Monday, January 23, 2017

Pawns of fascism, or superficial diversity as a tool of conformist groupthink

The marchers against the fascism that they see in the person of President Trump provide a demonstration of how the forces of fascism work.

Fascism depends on manipulating the fears of people via flattery (it’s basic marketing). Thus, for example, we have the doctrine of “humanitarian interventions” by which support for imperial hegemony is cloaked in up-to-date socially progressive tropes (as it always was: the white man’s burden, spreading the salvation of Jesus, spreading the salvation of democracy and free trade).

Calls to war, to regime change (even domestically now, as implied by Chuck Schumer’s call to civil war at Trump’s inauguration), to the destruction of other countries and the death, maiming, and displacement of millions of people – they need only to be preceded by a shoutout to a few trending demographics: LGBTQIA, mothers, daughters, wives and sisters, black and brown and red and yellow sisters and brothers, immigrants, working women, etc. For all of you and our shared dreams and wisdom and struggle, we (the still white-majority Wall St profiteers) are going to war!

Sold!

The voices against the rainbow coalition–sponsored war and pillage are then by definition racist, misogynist, homophobic – a basket of deplorables, irredeemable, subhuman, to be squashed like bugs, exterminated like vermin.

And any policy that does not directly address issues of gender, skin color, religion etc., no matter how unrelated they might be to the concerns at hand, is therefore mocked and opposed and and discussion shut down, violently if need be.

This is not to say that “conservative” fascism is not a threat, but that it should make people all the more vigilant against “liberal” fascism.

A pluralistic society does not mean only in appearance and gender; it also means different world views that can nonetheless accommodate each other and work together for a common good. Making fascism gay friendly is not progress except for gay fascists.

(Fascism may be too strong a word for some. How about “Reaganism”? Since Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party has stood, not for workers or the poor or even the middle class, but simply a slightly more socially liberal Reaganism, which is to say a toxic brew of neoliberalism at home and neoconservatism abroad. Since then, the Democratic and Republican Parties have differed only in which false populism they use to divert the voices of the people. With the hypermilitarization under Bush and Obama of the security state – both at home and abroad – however,  ... [See the pair of essays by Charles Hugh Smith: “The Collapse of the Left” and “The Protected, Privileged Establishment vs. The Working Class.])

Bernie Sanders turned out not to be serious about challenging the Democratic Party with a true populism (his refusal to respect the common cause with voters leaning toward Trump betrayed his true, narrow-minded, loyalty), so he lost and Donald Trump, who was indeed committed to taking on the Republican establishment, won.

Now we have hordes of Clinton supporters calling for unity against Trump. Clinging to the irrelevant fact that more people in general voted for Clinton (though she lost in 30 states and an estimated 85% of counties), they assert the right of the mob to deny the results of the election. With cynical lip service to the trending demographic groups, they assert the righteousness of disregarding the lives of half the people in the country. During the inauguration, many of the security checkpoints were blocked by such mobs, who felt completely justified in preventing fellow citizens, whom they could see only as “deplorables”, from taking part. Militant conformity (but now with your choice of skin color, sexual preference, and gender!).

(Their actions are compatible with China’s severe limitation of news coverage of the US inauguration. They echo the neonazi-friendly Maidan Square protests in Kyiv in 2014, egged on both physically and financially by the USA (to prevent the renewal of Russia’s lease of the naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea), to oust the democratically elected but Russian-friendly President Yanukovych in favor of EU vassalage and the second Tahrir Square protests in Cairo in 2013 to oust the democratically elected but Islam-friendly President Morsi in favor of restoring military dictatorship.)

That’s how fascism works. Above all, it deplores the processes of democracy. Again, it depends on manipulating the fears of people via flattery (simple marketing). It counts on, for example, putting a picture of a model in a head scarf or dreadlocks (or of an eagle and flag) on its posters to exempt it from and provide the excuse to disregard any critical response. It puts symbolism above substance, because the substance is precisely what it wants to hide or at least continue to get away with by distributing a few flattering sops. It is the false populism of power whose greatest enemy is true populism.

Today in the USA, consultant-class liberals fully support the death of democracy as necessary to protect their economic advantage and sense of cultural privilege, telling themselves that they are acting on behalf the lower orders who don’t know any better. And if “those people” don’t appreciate all we do for them, they can drop dead – they deserve to suffer! Vive l’établissement!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump inaugural address (transcript)

[Bernie Sanders might have given much the same speech (except that he did not have the conviction to run against the Democratic Party, as Donald Trump ran against the Republican, and so he lost).]

[T]oday we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the American people.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country.

Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry. […] One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. […]

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow. […]

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. […] There should be no fear […]

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. […]

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fake documents to foment fear of Russia: 1924 edition

From Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker:

The Daily Mail, a conservative London paper, published a forged letter. It was October 25, 1924.

The letter was purportedly signed by Grigori Zinoviev, a Russian communist leader, and addressed to the Communist Party in England. It appeared four days before the general election of 1924 – an important race for Winston Churchill, who had lost two previous campaigns.

