Dec 21, 2016

Crisis: American Fascism (?), State Department, Bill Maher, Reich Interviewed
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Can American Fascism Be Stopped?
2. State Department Worried Trump Is Going to Be a
     Foreign Policy Madman

3. Bill Maher Nails 'Toddler' Trump's Terrifying
     Temperament and His Cabinet Picks

4. Robert Reich: Like a Tyrant, Trump Is Deploying Seven
     Techniques to Control the Media

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, December 21, 2016 (winter solstice: the days - where I live - are lenghtening again from tomorrow onwards).

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Robert Kuttner, who does not seem to have clear ideas about fascism; item 2
is about the difficulties of the State Department once Trump is president; item 3 is about a recent interview by Bill Maher about Trump and other things; and item 4 is about an interview with Robert Reich that I found disappointing (and I explain).

-- 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 (until and including 20.xii).

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. [0]

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.

1. Can American Fascism Be Stopped?

The first item today is by Robert Kuttner on AlterNet and originally on The American Prospect:

This starts as follows:

It is hard to contemplate the new administration without experiencing alarm bordering on despair: Alarm about the risks of war, the fate of constitutional democracy, the devastation of a century of social progress. Trump’s populism was a total fraud. Every single Trump appointment has come from the pool of far-right conservatives, crackpots, and billionaire kleptocrats. More alarming still is the man himself—his vanity, impulsivity, and willful ignorance, combined with an intuitive genius as a demagogue. A petulant fifth-grader with nuclear weapons will now control the awesome power of the U.S. government.

One has to nourish the hope that Trump can yet be contained. Above all, that will take passionate and strategic engagement, not just to resist but to win, to discredit him and get him out of office while this is still a democracy. We can feel sick at heart—we would be fools not to—but despair is not an option.

I agree with all of that except that Trump has "an intuitive genius as a demagogue": Not for me, and indeed for a reason Kuttner states: he speaks
like "a petulant fifth-grader", and while that may be quite convincing for his admiring audiences that also in large part seem to be made up of petulant fifth-graders, it does not hold for an intellectual like me, and indeed I doubt
it holds for any intellectual.

Next Robert Kuttner thinks Trump in fact committed a coup:

The coup had three ingredients: the flipping of an American election by Vladimir Putin; the suppression of hundreds of thousands of would-be voters; and the intervention of FBI Director James Comey to discredit an active presidential candidate, not once but twice. We have a true constitutional crisis, both in the character of the man who was elected and the fraudulent election. The new president has no legitimacy, but there is no process to dislodge him.

I say. I am not convinced Trump did (he may have, but I have not seen convincing evidence), and I reject the idea that the American elections were flipped by Putin, mostly for the reasons given in this article, that I reviewed a week ago: William Binney, Ray McGovern and Other Intel Experts Call Russian Hacking Allegations ‘Baseless’ (and these people are considerably more convincing on this topic than Kuttner).

Then there is this, and I don't agree with the second statement:

For Trump to win, the media had to play into his hands. The press did not know what to do with a candidate who dwelled in his own parallel factual universe.

"The press", at least the mainstream media, did know very well what to do: They did not correct the extremely many lies uttered by Trump; they gave him billions worth of free videos; and they covered much of his propaganda as if it were true, valid or at least credible.

Does Kuttner refuse to see this because he is a journalist? It seems so, for this second statement is extremely false: The least "the press" should have done is to insist that someone who lives "in his own parallel factual universe" is completely unfit to become president, and should be in a madhouse instead. But they did not do so, not at all.

Then there is this, which is another falsehood:

Strategic framing theory has demonstrated through brain experiments that once you have accepted the framing of a proposition, evidence doesn’t matter.

I am sorry but I am a psychologist, and this is just baloney: This assumes far more about the relations between human experiences and the workings of the brain than has been factually proved. (And neither "framing theory" nor "strategic framing theory" even occurs in Wikipedia.)

Then there is this:

The sense of a collapsing social contract went hand in hand with the erosion of American democracy, both in a civics-book sense and in a political economy sense. In a market economy, democracy is the only counterweight the people have to keep elites from making off with too much of the pie. Over the past several decades, money has crowded out real grassroots politics, causing politicians to spend more time cultivating fat cats than meeting with constituents.

Well... yes and no, and while I say "mostly yes" I also say that no explanation has been offered for "the erosion of American democracy". And since Kuttner rejects - it seems - that journalism has much to do with it, and only mentions that "money has crowded out real grassroots politics" also without giving the politicians any responsibility, I think this also fairly o very thin.

