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Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time
« on: May 22, 2018, 03:28:21 AM »
Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time

Karen J. Greenberg: Dismantling Democracy, One Word at a Time

Down the Memory Hole

Consider us officially in an Orwellian world, though we only half realize it. While we were barely looking, significant parts of an American language long familiar to us quite literally, and in a remarkably coherent way, went down the equivalent of George Orwell’s infamous Memory Hole.

This hit me in a personal way recently. I was asked to give a talk at an annual national security conference held in downtown Manhattan and aimed largely at an audience of college students. The organizer, who had pulled together a remarkable array of speakers, encountered problems in one particular area: his efforts to include representatives of the Trump administration in the gathering. Initially, administration officials he dealt with wouldn’t even divulge the names of possible participants, only their titles, leaving who was coming a mystery until days before the conference opened.

In addition, before agreeing to send speakers, his contacts at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known by the acronym ICE, had not just requested but insisted that the word “refugee” be removed from the conference program. It was to appear in a description of a panel entitled “Refugee Programs, Immigration, Customs and Border Protection.”

The reason given: the desire to get through the administration approval process in Washington without undue delay. It’s not hard to believe that the administration that wanted to slow to a standstill refugees coming to the U.S. didn’t have an allied urge to do away with the very word itself. In order to ensure that ICE representatives would be there, the organizer reluctantly conceded and so the word “refugee” was dutifully removed from the program.

Meanwhile, the actual names of Department of Homeland Security officials coming to speak were withheld until three days before the event. Finally, administration representatives in touch with the conference organizers insisted that the remarks of any government representatives could not be taped, which meant, ultimately, that none of the proceedings could be taped. As a result, this conference was not recorded for posterity.

For me — and I’ve been observing the national security landscape for years now — this was something of a new low when it came to surrounding a previously open event in a penumbra of secrecy. It made me wonder how many other organizers across the country had been strong-armed in a similar fashion, how many words had been removed from various programs, and how much of what an American citizen should know now went unrecorded.

To some extent, I understood the organizer’s plight, having myself negotiated requests from government officials for 15 years’ worth of national security get-togethers of every sort. As director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and before that of a similar center at New York University School of Law, I had been asked by more than one current or former Bush or Obama administration official to not record his or her remarks. Indeed, one or two had even asked to be kept away from the audience until those remarks were delivered.

Still, most had come eager to debate, confident that their views were the preferable ones, aware that the perspectives of many in the room or conference hall would differ from theirs, often drastically, on hard-edged issues like torture, Guantánamo, and targeted killings. But one thing I know: not once in all those years had I been asked to change the language of an event, to wipe a word or phrase out of the program of the moment. It would have been an unthinkable violation.

The very idea that the government can control what words we use and don’t at a university-related event seems to violate everything we as a country hold dear about the independence of educational institutions from government control, not to mention the sanctity of free speech and the importance of public debate. But that, of course, was in the era before Donald Trump became president.

Assaulting the Language of American Democracy

Tiny as that incident was, at a conference meant largely for students but open to an array of professionals, it caught the essence of this administration’s take-no-prisoners approach to the language many of us customarily use to describe the country we live in. Such an assault is, of course, nothing new under Trump. After all, the current president had barely entered the Oval Office when the first reports began to emerge about instances in which language at various government websites was being altered, words and concepts being changed or simply obliterated.

Since then, the language of an America that the president and his associates reject has been under constant attack. Some of those acts of aggression were to be expected, given the campaign promises that preceded his election. Take climate change, which Donald Trump called a “Chinese hoax” long before he filled his administration with rabid climate deniers. The Department of Agriculture was typical. Its new officials excised the very word “climate change” from their website, substituting “weather extremes,” and changed the phrase “reduce greenhouse gases” to the palpably deceptive “increase nutrient use energy.” Across the board, in fact, .gov websites replaced “climate change” with vague words like “resilience” and “sustainability.”

But you don’t have to focus on the urge to obliterate all evidence of climate change, even the words to describe it. Other alterations have been no less notable. For starters, as at the recent conference I attended, there has been a clear rejection of language that connoted the have-nots, the excluded, and the marginalized of our world. At the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for example, this year’s budget request carefully excluded such descriptors from its mission and purpose statement. Originally incorrectly reported as a policy decision to ban certain words from use at the agency, CDC officials were simply reading the tea leaves of the new administration and quickly ridding their budget requests of key words, now poison in Trump’s Washington, describing their mission. These were words suddenly seen as red flags when it came to the use of government funds to help the less fortunate or the discriminated against. Examples included “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus” — and with science now in disrepute for its anti-fossil-fuel findings, also discarded were the phrases “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

The disavowal of marginalized groups and of the vulnerable in society, including those “refugees,” has hardly been limited to the CDC. It also reared its head, for example, in the mission statement of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, where the label “nation of immigrants” was dropped from its mission statement, which now reads:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

Given the latest news from the border of children being torn from their parents and the president’s recently reported cabinet rant about not yet securing the border effectively, no one should be surprised that “security” and “values” have trumped “immigrants” and inclusion in that mission statement. So, too, has such a mindset left its mark on another agency created to help out those in need. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, led by Ben Carson, has ditched the terms “free from discrimination,” “quality homes,” and “inclusive communities” in favor of a mission that supports “self-sufficiency” and “opportunity.” In other words, the onus is being put on the individual rather than the government.

