Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

Jun 14, 2016

Crisis: Fascism, FBI Director, Left vs. Right, Trump Diagnosed
Sections                                                                                             crisis index 
Introduction

1.
Fascism Is Rising in the U.S. And Europe...and Donald
     Trump Is the Face of It

2. Obama Should Demand FBI Director James Comey’s
     Resignation Today

3. Six Lefts Make a Right
4. Returning to reality, however distasteful

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 14, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the rise of fascism in the U.S. and Europe and is interesting; item 2 is about FBI- director Comey, and is a bit less radical than I am; item 3 is about six former radical leftists who transformed into radical rightists: I think it is interesting, in part because I was raised by radical leftists and did not turn into a rightist; and item 4 is about Trump, with a prediction that he will loose the elections, and with a reasonable judgement of his person (on which meanwhile most intelligent and educated persons - even Republicans! - tend to agree).

1. Fascism Is Rising in the U.S. And Europe...and Donald Trump Is the Face of It

The first item today is by Fedja Buric on AlterNet and originally on Salon:
This starts as follows (and I grant it is here mostly because the title contains "fascism" in - what I consider to be - a reasonable way [1]):
Donald Trump has eviscerated his Republican opposition and his hostile takeover of the party of Lincoln is now complete. The Republican elites have fallen in line, normalizing the xenophobia, the racism, and the politics of resentment that fuel his campaign.

The unimaginable has become imaginable: a politician who has repeatedly threatened our democratic institutions has seized the imagination of a significant portion of the Republican electorate.  Even more disturbingly, the Molotov cocktail of words Trump hurls at the American republic has invited not condemnation, but uncomfortable silence, from the GOP elites, and playful giggles from those who should be opposing him.
I think that - with some excuses for a literary style and little space - is mostly correct. And indeed from my own point of view, that also concedes that not all Republicans caved in, this is understandable, because I think (since over four decades, indeed) that (i) many more persons are (somewhat or rather) totalitarian than know it or admit it, and (ii) this is especially so at both extremes, the far right and (considerable parts of) the far left. [2]

Next (skipping rather a lot) there is this on "liberalism":

By liberalism I mean not the narrow liberalism of the 19th century—which was mostly concerned with preserving privileges of middle class, white, propertied men—but its more activist reincarnation following the Second World War.  It is the latter that made it possible for conservatives, liberals, social democrats, and even some communists to rally around the idea that a free, just, democratic society is not only possible, but also desirable.
No, not quite, although I agree that part of my own difficulties are the rather different meanings of the term "liberal" in the USA and in Europe (and I am a European).

But I also have two more or less critical remarks, that probably derive both from my being a well-read philosopher:

First, "the narrow liberalism of the 19th century" certainly was not all the liberalism there was then. For one example, a rather famous instance of "a
liberal" was the Englishman John Stuart Mill (<-Wikipedia), and he certainly was not only or predominantly "
concerned with preserving privileges of middle class, white, propertied men", but with a lot more. And there are quite a few more, though probably less famous than Mill.

And second, I would say that the "
more activist reincarnation" of liberalism that arose after WW II indeed probably was "liberal" in some sense (and maybe in several senses) but it also may be made more precise:

It was oriented around ideas of fairness, equality and justice, each of which is more specific than "liberal", and none of which needs to be confused with or set equal to leftist conceptions of these terms, for in most cases these were - in the liberal tradition -  conceptions of
fairness, equality and justice that were quite compatible with capitalism and profit.

Next, again skipping rather a lot, I quote this because I like it, and because it is a good point that I can explain:

To quote Pope Francis from his speech in Strasbourg in 2014: “The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.”
Yes, indeed but there also is a pattern and an explanation for the gigantic flight bureaucracy has taken, which is the counterpart to the professionalization of politics (in Europe):

There is a considerable difference between politicians (in Europe) before 1980 and after 1980. Before 1980, most policians were private persons with some job, who got elected for a political job and did that for four or eight years, and
returned to their jobs again. After 1980, many politicians turned professional:

They usually studied law (and not a real science, which indeed also would have been more difficult); went into politics in their early twenties; and combined politics for tens of years and in diverse (always very well-paying) functions with (often) a career in a pseudo-science they mostly invented themselves and could practice in some "university" as professor, and inbetween political jobs. [3] In many cases, they continued this for decades.

