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Trump’s Plot Against America: It Can Happen Here

Trump’s Plot Against America: It Can Happen Here

Published at CounterPunch on March 5, 2019

When Philip Roth wrote The Plot Against America (2004), I instinctively recoiled at Roth’s fictional account of a neo-Nazi political party coming to power in the U.S. with figures such as Charles Lindbergh at its helm. When a Nazi document surfaced just recently (“Nazi blueprint for North American Holocaust acquired by Canada archive,” Guardian, January 25, 2019), that outlined the World War II Nazi plan to turn parts of North America into a Nazi enclave, probably with an effort to round up Jews and others that the Nazi regime saw as undesirable, I paid closer attention.

The Guardian published “The neo-Nazi plot against America is much bigger than we realize,” (March 3, 2019), which discusses the alarming rise in racism and anti-Semitism in the U.S.

Now with Michael Cohen’s (Trump’s former lawyer) testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he concluded that Trump and his backers may not allow a peaceful transition of power should Trump lose the 2020 election, the handwriting has been more clearly written on the wall than ever (“Michael Cohen Worries There Won’t Be a ‘Peaceful Transition Of Power’ If Trump Loses in 2020,” Huffington Post, February 27, 2019).

Trump and his followers, both rich and terminally ignorant, despite their Make America Great Again red hats of disdain for institutions and the little left of democratic traditions in the U.S., are the real “America” haters in the “room.” Trump and his father had a long history of racism in the way they managed their rental empire in New York City. Trump’s treatment of workers in his many projects was abysmal. His history of cheating contractors is legendary. The recent history of the Republican Party is one of total disdain for the few remnants of democratic institutions that remain. The nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court  (Washington Post, April 5, 2018) comes to mind, as does the recent shutdown of the federal government.

As a Jew, I am very, very concerned that a loss in 2020 for Trump and his backers could mean that a U.S. version of the Einsatzgruppen could happen here. There is easily enough hate and an ample supply of guns to loosen a segment of this society that would carry out and enjoy random and targeted murder in the streets of the U.S. Look to those with grudges and those who came out on the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Unite the Right rally in August 2017, which resulted in the death of one protester. They shouted for blood and soil while chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Trump said there were some “fine people” among the white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Jews would not be the only targets of such murderous mayhem if Trump, et al. turned to violence to hold power. People of color and people with sexual orientations objectionable to religious fundamentalists, along with immigrants, would be “fair game.” As reported in the Guardian above (March 3, 2019), the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented the escalating level of anti-Semitism and racism in the U.S. The 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 are testament to the violent expression of hate here!

Those who want to conflate being a Jew in the U.S. with support for Israel’s denial of the Palestinian people their right to a state need to pay attention to a 2018 poll by the American Jewish Committee (reported in the Chicago Tribune) in which 59% of Jews polled favored a Palestinian state. Only a small fraction of Jews in the U.S. support Trump. My sense is that the number of Jews in the U.S. supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state is now higher.

To those who hold that “It can’t happen here,” this nation already has a history of actions against black people dating back to slavery and its aftermath. The Ku Klux Klan existed in various forms since the end of the Civil War and colluded violently with some local police departments in the U.S. South during the Jim Crow era. The history of the treatment and massacre of many Native Americans is yet another historical reality in just how vicious the government can be to those who get in its way in the face of expansionary policies and its solidifying of power. Smaller movements against women, gay people, and those who have taken to the streets against war are other valid examples of how violent both official and unofficial reaction to protest can be.

The government maintains, or can cull, information about dissidents from powers it has had over decades and can put into effect powers given to it by the Patriot Act enacted following the attacks of September 2001. It would not be difficult to envision the melding of government power and the violent dissatisfaction of enclaves of those filled with hate around this nation to begin a pogrom against those deemed as objectionable by Trump and those like Trump both inside and outside of the government. A fabricated so-called national emergency such as war based on regime change could be the event that sparks the final thrust toward fascism. Only a tiny fraction of Democrats in Congress would resist such a war.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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Follow the Money to the Border Wall

Photo credit: pbs.org

Follow the Money to the Border Wall
Published at CounterPunch on February 27, 2019

Readers may rightly believe that the government and segments of this society have fallen to their absolute lowest levels just as a new outrage becomes obvious. Such is the case with Trump’s (read his far-right handlers) border wall.

