October 30, 2018

Crisis: Trump´s Cult, Greenwald on Brazil, More Brazil, On Theresa May, On Stephen Bannon


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 30, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 30, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from October 30, 2018:
1. The Cult of Trump
2. Glenn Greenwald: Brazil Has Elected “Most Extremist Leader in the
     Democratic World”

3. World's Capitalists Salivate Over 'New Investment Opportunities'
4. Theresa May's UK Budget Decried as "Insult to Our Young People's

5. The Stephen Bannon Project: Searching in Europe for Glory Days Gone
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Cult of Trump

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Cult leaders arise from decayed communities and societies in which people have been shorn of political, social and economic power. The disempowered, infantilized by a world they cannot control, gravitate to cult leaders who appear omnipotent and promise a return to a mythical golden age. The cult leaders vow to crush the forces, embodied in demonized groups and individuals, that are blamed for their misery. The more outrageous the cult leaders become, the more they flout law and social conventions, the more they gain in popularity. Cult leaders are immune to the norms of established society. This is their appeal. Cult leaders demand a God-like power. Those who follow them grant them this power in the hope that the cult leaders will save them.

Donald Trump has transformed the decayed carcass of the Republican Party into a cult. All cults are personality cults. They are extensions of the cult leaders. The cult reflects the leader’s prejudices, worldview, personal style and ideas. Trump did not create the yearning for a cult leader. Huge segments of the population, betrayed by the established elites, were conditioned for a cult leader. They were desperately looking for someone to rescue them and solve their problems.
Well... yes and no.

First, what is a cult? According to Wikipedia (quoted from the beginning, without note numbers):
The term cult usually refers to a social group defined by its religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. The term itself is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it also has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices, although this is often unclear.
Besides, there is the fact (it seems) that at least in the English speaking world, the term ¨cult¨ normally has negative implications, mostly because those who say so believe that what they call a cult or cults are in various ways too extremist.

Second, in some ways I agree with Hedges that Trump is - effectively, at least - making himself into a cult leader, and that there is something like a cult of Trump.

But third, I do not think that saying a group is a cult or that a group´s leader functions like the leader of a cult helps a lot to explain the group or the leader, and especially not if the common fundament of many, though not all, human social groups, which are that its ordinary members have little influence on the leadership of their group because ordinary members are by and large not informed while many are marked by ignorance or stupidity about their own group, their own leader and the real ways of the real world, are wholly undiscussed - as is the case in this article.

Here is more on Trump:
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge and address the impending crisis of ecocide and the massive mismanagement of the economy by kleptocrats, his bellicosity, his threats against Iran and China and the withdrawal from nuclear arms treaties, along with his demonization of all who oppose him, ensure our cultural and, if left unchecked, physical extinction.
Yes, I more or less agree with that quotation.

Here is more on cults and their leaders:
They demand obsequious fawning and total obedience. They prize loyalty above competence. They wield absolute control. They do not tolerate criticism. They are deeply insecure, a trait they attempt to cover up with bombastic grandiosity. They are amoral and emotionally and physically abusive. They see those around them as objects to be manipulated for their own empowerment, enjoyment and often sadistic entertainment. All those outside the cult are branded as forces of evil, prompting an epic battle whose natural expression is violence.
Again yes and no:

Yes, I more or less agree these characteristics do seem to apply to Donald Trump, but again I think the concept of a
cult is less helpful than the concept of totalitarianism, which has similar consequences.

Then again, I must remark that the Wikipedia seems to be recast now by some anonymous right wingers with a lot of money, who have deleted the previous more or less good definition of totalitarianism, which is that this is an
ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion, and has replaced this by the ideological bullshit that seems to originate with Brzezinski, according to whom totalitarianism has nothing to do with ideas, religion, or absolutism but is (I quote, with bolding added) ¨a political concept that defines a mode of government, which prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life.¨

The second definition of totalitarianism - it is about a mode of government much rather than a mode of feeling, valueing, and reasoning of persons - at best is an implication of the first definition which is what Orwell and most intellectuals understood by it.

