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Nederlog

Wednesday, Mar 1, 2017

Crisis: Reichstag Fire, Can't Happen Here?, Mainstream Media, On "Christian" Fascism


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Beware of Another Reichstag Fire
2. Who Says It Can’t Happen Here?
3. Mainstream Media’s ‘Victimhood’

4. Is ‘Christianized Fascism’ the Biggest Threat We Face Under
     Trump?

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, March 1, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary crisis log (after some days on the news about ME/CFS). There are 4 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the dangers of another Reichstag fire, which I think are quite realistic; item 2 is about people who deny that fascism or neofascism can arrive in the USA: They are mistaken; item 3 is a fine article about the mainstream media; and item 4 is about a video by Abby Martin who interviews Chris Hedges. I liked it but have some comments.
As to the updating problem: The Danish site is OK again; the Dutch site got finally unstuck of February 22 to February 27, but got stuck once again there. Where it stuck for others I have no idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. They have been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or someone secret service is.)
1. Beware of Another Reichstag Fire

The first item today is by Helene Sinnreich on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

As various commentators compare President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, a flurry of responses has claimed that this is an inappropriate comparison because the Nazi regime murdered millions of men, women and children. It is important to remember, however, that when Hitler came to power in 1933, he did not begin with murder. His regime first sought to “encourage emigration” as a means of ridding Germany of the Jews and turned to genocide only when these efforts “failed.”
Yes indeed. Also, I realize this is the third item by specialists on fascism or totalitarianism who stress the many parallels and analogies between Trump and
Bannon and fascism, and I think they are mostly right.

Then again I regard myself as somewhat of a specialist on
fascism and neofascism as well, in part because both my parents and one grandparent were in the real communist resistance against Nazism; in part because my father and grandfather were arrested in June of 1941 and comdemned to concentration camp imprisonment, which murdered my grandfather; in part because my father was knighted for designing and mostly building
the National Exhibition on Resistance against Fascism; in part because I did read a whole lot of politics; and in part because I am a real philosopher and a real intellectual who was denied the right to take the M.A. examination in philosophy because I was not a Marxist and had criticized the extra-ordinarily rotten "education" I got in the University of Amsterdam (and after that I got - while I was still ill, as I am now - an excellent M.A. in psychology).

Again, I am not a scholar of fascism nor of the Holocaust, but I do know more about it and about concentration camps than the vast majority does.

Here is a scholar of the Holocaust [1]:
As a scholar of the Holocaust, I frequently teach about the Nazi rise to power and the attributes of authoritarian regimes. Such attributes include: a rise to power which is nationalist in nature, with calls to restore the nation to greatness or making reference to a mythic great past; racist or anti-foreign rhetoric; violence or the threat of violence; attacks on the free press and the promulgation of propaganda; marches or rallies to reinforce group cohesion; quashing of political opponents and democratic institutions after rising to power; and stripping away civil liberties. There is often an assumption made by existing elites that the radical leader will normalize once in power, but this normalization does not happen.
And this sketches the beginnings of Mussolini and Hitler, and the beginnings of Trump. Incidentally, all three also were "democratically elected" [2]. Indeed, Helene Sinnreich draws the same conclusion:
What is disturbing to scholars of the Holocaust and genocide is that this also describes President Trump’s actual activities.
And there is this:
At the same time, Trump’s attacks on the free press have been extreme, including describing the news media as the “enemy of the people,” and excluding several major media outlets from White House briefings.
There is more in the article, that ends as follows:
For most scholars, it is not difficult to see how, in the current climate, with a president whose activities closely parallel those of historic authoritarian leaders, a single crisis might be used to solidify authoritarian power. Trump has repeatedly warned against a terrorist attack that might be perpetrated by an undocumented immigrant. For Hitler, it was the Reichstag fire on Feb. 27, 1933, that led to his political opponents being incarcerated in Dachau.

Yes, but not only in Dachau: There were 24 major concentration camps and many more smaller ones, though it is true Dachau was the first to be opened.

In any case, I think the warning of Helene Sinnreich and others (see here) should be taken very seriously, if only because the parallels and analogies between Trump and Hitler and Mussolini are fargoing.

