United States it would not embody the same characteristics associated with fascist forms in the historical past. There would be no Nuremberg rallies, doctrines of racial superiority, government-sanctioned book burnings, death camps, genocidal purges, or the abrogation of the constitution. In short, fascism would not take the form of an ideological grid from the past simply downloaded onto another country under different historical conditions. Gross believed that fascism was an ongoing danger and had the ability to become relevant under new conditions, taking on familiar forms of thought that resonate with nativist traditions, experiences, and political relations. Similarly, in his Anatomy of Fascism, Robert O. Paxton argued that the texture of American fascism would not mimic traditional European forms but would be rooted in the language, symbols, and culture of everyday life.
Is America on the cusp of an authoritarian regime that has adopted itself to the political culture and society of the United States?

Has a political version of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Nagilum malevolent space entity gobbled up the American people?   

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