Here is more on Orwell (who used the term ¨cult¨ rarely or never in his political writings):

George Orwell understood that cult leaders manipulate followers primarily through language, not force. This linguistic manipulation is a gradual process. It is rooted in continual mental chaos and verbal confusion. Lies, conspiracy theories, outlandish ideas and contradictory statements that defy reality and fact soon paralyze the opposition. (..) The cult leader does not take his or her statements seriously and often denies ever making them, even when they are documented. Lies and truth do not matter. The language of the cult leader is designed exclusively to appeal to the emotional needs of those in the cult.
Well... perhaps, but why are so many moved by ¨continual mental chaos and verbal confusion. Lies, conspiracy theories, outlandish ideas and contradictory statements that defy reality and
¨ ?! Why do they not (rationally) conclude that they live in mental chaos and verbal confusion, and try to get some rational clarity?! Because most are stupid and ignorant.

This from the ending of this article:
Our only hope is to organize the overthrow of the corporate state that vomited up Trump. Our democratic institutions, including the legislative bodies, the courts and the media, are hostage to corporate power. They are no longer democratic. (..) We give people an alternative to a Democratic Party that refuses to confront the corporate forces of oppression and cannot be rehabilitated. We make possible the restoration of an open society. If we fail to embrace this militancy, which alone has the ability to destroy cult leaders, we will continue the march toward tyranny.
Perhaps, but this is far from hopeful. Then again, I agree I am pessimistic as well, and this is a recommended article, mostly because it is by Hedges, and not because I agree with it.
2. Glenn Greenwald: Brazil Has Elected “Most Extremist Leader in the Democratic World”

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro has been elected Brazil’s next president, marking the most radical political shift in the country since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. Bolsonaro, a former Army officer, openly supports torture and dictatorships, has a history of making racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and has threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. He defeated Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers’ Party with 55 percent of the vote. His ascendance to power is leading many to fear the future of democracy in Brazil is in danger. We speak with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept, in Rio de Janeiro. He says that Bolsonaro is “by far the most extremist leader now elected anywhere in the democratic world.”
Yes indeed, and see yesterday´s Nederlog on Bolsonaro. Here is more:
AMY GOODMAN: (..) Jair Bolsonaro’s election marks the most radical political shift in Brazil since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. He won 55 percent of the vote, easily defeating Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers’ Party.

Bolsonaro campaigned on a promise to end corruption and crack down on crime, but many fear the future of democracy in Brazil is in danger. For decades, Bolsonaro has openly praised the country’s former military dictatorship, once saying the dictatorship should have killed 30,000 more people. He also has a history of making racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments, has spoken in favor of torture, has threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. He has also encouraged the police to kill suspected drug dealers, once told a female lawmaker she was too ugly to rape. He also said he would rather hear that his son had died in a car accident than learn that his son is gay. On Sunday night, Jair Bolsonaro claimed he would help liberate Brazil.

Quite so. Here is Glenn Greenwald (who lives in Brazil):

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I think it’s really important to put it into its proper context. For a long time, the Western media was referring to him as “Brazil’s Trump.” That’s how he was marketing himself. The reality is much different. He’s by far the most extremist leader now elected anywhere in the democratic world. He’s far closer, as we’ve discussed before, to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, or even General Sisi, the dictator of Egypt. A journalist, Vincent Bevins, based for a long time in Brazil and now in Indonesia, has made the argument that he’s far more extreme than Duterte.

I think that the key thing to understand about Bolsonaro is that he really comes not from this modern “alt-right” movement of the type of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen, but the Cold War far right that carried out enormous atrocities in the name of fighting domestic communism, which is what Bolsonaro believes his primary project to be. He recently vowed to cleanse the country of left-wing opposition, which he sees as a communist front.

Yes, I think Greenwald is mostly correct in this, especially in the second quoted paragraph - and I can distinguish Bolsonario´s ideology from alt-right ideologies by saying that Bolsonaro seems to be a classical fascist, the alt-right ideologies are more neofascist - and I stress that my definitions of these terms are clearer and better than any I have read by journalists.

Here is the last bit of Greenwald that I quote from this article:
GLENN GREENWALD: So, if you look at far-right leaders throughout the West, you don't really see much of a focus on, say, abortion and LGBT issues. If anything, sometimes the far right in Europe coopts those issues as a way of inciting xenophobia against Muslims, saying Muslims are regressive and want to drag the country back thousands of years in terms of social issues. Whereas Bolsonaro is kind of this much more old-school fascist, where a major part of his campaign was depicting LGBTs as a direct threat to children, saying that the reason LGBTs want to infiltrate public schools is because they want to convert people’s children into being gay so that they can have sex with them—an obviously highly inflammatory claim to make about a marginalized population in a society that’s already pretty conservative on social issues.