2. Who Says It Can’t Happen Here?

The second item is by Harvey Kaye on Common Dreams and originally on BillMoyers.com:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump’s candidacy and now, presidency, have resurrected a public discourse not heard in this country since the Great Depression — an anxious discourse about the possible triumph in America of a fascist-tinged authoritarian regime over liberal democracy. It’s a fear Sinclair Lewis turned into a 1935 bestselling novel, It Can’t Happen Here — although, as Lewis told it, it sure as hell could happen here.

Yes indeed. Also, this is a decent article by an American historian and sociologist,
but I will skip most of the history he gives because I have treated it - in far more
detail - in the over 1500 Nederlogs I wrote only about the
crisis [3].

I do pick out this part:

Not for nothing did Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tell NBC News’ Chuck Todd that we must be wary of our new president: “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press… And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn from history.”

Yes, we do. And in that light, we should recognize that as much as Trump’s anti-democratic rhetoric and executive orders are driven by his own demagogic nature, they are propelled by four decades of corporate class war, conservative culture war and neoliberal political economy and public policies intended to roll back the democratic rights and achievements of the 1960s and 1930s — including Social Security, which Trump’s own White House budget director has called “a Ponzi scheme.”

Yes indeed - and the "four decades of corporate class war" [4] started around 1980 and was started by Ronald Reagan and continued by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (the last just scored a contract reported to be worth over $ 60 million with Penguin: He too is going to end up as a major millionaire, just like Clinton and Blair did.)

And I also pick out this, because this is the rise of neofascist totalitarian "laws" that may effectively end protests, because simply protesting will land you for ten years in jail, while in Holland that is (now at least, and the pas four decades) the punishment meeted out to murderers:

Revealing their authoritarian inclinations all the more, right-wing Republican legislators in several states are introducing bills to criminalize protest activities — and, in Iowa, for example — to require that only Republicans be appointed to university faculties.

The article ends as follows (after a lot of history I have skipped):

The die is cast. To secure American democratic life, we must resist and overcome not only the initiatives of the greedy, corrupt, bigoted and narcissistic bully who currently occupies the White House, but also the anti-democratic ambitions and schemes of corporate capital and the right. If our parents and grandparents’ lives tell us anything, it is that it’s not just a matter of rejecting authoritarianism but of acting in solidarity to radically enhance freedom, equality and democracy.

Hm. I find this ending pretty conventional purple prose. And three major differences
between "
our parents and grandparents’ lives" and that of the modern generation are that (i) their parents and grandparents were better educated than the present generation is; that (ii) they were not continuously spied upon in secret by the secret services; and that (iii) the press they read was much better than the modern press.

3. Mainstream Media’s ‘Victimhood’

The third item is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:
It’s heartwarming that The New York Times and The Washington Post are troubled that President Trump is loosely throwing around accusations of “fake news.” It’s nice that they now realize that truth does not reliably come from the mouth of every senior government official or from every official report.

The Times is even taking out full-page ads in its own pages to offer truisms about truth: “The truth is hard. The truth is hidden. The truth must be pursued. The truth is hard to hear. The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious. …”  On Sunday, those truth truisms ran opposite an alarmist column by Jim Rutenberg entitled, “Will the Real Democracy Lovers Please Stand Up?” Meanwhile, The Washington Post launched its own melodramatic slogan, “Dies in Darkness.”

Yet, it was only weeks ago when the Post and Times were eagerly promoting plans for silencing or blacklisting independent news sites that didn’t toe the line on what the U.S. government and its allies were claiming was true.

Yes, indeed! Here is more on the - to me: extremely sickening - policies of the NYT:

On Nov. 20, the Times published a lead editorial calling on Facebook and other technology giants to devise algorithms that could eliminate stories that the Times deemed to be “fake.” The Times and other mainstream news outlets – along with a few favored Internet sites – joined a special Google-sponsored task force, called the First Draft Coalition, to decide what is true and what is not. If the Times’ editorial recommendations were followed, the disfavored stories and the sites publishing them would no longer be accessible through popular search engines and platforms, essentially blocking the public’s access to them. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What to Do About ‘Fake News.’”]

On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page story citing an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, blacklisting 200 Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other important sources of independent journalism, because we supposedly promoted “Russian propaganda.”

Again, yes indeed: The New York Times and the Washington Post tried to get rid of the real journalists by proposing they were to be shut down for not reporting the "news" that the government (then Obama's government) liked to hear and read.