Trump is hardly the first president to discover the importance of language as a political tool that can be self-consciously used for practical ends. Barack Obama, for instance, banished both the name “war on terror” for America’s unending post-9/11 conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa and “Islamic extremist terrorism” for those we fought — even though that “war” went right on. Still, the current president may be the first whose administration hasn’t hesitated to delete terms tied to the foundational principles of the country, among them “democracy,” “honesty,” and “transparency.”

Putting a fine point on the turn away from core values, for instance, the State Department deleted the word “democratic” from its mission statement and backed away from the notion that the department and the country should promote democracy abroad. In its new mission statement, missing words also included “peaceful” and “just.” Similarly, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission statement veered away from its prior emphasis on “ending extreme poverty and promoting the development of resilient, democratic societies that are able to realize their potential.” Its goal, it now explains, is “to support partners to become self-reliant and capable of leading their own development journeys” largely through increased security (including presumably the purchase of American weaponry) and expanding markets.

Alongside a diminished regard for the very thought of inclusiveness and for helping impoverished nations improve their conditions through aid, the idea of protecting civil liberties has taken a nosedive. President Trump’s first appointee to head the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center, Rear Admiral Edward Cashman, for example, took the words “legal” and “transparent” out of the prison facility’s mission statement. In a similar fashion, the Department of Justice has excised the portion of its website devoted to “the need for free press and public trial.”

A Ministry of Propaganda?

Meanwhile, in a set of parallel moves of betrayal, the dismemberment of agencies created to honor and protect peacefulness and basic civil liberties at home or abroad is ongoing. At the moment, for instance, less than half of the top positions at the State Department have been filled and confirmed. The fallout is clear: ambassadors to countries of major importance in current tension-ridden areas and the very concept of diplomacy that might go with them are missing in action. That includes the ambassadors for Libya, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Syria. Meanwhile, in the first year of the Trump era, nearly 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants were pushed out of the department and, by the time Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went the way of so many Trump appointees, top posts there had been halved. In an Orwellian world, agencies stripped down to bare minimum staffs and leadership are that much easier to tilt and turn in grim new directions.

Similarly, the Trump administration has all too often endeavored to disavow or obliterate facts. It’s not just a matter of endlessly reported presidential lying and misstatements, but of a wholesale disregard for reality that can again be seen at government websites where factual information of all sorts has been tossed down the memory hole. References to climate change disappeared from the White House website on Inauguration Day 2017. Many references and links to climate change put up during the Obama years were, for example, quickly removed from the State Department’s website, and other agency websites followed this pattern.

Similarly, the White House website wiped out pages focused on federal policies toward people with disabilities, leaving only this message for interested citizens: “You are not authorized to access this page.” Nor does the administration evidently feel any responsibility to issue reports to the public on its activities, including those that might damage respect for Americans worldwide. Recently, the Trump administration missed a deadline for reporting on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. drone strikes, a yearly requirement established by President Obama in 2016. A White House spokesperson explained that such a reporting requirement was “under review” and could be “modified” or “rescinded.”

Such an approach to what should and shouldn’t be known about and available to citizens from a government still theoretically of, by, and for the people has regularly been described as fascist, Stalinist, totalitarian, or authoritarian. More important, however, than any labels is the recognition that, whatever you might call it, there is indeed a strategy at work here. This is, in fact, a far less ad hoc and amateurish administration than pundits and politicians assume. Trump associates like to talk about the in-the-moment quality of present White House decision-making, but the concerted, continual, and consistent on-message attack on words, phrases, and language that offends those now in office seems to contradict that notion.

What we are evidently living through is a coordinated attack on the previous American definition of reality. The question is: Where do such directives come from? Who has identified the words and concepts that need to be deleted from the national lexicon? However unknown to us, is there a virtual minister or ministry of propaganda somewhere? Is there someone monitoring and documenting the progress of such a strategy? And what exactly are the next steps being planned?

Whatever the circumstances under which this is happening, it certainly is a bold attempt to use language as a doorway that will take us from one reality — that of the past 250 years of American history and its progression towards inclusion, diversity, equal rights for minorities, and liberty and justice for all — to another, that of an oligarchically led transformation focused on intolerance, racial and ethnic divides, discrimination, ignorance (rather than science), and the creation of a state of unparalleled heartlessness and greed.

It might be worth reflecting on the words of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for Hitler’s Nazi Party. He had a clear-eyed vision of the importance of disguising the ultimate goal of his particular campaign against democracy and truth. “The secret of propaganda,” he said, is to “permeate the person it aims to grasp without his even noticing that he is being permeated.”