What are the objectives of the border wall? In other words, just what does the man behind the curtain and his handlers have in mind? First, they placate their base of haters and ignoramuses. Next, they make lots and lots of money for their special interests such as security companies, gun manufacturers, infrastructure companies, the military, and other government agencies.

The Real News Network presents a compelling recounting of just who will profit from Trump’s latest outburst of hate in “Trump’s Border Wall: Who Profits?” (February 25, 2019). Not surprisingly, some companies, like selected Israeli security companies that supply all manner of security equipment such as is used on Israel’s border wall (the Israeli West Bank barrier) at its border with the West Bank, have already seen their stock prices skyrocket: Follow the money: Make some good bets! Readers may be able to see the demonization of immigrants trying to enter the U.S. at the U.S./Mexican border connected to the plight of the Palestinian people in the West Bank. The comparison is more than valid.There’s lots of money to be made around the world from so-called security devices.

And while Israeli security companies are under scrutiny, consider that the racist Benjamin Netanyahu has just cemented a pact in order to facilitate a ruling majority with “ultranationalist extremists” of the Jewish Power party according to the Guardian (February 25, 2019). Now there’s a match made in hell: Trump and Netanyahu, an anti-Semite and racist president in the U.S. and a racist prime minister in Israel.

Then there is the question of infrastructure decay in the U.S. Who has not driven along roads and over and under bridges in the U.S. without being personal witness to those decaying roadways and bridges? Environmentalists may object here (Where is the juggernaut for mass transportation and environmentally friendly vehicles?), but in the near future we all need ways to get around and roads and bridges in the U.S. are an absolute disaster in many cases, while Trump touts his hate at the border with a wall. Trump would like around $8 billion to put his hate into reality at the border, but meanwhile human needs go unmet and ignored in the U.S.

Don’t pay attention to the grotesque caricature behind the curtain while the plutocrats and oligarchs take your wallet, destroy the sad remnants of democratic institutions, stoke the hate they are so adept at, laugh all the way to the bank, plan openly for a coup d’etat in Venezuela, and destroy the planet!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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The Mother of All Bombs: U.S. Foreign Policy

The Mother of All Bombs: U.S. Foreign Policy

Published at CounterPunch onFebruary 6, 2019

Following the horrific destruction left in the wake of World War II, the United Nations in its seminal and founding document, the Charter of the United Nations, set out to prevent future wars among member nations. The Charter’s admonition against war was also voiced in the lessons learned from the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals in its condemnation of war: “starting or waging a war against a territorial integrity, political independence or sovereignty of a state, or violation of international treaties or agreements.” are crimes against peace and “makes all war crimes possible.”

The few and the wealthy of many nations are no longer constrained by rules that categorize civilized and enlightened behavior toward other nations such as Venezuela and Iran. They’ve had many nations in their crosshairs and have met with much “success.” Their attacks against Venezuela’s sovereignty are the final nail in the coffin of the endless wars, and the preparation for war, that are now all the rage among the sycophants of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Venezuela is absolutely no threat to the U.S., and therefore, the U.N. Charter prohibits the kinds of dangerous and lethal idiocy that the Trump administration is now orchestrating against Venezuela. Readers need to consider that presidents are viewed in a positive light when they are seen as acting in a presidential manner, i.e., threaten or incite war against other nations. Recall the popularity of the newly elected Trump when he ordered the use of the mother of all bombs against Afghanistan. The bipartisan talking heads in the U.S. loved that theatre (“Trump Drops The Mother Of All Bombs On Afghanistan,” New Yorker, April 14, 2017).

Even billionaire Michael Bloomberg got in on the act of Venezuela bashing in his attacks against mild reformers of the political system like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren:
To plutocrat Michael Bloomberg, Sanders is a “demagogue” preaching “unreason,” while Sen. Elizabeth (D-Mass.) will transform the United States into a “non-capitalistic” system where “people are starving to death,” like “Venezuela” (“What The Left Gets Wrong About Bernie Sanders And Elizabeth Warren,” Huffington Post, January 31, 2019).