Here is some more on what seems to have moved the NYT and the Washington Post:

Back then, in November, the big newspapers believed that the truth was easy, simple, obvious, requiring only access to some well-placed government official or a quick reading of the executive summary from some official report. Over the last quarter century or so, the Times, in particular, has made a fetish out of embracing pretty much whatever Officialdom declared to be true. After all, such well-dressed folks with those important-sounding titles couldn’t possibly be lying.

Yes, indeed. And Parry is also correct that the folks at the NYT ceased being proper journalists at least 25 years ago, though indeed it also got worse and worse.

Here is Parry's characterization of the mainstream news agencies:

In other words, when the U.S. government was gluing black hats on an “enemy” and white hats on a U.S. “ally,” the Times never seemed to object. Nor did pretty much anyone else in the mainstream media. No one seemed to note that both sides usually deserved gray hats. With very few exceptions – when the State Department or other U.S. agencies were making the charges – the Times and its cohorts simply stopped applying responsible journalistic skepticism.

I think that is correct (and found this out mostly by myself - see here, for example, which is from 1991 (!), when the first propaganda war [5] was faught on TV, which is 26 years ago).

Finally, here is a fine characterization of "fake news":

Of course, there is a problem with “fake news,” i.e., stories that are consciously made up for the purpose of making money from lots of clicks.

That is the best definition I read so far, and I would only add "propaganda" before "stories" to make it fully correct. And this is a fine text that I strongly recommend.

4. Is ‘Christianized Fascism’ the Biggest Threat We Face Under Trump?

The fourth item is not a text but a video which shows an interview of Chris Hedges by Abby Martin:

The textual item that introduces this (by Emma Niles on Truthdig) starts as follows:

In a new episode of TeleSUR’s “The Empire Files,” host Abby Martin and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges analyze the Christian right and its impact on American politics.

Hedges has a wealth of experience writing about the Christian right movement and its relationship to fascism, and he draws on this knowledge to explain the growing threat of “Christianized fascism.”

“The Christian right, like the alt-right, is endowed with all sorts of conspiracy theories, coupled with magical thinking, coupled with an utter disdain for historical fact,” Hedges says. “I think the Christian right are as bigoted as the alt-right.”

He argues that while President Trump’s “personal life makes a mockery of the very values” the Christian right claims to hold sacred, the Trump administration can be expected to further the ideals of political evangelists.

This item is here mostly because I do like both Abby Martin and Chris Hedges. They are real journalists and are also quite intelligent and sensible persons.

If this “Christianized fascism” continues to gain momentum, what would that look like? Hedges explains:

It’s going to be the fusion of the American flag with the Christian cross and the Pledge of Allegiance. We’ve already seen it. It’s going to be assaults on women [and] women’s rights. It’s going to be assaults against the educational system, where we’re teaching creationism and magical thinking. It’s going to be attacks against “those forces of secular humanism that are destroying the country.” It’s going to be a sanctification of law and order and imperial adventurism into kind of a crusade. And I think that as society unravels, they will stoke this demonization of “the other”: Muslims, undocumented workers, African Americans are on the list, feminists.

Martin and Hedges also delve into the history of political evangelists and examine religious populist movements in other countries. Watch the full interview below:
I did watch the interview, which is 25 m 10 s, and I liked it and think it is very well worth seeing, but - see item 1 - I do want to make five supplementary remarks, that mostly follow the text of the video.

1. About fascism: I was disappointed with "the definition" of fascism that Chris Hedges gave, which was mostly psychological, not systematic, not a real definition, and which also seemed to derive too much from Robert Paxton.

You can see my disagreements with Paxton articulated in my
On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions that is from October 2016, that discusses no less than 22 definitions of fascism, and said that Paxton has too much psychology in it, and too little sociology, economics, and politics.

Here is my own definition, that is a proper definition, and does consider both psychology and
sociology, economics, and politics:
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.
I think this is a much better definition than any I have heard or read so far (and the credit is mostly not mine: I merely combined some of the best of the 22 definitions I did consider, and also gave that combination the proper logical form of a real definition).

2. About inverted totalitarianism: This is a concept and a term of Sheldon Wolin (<-Wikipedia), who died in 2015, aged 93. I think there was something to it, and I did my best to comprehend it, and indeed commented on all of the - quite good - interviews that Chris Hedges made with him in 2014.

