2020-10-08

Trump Cultists Dying for Their Dear Leader

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by Neil Godfrey

David Cay Johnston

From David Cay Johnston of DC Report: Will Republican Cultists Die For Their Dear Leader?

Years ago when I was a devout member of a Christian cult I got a visit from a local public hospital rep asking me why I had not let my infant child be vaccinated against whooping cough. My child survived a severe attack of whooping cough by luck or chance but I thanked God for not letting him die. One of the great evils of some religious cults is that they reject science and choose to trust their distinctive world view to see them through any life and death crisis. In some places civil authorities intervene for the welfare of children who are endangered by their parents’ beliefs. Compare a Trump follower:

And what about the 11-month-old baby of Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s press secretary? McEnany has tested positive after again and again showing her fealty to the imaged great leader by going mask-less. Does anyone doubt that if McEnany were a poor black or brown woman—or a Jew or Muslim in a Bible Belt county—that child protective services would be investigating whether to remove the infant Blake for her own safety?

Norman Swan: What’s your analysis of what’s going on in the Centres for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration? I mean, the Centres for Disease Control wrote the textbook on pandemic control.

Eric Topol: Well, somehow that textbook got lost or got thrown away. The reason why we failed so much is because both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration were basically taken out. This has been a White House Trump-run response to the pandemic. Robert Redfield who runs the CDC has not had any presence. There are things, as I think you know, that are just extraordinary, just despicable how the weekly morbidity mortality report that the medical community relies upon was manipulated and censored. There were guidelines put out about not doing testing, not doing testing on people without symptoms but exposed. I mean, all sorts of things that were done to the CDC by Trump in the White House, by ill-informed advisors, a neuroradiologist that Trump brought in to crowd out Tony Fauci.

So we are in disarray. The agencies who we would depend on totally are not even being able to do what they need to do. The FDA has issued emergency use authorisation for convalescent plasma, claimed that it reduced mortality by 35%, which it has no data to support that, and made it in a so-called very historic breakthrough on the evening before the national convention for Trump. So we are seeing things that…you just can’t make this stuff up, it’s nightmarish.

ABC Radio National. “The US Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.” October 2, 2020.

David Cay Johnston continued:

This is what happens when a cult arises. The leader is special and believers most demonstrate without even being asked that the messages the leader conveys have been internalized. And if he uses tricks and deceits to fool the public you must go along to remain in his good graces even if it exposes you and your newborn to sickness, lifelong health problems and even death.

The reason, rationality and civil debate envisioned by our Founders and Framers have no place in Trump’s anti-democratic cult. All that matters is loyalty to the leader, a loyalty that runs only one way.

Trump devotees do not believe in faith healing but as a movement they do believe in maintaining their political faith in living by anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-modernist pronouncements of their leader. They justify their stance the same way each religious asserts and justifies its difference from other cults that have the same type of faith: appeals to special knowledge of their leaders not widely known to the public.

I recall Tamas Pataki’s description of fundamentalism as it applied not only to religious but also to political groups. Some of his points:

1. They (fundamentalists) are counter-modernist. It (fundamentalism) manifests itself as an attempt by “besieged believers” to find their refuge in arming themselves with an identity that is rooted in a past golden age. And this identity is acted out in an attempt to restore that “golden past”.

2. They (fundamentalists) are “generally assertive, clamorous, and often violent”.

3. They are “the Chosen”, “the Elect”, “the Saved”. And as such, they are “privileged” or “burdened” with a special mission on behalf of their deity and for the benefit of the world.

4. Public marks of distinction are needed to maintain their sense of superiority and distinctive identity. Not only for the purpose of maintaining that distinctive identity but also as “part of the narcissistic struggle to be considered unique and special.”

5. There is only one true religion; there is only one correct way of life; and these must be defended against inroads from other religions and secularism.

6. There is an inerrant holy book, prophet or charismatic leader to whom literal obedience is mandatory.

In the world of political populism the followers embrace the vision of their leader. Their whole sense of reality begins and ends with the pronouncements of their populist leader.

I never expected to see anything so retrograde taking over the United States, least of all at a time when following science and professionals is more necessary than ever to understand, admit and tackle so many major challenges. (Nor did I ever expect to see the “dear leader” propaganda videos that are undeniably a par with what we associate with totalitarian regimes, past and present.) The total denial of reality, the calling truth lies, calling dishonesty honesty, belief in bizarre conspiracy theories, it does look very much to me as though much of the United States has indeed broken itself off from reality and closeted itself in a cult fantasy world.

My god, if Biden-Harris win the coming election they better take on the root causes of all of this total madness:

Trump draws crowds because the majority of Americans have real economic grievances, as I’ve written about for decades including these recent DCReport pieces. Indeed, Trump ran for office using many of the phrases he heard me say on television about how Washington policies hurt 90% of Americans.

While he pledged in his inaugural address that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer” his actions documented by DCReport show that he never gave them a thought.


2020-10-01

“I’m fearful of violence in a way that I was not in 2000”

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by Neil Godfrey

First, there was this call to Trump from Roger Stone:

Roger Stone (In November 2019 he was convicted of witness tampering and lying to investigators in order to shield Trump from the fallout of the Russia-hacked emails. On February 20, 2020, he was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison. After asking Trump for a pardon so he could help him be re-elected in 2020 Trump commuted his sentence July 10, 2020.) – Financial Times photo

During his September 10 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, [Roger] Stone declared that the only legitimate outcome to the 2020 election would be a Trump victory. He made this assertion on the basis of his entirely unfounded claim that early voting has been marred by widespread voter fraud.

Stone argued that “the ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshalls and taken from the state” because “they are completely corrupted” and falsely said that “we can prove voter fraud in the absentees right now.” He specifically called for Trump to have absentee ballots seized in Clark County, Nevada, an area that leans Democratic. Stone went on to claim that “the votes from Nevada should not be counted; they are already flooded with illegals” and baselessly suggested that former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) should be arrested and that Trump should consider nationalizing Nevada’s state police force.

Beyond Nevada, Stone recommended that Trump consider several actions to retain his power. Stone recommended that Trump appoint former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) as a special counsel “with the specific task of forming an Election Day operation using the FBI, federal marshals, and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity.”

Stone also urged Trump to consider declaring “martial law” or invoking the Insurrection Act and then using his powers to arrest Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clintons” and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity.

Johnson, Timothy. 2020. “Roger Stone Calls for Trump to Seize Total Power If He Loses the Election.” Media Matters for America. September 9, 2020.