Critics of Nicolas Maduro’s government are right to point out that some of the blame of the current state of domestic affairs in Venezuela is attributable to Maduro’s handling of dissent among ordinary Venezuelans. Additional responsibility is undeniable in that the Venezuelan economy has not diversified to the extent that could have offset the declining price of oil. But, these serious failings do not rise to the level of the attacks against Venezuela by those with power and wealth and their errand “boys” who want a one-dimensional political and economic world where their wildest whims of power and control go unchallenged.

The mass media have been the biggest and most vocal cheerleaders of regime change in Venezuela. Following upon the heels of Russia bashing from mass media outlets such as MSNBC, the New York Times and the Guardian have made Juan Guaido the poster boy of their own agendas in support of the few and the wealthy: “Si puede! (“Yes we can!”) shouts rapturous crowd at Juan Guaido rally,” (January 31, 2019). Quickly forgotten is the lead-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, based on lies that turned that nation into a quagmire of sectarian hatreds and civil war.

Will Maduro be dragged through the streets in the manner of Muammar Gaddafi (a scoundrel in his own right) following the U.S.-led bombing campaign that turned that nation (Libya) into yet another quagmire? The Trump administration has Cuba and Nicaragua next on its hit list with absolutely no basis. The rules of war specify that a direct threat must be established before any aggressive actions are taken against sovereign nations. No direct threats exist! We seem to have learned next to nothing from history and are condemned to repeat the egregious and lethal mistakes of the past! And why not, they’re big money producers for some.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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We Still Don’t Get it on the Left

Ku Klux Klan 1921-1922 Photo credit: Library of Congress

We Still Don’t Get it on the Left

The messages via email began arriving in my inbox as midterm election results were still undecided in places such as Florida and Georgia. Some of the emails came from MoveOn and all of the appeals were in support of two local demonstrations/vigils to be held in support of Jeffrey Sessions who had just been fired by Donald Trump. Imagine leftists and liberals holding vigils for a racist whose last official act as attorney general was to make it impossible for the Justice Department to investigate local police departments. Here’s a guy who heaped praise on the Ku Klux Klan, but opined that their only flaw was that some members of that group smoked marijuana.

The Guardian ran an article, “National populism is unstoppable-and the left still doesn’t understand it” (November 8, 2018), by Matthew Goodwin, co-author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, in which he makes many cogent observations on the sweep of right-wing movements in several so-called liberal democracies in the West:

So what is really going on? National populism is revolving around four deep-rooted societal shifts: the “four Ds”. First, there are high levels of political distrust, which are being exacerbated by populist leaders who paint themselves and their followers as victims of a political system that has become less representative of key groups. Second, many people have strong and entrenched fears about the perceived destruction of national cultures, ways of life and values, amid unprecedented and rapid rates of immigration and ethnic change. Accompanying this distrust and fear are anxieties related to deprivation and the loss of jobs and income, along with a strong sense that they and their ethnic and social group are being left behind relative to others in society.

Finally, many political systems in the west are having to grapple with a new era of dealignment, in which bonds between voters and traditional parties are breaking down, and hence the path for new political challengers is much more open.

Many of Goodwin’s points have been made by other writers and social scientists using different assessments and terminology, but the outcome is the same in society after society with profound effects on the rest of us and the entire planet. They—populists of the far right—want simple or easy answers to difficult questions and they are sometimes eager and ready to use violence to achieve their ends.

While many pundits celebrated the results of Tuesday’s election as a stopgap against Trump, he hardly skipped a beat getting back to his hate-filled rhetoric and actions against immigrants and dropped a passing comment about praying for the victims of the latest national gun outrage in California.

Back to Goodwin: He’s accurate in his assessment that the far right juggernaut carries in it seeds of the culture wars that began in response to the movements for change in the 1960s across the globe. I don’t think that they’re stoppable at this point and the Sword of Damocles of nuclear war and the destruction of the natural environment hang in the balance. And while we’re waiting for this almost inevitable debacle, let’s get out there for Sessions!