Consider this a word of warning to the wise. Perhaps instead of hurling insults at President Trump’s incompetence and the seeming disarray of his presidency, it might be worth taking a step back and asking ourselves whether there is indeed a larger goal in mind: namely, a slow, patient, incremental dismantling of democracy, beginning with its most precious words.


Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and the author of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State. Samuel Levy, Hadas Spivack, and Anastasia Bez contributed research for this article.

Copyright 2018 Karen J. Greenberg. First published in TomDispatch. Included in Vox Populi with permission.

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“In a set of parallel moves of betrayal, the dismemberment of agencies created to honor and protect peacefulness and basic civil liberties at home or abroad is ongoing.” (Photo: beppesabatini/Flickr/cc)
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Unmusical Chairs
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2018, 04:10:06 AM »
Analysis from one of the best writers of the age, Rebecca Solnit, who now occupies "The Easy Chair" column once helmed by Lewis Lapham.

Unmusical Chairs

It’s often forgotten that the idea of the political spectrum—of politics having a left and right—has a physical origin. It comes from the seating arrangements at the National Assembly of 1789, the first year of the French Revolution. The terms we still use are remnants of how men once arranged themselves in a room according to their political opinions.

The Baron de Gauville wrote at the time:

Those of us attached to their King and their Religion positioned ourselves to the right of the presiding member, in order to avoid the shouting and the indecent language coming from the other side.

He tried sitting elsewhere—“in order to be the master of my opinion”—but found too much mockery on the left side to settle there. On that side, noted Adrien Duquesnoy, the delegate from Nancy, sat “men who no doubt hold exaggerated opinions at times but who in general hold a very high idea of liberty and equality.”

By 1814, “right” and “left” were being used in France to describe political ideologies. As the historian Marcel Gauchet observes,

A great deal of water flowed under the bridge between the Revolution, when people hesitantly spoke of the assembly as divided between a “right side” and a “left side,” and the Restoration, when the terms were permanently enthroned in the parliamentary lexicon.

Nonetheless, the terms “were not firmly established until the beginning of the twentieth century.” Gauchet criticizes them as dualist, “a simplifying symbolism.” They are a binary, perhaps a false one, and their capacity to define political life has been strained for a long time. One problem is that the simple, diametrically opposed terms conceal differences inside the categories and similarities across them—which is to say that at crucial times they can obscure more than they clarify.

Years ago, when I saw Diego Rivera’s murals of factory workers in a thicket of machinery, funded by Henry Ford’s son Edsel for the Detroit Institute of Arts, I finally understood why an avowed communist would have associated with the world’s leading capitalists. In the Thirties, communists and capitalists shared a vision: the future would be urban, industrial. They differed only on the administrative details. In times to come, we may perceive at last what groups that considered each other rivals or enemies had in common.

In a similar vein, there are groups we treat as homogeneous whose differences matter greatly. Surely this is true of the American right at present. The right has become radicalized since Ronald Reagan and the rise of the incoherent ideology that urges dismantling the state but building up the military, that preaches a gospel of austerity while running up deficits. It embraces authoritarianism and heavy-handed policing and elevates individual rights—but not those of women. It plays at folksy populism while serving the economic elite at everyone else’s expense.

Today, Donald Trump is leading the party to the brink. Many have peeled away along the route. Polls show that 12 percent of educated white voters over sixty have swung to the Democratic Party since the election, and support for Trump among white evangelical women has dropped 13 percent over the past year. As of early May, an almost unprecedented thirty-eight Republicans in the House and four in the Senate had announced that they would not be running for reelection this fall. From Alabama to Wisconsin, traditionally Republican seats have been won by Democrats.

Conservatives including Bill Kristol and George Will, along with writers for such publications as National Review and Foreign Policy, have loudly opposed the Trump Administration. What they object to is an extreme version of what they loved in more moderate forms.

Trump’s ideas have been championed by another part of the right, the so-called alt-right, an openly white-nationalist cult of anti-Semitism, racism, and misogyny. This movement began to surface, in part, during the Gamergate controversy of 2014, when women criticized video game culture as misogynist. Anita Sarkeesian, one of the leading voices, found herself the object of a vast, years-long digital harassment campaign. There were death threats and doxing, and the hullabaloo is considered to have brought together a host of young men who went on to populate the alt-right. Mike Cernovich and Milo Yiannopoulos were relative unknowns until they glommed on to Gamergate. As the alt-right grew, its misogynist core remained.

But the center matters, too. Max Boot, a fervent anti-Trumper affiliated with various conservative institutions, seems to see himself as a centrist now. This spring he wrote:

Both the center-left and center-right are mobilizing and—best of all—they are cooperating, because they realize that their policy differences fade into insignificance at a time when our core institutions and norms are under assault.

Sometimes I think of the new far-right coalition as the Confederacy. This makes the rest of us, I suppose, the Union. In a crisis, differences are set aside and strange alliances form; what you have in common with someone matters more than what you might disagree on. Which is to say that this country is in a crisis, and in this crisis the old terms may no longer be the best ways to define who people are.

The term “liberal” is both loaded and vague. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, liberalism “seems to fracture into a range of related but sometimes competing visions” when you try to define it and establish some clear parameters for what the word might describe. The term has to do with freedom and generosity. Historically, liberalism was about two things—individual rights and free markets. Of course, there’s a conflict built in: the freedom of the market depends on the rights of the powerful, which often lead to the savaging of the rights of individuals. This is sometimes called neoliberalism, a word that has been used so widely and sloppily that it has lost all meaning. Neoliberalism chooses the free market over human rights. Mainstream Democrats often want both sides to coexist, and embrace them while denying the contradictions.

Another term that comes from the same root is “libertarian.” Libertarianism also evolved from classical liberalism, and with their antiauthoritarianism and hostility to government, libertarians have sometimes been mistaken for part of the left. But in most ways, they fit in with the conservatives. Libertarians are overwhelmingly white men, the beneficiaries of generations of privilege that have made them believe fervently in individual autonomy and self-reliance.

Liberals and leftists are frequently portrayed as mild and strong versions of the same thing, the same end of the spectrum—left and lefter—but in crucial ways they are opposites. This became especially clear during the past two years. Liberals demonstrated a faith in the country’s official ideals and institutions and a willingness to defend them. That means participating in electoral politics that the left sometimes spurns.

Under the liberal rubric are many subcategories. There are some who see no past sins in the US government and the Democratic Party. Others see plenty, but in 2016 thought that key issues were best advanced by electing a Democratic president and then pressuring her. This may be the population that drowses during Democratic administrations and wakes up during Republican ones.

Liberals can perhaps be imagined as those who defend the rights that were originally achieved by radical movements—unions, universal suffrage, equal access, affirmative action, reproductive choice. Another faction seems both more visionary—imagining the transformation of fundamental values and ways of living—and more pragmatic, since it is often made up of people of color, women, and the poor figuring out how to survive. Its core is those who are underrepresented or on the margins. Radicals question fundamental concepts about power, hierarchy, social structure, internal dynamics, and processes in ways the more conventional liberals do not. One of the curious phenomena of our time is white leftists sneering at non-whites for being merely liberals. And yet some of the most radical political movements of the past half century have been powered by black, indigenous, Latino, and Asian people, from the Combahee River Collective to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to Idle No More and Black Lives Matter.

If the right is split between conservatives and the alt-right, the left now seems to me to be fissioning as well. An old-school left is focused on economics and antiauthoritarianism, often convinced that the US government is so appalling that any regime or leader who opposes it deserves a free ride. This faction is dismissive of electoral politics and scornful of anything that is incremental or impure. It seems to be dominated by white men whose views are amplified in ways that make them appear to speak for more of us than they do or should. This is of course true of white guys generally—the ones who signed the Declaration of Independence, the ones who own most of the media, from the Washington Post to Fox News, the ones who fill the majority of our elected offices. But it’s grating on the left, where things are supposed to be different. It would be nice to have a left made up of people “who no doubt hold exaggerated opinions at times but who in general hold a very high idea of liberty and equality,” as Adrien Duquesnoy wrote.

Today, it is not unusual to see men who identify as socialist attack women who identify as feminist, sometimes the same men who dismiss race and gender equality as trivial “identity politics.”

Gender itself has much to do with political orientation. In almost every recent presidential election, men have been more likely to support the Republican and women more likely to support the Democratic candidate. One side of the left “that called itself ‘the left’ too often preferred to stay stubbornly unreconstructed, in particular in regard to gender,” wrote L. A. Kauffman, a longtime organizer and author, describing the divisions forty years ago.

Women tend to be more enthusiastic about social welfare. The linguist and philosopher George Lakoff echoed this inclination, asserting that liberals imagine the government as a “nurturant parent” who should meet our needs while conservatives see it as a “strict father” who keeps us in line through menace and punishment. Indeed, a 2013 study concluded that women were twice as likely to say that giving to charity was the most satisfying part of having wealth.

Michael Kimmel, the author of Healing from Hate, points out that what we don’t talk about when we talk about right-wing extremism, from the Islamic State to the alt-right, is that right-wing extremists are mostly men. He sees a connection between seemingly disparate phenomena, including Christian and Islamic fundamentalism; the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year; and Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 killed several people, including two sorority sisters, in an attack that was supposed to be revenge on women for not meeting his delusional expectations. Both Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland, Florida, shooter, and Alek Minassian, the Toronto killer, revered Rodger. Kimmel writes,

These young men feel entitled to a sense of belonging and community, of holding unchallenged moral authority over women and children, and of feeling that they count in the world and that their lives matter.

Experiencing threats to the lives they feel they deserve leads these young men to feel ashamed and humiliated. And it is this aggrieved entitlement—entitlement thwarted and frustrated—that leads some men to search for a way to redeem themselves as men, to restore and retrieve that sense of manhood that has been lost.

Joining up is a form of masculine compensation, an alternative route to proving manhood.

Kauffman tells a contrasting narrative about gender and our present politics. Last year she wrote:

There are numerous qualities that distinguish this organizing upsurge from past waves of protest in the United States, but the most striking and significant is its composition: the resistance, by and large, is women. Women, of course, have long played key but under-acknowledged roles in the great movements of American history, from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s to Ferguson and Standing Rock. With the anti-Trump resistance, though, the preponderance of women is so noteworthy and significant that failing to name it obscures the movement’s basic nature—and distorts the larger political conversation surrounding it.

Meanwhile, a lot of young people are criticizing the limitations of gender identity and sexual orientation. Their questions are a testament to the limited usefulness of any categories or binaries. If left and right defined seating arrangements in 1789, what seems most true in 2018 is that no one is sitting still, that we have stood up and walked away. We are drifting and milling and marching toward some unknown shore.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Unmusical Chairs
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2018, 06:09:37 AM »
Analysis from one of the best writers of the age, Rebecca Solnit, who now occupies "The Easy Chair" column once helmed by Lewis Lapham.

Unmusical Chairs

It’s often forgotten that the idea of the political spectrum—of politics having a left and right—has a physical origin. It comes from the seating arrangements at the National Assembly of 1789, the first year of the French Revolution. The terms we still use are remnants of how men once arranged themselves in a room according to their political opinions.

The Baron de Gauville wrote at the time:

Those of us attached to their King and their Religion positioned ourselves to the right of the presiding member, in order to avoid the shouting and the indecent language coming from the other side.

He tried sitting elsewhere—“in order to be the master of my opinion”—but found too much mockery on the left side to settle there. On that side, noted Adrien Duquesnoy, the delegate from Nancy, sat “men who no doubt hold exaggerated opinions at times but who in general hold a very high idea of liberty and equality.”

By 1814, “right” and “left” were being used in France to describe political ideologies. As the historian Marcel Gauchet observes,

A great deal of water flowed under the bridge between the Revolution, when people hesitantly spoke of the assembly as divided between a “right side” and a “left side,” and the Restoration, when the terms were permanently enthroned in the parliamentary lexicon.

Nonetheless, the terms “were not firmly established until the beginning of the twentieth century.” Gauchet criticizes them as dualist, “a simplifying symbolism.” They are a binary, perhaps a false one, and their capacity to define political life has been strained for a long time. One problem is that the simple, diametrically opposed terms conceal differences inside the categories and similarities across them—which is to say that at crucial times they can obscure more than they clarify.

Years ago, when I saw Diego Rivera’s murals of factory workers in a thicket of machinery, funded by Henry Ford’s son Edsel for the Detroit Institute of Arts, I finally understood why an avowed communist would have associated with the world’s leading capitalists. In the Thirties, communists and capitalists shared a vision: the future would be urban, industrial. They differed only on the administrative details. In times to come, we may perceive at last what groups that considered each other rivals or enemies had in common.

In a similar vein, there are groups we treat as homogeneous whose differences matter greatly. Surely this is true of the American right at present. The right has become radicalized since Ronald Reagan and the rise of the incoherent ideology that urges dismantling the state but building up the military, that preaches a gospel of austerity while running up deficits. It embraces authoritarianism and heavy-handed policing and elevates individual rights—but not those of women. It plays at folksy populism while serving the economic elite at everyone else’s expense.

Today, Donald Trump is leading the party to the brink. Many have peeled away along the route. Polls show that 12 percent of educated white voters over sixty have swung to the Democratic Party since the election, and support for Trump among white evangelical women has dropped 13 percent over the past year. As of early May, an almost unprecedented thirty-eight Republicans in the House and four in the Senate had announced that they would not be running for reelection this fall. From Alabama to Wisconsin, traditionally Republican seats have been won by Democrats.

Conservatives including Bill Kristol and George Will, along with writers for such publications as National Review and Foreign Policy, have loudly opposed the Trump Administration. What they object to is an extreme version of what they loved in more moderate forms.

Trump’s ideas have been championed by another part of the right, the so-called alt-right, an openly white-nationalist cult of anti-Semitism, racism, and misogyny. This movement began to surface, in part, during the Gamergate controversy of 2014, when women criticized video game culture as misogynist. Anita Sarkeesian, one of the leading voices, found herself the object of a vast, years-long digital harassment campaign. There were death threats and doxing, and the hullabaloo is considered to have brought together a host of young men who went on to populate the alt-right. Mike Cernovich and Milo Yiannopoulos were relative unknowns until they glommed on to Gamergate. As the alt-right grew, its misogynist core remained.

But the center matters, too. Max Boot, a fervent anti-Trumper affiliated with various conservative institutions, seems to see himself as a centrist now. This spring he wrote:

Both the center-left and center-right are mobilizing and—best of all—they are cooperating, because they realize that their policy differences fade into insignificance at a time when our core institutions and norms are under assault.

Sometimes I think of the new far-right coalition as the Confederacy. This makes the rest of us, I suppose, the Union. In a crisis, differences are set aside and strange alliances form; what you have in common with someone matters more than what you might disagree on. Which is to say that this country is in a crisis, and in this crisis the old terms may no longer be the best ways to define who people are.