Two days later Trump appeared to respond to Stone’s call:

Jeanine Pirro: (09:05)
What are you going to do … Let’s say there are threats, they say that they’re going to threaten riots if they lose on Election Night, assuming we get a winner on Election Night. What are you going to do?

Donald Trump: (09:17)
We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that.

Jeanine Pirro: (09:18)
How are you going to do that?

Donald Trump: (09:19)
We have the right to do that, we have the power to do that if we want. Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send them in and we do it very easy. I mean it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes, within minutes. Minneapolis, they were having problems. We sent in the National Guard within a half an hour. That was the end of the problem. It all went away.

Donald Trump Judge Jeanine Pirro Interview Transcript September 12.” 2020. Rev (blog). September 12, 2020.

Stone, further, in his call to Trump on The Alex Jones Show:

[Stone] also said: “The ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state. They are completely corrupted. No votes should be counted from the state of Nevada if that turns out to be the provable case. Send federal marshals to the Clark county board of elections, Mr President!

Trump again responded:

Nevada has not gone to a Republican since 2004 but is shaping up to be a crucial contest this year. Biden leads there, but polls have tightened. On Saturday, after a planned rally in Reno was cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions, Trump staged an event which disregarded such strictures in Minden. His rhetoric was not far removed from that of the man [Roger Stone] he spared prison.

Attacking the Democratic Nevada governor, Steve Sisolak, Trump said: “This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him? The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”

Stone said: “Governor Sisolak is a punk. He should not face down the president of the United States.”

On Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller also attacked moves to facilitate voting by mail in Nevada. He also called Sisolak a “clubhouse governor … who, by the way, if you go against him politically … politically speaking, you’ll find yourself buried in the desert”.

Stone knows what Trump should do:

Trump and his campaign have also consistently claimed without evidence that “antifa”, or anti-fascist, activists represent a deadly threat to suburban voters that will be unleashed should Biden win. Commenting on a Daily Beast report about leftwing activist groups planning what to do “if the election ends without a clear outcome or with a Biden win that Trump refuses to recognise”, Stone told Jones the website should be shut down.

“If the Daily Beast is involved in provably seditious and illegal activities,” he said, “their entire staff can be taken into custody and their office can be shut down. They wanna play war, this is war.”

Stone also advocated “forming an election day operation using the FBI, federal marshals and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity”.

Pengelly, Martin. 2020. “Roger Stone to Donald Trump: Bring in Martial Law If You Lose Election.” The Guardian. September 14, 2020.

Stone has done it before, “small scale” then…

Stone is no stranger to interfering in elections. He was reportedly an organizer of the so-called “Brooks Brothers riot” during the 2000 presidential election that led to vote counting being suspended in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Johnson, Timothy. 2020. “Roger Stone Calls for Trump to Seize Total Power If He Loses the Election.” Media Matters for America. September 9, 2020.

The Brooks Brothers Riot

In late November 2000, hundreds of mostly middle-aged male protesters, dressed in off-the-peg suits and cautious ties, descended on the Miami-Dade polling headquarters in Florida. Shouting, jostling, and punching, they demanded that a recount of ballots for the presidential election be stopped.

The protesters, many of whom were paid Republican operatives, succeeded. A recount of ballots in Florida was abandoned. What became known as the Brooks Brothers riot went down in infamy, and George W Bush became president after a supreme court decision.

In 2020, fears are growing that the US could see an unwanted sequel to the Brooks Brothers debacle –but with more violent participants.

Protesters shout outside the Miami-Dade County election office Nov. 22, 2000. (Colin Braley/Reuters) — From ‘It’s insanity!’: How the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ killed the 2000 recount in Miami: Washington Post Nov 15, 2018. — “These were brownshirt tactics,” the Miami-Dade Democratic chairman, Joe Geller, told Time magazine in the days following the riot. — The Guardian 24 Sep 2020

After a year in which armed Donald Trump supporters have besieged state houses across the country and shot and killed Black Lives Matter protesters –and in which Trump has said he will only lose if the election is rigged –a 2020 reboot of the Brooks Brothers stunt could be dangerous.

Joseph Lowndes

Everything is far more amplified or exaggerated than it was 20 years ago,” said Joe Lowndes, professor of political science at the University of Oregon and co-author of Producers, Parasites, Patriots, a book about the changing role of race in rightwing politics.

“In terms of party polarizations, in terms of the Republican shift to the far right and in terms of the Republican party’s open relationship with and courting of far-right groups. This puts us on entirely different grounds.”

Trump supporters have been fed a “steady diet” of misinformation that the election is likely to be stolen by Democrats, Lowndes said. Trump has encouraged supporters to go to voting places to act as “poll watchers”, and on Sunday a group of Trump supporters intimidated early voters at a polling location in Fairfax, Virginia.

“You’ve got thousands of armed vigilantes on the streets this summer, first around these reopen demands protests clamoring for coronavirus lockdown restrictions to be lifted] at state capitols.”

Gabbatt, Adam. 2020. “Two Decades after the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’, Experts Fear Graver Election Threats.” The Guardian, September 24, 2020.

Hope or Fear?

“As a political scientist, I am sounding the alarm that America’s political institutions are at their weakest point that I have ever seen or read about in my life,” he said.

“In the backdrop of not having the protections of the Voting Rights Act, it is highly conceivable that armed militias show up at polling stations in an effort to eliminate voting.”

Sylvia Abert

Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, an elections watchdog group, said she believes disruption of the voting process is unlikely, but she shared the concerns of others that the counting process could be at risk.

“There are strong laws on voter intimidation,” said Albert. “Counting comes into regular laws around disturbing the police or being in a group; there’s nothing specific on that issue. That’s not to say laws don’t cover it, they do –various laws cover being a nuisance but how that’s interpreted in the situation is going to vary by location.”

Albert stressed that she did not believe it was probable there would be altercations at vote-counting sites, but she said: “I’m fearful of violence in a way that I was not in 2000.”

“We have seen that the rhetoric on the right, both from the president and Republican lawmakers, has encouraged people to take up arms. And whether directly or indirectly, encouraged violence. And that was not happening from George Bush.”

Gabbatt, Adam. 2020. “Two Decades after the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’, Experts Fear Graver Election Threats.” The Guardian, September 24, 2020.