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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As We Approach the 2018 Election

Protest March January 21, 2017 Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

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In an Apartment in Brooklyn

Tree of Life synagogue Photo credit: Reuters

In An Apartment in Brooklyn
by HOWARD LISNOFF
Published at CounterPunch November 1, 2018

Faige (a fictitious name) remains in her apartment in Brooklyn, New York and all of the fears that she felt as a teenager in Eastern Europe during the onslaught of Naziism in the lead-up to World War II have come back. It was Kristallnacht on the night of November 9-10, 1938. She witnessed the murder of family members and was saved only through the intervention of a family acquaintance who was a taxi driver. She was a 17-year-old with striking red hair and the taxi driver and his basic humanity and fearlessness are the only things that saved Faige from the Holocaust that would follow.

Now in her apartment in Brooklyn the scenes of the horror that she witnessed 80 years ago have come back to her, as the news of the horrific attack against members of the Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life congregation became known.

Faige sees two men in her apartment from the Nazi past who are not physically present, but are all-too real to her and their intent is to murder her, as they did to members of her immediate family. Although people who have come to visit and comfort her sit in the chairs where she imagines the Nazis are sitting, she cannot distinguish between, in the horror she continues to experience, those who have come to be with her to help and the horrific ghosts that haunt from the past. Her fear cannot be assuaged and it is difficult for her to calm down in the new horror in which she finds herself.

There are some with the expertise to analyze with some measure of precision what is happening to Faige, who has witnessed the unspeakable and now is immersed in the reports of what has happened in a place where she thought that she was safe. Indeed, most Jews in the U.S. felt safe until the alleged attack by Robert Bowers in the Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh where people came to worship. Although a degree of anti-Semitism has been present in U.S. society, along with racism and other forms of hatred against immigrants and against other religious persuasions, that hatred was seen in context as extremist views and was not accepted and encouraged by those at the highest levels of government in Washington, D.C. But now there is a free-for-all of hate that the President of the United States and some members of his administration have forcefully supported. And the anti-Semites and white supremacists are listening carefully and heeding those words. In Kentucky, an alleged murderer shot and killed two elderly black people after he was thwarted by a locked door in an attempted attack against a black church.

Indeed, when Donald Trump admonishes and condemns madmen and violent extremists like alleged bomb maker Cesar Sayoc and alleged gunman Robert Bowers, it is a simple task to Google the numerous instances in which Trump has encouraged and stoked the flames of hatred by his own statements in public places. He began his presidential campaign with attacks against immigrants and is so lacking in judgement that he held a campaign rally in the Midwest on the night of the slaughter in Pittsburgh and added a call for arming those in houses of worship as a remedy for racist and religious intolerance and hatred that he himself has supported. This narcissist can’t begin to understand how those in grief need empathy in a time of great suffering.

How does Trump think that the doctored video clip of him attacking a caricatured figure with an image of a head composed of the CNN logo outside of a wrestling ring would be seen to those lost at the fringes of society? Trump is a master at playing the media in a perverse Orwellian manner that appeals to lost and hateful souls and many of those who support and supported Trump and his fellow travelers in the Republican Party. It is all calculated and has had its intended effect on those of us of goodwill and a woman in an apartment in Brooklyn who has suffered so much! Trump finds that among these mass murderers and terrorists are some “very fine people.” It takes a lot of ignorance and bald-face meanness to terrorize a 97-year-old woman! These fascists know the lethal effects of their words. They represent a decaying social, political, and economic system that the power elite has learned how to play.

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The Advantages of an Elite Education

Kavanaugh and Trump Photo credit: journallaband.com

Published at CounterPunch on October 3, 2018.

The Advantages of an Elite Education

If the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court didn’t reveal the extreme right-wing nature of the contemporary U.S., then nothing will. We are living in a right-wing society made up of endless wars, the unlimited power of corporations, the destruction of the natural environment, and the near-total lack of individual rights. That the boy-president Trump can call white supremacists and neo-Nazis “fine people,” while they beat and murder the opposition, makes his nomination of the front man for the corporate and political elite all the more reprehensible.

This is all the final beer hall putsch of the contemporary heirs to Hitler and Mussolini. Kavanaugh is not even needed on the Supreme Court to destroy union opposition since that movement has been going on beginning with the deindustrialization of the U.S. in the 1970s and the march of globalization, which has made goods relatively cheap in the U.S. and made the precipitous decline in union membership a given.