Then there is a whole section II of which I only quote the title:

II. Is Donald Trump an American Fascist?

The reason I do not quote anything from this section is that I know a lot about fascism, but I hardly recognize anything Kuttner quotes or says about "fascism", and he certainly in no way whatsoever attempts to define "fascism" (for which there are more than 22 different definitions).

What Kuttner does in this section can be illustrated by just one of the ten times he ends with "(Check.)" (always about completely undefined "fascism"):

Fascism scapegoats some demonized other, or sets of others. (Check.)

I am sorry, but very many non-fascists of quite a few different kinds also scapegoated or demonized others. So this is not at all typical for fascism, in spite of the suggestion by "(Check.)" that it does.

The same is true of most other characteristics Kuttner attributes to Trump.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

This is a time to defend core democratic institutions, to amplify all of the contradictions between who Trump pretends to be and who he is.
But what are "core democratic institutions"?! How can "the people" defend these, if the mainstream media lie and deceive a lot while "the politicians" "spend more time cultivating fat cats than meeting with constituents"?!

So all in all this was a quite disappointing article.

2. State Department Worried Trump Is Going to Be a Foreign Policy Madman

The second item is by Joan McCarter on AlterNet and originally on Daily Kos:
This is from near the beginning (and is quoted in the original):
As Trump veers from one surprise tweet to the next—at times misspelled 140-character statements that seem to contradict decades of U.S. foreign policy, State Department bureaucrats are facing a unique challenge: How to follow the lead of a president who seems uninterested in consistency, protocol and nuance?
The answer to that - it seems to me - that it will be very difficult or impossible to follow the lead of a president who only acknowledges his own fantasies and his own lies as true.

Here is part of the reason:
No one in the Trump sphere seems to be able to do anything about that itchy Twitter finger, or the phone calls. Or maybe, in their arrogance and ignorance, they don't understand the import of what it is Trump is doing. This is all terrifying for the State Department, which has the responsibility of carrying out that policy and of protecting continuity and consistency in the messages that the rest of the world is hearing.
And here is some more:
Now we've got an actual madman going to the White House, a man who appears to have no control over his impulses and no understanding of why following them is dangerous. For the existing State Department employees, it's a problem.
I agree that Trump is "an actual madman", but I do so as a psychologist, and would like it if journalists who qualify Trump as a madman make clear in what sense he is - and by now they should not have major difficulties in doing that,
e.g. because of this letter to Obama by three prominent psychiatrists, who think the same about Trump as I do.

3. Bill Maher Nails 'Toddler' Trump's Terrifying Temperament and His Cabinet Picks

The third item is b
y Janet Allon on AlterNet:

This is from near the beginning:

Now that that coup is even closer to being accomplished, the comedian sat for a somewhat wide-ranging interview with ATTN, touching on topics like Trump's temperament, marijuana policy, the future of the Democratic party and Trump's certifiably insane cabinet picks.

In fact, the interview is here and takes a little over eight minutes:

And the above quotation continues as follows:

“The appointments are from opposite-land,” he said. “For education, somebody who doesn’t believe in public education. Ben Carson, for example, surgeon general, maybe because he was a surgeon. No, housing. Because what? He lives in a house?"

Then there is the appointment of Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, the primary responsibility of which is to safeguard the country's nuclear arsenal. "The 'oops' guy is in charge of our nukes?" Maher asked incredulously.

Yes indeed - but I think this and other similar appointments are meant to indicate that these governmental tasks are going to be ruined, destroyed or (anyway) going to be finished somehow because, according to Trump, "private enterprise" can do these things much better (which is a lie).

But Trump has a qualified right: He is right that "private enterprise" is much more profitable for the crooked stealing rich that Trump heads than a democratically controlled government.

There is also this, with which I mostly disagree:

To anyone who says let's wait and see what Trump is going to do, the cabinet picks are a very clear indication of his intentions. "We're in uncharted territory," Maher said.

No, I don't quite think so. I agree that it is very difficult to predict a madman like Trump is, but I think the territory Trump desires to preside over is rather
clear: Its polite propaganda name is "neoliberalism", but in fact so far as Trump and his cabinet are concerned it is the extreme neoconservative side of it that is
best described as neofascism as I defined it (see item [1]).

Indeed Trump checks on nearly all points - except that he doesn't have the power yet to destroy what remains of the free press.

Finally, this is about the risks Bill Maher runs now, which I think are quite real:

The fact that the man who once sued Maher for making a joke at his expense now holds the reins of power is a tad terrifying.

"All I could think is if he did that when he didn’t have power, what’s he going to do now that he has the FBI?” he said. “I mean, George Bush hated me and I didn’t like him, but no matter how bad they were — all the Republicans — it was like a glass-bottom boat. I’m looking at those sharks, but they can’t really get me. And now, I feel like the shark can get me or anybody.”
Yes, indeed. In fact, I wonder how long Bill Maher will be allowed to last if Trump is president. I don't know, but I am not optimistic, and we will probably soon find out.