The letter, marked “very secret,” talked of a “successful rising in any of the working districts of England.” Its prose had faintly Churchillian cadences in places – there were phrases such as “strain every nerve” and “pronounced its weighty word” – but with an admixture of bolshevistic pastiche. “It would be desirable to have cells (nuclei?) in all the units of troops, particularly among those quartered in large centres of the country, and among factories working on munitions and at military store depots,” the letter said. The headline in the Daily Mail was “Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters.”

Churchill’s devoted supporter Esmond Harmsworth wa the son of Lord Rothermere, publisher of the Daily Mail. Churchill’s close ally in Secret Intelligence, Desmond Morton, first forwarded the letter from an obscure Latvian source to the British Foreign Office, attesting to its authenticity.

Moscow called the letter a “clumsy forgery” and a “crude fabrication” and demanded an apology. ...

Churchill and other conservatives used the Zinoviev letter to unseat Prime Minister MacDonald. Churchill compared MacDonald to Alexander Kerensky, the weak Russian socialist leader who allowed the Bolsheviks to triumph.

“You all know the story of Kerensky,” Churchill said in a campaign speech, “how he stood there, like Mr. MacDonald, pretending that he meant to do the best he could for his country, and all the time apologizing behind the scenes to the wild, dark, deadly forces which had him in their grip.”

Churchill won his election. Still he couldn’t stop talking about the Zinoviev letter. Conspirators and revolutionaries “of every race under the sun” had assembled in Russia to plan world revolution, he asserted in the Weekly Dispatch. “Everywhere they have endeavoured to bring into being the ‘germ cells’ from which the cancer of Communism should grow,” he wrote. ...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wayward Heroes by Halldór Laxness

‘[T]he fear that a land’s rulers have of foreign conquerors is slight compared to their fear of their own subjects.’

••••••

‘“And as for your murderous deeds, they are worthy of praise by none but the fools who sniff long after you, whom you call your skalds. … Off with you, then, to perform deeds befitting a warrior: setting fire to people’s houses and killing everything that draws breath for your sea-kings or sovereigns – all in order to rule the world.”’

••••••

‘The saltmaker replies: “We have had plenty of kings in Norway, but the only ones that proved of any use to us were those that we sacrificed for good harvests and peace.”’

••••••

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Vermont Digger and Vermont politicians aid and abet anti-Russia hysteria

Erin Mansfield at Vt. Digger, while mostly furthering the dangerous, hysterical, and utterly unfounded ‘Russia is attacking’ narrative, nevertheless wrote:
An attempt to reach Neale Lunderville, the general manager of Burlington Electric, was unsuccessful. ...

Both Burlington Electric and state officials say the grid was not affected. ...

Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Co-op also participated in the Department of Homeland Security’s rigorous “risk vulnerability assessment” and found no threat to electric grid systems.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said his office has been in communication with the federal government and Vermont utilities about the incident.
Despite that reported communication, Shumlin stated:
Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling. I call upon the federal government to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident and undertake remedies to ensure that this never happens again.
Sen. Patrick Leahy stated that ‘he believes the Russian hackers were “trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”’

Rep. Peter Welch stated that ‘the attack “shows how rampant Russian hacking is. It’s systemic, relentless, predatory. They will hack everywhere, even Vermont, in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country. We must remain vigilant, which is why I support President Obama’s sanctions against Russia and its attacks on our country and what it stands for.”’

The Editor of Vt. Digger, Anne Galloway, who ‘believe[s] the [Washington] Post to be a reputable source’, casuistically defended the article and lack of retraction even after the Post itself published a correction after days of ridicule:
VTDigger never reported that there was a hack of the grid, only that Russians had used malware to hack a computer at BED. ... We did not report that the Russian government was behind the attack. Vermont politicians appear [to have] jumped to that conclusion, as did the Obama administration. We have no way of knowing if the Russian government was involved. That’s the purview of security officials. We can only quote others on that score. Based on these facts, our story is correct. Other news outlets, including Bloomberg, NPR, AP and ABC News, among others have published stories nearly identical to ours. ... While BED was not hacked, one of the utility’s computers, which was not attached to the grid, or the company’s customer information system, was. A nuance that seems to have been missed by many astute readers. ... At this point, I don’t see the need for a correction.
In short, ‘Russians’ is just a friendly word for all hackers, just as all malicious code is ‘Russian’ and any random infection is ‘hacking’. Any suggestion that the Russian government is implied is the fault of the reader, who should pay more heed to the opinions of their own government and its media mouthpieces.

One commenter wrote in reply (edited for sense):
The article begins: ‘Russian hackers penetrated a computer at the Burlington Electric Department that is not connected to the electrical grid, officials say. Burlington Electric found out about the malware when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified the utility about a hacking campaign called Grizzly Steppe.’

Acceptance – and reinforcement – of both the DHS storyline and the anti-Russia hysteria of the Democratic Party and their Republican allies could not be more clear.

A more neutral report might read: ‘A virus scan of computers at BED, prompted by the DHS, recently found malware code on one laptop. The laptop was not connected to the electrical grid. The code matches samples provided by the DHS as evidence of an alleged Russian-government hacking campaign that the DHS calls “Grizzly Steppe.” Independent cybersecurity experts, however, have characterized the malware as “off-the-shelf” code that is years old.’