Professor Christine Blasey Ford was revictimized before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the good-old, elitist frat boy Kavanaugh broke into tears. The political landscape has become pure theater. Readers may wonder just how the majority of non-college educated women, the 64 percent who voted for the misogynist Trump, felt as Ford was dehumanized in front of an audience of millions. Readers know how the majority of black and Latino women, who didn’t vote in a majority for Trump, must have felt!

Where and when did the political, economic, and social system all go so wrong? It is not the intention here to blame the political left, but a decent measure of responsibility lies right at its feet, so to speak. And as a member of the New Left of the 1960s and early to middle 1970s, I’ll shoulder some, but not all, of the blame.

For the most part, the New Left abandoned the streets after the Vietnam War antiwar movement and left politics to the far-right culture warriors, the warmongers, the fundamentalists of a religious bent, and those in the economy who sold out without a scintilla of ethical consideration. Remember the transition from being on the streets to careerism?

The right wing had money, and money buys influence—look to Kavanaugh and the Clintons and the Bushes as just a few of the examples of what schooling at Yale and places like Yale can do. A person can go in as an average or near-average Joe or Jane, as the Clintons did, and come out fabulously wealthy with influence that often is as corrupting as wealth itself.

In the Guardian’s “Yale students condemn Kavanaugh case as ‘symptom of a larger problem’” (September 30, 2018), students at this edifice of privilege realize that while most don’t end up like the examples cited above, most of their lives will be blessed through the privilege of an elite education, while those in the surrounding communities of color may often become the victims of the flip side of privilege in a system of jurisprudence that has seen criminal cases “settled” by plea bargains rising from 84 percent in 1984 to 94 percent in 2001. A good guess is that trend continues and I know which side of the divide I would want to be on. In fact, the common wisdom is that if a defendant refuses a plea deal with the state (and that holds for local, state and federal governments), then resulting sentences are often of a draconian nature compared to the deal offered. Equal justice under the law: What an absolute and horrific joke! The right to trial by one’s peers has been essentially eliminated through racism and classism and poverty.

We on the left were atomized in almost everything we did after the middle of the 1970s. The late left revolutionary and counterculture icon (warts and all), Abbie Hoffman, said in his autobiography Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture and in later writing that the victories of the 1960s of the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the women’s movement would never be reversed. How wrong! Every single movement has seen significant reversals from endless wars to mass incarceration of black people, to the attacks against Professor Ford endured in front of the U.S. Senate. It all went so damn bad!

There were some gains, however: Women moved into the workforce in significant numbers in traditionally male-dominated industries, gay people began the long struggle toward acceptance in all of the society, but the gains never translated into across the board improvement in society. A black middle class emerged from the 1960s, but so did a skyrocketing prison population of people of color.

U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2013 show that 37 percent of prisoners in the U.S. were black. Compare the latter with the stunning fact that the black percentage of the population in the U.S. in 2016 was 12.7 percent. Compare those figures for a moment: 12.7 of the population percent makes up 37 percent of the U.S. prison population. So much for most of the gains of the hard-fought civil rights movement…

In “The Shocking Abuse of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons,” Amnesty International holds no punches in scrupulously documenting how prisoners at all levels of the so-called criminal justice system are systematically exposed to horrific and extended incarceration in isolation cells that amount to prisons within prisons. The worst cases exist in Louisiana, Colorado, California, Arizona, Illinois, and at Guantanamo, but the list is not limited to those states and prison sites. The report is worth quoting at length:

How many people are held in solitary?

More than 3,000 prisoners in California are held in high security isolation units known as Security Housing Units, where they are confined for at least 22 and a half hours a day in single or double cells, with no work or meaningful rehabilitation programs or group activities of any kind.

More than 500 prisoners had spent 10 or more years in the Pelican Bay SHU, with 78 in solitary more than 20 years.

No other US state is believed to have held so many prisoners for such long periods in indefinite isolation.
But California is not alone in using prolonged, indefinite solitary confinement. The U.S. has become a world leader in the practice, holding people in inhumane conditions of isolation from Arizona to Illinois to Louisiana to Guantánamo. Reportedly, the U.S. holds “at least 25,000 inmates in isolation in supermax prisons.”