But the much graver threat is the fact that he explicitly reveres and wants to replicate the worst elements of the military dictatorship. When he stood up, very recently, in 2016 on the floor of the Congress and voted to impeach Dilma Rousseff, he specifically said he was doing it in honor of the notorious colonel who tortured not only dissidents in general, but Dilma specifically. So this is the kind of regime he wants to reinstate.
Quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. World's Capitalists Salivate Over 'New Investment Opportunities'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As Brazilian women, the LGBTQ community, workers, and people of color reacted with horror to the election of fascist Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency on Sunday after a campaign dripping in bigotry and militarism, Western corporate interests and the business press could hardly contain their glee over the victory of the hard-right former paratrooper who has promised to further pry open Brazilian markets to foreign investment, slash corporate taxes, and privatize the nation's public services.

While highlighting Bolsonaro's "homophobic, racist, and misogynist statements," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) gushed that his win over Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad "could mean fresh opportunities for Canadian companies looking to invest in the resource-rich country" thanks to his strong commitment to "open markets."

"It could be a good time to be a mining investor in Brazil," declared Anna Prusa, a former U.S. State Department official who researches Brazil for the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based firm.

Yes indeed - and incidentally, and without saying the CBC or Prusa are neofascists, I do want to add that it is a characteristic of neofascism that it is very strongly interested in the profits of corporations, and much more so than in many other characteristics, like being "homophobic, racist, and misogynist".

Here is more: 

As The Intercept reported last week, American business elites were positively giddy at the prospect of a Bolsonaro victory, which one executive said would be a "bullish opportunity for us."

Enthused by Bolsonaro's selection of right-wing University of Chicago-trained financier Paulo Guedes to craft his economic agenda, investors are "more than happy to overlook the authoritarian impulses and violent promises," The Intercept's Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani note.

"Guedes has promised to sell off state assets, cut the public pension system, revise the tax code, and deregulate the economy," Fang and Jilani reported
Yes indeed, and I add that the University of Chicago also produced the economic helpers of Pinochet, the dictator of Chili who ousted Salvador Allende (with the help of the USA).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Following Bolsonaro's 10-point victory, stocks continued to skyrocket as investors cheered the rise of an authoritarian who has promised to gut the public sector and "give carte blanche for the police to kill."
Yes. And this is a recommended article.

4. Theresa May's UK Budget Decried as "Insult to Our Young People's Future"

This article is also by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
While British Prime Minister Theresa May's Autumn budget rollout was accompanied by much fanfare and lofty promises—"the era of austerity is finally coming to an end," proclaimed U.K. finance minister Philip Hammond—the specifics of the budget detailed on Monday were met with a mixture of disgust and alarm by the Labour Party and environmentalists, who argued that the plan is stuffed with "half measures" and tax cuts for the rich but zero policies to address the human-caused climate crisis.

Highlighting May's recent speech declaring that deep cuts to public spending are over, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn excoriated May and Hammond for delivering a "broken promise budget" that vows "quick fixes while austerity grinds on."

"Far from people's hard work and sacrifices having paid off... this government has frittered it away in ideological tax cuts to the richest in our society," Corbyn said. "The government claims austerity has worked so now they can end it. That is absolutely the opposite of the truth—austerity needs to end because it has failed."

I agree with Corbyn (and May strikes me as a weak and bad prime minister).

Here is more on the Labour Party:

Just ahead of May's big budget unveil, the Labour Party tweeted out a video that portrays May and her cabinet as cruel plutocrats and condemns their record of slashing life-saving programs for vulnerable in order to deliver massive gifts to the ultra-wealthy.

I agree with the Labour Party. Here is more:

"Cannot believe how out of touch this government is," Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the U.K. Green Party, wrote on Twitter. "Schools don’t just need money for 'little extras'—they are struggling to pay staff, upkeep buildings, and provide vital support to children with special needs."

The grassroots left-wing group Momentum added that, in May's budget, "schools are getting less money than the pot hole fund."

"We have oversized classes, lack of basic stationery, and a cap on teachers' pay," the group wrote on Twitter. "Your budget is an insult to our young people's future."