2020-09-30

that debate

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by Neil Godfrey

I think today was the first time I’ve watched a presidential debate; at least I can say I don’t remember watching any others. What did everyone else think? I was fairly dismayed at the way Trump behaved and Wallace failed to control him, especially in the early part. But in hindsight, putting it all together with what I’ve learned about Trump, I have to concede it went exactly as Trump wanted. His supporters, no doubt, will think he did a wonderful job of taking on not just Biden but the “grossly unfair media” in the person of Chris Wallace, too.

Trump tweeted this image, presumably to depict what he sees as his victory against both the Democrats and the media.

For the rest of us, Trump put to rest any possible debate over whether he winks at the activities of white supremacists and even over whether he was referring to some new technologies when he spoke of injecting bleach to fight coronavirus. On that latter point he said he was “joking”, so he was not speaking of some new technology after all (and the video of him saying it clearly shows he was not joking). But on the racism point, the Proud Boys listened to Trump’s words of support and added them to their logo:

I would love to learn I am wrong on this one, but I can see the Proud Boys and other white militia groups coming out fully armed into the streets again when Trump, crying foul and a rigged election, calls a halt to the counting of the ballots. Are my fears reasonable?

 


2020-09-29

The Christian elites have always been more clear-eyed about Trump’s lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on

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by Neil Godfrey

The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounds himself with have always been more clear-eyed about his lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 meeting with about a dozen influential figures on the religious right—including the talk-radio host Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem—the then-candidate was blunt about his relationship to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible as well as some of the other people”) and joking about his inexperience with prayer (“The first time I met [Mike Pence], he said, ‘Will you bow your head and pray?’ and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I’m not used to it.”) At one point in the meeting, Trump interrupted a discussion about religious freedom to complain about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and brag about the taunting nickname he’d devised for him. “I call him Little Ben Sasse,” Trump said. “I have to do it, I’m sorry. That’s when my religion always deserts me.”

And yet, by the end of the meeting—much of which was spent discussing the urgency of preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms—the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”

The Faustian nature of the religious right’s bargain with Trump has not always been quite so apparent to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are more than twice as likely as the average American to say that the president is a religious man. Some conservative pastors have described him as a “baby Christian,” and insist that he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

To those who have known and worked with Trump closely, the notion that he might have a secret spiritual side is laughable. . . .

Coppins, McKay. 2020. “Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters.The Atlantic, October 2020.


2020-09-28

The Idiocy Effect

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by Neil Godfrey

At stake here are differing rationalities of trust, and different ways of signalling to voters that the leader is ‘one of them’ (Manin, 1997, p. 130).

King Lear and the Fool in the Storm by William Dyce (Wikimedia) — Shakespearean irony has been trumped off-stage.

Even Margaret Thatcher was not an oddity in this respect: she famously claimed to run the nation’s finances as a housewife would, with the home in Thatcher’s analogy constituting its moral heart. Jeremy Corbyn is presented as ordinary, well-meaning, quite simple and good, and even – arguably – Boris Johnson’s buffoonery makes him, in effect, an example of what we could call the idiocy of power in democratic societies. Theodor Adorno wrote famously of Adolf Hitler that he combined the qualities of King Kong with those of a suburban barber – the absurd little man condensed into a super-hero (Adorno, 1991, p. [127] – link is to PDF). Of course, idiocy works in different ways: Jeremy Corbyn is appreciated by his supporters as a simple man, a man of principle, and so not like an ordinary politician of the establishment. Corbyn’s style has a kind of anti-charismatic quality that gives him, paradoxically, an odd kind of charisma for his following. Whether he is actually ordinary or not is another matter. Nevertheless, idiocy effects are, we suggest, quite real.

Populist trust can be generated by idiocy in that such a personal style is both an individualizing yet also a hard-to-fake device for signalling trust on the lines of ‘if I am this absurd (or, if Trump, this out of line), I must be genuine’.

The ancient Greek notion of idiocy distinguished it from the rationality of the citizen; in this sense, the idiot is not a fool but a genuine, ordinary person – perhaps one who sees through the tired conventions of politics.

Molyneux, Maxine, and Thomas Osborne. 2017. “Populism: A Deflationary View.” Economy and Society 46 (1): 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085147.2017.1308059. pp. 5-6


2020-09-24

Overthrowing the 2020 Election, US Safety and the World’s Future

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by Neil Godfrey

Over the past week I have been sifting through tweets, newsfeeds, video clips to collate the evidence that Trump has no intention of allowing the election of November 2020 to result in his removal from office. Yet in the last few days Trump has come out and publicly declared just that. There is no need to direct attention to the signposts that have marked the way over this past year since Trump has now made no secret that he will not accept anything other than his return to power. In his most recent statement he repeated his intention not to accept ballots — add to that his stacking of the courts and his demonstrated willingness to use the army to “dominate” U.S. cities.

The only question is, What is the legitimate and necessary response to his declared intention? It is not just a United States problem. The future of human civilization is threatened by the vanity of a single man and a party spellbound or intimidated by him. If one can blindly deny the world’s highest number of deaths from covid-19 in one’s own nation (or say those who are dying don’t matter because most of them are of little consequence to the national economy) then we are living in Fantasyland to expect a thought for future disasters within the US and beyond. From The Science Show:

Today we have evidence of three domino-like connections.

The first one is that rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic is speeding up thawing of permafrost, which makes the jet stream meander, which in turn leads to more droughts and forest fires, which in turn causes even faster heating when the forests emit carbon dioxide.

The second domino is when melting of Greenland is slowing down the heat circulation in the North Atlantic, which in turn is reinforcing droughts in the Amazonian rainforest, drying out and resulting in fires and huge emissions of greenhouse gases when the forest irreversibly moves towards a savanna state.

The third domino risk is when ice sheets in the Arctic and Greenland show evidence of being connected via the oceans to Antarctica. When the Arctic melts, the exchange of heat in the ocean from the southern to the northern hemisphere will slow down, and this means that the ocean around Antarctica gets gradually warmer, which will result in huge glaciers being lubricated by hot surface waters and thereby gliding faster into the ocean with an ultimate risk of not just one- to two-metre sea level rise, but over ten metres.

. . . .

Thirty years ago, we could perhaps ignore the fact that the world’s major ecosystems, like the Amazon rainforest, like the temperate forests and the world’s peatlands, were global commons that we need to protect together. Earth was so biologically intact, and thereby resilient, and our carbon footprint was so limited that Earth could absorb national mismanagement without putting living conditions for all of us at risk. Not anymore.