Solitary confinement amounts to torture and torture is banned by international human rights law, but its use in U.S. prisons remains beyond shocking and yet another example how laws in the U.S. comprise a two-tier system where privilege and torture stand at opposite sides of a huge divide.

A livable society and world has all almost unwound now and buffoons like Trump and Kavanaugh are in the spotlight of the three-ring circus in which we now all live.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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The Neoliberals Are Complicit in This Train Wreck

Photo/illustration credit: publicdomainpictues.net

The Neoliberals Are Complicit in This Train Wreck

Published at CounterPunch September 11, 2018

I get a kick out of many Democrats. Readers would think in reading Barack Obama’s September 7, 2018 speech at the University of Illinois, that all we have to do is go out and vote for Democrats and we’d be on the way to restoring our troubled, but exceptional democracy (“Barack Obama: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it” Guardian, September 8, 2018). What an absolute crock of shit!

The former President states that “democracy has never been easy,” but that “November’s elections are more important than any I can remember in my lifetime.” Then he continues by stating that progress in America has been “fitful… incomplete” and that progress has been achieved by “acts of heroism and dedication by citizens, by ordinary people…”

He follows by serving up a litany of the Republican’s “threats to our democracy” that just about everyone who is not hiding in a fallout shelter already knows. He also castigates young people, who in the last midterm election voted at the rate of “One in five.”

How can the sane parse this exceptionalism-in-trouble narrative? Well, let’s begin with the former President. He completely ignored those in need during the economic debacle (read Great Recession) of 2007-2008. He bailed out the fat cats who have steadily increased their share of wealth in the U.S. and have now been lavished with even greater gifts from the dunce Trump. He left the rest of us to foot the bill and sucked the equity out of the homes of millions of people, a significant number of whom were his staunch supporters and depended on home equity for their financial footing.

Next, look to U.S. militarism for an answer to where the so-called nation’s treasure is being dumped. Obama went along with endless U.S. wars to get along with the power elite. He expanded the war in Afghanistan. Now there’s a lost cause if ever there was one!

In terms of public schooling in the U.S., Obama tried to install a kind of meritocracy among schools by ignoring schools in poor areas and giving a part of the small share of federal funds that go toward public education to those districts capable of mounting competitions for that money that was sort of like the gladiatorial fights of ancient Rome.

Obama was the consummate neoliberal, and when a black professor’s (Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) rights were egregiously violated by police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he had a beer fest at the White House.

And the greatest existential threat of our time, environmental destruction, got short shrift from Democrats. Again, it was tinkering around the edges of disaster.

The former President ends his speech at the the University of Illinois, stating that “Change happens. Hope happens.” “And that can be the legacy of your generation.”

I would like to be as sanguine as the man I voted for for President, but the reality on the ground is that government by the few and the wealthy has been on a long march to oblivion that began with the jettisoning of the values and programs of the New Deal during a Democratic administration (Truman’s) and has accelerated ever since with its worst expressions through the “Great Communicator” Reagan, right up until the white supremacist Trump. It’s no accident that a right-wing, low-functioning clown now occupies the White House and the neoliberals and those with great wealth with a lust for domestic and international violence put us in such extreme jeopardy. It may very well be too late to salvage anything like the quaint democracy that Obama invoked in Illinois. Those who pull the strings won’t let a socialist or social democrat past the threshold.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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The Long Road to Far-Right Extremism in the U.S.: It didn’t Have to End This Way

Photo credit: huffingtonpost.com

The Long Road to Far-Right Extremism in the U.S.: It didn’t Have to End This Way

It’s not difficult to take a long view of the trajectory of political, social and economic life in the U.S. that has led to the extremist right-wing society in which we now live.

Some may argue correctly that elements of right-wing extremism were always present in U.S. society. Whether it was slavery, or the long march to militarism that began at the beginning of the 20th century (actually, much earlier, but it became highly mechanized in the 20th century), or an economy that catered and enhanced the wealth of the few, these forces moved all of the questions and the policies and attitudes of the government and lots of people toward the right and against the self-interests of the majority.