And this is a recommended article.

4. Robert Reich: Like a Tyrant, Trump Is Deploying Seven Techniques to Control the Media

The fourth item today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:
Today marks the 146th day since Donald Trump last held a news conference. As the Electoral College backs Trump, we speak to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "Democracy depends on a free and independent press, which is why all tyrants try to squelch it," Reich recently wrote. "They use seven techniques that, worryingly, President-elect Donald Trump already employs." We speak to Reich, who discusses how Trump uses seven techniques to control the media.
In fact, the present article is about these seven techniques, which Reich unfolded on November 27 last, and which I reviewed on November 28. (You are recommended to read the first of these two links, at least.)

And I like to start this review by saying that while I agree with most Reich says in the above quote, and indeed also with his "
[d]emocracy depends on a free and independent press, which is why all tyrants try to squelch it", I also think that most of "the democratic press" - namely, what I refer to as "the mainstream media" - in fact quite willingly has destroyed itself, and has done so mostly over the past 15 years.

The above is a bit vague, what with
"the democratic press" and "the mainstream media", but I think it is correct:

Most of the mainstream media already ceased to be a real democratic free press, and have not been so for quite a long time. Indeed, Donald Trump probably owes his election most of all to the mainstream media, for these systematically declined to attack his very many lies, and did so because they made a lot of money by uncritically propagandizing nearly all of Trump's lies.

It is not as if the mainstream media are "the free press" they pretend to be, and are suddenly threatened by a tyrant: the mainstream media mostly destroyed itself by giving up serving facts and truth, and by replacing this by serving propaganda and lies.

Here is Reich's answer to Amy Goodman's question what he thinks "Donald Trump represents":

ROBERT REICH: Well, Donald Trump, besides, in my view, not being qualified to be president and, actually, on the campaign trail and even after the campaign was over advocating, legitimizing and enabling people to be quite hateful in America, if they were already leaning in that direction, Donald Trump also does not have any understanding of a democracy.
I say, for I find this quite amazing and quite mistaken: Instead of saying that Trump is an evident rich man who serves the interests of the rich while pretending to serve the interest of the poor, or instead of saying that his program, in so far as it can be deduced from his words, looks very much like an American kind of neofascism (check out my definition!) Reich sides with the politically correct who blame hateful speech, and seems to think Trump's main shortcoming is his lack of understanding of "democracy".

As I've indicated, this seem to be two serious mistakes. Here is more by Reich:
ROBERT REICH: Donald Trump has, almost from the beginning of his campaign, and certainly in the—and he’s continued it—in the post-election period, to denigrate and berate the media. He holds rallies, and he talks about the dishonest media. He uses adjectives like "scum" and "scoundrel" to describe the media. He picks out individual members of the press who have criticized him, and talks about them in very critical terms or mocks them. This is not the habit of a democratic—democratically elected president.
Yes, but Reich does not remark here on what I think he should have: The fact that the mainstream media have changed themselves into propagandists and liars for the government or for people with lots of money rather than maintained a respect for facts and truths.

Also, the mainstream media have been mostly propagandizing the last 15 years, and indeed also propagandized Trump, both by neither mentioning nor criticizing most of his lies, and by giving him billions worth of free videos because doing so profited them.

Then there is this:

ROBERT REICH: (...) And what the media certainly needs to do is stand up for itself and stand up for other members of the media. Now, I understand media—you know, the situation today is very competitive, and there are a lot of media outlets that are worried about losing readership and so forth. But it is very important for the media to stand for a free and independent media.
The mainstream media just doesn't do so, and hasn't done so for the most part in the last 15 years. It is somewhat different with the non-mainstream media, quite a few of which still believe in facts and truth, but Reich does not even make this broad distinction, and instead talks of "the media".

Here is Trump quoted on "the media":
DONALD TRUMP: You know my opinion of the media. It’s very low. ... The press are liars. They’re terrible people. ... And the media—look at all those people back there: scavengers. They’re like scavengers. ... Show 'em the crowd, press. Show ’em the crowd. Show ’em the crowd. Look, they're not turning the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras, because, you know what, they’re very dishonest people. ... Disgusting reporters, horrible people. Sure, some are nice. ... They’re scum, absolute scum. Remember that. Scum.
Why did the mainstream media not return that a person who said things like that spoke like "a disgusting bit of absolute scum", to quote his own terms? Because they gave up being a free press; they gave up honest investigative reporting; they gave up facts and truths and replaced them by propaganda and lies.

