The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “AMERICA AT WAR WITH ITSELF” by Henry A. Gioux from Part I: “Political Geographies of the New Authoritarianism” from Chapter Two: “Donald Trump’s America” from page 37 and I quote: “As the language of community and the public spheres collapse, people are increasingly atomized and isolated, and believe that they have little control over their lives. Republicans have taken this sense of anger and helplessness and have used it for the last thirty years to tell their supporters that they should be angry about Blacks, immigrants, big government, Muslims, terrorists, and a host of other issues that have nothing to do with the problems they face daily. As Robert Kagan points out, “it has been Trump’s good fortune to be the guy to sweep them up and become their standard bearer. He is the Napoleon who has harvested the fruit of the revolution. [Trump is] the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker.”
Trump now personifies a party that makes intolerance a priority while viewing evidence-based arguments with open disdain. This is the party that censors textbooks, imposes mindless pedagogies of memorization and test-taking on students (along with the Democratic Party), denies climate change has anything to do with human activity, supports creationism, and floods the mainstream media with never-ending stream of civic illiteracy. Jeb Bush, considered a moderate politician, while serving as Governor of Florida, signed a bill that declared, “American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed. That factual history, the law states, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable.” For all intents and purposes, this bill did more than undermine any form of teaching that recognized history is subject to interpretation; it imposed a suffocating ideology on teachers and students by declaring that matters of debate and interpretation undermine the very process of teaching and learning. This is more than conceptual ignorance; it is an attack on reason itself, one that provides security for the apostles of state power who, as Noam Chomsky has argued, are intent on dismantling dissent in order to “protect themselves from the scrutiny of their own populations.”
Richard Hofstadter once warned that anti-intellectualism was a strong undercurrent of American life. Not only was he right, but he would be shocked to discover that today anti-intellectualism has gone mainstream and has been not only normalized but validated by right-wing extremists governing the Republican Party, which Trump willingly embraces. Trump’s comment: “I love the poorly educated” is not a gaffe but an honest recognition of the degree to which successful political campaigns are now dependent on an uninformed public. For Trump, bullying replaces any viable notion of dialogue, and emotion vanquishes reason, understanding, and thoughtfulness. Of course, Trump’s embrace of ignorance and his willingness to make stupidity a trademark of his identity points to a number of forces in American life. As Susan Jacoby has argued, these would include:
“fundamentalist forms of religion in current America . . . the abysmal level of public education . . . the widespread inability to distinguish between science and pseudoscience . . . the dumbing-down of the media and politics [and] the consequences of a culture of serious reading being replaced by a rapid-fire, short-attention-span-provoking, over-stimulating, largely visual, information-spewing environment.”
Trump is representative of a publicity-branding machine that funds and promotes conservative institutes that produce anti-public intellectuals whose role is to snarl at the victims of social injustice, to disdain public institutions in the service of the public good, and to do everything possible to promote a culture marked by a depoliticizing moral and political vacancy. Trump is simply the manifestation of a new type of authoritarianism, one that revels in thoughtlessness and the survival-of-the-fittest ethic marketed in his former TV game show, The Apprentice.
Corporate media love Donald Trump. He is the perfect embodiment of the spectacle that drives up their rating. That Trump is a white nationalist, a racist, and a spewer of hate against Muslims, Mexicans, and the Pope all adds to the shock that feeds the spectacle. Karl Grossman argues that the media is intimidated by Trump. He misses the point. In the age of celebrity culture, the media love Trump and he loves them. They chase audiences and he delivers them. Trump is not a media clown, he is an expert at getting media to promote and fund his self-marketing strategy. His campaign is unique in that it it modeled after the commercial superficiality of game-show TV. Sean Illing is right in stating:
“Trump’s a TV man; he understands the landscape. He knows interesting is preferable to informed or reasonable or lucid. Which is why he eschews talking points or scripts and instead riffs on stage like a stand-up. Trump’s free-wheeling approach means he could say literally anything at any moment, and that’s the kind of thing people want to watch.”
Neal Gabler goes further and argues that not only did the Republican Party with their hate-spewing, poor-bashing, government-stopping and corporation-loving for decades” pave the way for Trump. it produced him, because it created what Gabler calls the first “pseudo-campaign.” A pseudo-campaign is one that supports theatrics and personalities over substance. This is a campaign model that imitates movies and embraces images rather than issues. The novelty here is that Trump was not treated as a political candidate by the media. On the contrary, he was treated almost like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, a celebrity for whom it was not necessary to interrogate history, policies, and statements, except to stir the kinds of controversies that make for good TV. Gabler brings the point home by citing CBS head Les Moonves, who reveals the true motives behind CBS’s coverage of the Trump-dominated campaign. He writes:
“CBS head Les Moonves gave away the game earlier this week when he admitted, “It may not be good for America . . .but it is damn good for CBS,” meaning the ratings. And then he kept doubling down: “The money’s rolling in and this is fun.” “I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going. Donald’s place in this election is a good thing”–presumably for CBS stockholders. To which I can only say that the networks were granted licenses to the public airwaves, our airwaves, by promising to provide a public service. Moonves just blew that pretense all to hell.”
