Dec 9, 2016

Crisis: "Populism", Ignorance, Parry, Reich, McCauley
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Donald Trump Continues the Manipulation of Populism
     by ‘Swamping Up’ His Path to Power

2. Donald Trump Deserves to Be Ridiculed—It’s the One
     Thing That Terrifies Him

3. How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing
4. Trump’s Creeping Tyranny
5. 'Welcome to the General Billionaires Administration':
     Pattern Emerges in Trump Cabinet

This is a Nederlog of Friday, December 9, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links and it consists (mostly) of some further deliberations on the meanings of Trump's election as president of the USA:

Item 1 is about an article that seems to me to confuse the meaning of "populism"; item 2 is about an article that looks like bullshit or ignorance to me; item 3 is about a decent and frightening article by Robert Parry; item 4
is about a
decent and frightening article by Robert Reich; and item 5 is about
a neat summary of Trump's goverment: The G&G cabinet, made up of Goldman Sachs executives and generals. (Alternatively: The B&B cabinet, of bullshitters and billionaires.)

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't.

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi and was correct since then (most or all days).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.The Mafia State

1. Donald Trump Continues the Manipulation of Populism by ‘Swamping Up’ His Path to Power

The first item today is by Paul Street on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

White middle- and working-class “heartland” voters helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in November. Now, Trump already seems to be betraying them.

Thinking about this reality, I am struck by the living historical relevance of Christopher Hitchens’ description of “the essence of American politics, when distilled,” as “the manipulation of populism by elitism. That elite is most successful which can claim the heartiest allegiance of the fickle crowd; can present itself as most ‘in touch’ with popular concerns; can anticipate the tides and pulses of public opinion. …” Hitchens wrote those words 16 years ago.

We might speak of that essence also as the manipulation of identity politics by elitism.
I can't say I am enlightened by Hitchen's description, for I know more than 50 years now that "the elite" ("the establishment", "the authorities") manipulate "the people" ("the fickle crowd", "public opinion"). Also, the problem is not so much that this has happened, but that it has continued to happen for the last 50 years, and in fact got very much stronger.

And the main reasons for that are that (i) most people are not intelligent and not knowledgeable, and no effort can make them so, and that (ii) the main- stream media and most of the  journalists working there are not so much "media" and  "investigators" as centrals of propaganda and deceivers - or that is what I think, and indeed the second point has grown stronger and stronger over the last 50 years, and especially during the last 15 years.

Then there is Chris Hedges, who is quoted to the following effect:
Speaking to the Real News Network in 2013, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges reflected on how U.S. major party electoral politics is an elite-run sport in which a corporate-managed electorate is identity-played by a moneyed elite that pulls the strings behind the scenes:
Both sides of the political spectrum are manipulated by the same forces. If you’re some right-wing Christian zealot in Georgia, then it’s homosexuals and abortion and all these, you know, wedge issues that are used to whip you up emotionally. If you are a liberal in Manhattan, it’s—you know, ‘They’ll be teaching creationism in your schools’ or whatever. … Yet in fact it’s just a game, because whether it’s Bush or whether it’s Obama, Goldman Sachs always wins. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.

This is better than Hitchens, for it names the elites that profit from the manipulations of the media, but the underlying two (or three) points are the same as I mentioned above: lack of intelligence or lack of knowledge on the side of great parts of "the people"; lack of honesty and presence of financial greed in the mainstream media; and the conscious changes to being willing and eager deceivers who effectively provide propaganda on the part of the mainstream media.

There is this on styles of manipulation:

Of course, the Republicans don’t manipulate populism in quite the same way as the Democrats. While the Democrats don the outwardly liberal and diverse, many-colored cloak of Hollywood- and Upper West Side-approved bicoastal multiculturalism, the GOP connects its manipulation to ugly (Hillary called it “deplorable”) white “heartland” nationalism, sexism, hyper-masculinism, nativism, evangelism and racism. The rightmost major party shades over into a kind of Amerikanner-like neofascism. Donald “Make America Great [Hate] Again” Trump played that nasty card to a chilling degree, sparking more “It Can Happen Here” (fascism, that is) fear than any U.S. political phenomenon in recent memory.