Think about the following. We are at 1.1°C of global warming. We must not exceed 1.5°C and certainly not go above 2°C. We are on track to take us to 3° or 4°C of warming. If we are going to have any chance, global emissions must start to decline this year and then be cut by half by 2030, then cut by half again 2040, and then reach zero by 2050. This is what we call the carbon law; cut emissions by half every decade and you follow science.

But this will only work if the planet does not surprise us. That is, all ecosystems and all the ice sheets and all the storage of energy and conveyor belt heat in the oceans must remain intact. If we were to lose the Amazon rainforest, it could potentially add another 1°C of warming by itself. If we were to lose all of the Earth’s temperate peatlands, this could potentially lead to another 1°C warming. . . .

This is no time to be treating Trump as “just another candidate” or the election as “just another election” as has been happening throughout history. And it’s no time for other nations to be treating the United States as a “good global citizen”.

 


2020-09-21

The Free Press Gave America Trump — ?

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by Neil Godfrey

An insider’s view of the first Trump campaign (from Michael Cohen’s Disloyal)

“What about self-funding the campaign,” Trump said to me one afternoon.

I knew there was no way he was going to spend his own money on politics. He was far too cheap, to begin with, and he was far less liquid than was understood by outsiders, but he appeared to be seriously contemplating the idea.

“I don’t want to take money from a super PAC,” Trump said. “A billionaire can’t ask people for five bucks. Maybe I’ll self-fund the primary but do it cheap. I don’t need to spend a lot of money because we’ll get all the free press we want.

Please pause over that final sentence and read it again. And again. And again. Because if you want to understand how Donald J. Trump became president, you have to grasp the essential fact that by far the most important element wasn’t nationalism, or populism, or racism, or religion, or the rise of white supremacy, or strongman authoritarianism. It wasn’t Russia, or lying, or James Comey, though all of those forces were hugely influential. It wasn’t Hillary Clinton, though heaven knows she did all she could to lose the election.

No. The biggest influence by far—by a country mile—was the media. Donald Trump’s presidency is a product of the free press. Not free as in freedom of expression, I mean free as unpaid for. Rallies broadcast live, tweets, press conferences, idiotic interviews, 24-7 wall-to-wall coverage, all without spending a penny. The free press gave America Trump. Right, left, moderate, tabloid, broadsheet, television, radio, Internet, Facebook—that is who elected Trump and might well elect him again.

The underlying reasons were both obvious and hard to discern, and it continues to amaze me that this phenomenon isn’t a central part of the conversation about the current plight of the United States of America.

Start with the proposition that Trump was great for ratings. If you’re a right-wing AM radio commentator, or a lefty Brooklyn political podcaster, you were making bank talking about Trump. It’s like a car crash, with people unable to avert their gaze. The Boss knew this and he knew how to exploit the greed and venality of journalists because he was (and is) an expert on the subjects. But there was something deeper and more primal in the way the media obsessed over Trump, as I did. Trump was a great story. He was chaos all the time. By five a.m. every day, he’d created the news cycle with his stubby fingers sending out bile-flecked tweets attacking anyone or everyone. In this way, as in so many others, he was the absolute opposite of Obama. Instead of No Drama, it was Drama All the Time.

The thing that astounded me, and still does to this day, was that the media didn’t see that they were being played for suckers. They didn’t realize the damage they were inflicting on the country by following Trump around like supplicants. What Trump did was transparent, once you identified it, and this remained a central fact of the campaign. If interest in Trump was waning, even just a little bit, he’d yank the chain of the media with an insult or racist slur or reactionary outrage—and there would be CNN and the Times and Fox News dutifully eating out of his hands. Like so much about Trump, if it weren’t tragic, you’d laugh—or cry.

(Bolded highlighting is mine)

But one still has to factor in the people who actually love the car crash and see in it a promise that the “system” itself will be blown up to the benefit of the “ordinary folks”.


2020-09-12

Obama, the Tea Party, and Assaults on American Democracy

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by Neil Godfrey

Concluding an overview of Peter Kivisto’s discussion of “institutional openings to authoritarianism” in the USA. See Kivisto for the complete series. (Images, bolding, formatting, other sources are my additions.) The takeaway for me in Kivisto’s discussion is the pivotal role racism has played in enabling the presidency of Donald Trump. Little did I suspect that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s would lead what we see today in the political landscape. For another relevant perspective on Obama’s terms in office see the posts on Nancy Fraser’s From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump – and Beyond. .

The 2008 historic election of Barack Obama set in motion a reaction that was intense, uncivil, and unrelenting. . . . .

. . . . Republican Representative Joe Wilson upended congressional decorum by shouting that Obama was a liar while the President was giving a speech to a joint session of Congress. . . . 

.. . . . The Republican leader in the Senate quickly promised that the one objective of Senate Republicans would be to insure that Obama would not be re-elected, and to that end rejected bipartisanship at every turn. The right-wing media savaged him relentlessly, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported disturbing increases in the size and activities of right-wing hate groups, and funds from right-wing plutocrats flowed freely to mobilize the grassroots. . . . 

.

Obama had been exceedingly careful — too careful for many of his supporters’ tastes — in addressing issues about race. Moreover, he had to simultaneously confront two crises, the first being the blowback caused by the disastrous Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq and the second being the global financial crisis that began in 2007. Much of his agenda reflected both the need to respond carefully to these inherited problems, but beyond that he pressed what was essentially a pragmatic center-left set of proposals. His one major ambitious plan called for building on the New Deal and Great Society programs in addressing the fact that the United States was the only wealthy liberal democracy in the world that did not treat health care as a universal entitlement. He sought to expand health care coverage, reduce costs, and implement best practices that would make for a more efficient and effective health delivery system. And in so doing, rather than pressing for a single-payer system akin to Canada’s or expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, he hoped for a plan that would elicit bipartisan support. To that end, the plan he proposed bore a family resemblance to one developed by a conservative think tank in the 1990s and a plan that Mitt Romney created in Massachusetts during his tenure as governor. Obstructionism would make bipartisanship impossible, and thus the Affordable Care Act was passed without a single Republican vote in either chamber of Congress.

In this context, the Tea Party came to represent the crystallization of citizen opposition to Obama. The intensity of their vehement hostility to Obama can be understood by the fact that as right-wing populists, their enemies were twofold:

    • elites — governmental and academic, but not business
    • — and the congeries of “Others,” including blacks, immigrants, Muslims, and freeloaders. . . . 
. . . . Obama signified, was the very embodiment of, both enemies . . . .