Both Illing and Gabler are only partly right. Celebrity culture confers power, but at the same time it empties politics of any viable substance.
Trump is certainly aware of the power of celebrity culture and boasted that he knew how to “work the media” to a group of Republicans who asked him in 2013 to run for Governor of New York. As Illing notes:
“To their surprise, he declined but added that they would be useful when he ran for president. “I’m going to walk away with it and win outright,” Trump told the group, “I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.” Trump knew all along that his celebrity and media savvy were sufficient to support his campaign. Although they didn’t believe him, Trump told the Republicans in that room in 2013 that he would dominate the race without spending much on paid advertising.”
Celebrity culture points to a powerful fusion of power, culture, and politics, but the ideological form it takes and the politics it now serves have to be named, however different the task. Trump is the logical result of decades of assaults on democracy by both Republican and Democratic Parties, which have been skewed by the enormous economic influence of financial and corporate elites. Trump’s popularity in the political arena is about more than the power of politics as entertainment or his ability to direct the narrative; it is also “the distilled essence of a much larger disturbing reality” the rise of authoritarianism in the United States and the death of democracy. Trump may know how to manipulate the media, but the interests that benefit from the commercial media are the product of the darker elements of elitism, racism, bigotry, demagoguery, and authoritarianism that the Republican Party helped to create. The current crisis is not simply about the power of the corporate-entertainment complex, it is about a divide between those who believe in democracy as a protected home for diversity, equality, and social justice, and those who don’t.
Donald Trump’s growing embodiment of the fascistic and hateful came into sharper relief when he began making statements calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and began speaking about “killing Islamic terrorists with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs.” Trump said that such a ban is necessary “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” When the great businessman proposed the ban at the rally at the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, his plan drew loud cheers from the crowd. Many critics have responded by making clear that Trump’s attempts to place a religious test on immigration and travel are unconstitutional. Others have expressed shock in the face of a proposal that violates the democratic ideals expressed in America’s founding documents. Fellow Republican Jeb Bush called Trump “unhinged.” While the Republican Party leadership was quick to condemn Trump’s poisonous remarks about banning Muslims from entering the United States, most conceding that if he won the nomination they would support him. Put another way, they would endorse Trump even though they are ashamed of him. Chris Christie opportunistically cut to the front of that line first. What almost none of the presidential candidates or mainstream political pundits have admitted, however, is not only that Trump’s comments form a discourse of hate, bigotry, and exclusion, but also that such expressions of authoritarian intolerance resonate deeply in a landscape of American culture and politics crafted by forty regressive years of conservative influence on U.S. society. One of the few politicians to respond initially to Trump’s incendiary comments was former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) who stated rightly that Donald Trump is a “fascist demagogue.” To NBC’s credit, Tom Brokaw did a segment on the nightly news contextualizing Trump’s call to ban Muslims within the history of demagoguery both in the United States and in fascist Germany.
Surprisingly, former Ohio Governor John Kasich released an online ad suggesting that Trump’s rhetoric correlated closely with that of Nazi Germany. Kasich brought the point home with an ad that featured Tom Moe, a retired Air Force colonel. In the ad, Moe uses a famous anti-Nazi quote from Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller in one of his lectures just after World War II. Moe paraphrases the quote to criticize Trump’s hateful rhetoric and its dangerous implications.
Says Moe, to an ominous sound track:
“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims should register with their government, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s okay to rough up black protestors, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one. But think about this: If he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.”
There are few politicians willing to admit that there is a long history of Islamophobia in the Republican Party. This is evident in the glut of anti-Muslim rhetoric that characterized the Republicans’ 2015-2016 presidential campaign in general. Before calling for a ban of Muslims entering the United States, Trump called for the creation of a database on Muslims–echoing a dangerous parallel when Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to wear a yellow patch in the shape of the Star of David. Ben Carson later announced that a Muslim should not be allowed to assume the office of President. Jeb Bush refined this religious litmus test by insisting that only Christians and orphans fleeing from ISIS should be admitted to the United States from war-torn Syria. Marco Rubio stated that he would consider not only shutting down mosques, as Trump says, but also shutting down “any place where radicals are being inspired.” Before he dropped out of the presidential race, Scott Walker stated that only a handful of Muslims are moderates. The prominent Republican congressman Steve King echoed the deeply bigoted sentiments of many of his fellow party members by stating that the only Muslims he would allow into the United States are those “most likely to be able to contribute to our society and our economy and assimilate into the American civilization.” He then proffered a demonstrable lie by concluding that “Muslims do not do that in significant numbers.”