But in both versions, that of the Democrats and that of the Republicans, Goldman Sachs (and Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, et al.) always prevails.
I am sorry, but I do not think one can manipulate "populism" for populism itself is bullshit. If there is something that in reality corresponds to "populism" it are the lack of intelligence and the lack of probable relevant knowledge that characterize vast numbers of the people, who indeed in majority are born without much intelligence, but then also have been lied to extensively by their media, which makes them effectively have many prejudices that the people themselves do not recognize as prejudices.

Next, I had to look up "Amerikanner": It seems to be an American way of saying someone is from German descent (as Trump is).

And also I distinguish between fascism and neofascism (see note [2] for more) but indeed I also very much doubt that Street makes my distinctions, or knows as much as I do about either.

The article ends as follows:

Trump didn’t really “run a populist campaign.” The only major party presidential contender who came close to actually doing that was Bernie Sanders, who made opposition to the over-concentration of wealth and (hence) power the centerpiece of his candidacy. The media made sure to cover his more genuinely populist campaign (which attracted giant crowds across the nation during the primary season) with far less fanfare and frequency than it gave to every idiotic tweet and facial expression emanating from the quasi-fascist Trump.

People who dream that Trump is going to make things better for “the white working class” are in for a rude awakening. The masters of Goldman Sachs and the rest of the financial super-elite are slated to win again, as usual. You can take that to the bank.

The only real mystery is how far Trump is going to go in honoring his darker racist, sexist, nativist, white-nationalist and ecocidal pledges. And whether “we the people” can form a real broad-based opposition and popular resistance—one that can’t simply be dismantled in service to a big “get out the vote” campaign for Democratic candidates and their version of Hedges’ “game” and Hitchens’ “essence of American politics.”

Again, for me "populism" (<- Wikipedia) is itself a propaganda term, and should be avoided. If I were use it (which I don't) it is with reference to the fallacy known as "argumentum ad populum" that Wikipedia explains as follows (quoted without two note numbers):

In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for "appeal to the people") is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: "If many believe so, it is so."

This type of argument is known by several names, appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans"). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect.
It seems to me as if Paul Street is making the fallacy of the argumentum ad populum when he speaks of "populism".

2. Donald Trump Deserves to Be Ridiculed—It’s the One Thing That Terrifies Him

The second item is by Sonali Kolhatkar on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump has a thin skin. That personality trait is consistent with his large ego, desire to flaunt his wealth, portray himself as a playboy and aggressively fight every imagined slight.

I am sorry, but if you are talking as a journalist about the personality traits of Trump, you should know that he has been diagnosed by quite a number of psychologists and psychiatrists as a megalomaniac aka grandiose narcissist (which does explain his "thin skin"), and by quite a number of journalists as
a fascist or a neofascist (see note [2] for good definitions).

So if you do not mention that at all, as a journalist, but pretend you know Trump's personality, I don't think you are quite honest - and I don't say you need to agree with these judgements: I say you ought to have mentioned them.

Then there is this, which also does not seem to me to be quite honest:
The last time we had a president who was hugely unpopular was George W. Bush, and political comedians had a field day mocking his sentence structure and clumsy speech. But Bush gave little indication of how he was affected by the derision. Trump, on the other hand, appears to take the mockery extremely seriously, which is of course a large part of why he is so unsuitable to lead the nation, and why the resistance to him must exploit this weakness.
For the fact (it is not an appearance) that Trump takes mockery seriously is not "of course a large part of why he is so unsuitable to lead the nation": He is unsuitable as a president because he is a megalomaniac and a neofascist.

