Writer and scholar Sarah Kendzior argues freedom is about what it means to be human, so we must protect it at all costs.
One of the most common refrains when a democracy collapses into an autocracy is that no one could have seen it coming.
The motivation behind this myth is the absolution of the powerful. After all, what cannot be predicted cannot be prevented, and therefore the failure of officials to safeguard our freedoms should be forgiven. This is the story we hear as Donald Trump approaches a possible second term and the U.S. plunges into unprecedented turmoil.
The premise, of course, is a lie.
What “No one saw it coming” tells you is who the powerful consider to be “no one.” “No one” are the multitude of marginalized Americans who warned in 2016 that their rights had always been on the line and would be even more so now. “No one” are the people who knew that a future American autocracy was possible because their ancestors had been subject to past ones: slavery, Jim Crow, internment camps, and other forms of legal subjugation that were destroyed only through decades of defiant demands for their eradication. Continue reading
George Orwell’s “1984” is not the only classic that’s celebrating a comeback. Hannah Arendt’s philosophical essay “The Origins of Totalitarianism” has also spiked in interest recently. Here’s why it’s so relevant.
Born in Germany to a Jewish family, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) fled when Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933. She spent time as a stateless refugee in France and was deported to an internment camp under the Vichy regime. She emigrated to the United States in 1941, later becoming a US citizen.
Having experienced first-hand the near collapse of an advanced civilization, she also became one of the first political theorists to analyze how totalitarian political movements could rise in the early 20th century.
The roots of Nazism and Stalinism are described in her first major book, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” originally published in English in 1951.
It has been compulsory reading for many college students ever since, but the dense political work of over 500 pages isn’t typically a bestseller. It has been flying off bookshelves in the US since Trump’s inauguration; Amazon even briefly ran out of stock this week.
These new Arendt fans are presumably trying to understand what Trump’s presidency could lead to. As it might take a while for readers to get through her heavy essays, here are a few spoilers: “Trump is not a totalitarian in her understanding; he incorporates what she calls ‘elements’ of totalitarianism,” Roger Berkowitz, professor and head of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanity at Bard College in New York, explained in a recent DW interview.
However, strong warning signs shouldn’t be ignored, added Berkowitz: Arendt believed that “one of the core elements of totalitarianism is that it’s based in a movement… and Trump has explicitly called himself the mouthpiece of a movement. That’s a very dangerous position for a politician.”
Populism: easy fixes in times of global anxiety
Arendt’s analysis focuses on the events of that period. Although her observations obviously couldn’t explain everything about today’s complex political developments, many are still revealing even now, as the right-wing populism that’s spreading throughout Europe and the US is reminiscent in different ways of the situation in the 1920s and 30s that allowed the Nazis and Communists to rise.Continue reading
Rick Wilson on Trump’s Cruelty
We probably didn’t share a single issue. We used to occasionally scrap on Twitter in good fun. For a guy in his 80s when he hit Twitter, he was damn good at it, and that was for a reason. He’d been to the big show. He’d seen it all. For a guy in his 80s when he hit Twitter, he was damn good at it, and that was for a reason. He’d been to the big show. He’d seen it all.
I know that people I admired and admire thought the world of him personally. Republicans. Democrats.
In my long life in politics, I’ve always loved sitting down with anyone who knows the real, lived history of our time. I regret I never got to do that with John. I bet he had some hella stories.
Both parties to live too in the now and believe nothing existed before today.
What Trump’s attack betrayed, in case you missed the four obvious points of it, was as follows.
A. For Trump, the cruelty IS the message. He knew Debbie’s wounds were fresh, her pain real. He’s a sadist of the worst order; one who exploits the pain of the grieving.
B. He always projects. Trump knew in MI Dingell is still a beloved figure, and respected. Trump knows he’ll never have that. He’ll be a figure of fun, a term of insult, a sad clown womp womp laugh track.
He knows he’s more likely to be “looking up” from Hell.
C. His boundless, ravenous ego is a singularity of need, an insatiable maw demanding abject loyalty when he shows even the most minimal courtesy. Everything is transactional and disproportionate. Nothing is ever enough. It’s always “What have you done for me lately?” and FYPM.
D. Trump exists only in Trump nation, the agitprop bubble of his media lackeys and enablers.
He plays only to the mob, the unwashed and furious masses of a cohort educated only in their grievances and the imagined slights of their betters.
I wish to the gods there was one goddamn elected Republican in the world to call out his b.s.
But Profiles in Cowardice is the order of the day, and it is a party not only without stalwarts but one where the collaborators with evil see themselves are heroes.
Source: The Twitter account of Rick Wilson.
HOBBLEDEHOY apologies to Mr. Wilson, as this was originally written as a multi-part tweet, and not a proper news piece, with all the limitations of Twitter.
Mr. Wilson describes himself as “Apostate GOP Media Guy, writer, NYT #1 best-selling author of ETTD. “Digital assassin.”
You can preorder Mr. Wilson’s “Running Against The Devil” here: http://bit.ly/RATD2020
BACKGROUND TO THE CONTROVERSY
(CNN) President Donald Trump attacked Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and her late husband, Rep. John Dingell, during a rally on Wednesday, implying the former congressman was “looking up” from hell.”Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump said of the congresswoman, noting he was watching her on television during impeachment proceedings.Trump said that he gave the family the “A-plus treatment” after John Dingell died, and that the congresswoman, who now holds his seat in the House, told Trump during an emotional call following John Dingell’s funeral that her husband would have been “thrilled” by the respect shown for him during his funeral and “he’s looking down” on the ceremonies.”Maybe he’s looking up,” Trump said, drawing some moans and groans from those in Battle Creek, Michigan, about two hours away from Debbie Dingell’s district. “Maybe, but let’s assume he’s looking down.”