At the same time, bureaucrats and state bureaucracy grew a whole lot, in part
because it were state bureaucrats (rather than either private persons of private foundations) who did much of the political jobs the professional politicians desired, which happened in part because state bureaucrats already work for the state, and in part because they were much more reliable for the professional politicians. [4]

Again, both tendencies (i) made politics "much more professional" and much more a task of professional politicians and "their" bureaucrats, and (ii) took much of politics and political actions out of the hands of ordinary people (unless these let themselves be directed by
bureaucrats).

I am against both tendencies, in part because they are anti-democratic, in part because they are authoritarian (the state and and its professional politicians and bureaucrats decide what politics should be and desire),
in part because this strongly favors corruptions, deceptions and lies ("by the state, for the state"), and in part because these tendencies favor the
rise of neofascism (<- Wikipedia), but these tendencies exist and they are strong.

Now we arrive (at last) at "
neo-fascist authoritarianism":

It is in this context of the rise of neo-fascist authoritarianisms that Trump has to be situated.  As I have previously written for Salon, Trump inspires his followers because of his authoritarian persona and not because of any specific policies he prescribes.  Unlike other politicians, who are all talk, he is a man of action, he continually reminds us. But what has to be emphasized is that this authoritarian persona would have been met with derision had he emerged at any other time since the Second World War.

I mostly agree but like to add one important point: Trump would indeed have
"
met with derision" "at any other time since the Second World War" because
until ca. 2000 there still was a free press in the main media, and since 2000 that has mostly disappeared (because of lack of advertisements and sales of papers and stations).

And the modern "journalists" don't ask difficult questions, don't criticize a person with The Greatest Eminence As Is Trump, and don't attack Trump's
many lies, many non-facts, or utter bullshit: They just lap it up and present
it to their viewers or media as if it were not lies,
as if it was mostly factual and as if did not contain any bullshit.

That is the main reason for Trump's rise and Trump's popularity, and - also
irrespective of Trump - the modern main media are not compatible with
real democracy
.

Finally, it is a pity that Fedja Buric mostly limited himself to this, but the
article is recommended.

2. Obama Should Demand FBI Director James Comey’s Resignation Today

This is by John Kiriakou (<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig:
From the beginning - and this is the only piece of "actual news" in this Nederlog, while I also do presume you cannot possibly have missed "The Orlando Shooting" if you followed the news at all the last few days:

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen reportedly had planned the massacre “for a long time,” according to CNN. Over the past several weeks, he had attempted to buy military-grade body armor, and he had successfully purchased a Glock semi-automatic handgun and a long gun. And the FBI did nothing.

The FBI knew that Mateen had worked for G4S Secure Solutions, one of the world’s largest private security companies, for which he had apparently passed a background investigation. FBI officials knew this because they had interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014. The interviews were conducted because he had expressed support for a suicide bomber. And still the FBI did nothing.

I suppose these facts are all true, and there are more similar facts related to other terrorists.

Kiriakou concludes as follows:

The same thing is still happening. The FBI’s ongoing, long-term incompetence has led to the deaths of far too many Americans. San Bernardino and Orlando are only the beginning. If the FBI can’t do its job, if its only counterterrorism successes are when it entraps hapless idiots who don’t know any better and who never had any intention of committing a terrorist act, it should be scrapped. At the very least, President Obama should immediately demand the FBI director’s resignation. That should happen today.
But I don't believe this will happen and I do believe that in fact Kiriakou is too kind: He does quite correctly say "This is a longstanding pattern", and I agree, but my conclusion is more radical, for I think it is more likely that the FBI won't do its job, because it quite likes terrorism, perhaps not as such, but because each murder committed by some terrorist increases their chances to plunder each and any computer they can somehow reach, and that is their overarching end.

It may be a cynical explanation, but it is an adequate one (I think).

3. Six Lefts Make a Right

This is by Jonathan Bronitsky on The American Conservative:
This is here mostly because of my strong leftist background, which indeed
also was different from the background of the six former leftists treated
here, in a review of Daniel Oppenheimer's "Exit Right", in that I am an European, and I was raised as a communist child by communists [5].