In fact, I think I disagree with Lucas, but my reasons have little to do with Great Britain, and a lot with the fact that I have witnessed the destruction of higher education in Holland, where since 2008 both preparatory schools for entering a Dutch university and the universities themselves have approximately halved their standards.

Thus, modern Dutchmen are not learning - as they did for 100 years - three foreign languages, but one or two, and are not examined anymore - as they did for 100 years - in 14 to 16 subjects (mostly written) but in 6 or 7 subjects (mostly verbal).

Then again, the Dutch do not and did not care, or welcomed the simplifications of their education, it seems because the vast majority does not seek knowledge to understand things, but seeks knowledge because it provides them some degree with makes more money for them.

Back to Great Britain and this article:

(..) Hammond didn't bother to mention the climate crisis once.

Hammond did, however, announce that the budget will maintain special tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

"Three weeks since the world's leading climate scientists said governments have just 12 years to turn the tide on the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of climate change, the chancellor has delivered a budget that reads as though he missed the memo," Greenpeace U.K. declared on Twitter, referencing a recent United Nations report warning that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 to avert global catastrophe.

Yes, though I suppose that Hammond either does not believe in the climate crisis or else does not care for anything that might bring down the profits or large corporations - but this is my guess. And this article is recommended.

5. The Stephen Bannon Project: Searching in Europe for Glory Days Gone By

This article is by Christoph Scheuermann on Spiegel International. This is from near its beginning:

[Bannon´s] bedroom is that of someone who views his life in the context of history, someone who is obsessed with battles and fights, and who surrounds himself with violence, death, adrenaline, importance. On his bedside table are books about Adolf Hitler and World War II, next to the bleached jawbone of an alligator an acquaintance sent him from Florida. The room is a re-creation of Abraham Lincoln's bedroom in the White House. "Only much brighter and twice the size," says Bannon. The shelves next to the bed are packed with war literature.

"I am fascinated by figures like Genghis Khan, Napoleon or Lord Nelson," he says. "Now that I'm involved, I feel in history you can see individuals have a big impact. The thing that always amazed me about Hitler is how a guy like him, a bum from Vienna who was so out of the loop, could rise to power in Germany."

Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler. Such are the characters who dominate the Bannonian world. Indeed, one hardly even needs to leave this bedroom to explain the man.

Well... perhaps this is a good introductory sketch of Bannon, but it does seem rather colored in my eyes. And what interests me about Bannon are not so much his interests in Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Hitler, as the fact that he does seem to be an intelligent person, and indeed seems to have been one of the few intelligent persons that surrounded Donald Trump.

Here is more on Bannon´s recent past:

Bannon has two turbulent years behind him. In August 2016, Trump appointed him campaign manager before then hiring him as chief White House strategist. Newspapers described him as a combination of Mephisto, a nihilist and a rogue -- and as someone who waged ugly battles with Trump's favorite daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner. In August of last year, Bannon left the government after Chief of Staff John Kelly grew tired of Bannon's provocations.
It could have been a new beginning, but Bannon didn't want to accept his loss of power. He returned to Breitbart News, which he called "my killing machine," as executive chairman. But that wasn't enough. He wanted to be in the fray. Earlier this year, Michael Wolff quoted Bannon in his book "Fire and Fury" as saying that Ivanka is "dumb as a brick" and that Donald Trump Jr. was "treacherous."

After that, his conservative financial backers -- hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah -- withdrew their support. Ultimately, Bannon also lost Breitbart. Suddenly, he was alone, without money, without friends, without power and without his killing machine.

This is more or less correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

We sit down at the dining room table and he picks up a book, a biography of the philosopher Martin Heidegger. "That's my guy," Bannon says. Heidegger, he says, had some good ideas on the subject of being, which fascinates him. This is what conversations with him are like: He jumps from the depths of politics to the heights of philosophy, from the swamp to Heidegger in five seconds. What sets us apart from animals or rocks, Bannon asks? What does it mean to be human? How far should digital progress go?

And regarding Germany? He admires Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's documentary filmmaker. As a person, he says, she may have had her flaws, the whole Nazi thing. But, he says, she was "one of the top five directors of all time."

I am a philosopher (and was illegally denied the right to take my M.A. in it in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam) and I strongly dislike Heidegger (who also was a Nazi during Hitler´s reign) but this does not shed more light on Bannon´s intellect or his motives. There is a lot more - in fact: two article - but I did not find it very interesting.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail