Donald and the Snake

trump_flicker_face_yessAs the world gasps at wonderment and despair as American politics circles the sewer, three emerging and competing theories combine to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump:

These People are Stupid Fascist Redknecks
(Chris Hedges)

He’s a Great Guy
(Piers Morgan)

These People are ‘Disrupted’, Alienated, Misunderstood
(Matt Taibbi)

The arguments for him – and his followers – being an expression of a neo-fascism is given weight if we map his speech  against the key fascist tenets as laid out by Umberto Eco: “a cult of action, as celebration of aggressive masculinity, an intolerance of criticism, a fear of difference and outsiders, intense nationalism and resentment of national humiliation.”

A CULT OF ACTION
“I get things done better than anybody”

INTOLERANCE OF CRITICISM
“I’m fed up with the guys back there, the media, they’re the worst”.

AGGRESSIVE MASCULINITY
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody. and I wouldn’t lose any voters”.

FEAR OF OUTSIDERS
“A total and complete shutdown of muslims entering the country”

INTENSE NATIONALISM
“We’re going to make America great again”

RESENTMENT OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION
“We’re losing everything. I will make that stop.”

But it’s not just fascist, it’s exposing a whole deeper set of broken relationships and processes.

Whatever the result, it may not be an ending but a beginning of  a new form of manic, hyper politics. As collapsonomics kicks-in, value systems fade and ultra-alienation holds sway, new movements are emboldened.

Chris Hedges argues:

“If Clinton prevails in the general election Trump may disappear, but the fascist sentiments will expand. Another Trump, perhaps more vile, will be vomited up from the bowels of the decayed political system. We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the college-educated elites to our capitalist democracy. The longer the elites, who oversaw this disemboweling of the country on behalf of corporations—who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit—remain in charge, the worse it is going to get…”

He is right on this, though arguably wrong that Clinton can defeat Trump. She will, in fact, become like a lightning-rod for discontent as she personifies everything that the Trumpistas hate and will unify a broken Republican Party.

But Hedges analysis is mirrored also by Ralph Nader: “If and when Bernie Sanders is brought down by the very party he is championing, the millions of Bernie supporters, especially young voters, will have to consider breaking off into a new political party that will make American history. That means dissolving the dictatorial two-party duopoly and its ruinous, unpatriotic, democracy-destroying corporate paymasters.”

This may be optimistic.

Certainly the re-playing of Trump’s Snake Lyric ‘poem’ (an act he’s been doing since January at least) strengthens the hand of those arguing he’s a crude fascist. While it’s tempting to consider him a cretinous vaudeville show – or  a fictional character from Season Three of the Simpsons  – he just won Florida, Illinois and South Carolina.

It’s one of the most insidious pieces of political rhetoric I have ever seen. It manages to combine dehumanising people to animal form – and a very specific type of animal (which is a classic tipping point into fascism), and it codify’s women as victims.

It  plays on the deep-rooted conflation of race and sex, as the crude snake metaphor is played out and it talks of people in humanitarian need as vermin.

Perhaps more worrying Donald Trump evidently thinks Snakes go “Grrrr”. If your President can’t tell the difference between a snake and a bear you know you are in trouble. We should check he knows that cows go moo and ducks go quack.

Chris Hedges argues that: “Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism. These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate…. they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the liberal state.”

It’s a process we are becoming familiar with here. But if Matt Taibbi’s analysis seems naive he is right in that what we are watching our very own Truman Show pulling apart the empty broken reality of American politics. He writes that Trump is: “‘in position to understand that the presidential election campaign is really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show whose production costs ludicrously include the political disenfranchisement of its audience. Trump is making a mockery of the show, and the Wolf Blitzers and Anderson Coopers of the world seem appalled. How dare he demean the presidency with his antics?

But they’ve all got it backward. The presidency is serious. The presidential electoral process, however, is a sick joke, in which everyone loses except the people behind the rope line. And every time some pundit or party spokesman tries to deny it, Trump picks up another vote.”

Taibbi is right in his glorious essay about the brokeness of the political system and its inadequacy in facing crisis. The Trump enthusiasts have to take responsibility for their own racism but we have to take responsibility for the venal useless political fakery that masquerades for governance and that the media elite collude in.

Taibbi writes:

“The press went gaga for Rubio after Iowa because – why? Because he’s an unthreatening, blow-dried, cliché-spouting, dial-surveying phony of the type campaign journalists always approve of.”

That nexus of media – political spin is one thing Trump has bust out of and people love it.

Fools Gold

But it’s getting very serious and the stakes are extremely high.

I’m not convinced that Anonymous with #OpTrump are going to cut it either.

Their plan to ‘take down’ Trump may feed-in to hacktivist fantasy politics but it’s also going to feed the paranoid hunger of the baying Trump masses. A famous Australian pamphlet of the 1970s critiquing the use of bombs and violence to take down the establishment of the day argued ‘You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship’. In the same way I’m sure Anonymous can take Trump offline but that won’t make the phenomenon he feeds off disappear.

Fascist politics need to be confronted but they also need to be undermined and the alternative needs to be credible, articulate and have the ability to move people.

