The plan is to have no plan

By Arthur L. Carter

“There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.”

In this space I am parking my short description of the de facto plan the Trump government has for getting the United States out of the public health emergency caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is my read on what the government’s guidance and actions amount to. I will revise the text and add new links as more information flows in. My purpose in posting it is to challenge the American press to be a lot clearer in its descriptions.  

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence. 

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable. 

“The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design— or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives. 

Source: The plan is to have no plan – PressThink


PRESSTHINK, a project of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, is written by Jay Rosen.

Ultracrepidarians – know any?

by Simon Leyland

I was in the pub having a quiet pint and as you do, caught the end of a most peculiar conversation. Man (a) was talking to man (b). Man (b) was attempting to reply but with some of the most bizarre replies possible. No offence to the fellow involved but it led me to consider the word ultracrepidarianism

Ultracrepidarianism is giving opinions on subjects that you know nothing about, and is thus a terribly useful word. Ultracrepidarian was introduced into English by the essayist William Hazlitt, but it goes back to an ancient story about the great Greek painter Apelles.

The story goes that Apelles used to leave his new paintings out on public display and then hide behind a pillar to hear people’s reactions. One day he overheard a cobbler pointing out that Apelles had painted a shoe all wrong. So he took the painting away, corrected the shoe and put it out on display again.

The cobbler came back, saw that Apelles had taken his advice and was so proud and puffed up with conceit that he had made the great painter change a detail that he started talking loudly about what was wrong with the leg; at which point Apelles jumped out from his hiding place and shouted: ne sutor ultra crepidam, which approximately translates as the cobbler should go no further than the shoe. Thus ultracrepidiarian is beyond-the-shoe.

Source: Ultracrepidarianism……. | Simon Leyland

Why the world is turning to Hannah Arendt to explain Trump

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.”

DW News Hannah Arendt Zitate ENG

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.

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