Here is a link to a Nederlog where all eight interviews are listed (with links to fuller discussions by me):
Crisis: The new internet, voter suppresion, Obama, Hedges & Wolin, Personal. I think these interviews are still worth reading and pondering, although I also think my own definiton of neofascism is better. Here it is:
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.
Note the main differences between fascism and neofascism: Neofascism is far more strongly for profit as the only moral norm CEOs and corporations ought to consider (as Milton Friedman insisted), and is far more strongly for multi-national corporations as stronger than national governments or the state than is fascism.

3. The Christian right
: Chris Hedges speaks of "Christian fascism", which he also insists is a political rather than a religious phenomenon while he denies they are Christians.

I think Hedges is probably correct that this is a rightist political movement more than
a religious movement, but I also think he may be underestimating their "Christianity",
which he does (if he does, as I think) because his father was a - genuinely progressive  - Christian minister and because Hedges is a Christian minister as well.

In contrast, I am a lifelong atheist, and I believe these Christian rightists may be "religious" in their own sense, though I agree with Hedges that sense has little to do
with the message of the New Testament (and think myself it is - once again - mostly
produced by a combination of stupidity, lack of science, and emotional and religious bullshit).

4. Neo-nazism: Chris Hedges also briefly discusses neo-nazism. My problem with that is that I could not find a decent definition for it, although the following - from Rationalwiki, not the Wikipedia - is somewhat better than I could find in 2015/16:
Neo-Nazism.

5. The alt right and neo-liberal economics

Finally, Hedges blames the neo-liberal economics as the ideology behind fascism and also behind the Christian right, and he insists the Christian right is more dangerous than the alt right.

I think Chris Hedges is right about neo-liberal economics: It is not and never was a real science (as you - also - can infer yourself from the fact that no neo-liberal economist predicted the crisis of 2008), and indeed it never was intended to be a real science: It was constructed to look "scientific" by making it mathematical, but it was in fact an
ideology that simply propounded the interests of the rich, and did so mostly by adopting factual falsehoods or by neglecting factual truths.

Also, I do not believe that all neo-liberals are insincere or neofascists, but I do believe
that they are politically and morally very naive.

As to the dangers of the Christian right: Hedges says they are more dangeroous than the alt right mostly because they are much better organized. I simply don't know, and
Chris Hedges, who made a study of them, may well be right.

-----------------
Notes

[1] I know "Holocaust" by now is the accepted term for what is also called the Shoah and possibly more (since the modern generation mostly escaped learning history, it seems), but I still don't like it. If used correctly, it represents the murder of around 6 million Jews (quite a few who lacked the Jewish faith) on rather insane "racist" grounds, but I - who doesn't like euphemisms - would rather have had it referred to for what it is: The mass murder of the Jews by the Nazis. (I suppose that is "too long", but at least it is clear.)

[2] Yes. In fact, I am one of those - George Carlin is another (*) - who is too intelligent to confuse "democracy" and "democratic elections": Democracy - with equal rights, real news, and many judicial and political institutions geared to securing equal rights, real access to politics by the non-rich, and maintaining freedom and toleration - is not at all the same as going to vote every four years for some professional political liar.

(*) Here is his text:
“I don't vote. Two reasons. First of all it's meaningless; this country was bought and sold a long time ago. The shit they shovel around every 4 years doesn't mean a fucking thing. Secondly, I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around – they say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain', but where's the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with".
[3] This started in 2008 (and I first wrote about it in the crisis series on September 1 of that year, in Dutch) and still continues for everyone who is not rich.

[4] Actually, I don't believe in "class war" (which is a Marxist concept), while I do believe that most of the rich have opposite interests to most of the poor. I reject the term and the concept because they are too general, too vague and because in actual fact people live in groups - families, friends, colleagues (all of which do groupthinking) - much rather than in "classes".

[5] By "propaganda war" I mean a real war that is conveyed by the media (the press and the TV) as a kind of amusement for the mass of their stupefied and ignorant readers and viewers. The war of 1991 was the first such war I saw: Almost everything I read and saw about it was not real fact but propaganda. It also differed
quite notably from the Vietnam war, that was not (yet) a propaganda war. For more, see here.


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