Then there is this:

ROBERT REICH: And Donald Trump, remember, lives in a fact-free universe. This is somebody who, even after the election, has said that, for example, he won by a landslide, when we know that he won—he didn’t win by a landslide; in fact, Hillary Clinton came out with almost 3 million more votes, popular votes, than Donald Trump. He says there was massive voter fraud. We know there—there was no evidence of massive voter fraud. He says that the homicide rate is up 45 percent. We know that the homicide rate is actually down 50 percent. But if in a fact-free world, unless the free press, unless we have a media that is capable of correcting the record, then we have a president who can say almost anything to justify whatever he wants to do. That, again, is a very, very dangerous situation in a democracy.

Yes and no. I agree with most of the above - Trump is a scummy liar - but I am getting rather irritated with euphemisms and metaphors like "fact-free" and "post-truth" (and the last term is not used by Reich): "fact-free" is a metaphorical euphemism for lying, deceiving and utterly dishonest propa- gandizing; "post-truth" is another euphemistic lie about lying, deceiving and utterly dishonest propagandizing.

I am sorry, but that is the reality behind these metaphors: You are being lied to and deceived, but the mainstream media don't like saying so, and "translate" this as "fact-free" and "post-truth", both of which totally miss the - accurate, true - sting of lying and deceiving, which is what they are.

Then there is this on "the press":

ROBERT REICH: The press is called the fourth estate. It’s called the fourth estate because it has almost governmental functions, in terms of being outside the government but being able to criticize what is happening in the government, so the public is aware of potential problems. Without that freedom of the press, as the framers of the Constitution understood, we cannot have a fully functioning democracy.

Hm. First of all, there also are the other media (that are not printed). And second, I think it is a mistake to present "the press" or indeed "the media" as
having "
almost governmental functions":

A real free press and real free media write and speak what they think is the truth about facts, about politicians, about governments, and about reality. And here "what they think" is an important modifier, for this covers - in a real free press and real free media - wide distinctions between political or religious orientations of "the media", but even so, real media try to tell the truth, though they may color their reports by their ideologies.

Second, real free media are necessary for a real democracy, but this is so because real free media tell the truth like ordinary honest people, but differ
from individual honest persons by having more money and trained journalists who are dedicated to finding out the
truth about politicians, governments, and reality, indeed also if their reporting may have the political or religious coloring of the specific media they write or speak for.

I think my above characterization of the real free media is better than Reich's (although I don't think he will much disagree).

Then there is this about a Trumpian plan that indeed is extremely dangerous:

ROBERT REICH: He also has threatened to expand the libel laws, making it easier, he says, for somebody like him to sue the media. And you, again—presumably, that lawsuit would be based upon something that the media reported that he did not like to be reported, didn’t want to be reported. Again, a very, very dangerous threat.

Yes indeed - and what Trump want to get rid of is in fact the First Amendment (<-Wikipedia), which reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I think all or nearly all of this (until "the right of the people" etc.) is inconsistent with Trump's ideas and values, that - incidentally - do not seem to comprise any reading of the Constitution (since he claimed it has 12 articles).

Here is the last bit that I'll quote:

ROBERT REICH: But if you have a president who is communicating absolutely directly with the public, bypassing all of those intermediaries, then you have potentially a situation in which what that president says cannot be questioned. The truth cannot get out. And the fear is that that’s ultimately what Donald Trump wants, to be able to continue to state things that are simply not true, you know, that—doubting climate change, for example, or saying that the CIA report on Russian hacking was not true—and have a larger and larger number of his followers, and, indirectly, their friends and their associates and families, believe him and not believe science and not believe the media, not believe policy analysts and not believe people who are investigative reporters and not believe the actual facts out there, believe this counter-universe that is of Donald Trump’s creation.

No, as I explained the day before yesterday:

I think that the reason Trump wants to keep being a demagogue who keeps assembling huge rallies of his supporters, is that he can direct his supporters (indirectly, of course) to do the things he wants to see done, such as shutting op the non-mainstream media or professors and intellectuals who protest Trump.

For clearly the people who wildly support Trump will keep supporting him whether they can see him live or not, but they may be far more difficult to
move as a group
if they are addressed by Trump on their individual TVs in their individual homes. But this will be rather different if they are standing in an enthusiastic group of hundreds or of thousands, who get instructed that this magazine or that individual "is very displeasing" to Trump Himself, by Himself.

I think that is the reason Trump will keep being his own demagogue who stands live in front of his own supporters: These are his army of - in Trump's own words - "wild beasts", and they are much easier to manipulate live and as a group.

And I found this interview rather disappointing.

[0] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. 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).

[1] 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.)

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