. . . . He was the black usurper, his white mother in the end being irrelevant to this particular trope. He was the noncitizen, born in Kenya. He was the closet Muslim. At the same time, the Harvard Law graduate and part-time professor at the University of Chicago was a member of the elite liberal intelligentsia. Those who identified as strong Tea Party supporters, amounting to perhaps one-fifth of the electorate, were vocally unwilling to see Obama as a legitimate President.

Much discussion ensued about the precise character of the Tea Party. Was it a genuine grassroots movement or was it of the Astroturf variety, the product of the Koch brothers and other right-wing plutocrats? In The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism sociologists Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson see it as both, observing that “one of the most important consequences of the widespread Tea Party agitations unleashed from the start of Obama’s presidency was the populist boost given to professionally run and opulently funded right-wing advocacy organizations devoted to pushing ultra-free-market policies.” These include FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, the Tea Party Express, and Americans for Prosperity. The last of these is the creation of the Koch brothers, a nonprofit political advocacy organization. Its funders have spent millions pushing to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare and Medicaid, slash taxes, roll back environmental laws, and crush labor unions. For example, the organization shaped Governor Scott Walker’s assault on public sector unions in Wisconsin and has been a central player in shaping Rep. Paul Ryan’s agenda to roll back the welfare state. As oversight organizations promoting transparency have repeatedly pointed out, these operations are prime examples of the impact of dark money from wealthy right-wing donors who are able to keep their identities anonymous while spending freely to influence public policy.

Continue reading “Obama, the Tea Party, and Assaults on American Democracy”


2020-09-10

The Day the Evangelicals First Met Donald Trump

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by Neil Godfrey

SO HOW DID the amoral Trump come to be beloved by evangelical voters, a question that remains one of the abiding mysteries to this day? Begin with the premise that Donald Trump hadn’t darkened the door of a church or chapel since the age of seven, as he would openly admit in his past incarnation. Places of religious worship held absolutely no interest to him, and he possessed precisely zero personal piety in his life—but he knew the power of religion, and that was a language he could speak.

I lived in Trump Park Avenue and one of my neighbors was an evangelical pastor named Paula White. She had known Trump for more than a decade, after he’d seen her show on TV and he’d invited her to come to Atlantic City to give him private bible studies, her version of prosperity gospel the only conceivable version of Christianity that could appeal to Trump. Self-interested, consumed by the lust for worldly wealth and rewards, with two divorces, one bankruptcy, and a Senate financial investigation—she was a preacher after Trump’s heart. The fact that she was beautiful and blonde didn’t hurt, either.

As part of the division of labor in the campaign, I was assigned to lead the outreach to faith communities on behalf of Trump, mostly because having Roger Stone attempt to make those connections would be a farce. It was at this time that Paula White called me and said that she wanted to put together a group of evangelical leaders to meet with Trump to discuss his potential candidacy and the spiritual and political dimensions of his campaign. The idea was for Trump to solicit their support, so I readily agreed to help put the session together. More than fifty religious leaders came to Trump Tower to meet the Boss in a conference room on the 25th floor. Some of the most famous evangelicals in the country were there, like Jerry Falwell Jr., Pastor Darrell Scott, and Dr. Creflo Dollar, an Atlanta preacher who would later be charged with choking his daughter and ridiculed for soliciting contributions from his parishioners so he could
purchase a $65 million Falcon 7X private jet to “safely and swiftly share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide.”

As an organizer, I went to watch the proceedings, and what I saw was amazing, to put it mildly. Sitting around the long conference room table, the group started to discuss Trump’s three marriages, his views on abortion, homosexuality, family values, America’s role in the world, and God’s place in the Boss’s heart. As a little kid, Trump’s family had attended Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, where he listened to the sermons of Norman Vincent Peale. The Protestant preacher was the author of The Power of Positive Thinking and an early radio and television star, sermonizing about the materialistic advantages of American conservative religion, making him a hero to the folks meeting with Trump as a pioneer in blending or conflating wealth and Jesus in a way that somehow found the Son of God was all about the bling.

Trump milked the Norman Peale connection like a dairy farmer at dawn, not letting one drop spill. Peale’s version of God’s word revolved around tall tales he told that were completely unverifiable and calling for the banishment of thoughts or emotions that were negative, which must have penetrated young Donny Trump’s consciousness as a boy. Trump always lived in the present tense. He never looked backwards, except in anger or to blame others, which was part of Peale’s appeal to his followers. When Trump was sitting in the pews as a boy, Peale was one of the most famous pastors in the world, which had to impress the kid, but it was likely the cultlike egomania that he urged Christians to follow that seemed to have penetrated the little Donny’s impressionable brain, no doubt reinforced by his taskmaster father and hyper-ambitious mother.

As the evangelicals inhaled Trump’s Norman Peale horse shit, they solemnly asked to approach him to “lay hands” on him. I watched with bated breath. Trump was a massive germophobe, as I’ve noted, so the idea of dozens of sets of hands touching his clothing and skin would appall him, I knew. But even this didn’t faze the Boss: he closed his eyes, faking piety, and gave the appearance of feeling God’s presence as the assembled group called for guidance in determining the fate and fortune of Donald Trump, America, and the message of Jesus Christ.

If you knew Trump, as I did, the vulgarian salivating over beauty contestants or mocking Roger Stone’s propensity for desiring the male sexual organ in his mouth, as he would say less politely, you would have a hard time keeping a straight face at the sight of him affecting the serious and pious mien of a man of faith. I know I could hardly believe the performance, or the fact that these folks were buying it.

Watching Trump, I could see that he knew exactly how to appeal to the evangelicals’ desires and vanities—who they wanted him to be, not who he really was. Everything he was telling them about himself was absolutely untrue. He was pro-abortion; he told me that Planned Parenthood was the way poor people paid for contraception. He didn’t care about religion. Homosexuals, divorce, the break-up of the nuclear family—he’d say whatever they wanted to hear, and they’d hear what they wanted to hear. This was the moment, for me: the split second when I knew Trump would be president one day. It was an intuition, but it was also based on the intangibles. Trump’s answers to their questions were compassionate, thoughtful, Godly, in a way that I knew in no way reflected his beliefs or way of seeing life. He could lie directly to the faces of some of the most powerful religious leaders in the country and they believed him—or decided to believe him, a distinction with a real difference. Trump was imperfect, they knew, with his multiple marriages and carefully cultivated reputation as a womanizer. But he knew what they really cared about—the core, core, core beliefs. Anti-abortion laws, Supreme Court justices, opposition to gay marriage and civil rights, and the cultural war-like rhetoric aimed at godless liberals. That was Trump’s rat-like cunning, and it was a talent I knew then that he would ride all the way to the White House.