The attempt to physically confront the Trump spectacle may not be so clever a tactic in a country that is armed and where the police seem to act regularly outwith the rule of law.

Can the situation be salvaged before it tips further from farce to tragedy?

It’s not clear it can because the problem is not just the Trump phenomena but the far deeper issue that the very idea of collective action, solidarity or community, also known as ‘humanity’ has been so undermined it looks like where there was the soul of America there is just a black hole.

 

Comments (29)

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  1. AAD says:

    “But Hedges analysis is mirrored also by Ralph Nader: “If and when Bernie Sanders is brought down by the very party he is championing, the millions of Bernie supporters, especially young voters, will have to consider breaking off into a new political party that will make American history. That means dissolving the dictatorial two-party duopoly and its ruinous, unpatriotic, democracy-destroying corporate paymasters.”

    This may be optimistic.”

    Dare we hope that the same can happen in the USA as has happened in Scotland, i.e. that a long established party can be replaced by something better? Who would have predicted the down-turn in Labour’s fortunes in Scotland over the past few years?

    1. malcolm dobson says:

      But the SNP *are* a ‘long-established’ party. And it’s questionable that they are ‘better’ than the Labour Party – look at the fiasco of the tinkering with council tax – making it more regressive than it all ready is.

  2. john young says:

    Is he worse than Clinton? I don,t think he can be,she is the most vile person imaginable.

  3. Kenny says:

    Somewhere, Stuart Cosgrove is weeping over this piece of appropriation:

    1. Alistair Thomas says:

      Thank god you posted this. It makes much more sense now! Perhaps he should get a band together and sing it next time.

  4. bringiton says:

    People in the West are fed up with machine politics which results in the same outcomes,no matter who they vote for,thanks to neoliberal policies being the accepted dogma of the political elites.
    Clinton and many of the other “mainstream” Republican politicians are seen by many as the problem and not the solution where the interests of corporate America take precedence over working people.
    Trump is perceived as a politician who is not in anyone else’s pocket and can be relied on as the people’s champion.
    A false belief no doubt but probably sincerely held by many Americans.
    Should he be elected as Trump 1 and his promises fail to materialise (I pray),who knows what might then happen.

    1. DC says:

      I remember people saying the very same thing about Margaret Thatcher when she was in the ascendancy and we all know how that turned out.

  5. bringiton says:

    Glad to see we have an i for an i back and not a blank for an i.

  6. Mike Fenwick says:

    Against the strength of feeling exhibited by Mike in his article, amd I do not want to detract from its importance, what I am about to post may appear lightweight, but I think it has its relevance.

    One of the features arising in the debates/primaries is the effect that Trade Agreements have had on the American worker, whether it is Trump or Sanders, who are (perhaps ironically) as one in denouncing the Agreements and the effects they have had, or Cruz and Clinton who appear to be backtracking over their previous records on such agreements, there is little doubt I would suggest that the US electorate are being drawn into the debate on such agreements, and it is finding traction on both sides of the contest.

    Has that relevance for us – it has if. like me, you are opposed to TTIP.

    1. Anton says:

      You make a good point. Trump is opposed to TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) for pretty much the same reasons that many here are opposed to TTIP – i.e. the abrogation of powers and the possibility of disadvantage to national interests and concerns. As you point out.

      So I guess you have a common cause with him there.

  7. J Galt says:

    Anything that Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper dislike can’t be all bad!

    If he enables the US establishment to reach an accommodation with Putin (and through him China) that will make the World a safer place – I’m not interested in the rest – that’s their internal business and nothing to do with me.

  8. Josef O Luain says:

    Demagogues, political leaders who eschew rational argument in favour of engagement with public prejudice and desire, have long since terrified Establishments; Trump is no exception. Discuss.

  9. florian albert says:

    In the Guardian last week, Thomas Frank had an article ‘Millions of ordinary Americans support Trump, here’s why.’ On the American political landscape, Frank is well to the left.

    He had attended a number of Trump rallies and these confirmed his belief that Trump was a clown, a bully and a bigot. He also noted that, at the rallies, Trump devoted much of his speech to a denunciation of globalization and in particular free trade. The mainstream media simply did not report this.

    Support for Trump, in this respect, mirrors support for UKIP, for the National Front in France and now for AfD in Germany. It is a protest by the ‘losers’ in global economics. They make up a huge percentage of the population in developed countries.

    Denouncing every political opponent as ‘fascist’ was ridiculed by George Orwell and he has been dead for nearly seventy years.
    It is time the Left looked thoughtfully at why people are embracing the populist right, rather than repeating a mantra that nobody will listen to.

    1. 1314 says:

      But what if they are ff-ff-ff-ffascist and you are the kind they don’t like?

      Don’t take to long about ‘looking thoughtfully’.

      1. 1314 says:

        Three times two makes too many tos

      2. florian albert says:

        ‘What if they are fascist ?’
        Thankfully, fascism has been almost entirely discredited as a political ideology since 1945.
        However, you can look at the individual/group involved.
        Trump clearly belongs to a tradition of American populism which long predates fascism. The latter was an overwhelmingly European affair.