The debacle I now see has led to gross income inequality, extreme militarism, and hatred of the other and all began to coalesce and grow following the Vietnam War. When protest shifted its emphasis toward identity politics rather than identification with the common good, then the road was clearly marked for disaster and only some took the exits marked sanity.

Those familiar with U.S. history will object and rightly state that the removal and murder of Native Americans and the institution of slavery began before the establishment of the nation state The forces of the extreme right, however, took root in the 20th century. The Cold War put extremism on steroids! September 11, 2001 was extremism’s final nail.

The economy underwent seismic changes in the 1970s. The stage was set for globalization and the movement of industries and jobs and money to where the costs of labor and production were the cheapest. Witness the plethora of cheap and accessible goods existing side by side with increasing environmental destruction that is one of the obvious costs of a global economy. The U.S. became an Amazon and mall economy with masses of jobs flowing overseas with the deindustrialization of the U.S. The working class was split along a color line as was witnesses by the barbarism of the reaction to civil rights in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. White workers began to identify with scum like George Wallace. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan garnered more and more votes from the white working class, and particularly among disaffected male members of the working class. Recall the vicious attack against Vietnam antiwar protesters in lower Manhattan in May 1970.

The return of white working-class voters to the Democratic Party has been touted over the last few years, but witness the majority of these voters who supported Trump, who then immediately attacked those voters’ interests, in the 2016 election.

Next, people had to accept endless wars following the horror of Vietnam and the existence of what is called the Vietnam Syndrome. As an aside, my military experience during that era notes that I have Vietnam Syndrome, as if it were a condition a person could contract, rather than a principled stand against the horror of war fought on behalf of the few and the wealthy. Ronald Reagan began the long march toward the acceptance of extreme militarism with his low-intensity wars in Central America and his asinine plan to militarize space through his so-called Star Wars spending debacle. Next, George H.W. Bush, the ass-grabber-in-chief (the U.S. electorate that does actually vote certainly elects “classy” people), talked openly about ending the Vietnam Syndrome through the first Persian Gulf War following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Readers will recall that Iraq’s plans for aggression were initially ignored in 1990 and the U.S. “turkey shoot” that followed was swallowed hook, line and sinker by most in the U.S. The false story about invading Iraqi soldiers throwing newborn infants onto the floor in a hospital in Kuwait was debunked, but the U.S. public has a short memory and those lies had their intended effect. The rest of the long march to extreme militarism is now history. Witness the mass media’s recent treatment of the late Senator John McCain and the glorious bipartisan sendoff of a person who unquestioningly and ceaselessly beat the drums for endless U.S. wars on a global scale. Only a society primed for insanity can celebrate someone who sang about bombing a country with which we were not at war and posed no immediate danger to the U.S.

This discussion has not included the horrific attacks of September 2001, but those attacks found their inception, in part, through the U.S. support of militant jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a foil to Russian involvement there. Neither is the fact that the oil giant and militaristic Saudi Arabia was the home country to two-thirds of the September 11, 2001 murderers, or Saudi Arabia’s funding of extreme religious militants. These issues are off of the radar screen of the mass media and most of the public in the U.S.

Militarism is as old as apple pie and the viciousness of Andrew Jackson’s wars against Native Americans and Native American removals, Theodore Roosevelt’s militaristic machismo and murderous disdain for those deemed enemies of this nation, and Woodrow Wilson’s messianic vision of U.S. militarism, complete with its attendant attacks against antiwar activists and civil liberties, all have contributed to the the simmering pot of U.S. extreme militarism. Observers of U.S. history didn’t have to be present on the killing fields of Kent State and Jackson State in May 1970 to know what the outcome would be in terms of the government’s perceived right to kill its own children.

Finally, there is the horrific reality of extreme racism in the U.S. Racism has always been part of U.S. society with the horror of slavery, Jim Crow, and the prison-industrial complex that followed on the heels of the civil rights movement and its victories in the middle of the decade of the 1960s. Police murders of black people are a hideous footnote to the long history of racism in the U.S., as is the gun industry and lobby that has convinced some white males that they have to be armed to protect against the “threat” of black people.