I will quote and comment three bits, and the first is this:

Throughout the Cold War, conservatives had a certain advantage in the competition of ideas—the battle between the West’s right to pursue happiness and the East’s pursuit of the right to happiness. The USSR—not to mention its despotic affiliates across the globe—was more than a temporal nightmare; it was the actualization of the left’s original sins. Totalitarianism was unavoidable: it was the only end because Marxism, from its start, misread human nature, overestimating the ability of man to master the forces of the universe. Yet the highest ambition of Marxism was a supremely righteous one, or so it seemed, born of the Age of Reason: pure equality.

Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary who himself had flirted with radicalism in the early 1960s, once explained that communism’s danger—and its appeal to intellectuals—lay in the fact that the creed insisted that it was the ultimate fulfillment of the democratic ethos. (..)
For all ideologies of the left are tied to the Enlightenment, with its emphasis upon predetermined progress via reason and the accumulation of quantifiable knowledge.
First of all, while the six men that are dealt with in the book (a bit more on them below) were American communists or marxists, and while I also was a communist till I was 20, mostly because my parents were - real, intelligent,
if not highly educated - communists all their adult lives, I want to insist that
what pulled these six men towards the left was less communism than the (classical) leftist outlook, that I also want to sketch briefly here:

The classical leftist outlook was (indeed) strongly based on the Enlighten- ment, on great respect for real objective science, logic and mathematics; it was based on the moral norms of fairness, equality, and justice; and it was (apart from communism) liberal in the sense that it was for pluriformity, for free discussion of all ideas and values, and for laws and regulations that protected this pluriformity (like the First Amendment (<-Wikipedia)).

Also, there were quite a few leftist intellectuals who were not communists at all, and who never had been, and who were, while being leftists, strong defenders of freedom. One fine example is Bertrand Russell.

Next, all of the last two paragraphs applies to me, and it was especially the
combination of (i) my strong distaste for totalitarianism (ii) my refutation of
some of Marx's ideas (which I had studied fairly closely between 16 and 19) and (iii) my meeting with Russell's books when I had just turned 20, that led to my giving up Marxism and communism when I was 20.

Finally, while I have not read "Exit Right", I know some of most of the writers who occur in it, and I don't think any of them had my kind of history: They were not Europeans but Americans; they were not educated in communism, but converted to it; and when they ceased being communists they were all a lot older than I was when I ceased to be one, and they also reacted a lot more radical than I had when I was 20 and lost my faith in Marxism. [6]

Next, here are the persons who are dealt with in "Exit Right":
This is the important—and I’m pretty sure, inadvertent— message tendered by Daniel Oppenheimer in Exit Right. The book consists of six brilliantly penned vignettes, each one digging into the causes behind an eminent individual’s departure from the left. The starring roles are filled by Whittaker Chambers, Communist “underground” member turned Christian; James Burnham, Workers Party comrade turned National Review contributor; Ronald Reagan, labor union president turned Republican icon; Norman Podhoretz, New Left fellow traveler turned Commentary editor; David Horowitz, Black Panthers proponent turned right-wing firebrand; and Christopher Hitchens, underdog ally turned Iraq War cheerleader.
I know of all of them, and some indeed from my twenties: I have read
(at least) essays by Chambers, books by Burnham, and essays by Horowitz
and Hitchens, although I should also say that apart from Burnham's "The Machiavellians" I neither agreed with what I read nor profited much from it,
indeed in good part because I had given up Marxism and communism at 20
and also did not have to explain or excuse writing Marxist articles or books
for several decades, nor needed I explain partaking in communist activities.
(I did but this was really very minor stuff.)

Finally, this is from last paragraph of the article:
Exit Right isn’t really about, as advertised, “how we come to believe at all.” It’s about how we come to un-believe.
Quite possibly so, but again this does not apply to me: I never defended the
totalitarian aspects of communism; I left it at 20; and I also "converted" to
something much less radical than these six men did, namely to a strong
sympathy for science, logic and the philosophy of Bertrand Russell (<- Wikipedia), who was a leftist for most of his life, but never a Marxist and never a totalitarian.

The article is recommended.