The term “liberal” is both loaded and vague. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, liberalism “seems to fracture into a range of related but sometimes competing visions” when you try to define it and establish some clear parameters for what the word might describe. The term has to do with freedom and generosity. Historically, liberalism was about two things—individual rights and free markets. Of course, there’s a conflict built in: the freedom of the market depends on the rights of the powerful, which often lead to the savaging of the rights of individuals. This is sometimes called neoliberalism, a word that has been used so widely and sloppily that it has lost all meaning. Neoliberalism chooses the free market over human rights. Mainstream Democrats often want both sides to coexist, and embrace them while denying the contradictions.

Another term that comes from the same root is “libertarian.” Libertarianism also evolved from classical liberalism, and with their antiauthoritarianism and hostility to government, libertarians have sometimes been mistaken for part of the left. But in most ways, they fit in with the conservatives. Libertarians are overwhelmingly white men, the beneficiaries of generations of privilege that have made them believe fervently in individual autonomy and self-reliance.

Liberals and leftists are frequently portrayed as mild and strong versions of the same thing, the same end of the spectrum—left and lefter—but in crucial ways they are opposites. This became especially clear during the past two years. Liberals demonstrated a faith in the country’s official ideals and institutions and a willingness to defend them. That means participating in electoral politics that the left sometimes spurns.

Under the liberal rubric are many subcategories. There are some who see no past sins in the US government and the Democratic Party. Others see plenty, but in 2016 thought that key issues were best advanced by electing a Democratic president and then pressuring her. This may be the population that drowses during Democratic administrations and wakes up during Republican ones.

Liberals can perhaps be imagined as those who defend the rights that were originally achieved by radical movements—unions, universal suffrage, equal access, affirmative action, reproductive choice. Another faction seems both more visionary—imagining the transformation of fundamental values and ways of living—and more pragmatic, since it is often made up of people of color, women, and the poor figuring out how to survive. Its core is those who are underrepresented or on the margins. Radicals question fundamental concepts about power, hierarchy, social structure, internal dynamics, and processes in ways the more conventional liberals do not. One of the curious phenomena of our time is white leftists sneering at non-whites for being merely liberals. And yet some of the most radical political movements of the past half century have been powered by black, indigenous, Latino, and Asian people, from the Combahee River Collective to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to Idle No More and Black Lives Matter.

If the right is split between conservatives and the alt-right, the left now seems to me to be fissioning as well. An old-school left is focused on economics and antiauthoritarianism, often convinced that the US government is so appalling that any regime or leader who opposes it deserves a free ride. This faction is dismissive of electoral politics and scornful of anything that is incremental or impure. It seems to be dominated by white men whose views are amplified in ways that make them appear to speak for more of us than they do or should. This is of course true of white guys generally—the ones who signed the Declaration of Independence, the ones who own most of the media, from the Washington Post to Fox News, the ones who fill the majority of our elected offices. But it’s grating on the left, where things are supposed to be different. It would be nice to have a left made up of people “who no doubt hold exaggerated opinions at times but who in general hold a very high idea of liberty and equality,” as Adrien Duquesnoy wrote.

Today, it is not unusual to see men who identify as socialist attack women who identify as feminist, sometimes the same men who dismiss race and gender equality as trivial “identity politics.”

Gender itself has much to do with political orientation. In almost every recent presidential election, men have been more likely to support the Republican and women more likely to support the Democratic candidate. One side of the left “that called itself ‘the left’ too often preferred to stay stubbornly unreconstructed, in particular in regard to gender,” wrote L. A. Kauffman, a longtime organizer and author, describing the divisions forty years ago.

Women tend to be more enthusiastic about social welfare. The linguist and philosopher George Lakoff echoed this inclination, asserting that liberals imagine the government as a “nurturant parent” who should meet our needs while conservatives see it as a “strict father” who keeps us in line through menace and punishment. Indeed, a 2013 study concluded that women were twice as likely to say that giving to charity was the most satisfying part of having wealth.

Michael Kimmel, the author of Healing from Hate, points out that what we don’t talk about when we talk about right-wing extremism, from the Islamic State to the alt-right, is that right-wing extremists are mostly men. He sees a connection between seemingly disparate phenomena, including Christian and Islamic fundamentalism; the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year; and Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 killed several people, including two sorority sisters, in an attack that was supposed to be revenge on women for not meeting his delusional expectations. Both Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland, Florida, shooter, and Alek Minassian, the Toronto killer, revered Rodger. Kimmel writes,

These young men feel entitled to a sense of belonging and community, of holding unchallenged moral authority over women and children, and of feeling that they count in the world and that their lives matter.

Experiencing threats to the lives they feel they deserve leads these young men to feel ashamed and humiliated. And it is this aggrieved entitlement—entitlement thwarted and frustrated—that leads some men to search for a way to redeem themselves as men, to restore and retrieve that sense of manhood that has been lost.

Joining up is a form of masculine compensation, an alternative route to proving manhood.