Racism’s stepchild, anti-Semitism, had its most egregious expression in the August 12, 2017 murder of Heather Heyer during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In Virginia, both neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered and gave the racist and anti-Semitic Trump more fuel for hate by stating that there were “fine people” on both sides of the rally, meaning that both Nazis and counterprotesters were equally “fine” people: “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

The move toward economic globalization that began in the 1970s required that a huge segment of unneeded U.S. workers had to be put somewhere and that place increasingly became prison. The U.S. now has the largest percentage of its population in jail among major industrial economies. People of color then became prime targets of the prison-industrial complex that had its racist roots in Reconstruction following the Civil War. Racism had its most obvious expression in the Trump campaign for president and his presidency, with its constant demonization of immigrants. Hillary Clinton’s categorization of people of color as superpreditors, in reference to the ongoing and useless drug wars in the U.S., was yet another bipartisan expression of racism, as was Bill Clinton’s successful attack against the social safety net and his support of sending more people to prison. The latter is part of the bipartisan nightmare of U.S. politics!

It’s not hard to stand back and look at the long road to oblivion that this society has been traveling. The political, economic and social landscape didn’t have to turn out this way, but it did.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

He is author of Against The Wall: Memoir Of A Vietnam-Ear War Resister.

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Attention: Mass Media… You Helped Elect a Fascistic Buffoon!

 

January 20, 2018. March marking Trump’s first year in office. New York City. Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

Published at CounterPunch on August 20, 2018, as: The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?

The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?… You Helped Elect a Fascistic Buffoon!

They’re coming fast and furious! Here come 343 media outlets that are criticizing (Guardian, August 15, 2018–at least 350 at this writing) Il Duce for creating the frenzy of “fake news” among his followers and encouraging the violent among his ilk to attack counterprotesters and journalists at campaign events and “public” appearances. The Boston Globe took the lead position in publishing the first condemnation of Trump.

Why is the mass media suddenly shocked when they largely gave Trump a get out of jail card and rights to all of Main Street with hardly a whimper during the 2016 presidential campaign? Since the media is being attacked regularly and viciously, and Trump’s Republican base of haters who support him with a 51% approval rating on the issue of his attacks on the media for the media’s being “the enemy of the American people,”  the media now rises up in alarm. How disingenuous!

The media in the U.S. has long acted as a cheerleader of the government… sort of like an appendage, or fourth branch, of government that can be easily swept aside by Trump and his followers. There are exceptions, but how did the war in Iraq happen in 2003 without the assistance of major media outlets like the New York Times? How do endless wars and the endless and sometimes violent expressions of racism and police murder go unchecked? How is it that the environment is tanking before our eyes?

Only bald-face viciousness would allow innocent children to be separated from their parents and locked away, but was this society ever truly a nation that accepted immigrants with open arms? Mass media outlets were forced to pay attention.

The media is owned by the same wealth that owns Trump. But I don’t think that Trump is playing a game with the media.

Some responsibility has to be placed with people themselves, who for the most part, are either uneducated, or alternately poorly educated. Part of the blame lies with the insane notion of American Exceptionalism. Additional blame can be placed squarely on the Internet that has dumbed down the entire concept of the people deciding issues in the public square through informed debate. Why debate when a person can whack an opponent over the head and be done with it? How can people make informed decisions about issues when the public square is most often the shopping mall and people often trip over themselves walking by the public square with cellphones in hand.

It’s no accident that we’ve got a Trump, and if we survive Trump by the skin of our teeth, another demagogue will arise the next time when wealth and power become a bit more clever in how to harness people’s anger and direct it right back at themselves. The Republicans have made an art form out of taking the common troubles in people’s lives and turning them into a cause for attacking others. Trump is an expression of people acting against their self-interests and the mass media hardly misses a step in creating the illusion that all is well.

This is a society that seethes with an unacceptable high level of unhappiness and emptiness, so why be surprised by Trump? He fills that space. The lure of the shopping mall and mass consumption on the Internet will only fill the void just so far and for just so long.

Again: The mass media treated Trump as an unelectable buffoon and tolerated attacks against counterprotesters and journalists at his campaign rallies. So, why the outrage now as Trump began lashing out in Tweets at media outlets like the Boston Globe?

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

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