4.
Returning to reality, however distasteful

The final article today is by Robert Paul Wolff on The Philosopher's Stone:
This is mostly here because of the prediction Trump will loose the presidential elections, and because of the judgement about Trump. I start with the first:
Last December, my curiosity piqued by the conventional wisdom that Trump could not win the nomination unless he drew more than 50% of the vote in the primaries, I carried out and posted on this blog a careful calculation based on two assumptions:  That there would be three candidates left in the race until late in the primary season [Trump, Cruz, and Carson, or Trump, Cruz, and Rubio] and that Trump would draw between 35-40% of the vote.  I concluded that under those conditions, he would win the nomination.  I was right.  Emboldened by my success, I return now to the task of prognostication.
(..)
The Democrats will regain control of the Senate, and will gain seats in the House, but will probably fall short of regaining control, although it is not impossible that they will gain the 30 seats needed to make Nancy Pelosi once again Speaker.
I strongly hope he is right, but otherwise I have no ideas, and indeed I do not engage in prognostications.

And here is Wolff's judgement of Trump:
But what has eased my deep anxiety about the prospect of a Trump presidency is the clear evidence that Trump is utterly incapable of controlling his self-destructive impulses.  It has very quickly become the conventional wisdom that he is a narcissistic bully, but in addition he has, as Elizabeth Warren noted, a very thin skin.  He is compulsively incapable of ignoring criticism from any source, and his response to it is becoming increasingly desperate and unconvincing.
(..)
That he is despicable goes without saying.  That he is a non-stop braggart is well established.  But he has acquired, perhaps it now appears unjustifiably, a reputation as a shrewd businessman, which would seem to imply some capacity for acknowledging and adjusting to reality.  There is a good deal of evidence accumulating that he completely lacks that capacity.
I agree with all of that, and indeed would add that - by now - most intelligent and somewhat educated persons agree. Alas, that is no reason to conclude Trump will fail in his presidential bid, simply because most Americans are not really intelligent nor really well educated.

But as I said: I strongly hope the prediction that Trump will fail to get the presidency is correct.

---------------------

Notes

[1] I know that I have strong personal reasons to be interested in fascism (my grandfather was murdered by the Nazis, my father spent more than 3 years and 9 months as "a political terrorist" in German concentration-camps) which most simply lack, but I also think that (i) fascism and neofascism are good ideological explanations for parts of the present political landscape, regardless of your (lack of) personal reasons to be interested in fascism/ neofascism and (ii) this often is denied in the USA for similar (strongly ideological, almost totally fact-free) reasons as "socialism" was decried there.

As to the title: This seems to me simply to state a fact, albeit indeed in the
form of a journalist's title.

[2] This simply is a fact, which I know more of than most because both of my parents were revolutionary communists. Also, the totalitarianism of the left
was one of my main reasons to stop being a communist when I was 20 (indeed
before I was a legal adult).

[3] In Holland it has been so arranged, since something like four decades now, that the professional politicians who "teach" their own personal brand of some heavily politicized pseudo-science at some "university" in fact remain all their lives "academics", whose posts are retained (often for many years) because the gentlemen and gentlewomen were occupied with working for the
government. (The reasons for that are financial (professors all are state-
bureaucrats in Holland, who are very well-paid) and protective: These professional politicians always have a very well-paying safe job.)

[4] So effectively the state bureaucrats took over much of what had before been parts of public democracy exercised by private individuals or
private foundations.

[5] Indeed, was definitely "a red diaper baby" when I was born in 1950, and I was raised by communist parents in another way than most children of
my age were. I think my own education was considerably more free than most of my contemporaries, and I was also raised (unlike the vast majority at the time) completely irreligiously. Then again, I should also say that while my parents were communists, they did not strongly insist to their children that
this was what they had to believe: In fact, my brother and I were told - quite
correctly also - that we had to make up our own minds when we were adults.
(And I have no complaints about my education: My parents did their best and
they were fair and intelligent. They also were mistaken, but then that is in fact
true of nearly all men in many things.)

[6] In fact, very little happened: I told my parents, who were dis- appointed "but I was just 20"; I told my friends (most of whom had communist parents like I did) all of whom disagreed with me (many indeed for 15 or 20
years, by which time I had long given them up), but who knew that I was not
like them and was much more interested in theories than they were (they were mostly of the Marxist conviction that "philosophers only interpret the world; the point is to change it"), and that was it. There was one more thing
of some importance, but that only hit me: I was the only one who had chosen
this way, and stood quite alone. (But this did not worry me, and certainly not
in my twenties.)


       home - index - summaries - mail