The prayer over, Trump opened his eyes as if he had indeed been in deep meditation and conversation with God.

“What do you think about me running for president?” Trump asked Pastor White in a reverent tone.

There was a silence in the room, as bowed heads were raised and eyes opened. This was no longer a question about the ambitions of a billionaire celebrity—it was about the soul of the nation; the Almighty was being summoned to guide the faithful. Paula White was very serious as she talked in a low voice, addressing the assembled in a passionate but measured way, Trump listening with yet more fake piety.

“I don’t think the time is right,” she replied, slowly.

“I don’t either,” Trump said, also slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully.

Cohen, Michael. 2020. Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. New York: Skyhorse.

Some interesting visuals in this clip:


2020-09-07

The Historical Road Leading Fundamentalist Christians to Trump

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by Neil Godfrey

This post follows on from Historical Background to President Trump – the Republican Party’s Shift . . .

Enter the Christian Right

The Christian right . . .

. . . was the term widely used during the 1980s to describe a religious social movement, while today the operative term in both self-presentation and in most media coverage is evangelical. The former carries with it a more overtly political dimension and a specific historical context, while the latter is a fuzzier term. For that reason, I prefer the term fundamentalist in characterizing movement leaders and organizations. It can be a term of disparagement, but in fact has greater analytic rigor, thus making it a more serviceable tool for analyzing this segment of American Christianity. (Kivisto, 92)

Fundamentalism

Images from The Public “I”

By the term fundamentalist Kivisto is referring to movements that grew out of those who in the 1920s named themselves “fundamentalists” and who identified their ideas with The Fundamentals (biblical inerrancy, miracles, etc) essays published and funded by Southern Californian oil millionaire Lyman Stewart. The Fundamentals identified a good many enemies of “truth”:

  • socialism
  • feminism
  • Darwinism
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Mormonism
  • modern spiritualism
  • humanistic psychology
  • the Social Gospel
  • and theological liberalism

Very often fundamentalists felt obliged to enforce their views on society through political and legal action. Recall the Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925.

Martin Marty, who led a major American Academy of Arts and Sciences project on fundamentalism, offered a succinct account of what fundamentalism is and what it is not:

  • “it is not the same thing as conservatism, traditionalism, classicism, or orthodoxy, though fundamentalists associate themselves with such concepts.”
  • “most fundamentalists do not conceive of themselves as being antiscientific or antirational on their own terms. . . But most fundamentalist movements dedicate themselves to representing alternative and, in their eyes, ‘proper’ science and reason.”
  • “fundamentalists are seldom opposed to technology as such, or to many of its specific artifacts. Technology, one might say, helped make fundamentalism possible.”
  • fundamentalists are not always poor, uneducated people who rationalize their hopeless lower-class circumstances through a religious movement. “Deprivation theories” are among the more discredited explanation today in respect to Fundamentalism. Indeed, many such movements prospered in America as old religious conservative groups moved into the middle class, and it is among the university-educated and professionally mobile Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and others that fundamentalism grows.”
We never see the term fundamentalism applied to movements which are not absolutist. The enemies of fundamentalisms everywhere are relativism, pluralism, ambiguity. (Marty p. 21)

In identifying the core components of fundamentalism, Marty begins by stating that it “is always reactive, reactionary,” forever responding to “perceived challenges and threats” posed by a “force, tendency, or enemy” that is “eroding, corroding, or endangering one’s movement and what it holds dear.” As such, fundamentalism is about defining boundaries, and defining them in bright, not blurred, terms: the world is us against them, with them being a sometimes shifting target. This means, Marty continues, that fundamentalism “is always an exclusive or separatist movement” predicated on beliefs that are defined in absolutist, black-and-white terms. It is for that reason that fundamentalists are dismissive of interfaith or ecumenical understanding and dialogue, opting instead for an oppositional stance against anyone who does not share their worldview. Marty concludes that fundamentalists are inherently absolutist, and, “With absolutism comes authoritativeness or authoritarianism” (Marty, 1988, pp. 20—21). (Kivisto, 93f)

Sociologist Martin Riesebrodt points out that fundamentalists, in their rejection of the world, either elect to withdraw from it or to control it. The latter option often means they seek to impose their beliefs and practices on the world through political activity of various kinds.

The strain of world mastering fundamentalists engaging in American politics since the middle of the past century includes such now largely forgotten figures as Carl McIntyre, a dissident Presbyterian and fervent anti-communist crusader — engaged as he saw it in a civilization struggle between the Christian West and the atheistic core of Soviet communism. He was hostile to anyone seen as fellow travelers, which included groups such as the ecumenically oriented National Council of Churches, making his views known to a radio audience via his “The 20th Century Reformation Hour.” He and like-minded fundamentalists represent the precursors to the contemporary Christian right. (Kivisto, 94)

1970s Movement Mobilization and Christian Nationalism

If the Southern strategy pushed the Republican Party into the camp of white nationalists, the Christian right’s self-understanding is shaped by an ideology of Christian nationalism.

The two most well known leaders were Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Both evangelized extensively through mass media. Robertson created Regent University and the American Center for Law and Justice, “which aimed to shape legislative agendas and fight judicial battles”. Falwell founding Liberty University in 1971 and Moral Majority in 1979.