Kauffman tells a contrasting narrative about gender and our present politics. Last year she wrote:

There are numerous qualities that distinguish this organizing upsurge from past waves of protest in the United States, but the most striking and significant is its composition: the resistance, by and large, is women. Women, of course, have long played key but under-acknowledged roles in the great movements of American history, from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s to Ferguson and Standing Rock. With the anti-Trump resistance, though, the preponderance of women is so noteworthy and significant that failing to name it obscures the movement’s basic nature—and distorts the larger political conversation surrounding it.

Meanwhile, a lot of young people are criticizing the limitations of gender identity and sexual orientation. Their questions are a testament to the limited usefulness of any categories or binaries. If left and right defined seating arrangements in 1789, what seems most true in 2018 is that no one is sitting still, that we have stood up and walked away. We are drifting and milling and marching toward some unknown shore.


The last time women made a big change in American politics they brought us Prohibition. Just sayin'.

Women certainly lean more liberal than men, but they're far from consensus and don't represent any kind of dependable bloc, until we have some kind of issue that elicits deep feelings, like this child separation issue. Then they gird their loins and come out to express their outrage.

Most of the time their liberalism falls short of changing election outcomes, and many religious women still vote very  conservative. There are a lot of those, too.

People like this journalist need to understand what JHK is saying, no matter how unpalatable and politically incorrect he might be.

The Party machinery is just trying to hang in until the demographic wave of brown voters turns the tide for Dems. They've long ago sold out the workers and the people in their traditional base, and the SJW's and the rainbow coalitions have taken over the platform and turned it into a whine-fest for "special group" rights, including people who aren't legal citizens at all.

It remains to be seen if the liberal party can get power back, but even if they do, the idea that the people really running the party will do anything other than sell out their constituents is some kind of pipe dream. The Democrat elites just see the brown vote as a big bloc they can manipulate, use, and abuse in the course of their corporate dick sucking BAU.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

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A Renowned Survival Expert Has Some Advice for Making It Out Alive
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2018, 10:42:02 AM »
A Renowned Survival Expert Has Some Advice for Making It Out of the Trump Administration Alive
Laurence Gonzales wrote the books on survival—and he's never been more scared in his life.


image
Mike Kim

It's a sign of the times that when looking for a light summer read, I turned to Laurence Gonzales's 2003 book,Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, about thrill-seekers and bad-luck sufferers trying to pull through disasters. My hope was that stories of plane crashes, boating accidents, and mountaineering mishaps would be a welcome escape from reality.

While reading about a hiker lost in the wilderness and frantically trying to find his way back to civilization, it hit me that our country is in a similar position. Instead of being an escape, the book turned out to be a very useful primer on how we might survive Donald Trump.

TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-TRUMP-DEPARTS
Getty ImagesBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

I didn't want to read too much into the text, so instead, I tracked down the bestselling author who's written several books on the topic. Gonzales has spent his life pursuing adrenaline-inducing activities, so I pictured him climbing Mt. Hood, riding his motorcycle through Mexico, or flying through a canyon in a homebuilt copy of a two-seat Italian fighter plane. As it turned out, Gonzales was sitting at home in Evanston, Illinois, getting ready to head to the Santa Fe Institute where he's an SFI Miller Scholar.

Since turning 70 this year, Gonzales has "retired from adventuring," but that doesn't mean life has lost its edge. He told me that watching the news, he's never been so scared in his life.

"9/11 was nothing compared to what's coming," he said. "I don't want to minimize those deaths, or the impact that had on those families, but as a nation, we're staring down the barrel of this very dangerous gun in the form of this lunatic in the White House."

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!

Less than a month ago, Trump tweeted at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and threatened Iran with "consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before." Gonzales spoke calmly as he discussed why the threat of nuclear annihilation is at the top of his list of risks that keep him up at night.

"The way the system of nuclear weapons works, you can't just drop one bomb. They'll all go off at the same time," Gonzales explained. "This isn'tDr. Strangelove. This is real. And these weapons are in the hands of two insane people: one being Kim Jong Un, and the other being Donald Trump. And at least Donald Trump would very much like to use them."

This week, Trumpsignedthe John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act which includes money to build "low-yield," flexible nuclear warheads that could be launched from submarines.

Gonzales also worries about the Russians hacking into the electrical grid—not that they might, but that they did. He worries about the Patriot Act, which, "destroyed the Bill of Rights," and plunged the country into "an Orwellian police state" which could lead to martial law.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Genericamazon.com

To Survive This, We Can't Ignore It

Recounting lessons from his book, Gonzales believes the survival of democracy depends on our ability to perceive and believe reality. "One of the reasons we get into hazardous situations is because we see stuff and just ignore it," he says. "Our brains are trained to make mental models. We remember that a dog is a dog so that every time we see a dog, we don't have to ask, 'What is that creature?'"

Modeling makes our brains more efficient by giving us the ability to make associations without taking each detail into account. The downside is we lose our ability to notice things. People view Donald Trump as “the President” because he occupies the same space as the previous residents of the White House. But Trump’s not the same. It’s like seeing a mountain lion slip through a doggie door as a child rushes over, declaring, “Puppy!”