In November 2015 Trump’s intolerance took aim at Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times investigative reporter with a disability, whom Trump mocked at a rally in South Carolina. The contemptuous reference to Kovaleski’s physical disability was morally odious and painful to observe, but not in the least surprising: Trump’s hate-mongering clearly keep him in the limelight, and he seems to relish engaging in almost every public encounter. In this loathsome instance, Trump simply expanded his invective in a new direction.
Trump’s mockery of Kovaleski and his blatantly discriminatory policies against Muslims are of a piece with his portrayal of Mexican immigrants as violent rapists and drug dealers, and with his calls for the U.S. to put Syrian refugees in detention centers and create a database to better monitor and control them. These comments sound eerily close to Heinrich Himmler’s call for camps to hold detainees under orders of what Nazis euphemistically called “protection custody.” To quote the Holocaust Encyclopedia:
“In the earliest years of the Third Reich, various central, regional, and local authorities in Germany established concentration camps to detain political opponents of the regime, including German Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, and others from left and liberal political circles. In the spring of 1933, the SS established Dachau concentration camp, which came to serve as a model for an expanding and centralized concentration camp system under SS management.”
Moreover, Trump’s demeaning attitude toward people with disabilities points to an earlier element of Hitler’s program of genocide in which people with physical and mental disabilities were viewed as disposable because they allegedly undermined the Nazi notion of the “master race.” The demonization, objectification, and pathologizing of people with disabilities was the first step in developing the Nazis’ “euthanasia” program aimed at those declared unworthy of life. This lesson seems to be lost on the mainstream media, which largely viewed Trump’s intolerance and aggression as simply a bit over the top, as when the presidential candidate publicly said he wanted to punch a person in the face for protesting at one of his campaign stops. Trump and those who benefit from his politics of intolerance are the brownshirts of our time; their cruelty, insults, and threats unburden the public of the necessity for debating complex issues. Against the backdrop of militant confrontations, and the celebration of a market in which hyper-competitiveness becomes the rule, Trump endlessly employs the rhetoric of casino capitalism, arguing that a capitalist business model is the obvious solution to every problem faced by the United States both domestically and abroad.”
(THE SCARIEST PART OF DONALD TRUMP’S VICTORY TO BECOME PRESIDENT IS THE WAY HE USED FAKE MEDIA ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK, AS WELL AS THE REGULAR MEDIA. WE HAD FAR TOO MUCH INFORMATION ON HOW BAD EVERYBODY WAS AND FAR TOO LITTLE INFORMATION ON HOW HE WAS GOING TO ACHIEVE MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN WITH HIS COMMENTS HE WAS GOING TO DEREGULATE A LOT OF THE INDUSTRIES AND THE BIGGEST ONES BEING THE BIG, UNREGULATED, INVESTMENT BANKS THAT SEN BERNIE SANDERS CONSTANTLY TALKED ABOUT IN HIS DRIVE TO BECOME PRESIDENT IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY AND ALMOST WON OVER HILLARY CLINTON. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE CORRUPT THINGS THAT WELLS FARGO BANK DID WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS GETTING BETTER WITH DONALD TRUMP AS PRESIDENT? THE FINES THEY HAD TO PAY WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS IN OFFICE SHOWED THE PUBLIC THAT THE GOVERNMENT WAS SINCERE IN KEEPING THE BIG INVESTMENT BANKS HONEST SO WE WOULDN’T GET INTO ANOTHER 2008 BANK BAILOUT LIKE JUST BEFORE BUSH-CHENEY LEFT OFFICE. IF WE ARE EVER GOING TO SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO CLAMP DOWN ON FAKE NEWS ON THE COMPUTERS, AS WELL AS FOX NEWS CABLE WHICH RUPERT MURDOCH OWNS AND GOT IN TROUBLE WHEN HE WAS IN ENGLAND BEFORE INVESTING IN THE UNITED STATES. COMMENTS FROM DONALD TRUMP THAT HE WAS GOING TO THROW HILLARY CLINTON IN JAIL WITHOUT ANY PROOF OTHER THAN LIES, IS CRIMINAL AND SHOULD LEAD INTO AN IMPEACHMENT LIKE THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTH KOREA WHICH IS A DEMOCRACY.
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen Member and USAF Veteran