Certain issues have been constant ever since the 1970s:

  • attempts to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion
  • challenges to the separation of church and state by pressing for school prayer and abstinence-only sex education

Underpinning all of the particular issues preoccupying the Christian right is the conviction that the United States is a Christian nation and that, as the name of Falwell’s organization indicates, the movement represents the beliefs of a majority of the citizenry. At the same time, the Christian right sees itself as under assault from enemies who threaten the cultural integrity of the nation. If the Southern strategy pushed the Republican Party into the camp of white nationalists, the Christian right’s self-understanding is shaped by an ideology of Christian nationalism. (Kivisto, 95)

These “world mastering fundamentalists” set themselves against “liberals, Hollywood, the media, the American Civil Liberties Union, and often, academics”, those they deem to be “enemies” who, because they are “hostile to religion and . . . are antipopulist” are therefore “fundamentally un-American“. [Compare the post on Americanism as an ideology and the treason of “un-Americanism”.] With such an outlook they (the fundamentalists) “reveal their anti-pluralist and thus intrinsically anti-democratic view of politics” (Rhys Williams). Continue reading “The Historical Road Leading Fundamentalist Christians to Trump”


2020-09-06

Historical Background to President Trump – the Republican Party’s Shift

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by Neil Godfrey

Peter Kivisto

This post begins a bare-bones outline of a few key historical developments that have brought us to where we are now. Anyone with a deep knowledge of U.S. history will find my treatment very basic indeed. I am using as a convenient source a book that sets out a basic overview of selected background developments that led to Trump’s ascendancy, Peter Kivisto‘s The Trump Phenomenon: How the Politics of Populism Won in 2016. (You can read the book online at Scribd. A couple of reviews will give you some idea of what others have seen as its strengths and weaknesses.) I am only selecting a few areas of Kivisto’s discussion in these posts. Developments in the media and political propaganda are most significant but I want deeper preparation before posting on that side of things. A related blog series is Fraser: From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump; also, America’s Radical Right in Context (Lipset Revisited). I have added hyperlinks copiously for the benefit of anyone (like me) who uses these sorts of outlines as springboards for further reading.

. . .

From World War 2 to the 1960s the two major political parties were both centrist:

DEMOCRATIC PARTY : Center-Left
a coalition of . . .
REPUBLICAN PARTY : Center-Right
a coalition of . . .
labour unions big business and traditional main street conservatives
leftists who had moved toward the political center from the New Deal forward fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and social liberals
Southern conservatives — the Dixiecrats a core of right-wing radicals, during the 1950s associated in particular with the John Birch Society, a virulently anti-communist organization that operated with secret cells and abounding in conspiracy theories about communist penetration of the federal government and other institutions.

On the John Birch Society:

Fred Koch

One of the founding members of the Society was Fred Koch, the founder of Koch Industries and the father of Charles and David. Party leaders saw these extremists as a threat to conservatism and undertook campaigns to contain rather than encourage them. Efforts were made, for example by William F. Buckley, to keep the Society’s members in particular and the extremist right in general out of influential roles in the party. However, over the course of several decades, as the success of the brothers Koch attests, the radical right has succeeded in reshaping the party and moving it far from its nineteenth-century roots. The turning point in the party’s remake began in the wake of the tumultuous 1960s — an era in which the combined impact of

the civil rights movement,

growing opposition to the Vietnam War,

and the counterculture

set the stage for what has played out for over a half-century later.

As Jane Mayer has chronicled in Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right on the funding sources of the radical right, the Koch brothers are an important component of a much larger group of donors, including prominent family names like Bradley, Olin, and Scaife. Their collective attempt to reshape American conservatism into something considerably more reactionary was immeasurably aided by Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision opening the floodgates for “dark money” campaign funding.

(Kivisto, 88)

From Johnson’s Great Society to White Nationalism

Both passed with bipartisan support. (Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the legislation was advanced by the Democrat President Lyndon Johnson.) But in each case the Republican Party marshalled a larger percentage of its members in support of each bill than the Democrats did.

Why was there less support for these bills among Democrats? Answer: the Dixiecrat faction in the Democratic Party.

Compare the reactions to the Social Security Amendments Act (1965):

    • Republicans opposed it because they saw it as “creeping socialism”
    • A minority of Democrats also opposed it even though they had supported the idea of social security legislation in the 1930s — then such legislation was deemed of benefit to “their white constituents”.

Despite Republican support for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Johnson saw the writing on the wall: the Democratic coalition was about to unravel as the South, a once solidly Democratic region, was about to exit the party. Bill Moyers, then an aide to Johnson, reported that the President told him, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a very long time to come” (Moyers, 2004, p. 167).

The unravelling followed. Southern Democrats defected to the Republicans. Republican Richard Nixon implemented the “Southern strategy“:

For its part, the Republican Party opened its arms, with Richard Nixon implementing his “Southern strategy.” In researching a biography of Nixon, John A. Farrell discovered a document in which Nixon, during the 1968 presidential campaign, promised these new arrivals to the party that he “would retreat on civil rights and ‘lay off pro-Negro crap’ if elected” (2017, p. 9).

From Politico

The Republican Party of Lincoln was also sliding into another place:

At the same time, liberal and moderate Republicans elsewhere in the country were confronted with challenges from the right by opponents who were hostile to their centrism and their commitment to civil rights. Thus began what Purdum describes as “the long process by which the Party of Lincoln became the party of white backlash, especially |but not only] in the South” (2014b, p. 3).

Republican strategist Kevin Phillips foresaw the outcome clearly:

    • Blacks, given the right to vote by the Democratic Party, naturally supported the Democratic Party
    • Southern whites responded by flocking to the Republican Party

Also, the shift of the once Democratic South to a solid Republican base was secured . . .

    • As blacks continued to migrate to Northern states . . .
    • . . . Northern whites would migrate south, establishing a strong Republican base in the south.

Into the 1970s . . .

The 1970s set the stage for the final destruction of a center-right conservative party and the solidification of a reactionary one — a party in which people associated with the former were increasingly condemned by those in the latter camp as being Republicans in Name Only (Kabaservice, 2012).

Into the 1980s . . . 

The rise of Ronald Reagan to national prominence . . . in 1980 further signaled this rightward shift. Thus, Reagan launched his 1980 post-convention campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the brutal murder of three civil rights workers in 1964. Far from being there to memorialize their martyrdom, he was there to inform whites that he was on their side, using the coded language of states’ rights. The person who arranged this visit was Republican operative Paul Manafort, who would serve the Trump campaign until his Russian connections made it too problematic for him to continue in that role. His place in Republican politics from Reagan to Trump reflects a white nativism that has, arguably, defined the party ever since the implementation of the Southern strategy. It led to recurrently stoking racial fears and antagonisms, as with Lee Atwater’s Willie Horton (a convicted murderer who went on a crime spree while on furlough) television advertisements on behalf of his boss, George H. W. Bush. (Kivisto, 91f)

The bodies of slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner lie in an earthen dam June, 1964 just southwest of Philadelphia, Mississippi. — The Intercept

The next two historical waves are the emergence of the Christian Right and then the reaction to Barack Obama’s election. Those developments will be discussed next.