        Much of the Left has misread fascism with disastrous results. It has seen it as a tool of big business, it has – shamefully – equated social democracy with fascism and it has got into the habit of labelling everybody is dislikes as fascist.

  10. Coul Porter says:

    As Mike states; ‘The presidential electoral process is a sick joke’. A large part of that is its monetisation.

    The less pernicious colour agenda in the United States has been greenbacks taking precedence over grey matter. It almost came unstuck with George Bush who was dull without being (overly)dangerous – now we have a contender who is both.

    Could this sort of thing happen in the United Kingdom? Of course not, the establishment is predicated upon an ‘old money’ ascendancy and relies / has hitherto relied on intellectual rather than financial challengers to come to the fore.

  11. w.b.robertson says:

    we should rejoice! at last the ordinary US voter in the street has wised up to their nation being manipulated by big money and big business. Their voters are in rebellion. Forget about Trump, he is simply the figurehead benefitting from the reaction. (Just as the SNP picked up a lot of support by left of centre Scots sickened by Westminster`s Tweedledum and Tweedledee parties).

    1. Frank says:

      Disgraceful comment. There is nothing whatsoever worth rejoicing about an in increase in electoral support for a racist candidate; and neither is supporting a candidate like Trump an act of rebellion. And if this is ‘wisening up’ as you put it, then maybe it’s best that some folk stayed in their slumber…

  12. Daisy says:

    Hi,

    I wrote a piece on Osborne’s bombshell budget, feedback would be much appreciated! 🙂

    Osborne’s Budget: Austerity to the Max
    http://wp.me/p7808q-kG

  13. Anton says:

    Just hang on a minute. I myself don’t buy into Eco’s definition of fascism, but for the sake of discussion let’s take his core points:

    A CULT OF ACTION – “I get things done better than anybody”. Can it be that no British or Scottish politician has ever made the same claim? I must look it up some day.

    INTOLERANCE OF CRITICISM – “I’m fed up with the guys back there, the media, they’re the worst”. A good point. However, we can acquit ourselves on that one, as no-one campaigning for Scottish Independence has ever criticised the Main Stream Media.

    AGGRESSIVE MASCULINITY – “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody. and I wouldn’t lose any voters”. I’m not sure quite how this demonstrates “aggressive masculinity”. All he’s saying is that whatever he does, people will still vote for him. How unlike our own situation, where the Scottish Government is constantly held to account by a strong and lively opposition.

    FEAR OF OUTSIDERS – “A total and complete shutdown of muslims entering the country”. Fair point.

    INTENSE NATIONALISM – “We’re going to make America great again” We’re lucky that no-one in Scotland favours an intensely nationalist perspective.

    RESENTMENT OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION – “We’re losing everything. I will make that stop.” Again, we can take pride in the fact that none of us have ever claimed that Scotland consistently loses its position to Westminster, and that we can make that stop.

    OK, I admit to being facetious. But I do think that those who make accusations of fascism should look first in their own back yard.

    1. John Page says:

      A very poor post……maybe facetious, but certainly embarrassingly weak

      1. Anton says:

        Would you care to justify your remark? No, I thought not.

        1. John Page says:

          That’s even more embarrassing……….
          You drew fatuous comparisons between a framework for analysing fascist tendencies (in the context of the deeply troubling Trump campaign) and the current enthusiasm for Scotland dumping British nationalism and seeking to play its part as a small peace loving Northern European country who wishes to also dump Trident cos we don’t want to “punch above our weight on the world stage”
          You are either some would be intellectual who comes on here to show how you can cleverly dissect Bella’s articles or some BritNat obsessive who is threatened by the emergence of a new discourse about Scotland’s governance. You must be having a tough time……
          Please don’t feel any need to come back……..I have noted for the future to skim over your efforts……..
          John Page

          1. Anton says:

            I note your insults. Such is life on the internet. Sadly, though, you seem either unable or unwilling to provide any arguments or evidence for your views.

            I believe that these things matter if we are to build a coherent case for an independent Scotland, and that insults alone don’t really carry much weight.

            But, hey, each to his own.

  14. JohnEdgar says:

    Hatred, aggression, arrogance, weapons of mass destruction and a foreign policy of armed intervention in the internal affairs of many countries. These have characterised many US administrations since the early 1950’s. Trump is a manifestation of that directed at the American populace this time round, at minorities, at Muslims and other neighbouring countries. Time to reconsider so-called special relationship etc

    1. bringiton says:

      At present,the American cops are calling his behaviour “incitement to riot”.
      Once he is president,it will” be known as ” Foreign Policy”.

  15. J Galt says:

    Or could it be that the “Trump phenomenon” may be the US equivalent of the the “Corbyn phenomenon” – a way of dissipating the passions of “awakened” and angry voters in the safe knowledge they’ll never be allowed anywhere near the real seats of power (in Trumps’s case that applies even if he gains the Presidency!)

    “The Presidency is serious” – aye not since JFK (at least)

  16. Peter Clive says:

    Indeed, Trump is in many ways inevitable:

    http://moflomojo.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-tin-drumpf.html

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