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Monday, December 11, 2017

Reign Of The Demagogues

With the destruction of the middle class and the revolt against our failed liberal institutions and leaders, demagogues have filled the crevices of political decay. After decades of growth in white supremacist and far-right militia groups, racism and wild conspiracy thinking online, and sadistic and bigoted political rhetoric, America has conjured its mass hallucinations into a force that’s now tearing the world apart.

The creators of this hallucination have often not been genuine zealots, but attention-seekers that say whatever will provoke and divide. Donald Trump has privately shown to have more liberal views than he admits; Milo Yiannopoulos changed the views he publicly expresses so that he could become a famous troll; Ann Coulter seems to usually pretend to hold knowingly absurd opinions so that her enemies will be antagonized. They get power and fame by inciting vicious, pointless fighting, whether between ethnic and religious groups or between their polarized supporters and opponents.
People are vulnerable to demagogues when they’re in dejected or desperate life situations, like with the millions of middle and working class whites who’ve had their standard of living decline in recent decades. The unemployed, unhappy, or resentful can find comfort in exploring conspiracy websites and listening to the ravings of authoritarian bigots. Then they vote in politicians that will exact revenge on the vulnerable people they’ve learned to blame.
This happening on a mass scale, after sustained economic and governmental failures, is how all the fascist revolutions in recent history have come about. The only pre-modern example of it is ancient Rome, whose democratic model didn’t reemerge until centuries after the republic fell to demagogues.
“I’ve watched these groups proliferate, grow,” writes George Godwyn, a close observer of our rising fascist movements. “You want to tell yourself that this is a fringe [sic], that the worst, loudest, biggest assholes take over groups like that. That ain’t it. A couple dozen groups have become hundreds, thousands. I’ve read the comments, I’ve clicked on the profiles, and I’ve read the user info for all the perfectly nice, seemingly intelligent, well-spoken citizens cheering ICE incarcerating some sick 10-year-old, saying all Muslim-Americans should be deported, demanding football players who protest the police should be put in jail until they stop kneeling, that some reporter should be thrown in jail for asking the president an uncomfortable question, that Iran and North Korea should immediately be nuked.”
This outcome was signalled in every subtle reactionary and authoritarian change we’ve tolerated for the last several decades. We didn’t rebel when a toxic class of Christain fundamentalists, corporate capitalists, and militarists took power during the 1980’s, then tried to redefine dissent as “anti-American.” We weren’t outraged when Hillary Clinton, while promoting a racist mass incarceration bill, said about black youth: “They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators — no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first, we have to bring them to heel.” There were no mass demonstrations when Obama orchestrated a global terrorism campaign with his drone forces, one which killed an innocent sixteen-year-old American boy in 2010. Now we face the consequences.
The last remains of what the Civil Rights movement and the New Deal accomplished are being quickly crushed. Social Security and Medicare are under attack. Voting rights, destroyed by the Supreme Court in 2013, are being eliminated as the Trump administration has examined the voter information of several states. The FBI now places “black identity extremists” as a major terrorist threat, while President Trump has defunded tools for fighting white hate crimes. 
The Trump administration, filled with racists, Holocaust revisionists and Nazi sympathizers, has ended the Department of Forensic Science, let police seize private property with impunity, and further militarized local police departments. This reflects the new enablement of immigration officials to detain and harass disfavored groups with virtual impunity, which was mirrored by the early behavior of the Brownshirts. Torture, a Muslim registry, an enforced internet shutdown, and internment camps are all open for instatement among Trump’s circle.
Their goal is to rehabilitate the failing American empire by fortifying society with more weapons, enforced subservience to authorities, and a racial, religious, and gender hierarchy that gives false security to the upper castes. This only speeds up our republic’s demise. American alliances and military occupations are rapidly failing. The dollar is declining. There are unprecedented bubbles in stocks, the housing market, student loans and banking which foreshadow a coming depression. 
California is considering seceding from the union. Political divisions regularly escalate to violence. These anarchic street clashes are predicted to increase in the coming years, as the collapse of our biosphere provokes green terrorism. America’s unprovoked nuclear threats against Iran and North Korea, correlated with the wild escalations of the drone wars this year, show how empires flail in their dying years. 
“This is it. This is American politics in the 21st century,” writes Godwyn. “We are going to be fighting the lumpen neo-authoritarian right for the rest of our lives, likely. That’s the political territory. This is new, at least in my lifetime. The ideas [have] existed, the culture existed, but it was never so open, so brazen, so pervasive and acceptable.”
Yet we need to fight it. When we reject the worldview of the fascists in our minds, our personal lives, and our reaches of political influence, we create pockets of a different world. If we nurture these pockets, they might one day overtake the self-confident, fortified, but ultimately weak structure that the demagogues have built.