Kivisto, Peter. 2017. The Trump Phenomenon: How the Politics of Populism Won in 2016. Bingley, UK: Emerald.



2020-09-01

The Shape of the New World Dawning?

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by Neil Godfrey

American readers closer to the mises en scène will be able to help this outsider more clearly focus his observations.

From here in Australia I see

    • a President of the U.S. who speaks out against one side involved in violent clashes there, and speaks defensively on behalf of the others involved and who are his supporters;
    • a President of the U.S. who blurs into one violent image both peaceful and violent protests (those whom his own supporters oppose) as if they were all one and the same and all violent and destructive;
    • a President who focuses almost to the exclusion of all else the violence and destruction of one side without at any time addressing the issues, the complaints, the causes both immediate and long-term, that has led to the protests in the first place;
    • following from the point above, a President who frames all the protests (all of them being portrayed as violent) as a “law and order” issue, that is, as nothing more than a situation that needs to be crushed by force.

Is the above a fair synopsis?

Oh, and one other thing that keeps bugging me. An Australian Prime Minister who happens to be a Pentecostal fundamentalist and a bit of a narcissist (Australian style) and comes across as a pet puppy keen to make a good impression for his master so has dutifully acted on his master’s wishes and called on an investigation into a prejudged assessment of China’s criminal negligence with respect to the coronavirus. That’s all fine except that China is now powerful enough to throw around the sort of bully beef we expect the U.S. to apply to disobedient small-fry. Now Australia is subject to early trade sanctions and other disincentives (putting a squeeze on our hitherto lucrative Chinese student intake into our universities) from its largest trading partner as well as “arbitrary” detention of its citizens who happen to be in Chinese territory. Nice one — that sort of thing is supposed to happen to “them”, not to “us”. I still envy New Zealand for maintaining a degree of independence that seems far too rare in modern Australian history.

Posts on Vridar have been somewhat patchy in regularity lately with extended family business taking over priorities at the moment, but the above thoughts have been playing on my mind. So here they are.


2020-06-06

Democrat Mayors and Liberal Looting Thugs, Anarchists and Terrorists – 1209 Style

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by Neil Godfrey

I turned away from all of this news about Trump and his supporters condemning certain cities for their Democrat governors and mayors, and the poison of liberalism infecting those cities and their populations, and how the populations there, we are further assured, are terrorists, thugs, looters, . . . . to escape for a moment in medieval history and here is what I read:

Date: July, 1209

https://www.ville-beziers.fr/

Place: Béziers (south France)

Author: Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, a monk and media apologist for the “State” powers

Topic: the troublesome inhabitants in southern France who opposed the natural and beneficial order of the Catholic Church

Extract from his tract. We begin with a wonderful city, a great city, but one “infected with a poison”:

Béziers was a most notable city, but entirely infected with the poison of heresy. Its citizens were not only heretics, they were robbers, lawbreakers, adulterers and thieves of the worst sort, brimful of every kind of sin. I hope it will not weary the reader if I give some examples of the evil ways of these people.

Of course. They are heretics; it is never enough to leave the account there. Heretics are by definition opposed to all that is good so anecdotal and true media bytes are routinely sought out to drive home the point:

[85] An example of brutality. One night just at daybreak a priest of the city was going to his church to celebrate the divine mysteries, carrying a chalice. Some of the citizens laid an ambush, seized him and beat him violently, breaking his arm and seriously wounding him. They took the chalice, disrobed him and urinated on him to show contempt for the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

[86] Another example. On another occasion, in the church of St Mary Magdalene in the city, the citizens in an act of dreadful treason killed their lord Raymond Trencavel Viscount of Béziers, and broke the teeth of their Bishop when he tried to defend the Viscount from their attack.

Isn’t that always how these things work? Nonconformists, outsiders, . . . it’s never enough to leave it at that, for powers that feel threatened by their existence. Character defects, pernicious motives, are assumed. Instances of wrong become the defining characterization of all.

And the mayor or equivalent of the city was a “do-nothing” heretic at that. He just let the heretics do as they wished, without restraint. He even went so far as to show solidarity with his citizens . . .

[88] To return to our main theme; before the crusaders arrived at Béziers, the Viscount of Béziers, Roger (of noble birth and a nephew of the Count of Toulouse, who was following his uncle’s evil example and was doing nothing to restrain the heretics), had promised the citizens of Béziers that he would not under any circumstances desert them, but would stand firmly by them to the death and would stay in the city to await the coming of Christ’s soldiers. . . . 

The authorities gave fair warning to the people but they refused to comply. A show of force was necessary. Domination was necessary, a new type of army from the outside was brought in, and though it was a renegade group within that army who initiated hostilities, law and order was restored:

[90] Seeing this the servants of the army (who in the common tongue are called ribands) became extremely angry. They approached the city walls, and – without the knowledge of the chiefs of the army and quite without consulting them – mounted an attack. Astonishingly, they captured the city inside an hour. What more? They entered it immediately, killed almost all the inhabitants from the youngest to the oldest, and set fire to the city.


Peter. 1998. The History of the Albigensian Crusade: Peter of Les Vaux-De-Cernay’s Historia Albigensis. Translated by W. A Sibly and M. D Sibly. Woodbridge: Boydell.



2020-05-16

The Weaponization of Language (Part 2a): Censorship update

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by Neil Godfrey

From The Guardian the day after I posted The Weaponization of Language (Part 2): Censorship

Faced with an appalling US coronavirus death toll, the right denies the figures

Fox News is foremost in promoting the idea that official figures are inflated, whereas experts believe more people have died

.

As Donald Trump agitates for the US to reopen, the American right appears to have found a novel way to deal with the rising coronavirus death toll: deny it altogether.

Top Trump officials, huddled in the White House, itself the subject of a coronavirus outbreak, have according to reports begun questioning the number of deaths – and the president is among the skeptics.

It’s a handy thought process for an administration desperate to send Americans back to work even as deaths from the virus rise each day, with marked surges in some traditionally Republican states.

. . . . 

Worryingly, the disinformation push seems to be working. An Axios-Ipsos poll found that the death toll has become a political issue, 40% of Republicans believing fewer Americans are dying from coronavirus than the official toll says.

A separate study, published at the end of April, revealed the stark consequences of prominent figures underplaying the impact of Covid-19. A group of researchers tracked the spread of coronavirus among viewers of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, after Hannity spent weeks downplaying the threat.

“Greater exposure to Hannity,” the researchers wrote, “leads to a greater number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.”

.