Thursday, January 26, 2017

Those Who Think They Remember History

A friend posted this to Facebook today:

Oh myyyy, as George Takei would say (but probably wouldn't, since he likely agrees with it).  Like I haven't heard liberal Democrats saying basically the same things about the media whenever they didn't like what the media were reporting.  If Hitler did denounce "the lying media," it wasn't because he was a Nazi, it was because he was a politician.  Like I haven't heard liberal Democrats demanding laws which would allow (require) the government to rule on whether the news being reported was "true," and to punish unruly media for "lying." (Meaning, again, saying things that the liberal Democrats didn't want to hear. As often as not, those things were true, like the revelations about Hillary Clinton during the campaign. But the truth hurts. And "lie" doesn't mean "what I don't want to hear.")

And like the media haven't discredited themselves by collaborating with the government, acting as stenographers for the powerful, passing on Bush's and Obama's (and their predecessors') lies.  I have to admit, though, the widespread unpopularity of the media in the US has little or nothing to do with the media's dishonesty or corruption; I'm not sure exactly why the media are unpopular -- which doesn't keep people from tuning in to them, either. But it hasn't got anything to do with their "corruption." Most Americans, like most human beings, are perfectly comfortable with corruption, at least the corruption of their own factions and buddies, and from what I see, most Americans wouldn't know whether what they saw in the news was true or not.

The same friend also shared this meme today:

My first reaction was that this was an accurate description of mainstream American politics over the past century and more.  It describes conditions under the Obama regime no less than under his predecessors or successor.  Outside our borders, American politicians and corporate leaders have liked, praised, supported, and protected right-wing dictatorships, including those with fascist or even Nazi leanings.  The US war with Nazism was an anomaly; at that, it wasn't until Hitler actually attacked the US that our elites were willing to fight him.  After World War II was over, the US supported Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese collaborators, using them to crush the socialists, Communists and Jews who'd led and fought in the resistance.  (Which is one reason why seeing the word "resistance" used by liberals to refer to their opposition to Trump sets my teeth on edge.)

Then I realized why the meme seemed oddly familiar to me: It was very much like, and perhaps even based on the "Communist Rules for Revolution" things that the fascist American right circulated when I was growing up.  We didn't have memes and Facebook in those days, but we did have mimeographs and photocopiers, and the propaganda mills of the Right took advantage of the available technology.  I'm often amazed, in fact, when I remember that the available media included the mainstream corporate media, but corporate bigwigs have always been happy to subsidize right-wing wackery.

Here's one version of the Communist Rules, allegedly codified by the Reds and discovered by Our Boys in Uniform in Germany in 1919:
1. Corrupt the young, get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial. Destroy their ruggedness.

2. Get control of all means of publicity.

3. Get people's minds off their government by focusing their attention on athletics, sexy books and other trivialities.

4. Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters of no importance.

5. Destroy the people's faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule and obloquy.

6. Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fast and as ruthlessly as possible.

7. By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit and produce fear of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.

8. Foment unnecessary strikes in vital industries, encourage civil disorders, and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government toward such disorders.

9. By specious argument cause the breakdown of the old moral virtues, honesty, sobriety, continence, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness.

10. Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext, with a view to confiscating them and leaving the populace helpless. 
Like whoever composed the Early Warning Signs of Fascism, whoever wrote this simply made a list of current trends they disliked, and attributed them to the official enemy they wished to attack.  It could be seen as a subset of apocalyptic literature, in which someone attributes an account of recent history to a prophet who lived centuries before.  Here's another recent example, with the element of projection brought to the forefront:
Let’s say somebody were [in the White House] and they wanted to destroy this nation. I would create division among the people, encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality and the principles that made and sustained the country, undermine the financial stability of the nation, and weaken and destroy the military. It appears coincidentally that those are the very things that are happening right now.
In any case, the resemblance between the incipient Trump regime and the supposed characteristics of fascism is due to fascist and proto-fascist sympathies and trends in America that have always been with us.  Those sympathies and trends have also always been opposed and fought, but that opposition has mostly been against the American mainstream, as exemplified by its leaders, business elites, and official media.  Donald Trump is frightening because he wants to extend and confirm those trends, but in so many respects -- his hostility to media, his love of big business, his disregard for civil liberties and civil rights, his embrace of state violence, and so on -- he represents continuity with his recent predecessors, including Barack Obama, and his defeated opponent Hillary Clinton.

One doubt nags at me, though: Do people really need to know accurate history in order to oppose and work against Trump?  I suspect not.  Sometimes I think that lies motivate and mobilize people more effectively than truth.  Could people oppose Trump effectively if they admitted the ways in which he simply continues many of Obama's policies, as Obama continued so much of the legacy of George W. Bush?  I don't know.  Maybe it makes no difference, but I think it could make a difference in what the Resistance would do if they defeated him: a kinder, gentler, less uncouth Trumpism, most likely -- but that means Obama and Clinton.