“We need to see him for how he really is,” says Gonzales. “A psychopathic, lying, misogynistic, lunatic—pick your adjective.”

The inability to perceive and believe reality when under stress is called “bending the map.” A hiker inDeep Survivalheads for the top of a mountain. Hours later, it’s getting dark. A storm is coming in. He thinks he’s close to his destination and is surprised when the lake on the map that should be just on the left, isn’t there at all. Instead of concluding that he must have strayed from the path, the hiker instead concludes, “The lake must have dried up.” He rejects the map and keeps going, further and further away from where he needs to go.

WE NEED TO SEE HIM FOR HOW HE REALLY IS. A PSYCHOPATHIC, LYING, MISOGYNISTIC, LUNATIC.

Gonzales thinks the reaction to Trump’s performance in Helsinki was a version of “bending the map.” The perception was the leaders of the United States and Russia held a summit. The reality was Trump had a long, private meeting with Vladimir Putin. Then, in front of the world, Trump dismissed the United States’ intelligence community. “We have to recognize that whatever comes out of Trump’s mouth is not designed to help the United States. It’s designed to further his own agenda and Russia’s agenda,” Gonzales explains. “That’s what he’s there for. And he was put there by an enemy of the United States.”

Perceiving and believing works best when we react to the truth without emotion. Emotion allows us to be shocked and disgusted and outraged. “Can you believe Trump did that?!” we ask. We keep thinking of what should be there, like a dried-up lake, instead of seeing what is there. If you’re pointing out that Trump said he “would hire the best people” and didn’t, you are stumbling in circles.

President Donald Trump Makes Statement On Paris Climate Agreement
Getty ImagesWin McNamee

“Accepting reality takes a hard heart,” Gonzales advises. He cites the story of mountain climber Joe Simpson whose partner was forced to “cut the rope,” believing he was sending Simpson to certain death.

“There are a lot of good, smart Republicans out there and they need to cut the rope on this guy,” says Gonzales. “That means being willing to say the truth, and being willing to recognize that Trump has committed crimes, and being willing to impeach him, even though he ran on a Republican ticket.”

Gonzales offers the same advice to the GOP that he offers a hiker who is “bending the map.” “Get back to a known position,” he says. “Too often we keep going forward, when the safest choice is to retrace our steps. You need to walk back the trail that brought you here.”

Donald Trump Holds Rally In Bethpage, New York
Getty ImagesAndrew Renneisen

For Democrats, Gonzales has five pieces of advice on how to survive:

1. Support each other and don’t give in to hysteria (even when it’s warranted).

InDeep Survival, a boat capsizes and while the group is waiting to be rescued, some of the passengers start to freak out. Two level-headed people decide to band together and make a pact to not drink sea water. One slept while the other watched. They made each other laugh. “They decided to cut themselves off from the hysterical people, and just concentrate on each other,” says Gonzales. (They lived.)

2. Show compassion.

Doing things for others is a crucial element in survival. “Doctors and nurses do better in survival situations, because they’re helping others,” says Gonzales. “This goes hand-in-hand with the psychological concept of the locus of control. Some people see themselves as victims and others take the view that they have agency in this world and can make things better. They’re rescuers, not victims.”

3. Find a leader.

Survivors organize, set up routines, and institute discipline. Gonzales believes the Democrats need a leader, “like a John F. Kennedy or Barack Obama. Somebody who everybody can get passionate about.”

4. Lay off the Trump jokes a little.

Gonzales praises humor as a general survival tactic, but thinks it would be better if late-night shows pulled backed on the Trump jokes. “Making fun of Donald Trump lessens the impact of knowing how evil and dangerous he is,” says Gonzales. “So, all thisSaturday Night Livestuff is not helpful. It just lessens our fear. And we should be very afraid right now.”

5. Don’t give up.

The attitude “As long as I can take a step, I’m going to take a step” doesn’t always lead to success, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Gonzales recommends that people take to the streets. “During my youth, when the Vietnam war was going on, people made enough noise that Johnson didn’t run for reelection; and the war had to eventually end. People have the power to go out and make their wishes known and have an influence.”

We Can't Rely on Chance

Gonzales’s book makes it clear that when people wait to be rescued, as opposed to taking positive action on their own behalf, they make themselves more vulnerable. Chance may spare them. But chance isn't always the best wilderness guide. Protesting, organizing, finding leaders and voting is democracy’s best hope for survival.

Gonzales offered one final, poignant metaphor: “A tourist boat recentlysank in Bransonand killed seventeen people. You know, there’s an awful lot known about how to make boats. And that boat should not have been in the water. There’s also an awful lot known about the weather in July in Missouri. Anybody can look at the radar on a cell phones, and say, ‘Oh, this doesn’t look so good. Let’s wait.’ Instead, this idiot captain drove into a storm, and killed half the people on his boat. I would liken that to the political-economic-geopolitical situation we’re in right now.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

 

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