But Ms. Kolhatkar doesn't look to psychologists or psychiatrists to explain Trump, and she doesn't look at fascism or neofascism to explain Trump: She looks at a journalist of the extremely reliable and the thoroughly honest Washington Post (owned by Bezos) for enlightenment, who - she says - has "revealed" things like this:
Fisher further revealed that Trump’s thin skin is attached to deep anxiety, explaining that he “has worn this cloak of resentment all of his life and he believes that he’s never been accepted in any field that he’s in. There is a certain insecurity ... there is also a deep streak of narcissism.”
Then again, as far as I know Ms Kolhatkar has not looked up the meaning of narcissism (for if she did she would have had a decent explanation not only of Trump's "thin skin" but of quite a number of other prominent Trumpian features).

Here is the final bit I quote, given to another "revelation" by the Washington Post reporter:
After all, it is only a matter of time before others exploit this weakness of Trump’s. Fisher revealed, “He’s someone who is easily goaded ... it’s not difficult to do that, and competitors and his opponents realize that, and certainly other nations will realize that; and so there will be a temptation among leaders of rivals around the world to use that in whatever dealings they have with President Trump.”
I am sorry, but if you rely on a reporter from the Washington Post for this kind of "revelations" (all presented without the least evidence, also) I think either you are bullshitting me or you are ignorant.

3. How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing

The third item is b
y Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

A key reason why American foreign debacles have been particularly destructive mostly to the countries attacked but also to the United States is that these interventions are always accompanied by major U.S. government investments in propaganda. So, even when officials recognize a misjudgment has been made, the propaganda machinery continues to grind on to prevent a timely reversal.

In effect, Official Washington gets trapped by its own propaganda, which restricts the government’s ability to change direction even when the need for a shift becomes obvious.

After all, once a foreign leader is demonized, it’s hard for a U.S. official to explain that the leader may not be all that bad or is at least better than the likely alternative. So, it’s not just that officials start believing their own propaganda, it’s that the propaganda takes on a life of its own and keeps the failed policy churning forward.

I agree with the first paragraph but am doubtful about the other two quoted paragraphs and basically for two reasons: First, propaganda is not at all consistent. And second, I don't think it is so much that "officials start believing their own propaganda", but (rather) that many officials do not have a clear concept of propaganda.

Then there is this:

Ideally, in a healthy democracy, skeptics both within the government and in the news media would play a key role in pointing out the flaws and weaknesses in the rationale for a conflict and would be rewarded for helping the leaders veer away from disaster. However, in the current U.S. establishment, such self-corrections don’t occur.

I think the USA ceased to be a democracy around 9/11 and if it didn't - what with surveilling everyone and everything - it certainly ceased to be a "healthy democracy" then.

But Parry is mostly correct that both in the mainstream media and the governments since then there have been hardly any "skeptics", although they
do exist in the non-mainstram media.

Then there is this on the censorship that now started:

Yet, as part of the effort to marginalize dissent about the New Cold War, the U.S. government, some of its related “non-governmental organizations,” mainstream media outlets, and large technology companies are now pushing a censorship project designed to silence the few Internet sites that have refused to march in lockstep.

I suppose that if one considers the trillions of dollars in tax dollars that the Military Industrial Complex stands to get from the New Cold War, the propaganda investment in shutting up a few critics is well worth it.

Today, this extraordinary censorship operation is being carried out under the banner of fighting “fake news.” But many of the targeted Web sites, including, have represented some of the most responsible journalism on the Internet.

Yes, indeed. Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

In the Internet era, there will now be new-age forms of censorship. Your Web site will be excluded from major search engines or electronically stamped with a warning about your unreliability.

Your guilt will be judged by a panel of mainstream media outlets, including some partially funded by the U.S. government, or maybe by some anonymous group of alleged experts.

I am afraid this well may be correct - and may also be too optimistic, for Trump may soon have the laws in place that destroy the First Amendment and that will make it a crime to criticize Trump or his government.

And while I do not know this is what will happen, it certainly looks as if that is what Trump is trying to make happen.

This is a recommended article, and here is more on a similar line:

4. Trump’s Creeping Tyranny

The fourth item is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

On the evening of December 7, minutes after a local Indiana union leader, Chuck Jones, criticized Trump on CNN for falsely promising to keep Carrier jobs in the U.S., Trump tweeted, “Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!”

Since that tweet went out, Chuck Jones says “I’m getting threats and everything else from some of his supporters.”
As usual (it seems: I dislike Twitter and don't use it at all, and also avoid journalists' articles that quote a lot of Tweets: I am sorry, but I think that if you are happy to communicate with a maximum of 148 characters you probably are not intelligent [3]), Trump tweeted bullshit, baloney and lies.

Here is Reich's explanation, which is quite correct:

Trump doesn’t take kindly to anyone criticizing him – not journalists (whom he refers to as “dishonest,” “disgusting” and “scum” when they take him on), not corporate executives, not entertainers who satirize him, not local labor leaders, no one.

The President-elect’s tendency to go after people who criticize him by sending false and provocative statements to his 16 million twitter followers not only imperils those people and their organizations.

It also poses a clear and present danger to our democracy.

Democracy depends on the freedom to criticize those in power without fear of retribution.

No President or President-elect in history has ever before publicly condemned individual citizens for criticizing him. That occurs in two-bit dictatorships intent on stamping out dissent.

Yes, but I think Trump would love to live in a two-bit dictatorship, and he may very well try to organize it. And the following reference is also correct:

No President or President-elect has ever before bypassed the media and spoken directly to large numbers of his followers in order to disparage individual citizens who criticize him. That occurred in the fascist rallies of the 1930s.

I do not know what Trump's presidency will bring, except that I do know it will be quite horrible, and may well be the end of the USA and the start of the NUSA i.e. the Neofascistic/New USA.

5. 'Welcome to the General Billionaires Administration': Pattern Emerges in Trump Cabinet

The fifth and last item today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Another day, another cabinet appointment for the incoming Donald Trump administration. On Thursday, he nominated
fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to secretary of Labor while Wednesday it was
former Marine General John Kelly to head Homeland Security. And, as observers are pointing out, a pattern is emerging as the future commander-in-chief appears to be building a "government of generals and billionaires."

"The new presidential administration is shaping up as the complete alliance of Washington insiders, parasitic finance capital (aka Wall street, etc.) and the massive military-security complex," columnist Eric Sommer wrote at CounterPunch on Wednesday.

Yes indeed. Here is more, with a good sharpening:

If the Trump administration is a pair of bifocals, the other prescription appears to be one of corporate power.

"It's the G&G cabinet," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) quipped to the Post. "It does seem to be fairly limited to Goldman Sachs and generals."

An analysis by NBC's Ben Popkin published Wednesday found that the wealth of the combined Trump appointments "tops $14 billion—more than 30 times greater than that of even President George W. Bush's White House. And Trump isn't halfway done with his picks."

Yes, I like the phrase "It's the G&G cabinet": The main cabinet posts went to generals or Goldman Sachs executives. (Alternatively: It's a B&B cabinet, consisting of rightwing bullshitters and billionaires.)

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Other observers took to social media to voice their concern, or just laugh at the insanity:

President: billionaire
Education: billionaire
Commerce: 2 billionaires
SBA: billionaire
DOD: general
DHS: general
NSA: general

Yes. And this is a recommended article (but with too many tweets).

[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months verynow. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

I am saying this not because I want to offend but because I want to explain, and my own explanatory definition of neofascism is this:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

Also, I am rather certain that most (not: all) of those who style themselved as "neoliberals" in fact are neofascists as defined (even though they probably do not like the term).

And this is fascism as I defined it:
Fascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with centralized authority and a dictator, that suppresses the opposition through propaganda, censorship and terror, that propounds an ethics founded on discipline, virility, and collectivism, that has a politics that is totalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-equality, and anti-Marxist, that is also authoritarian, rightwing and nationalistic, and often racist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy, b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
See the following if you are interested: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions. (This lists 22 definitions of the term "fascism", and critically reflects on them.)

[3] Yes, I know that a few intelligent persons tweet. But I find it completely incomprehensible why intelligent people would deliberately limit themselves to 148 characters (that are only good for slogans or - rarely - aphorisms) when they have email. It really seems an enormous concession to the stupid and to stupidity.

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