America’s Christo-Fascist Turn

Jeff Sharlet’s latest book, The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, is the culmination of more than a dozen years’ reporting on the US religious right in America. He reports on how it has morphed and evolved and how Trump’s second campaign has changed, how he has tipped into the abyss of his own rhetoric and conspiracism and on how dismissing Trump’s performances as ‘theatre’ is missing the point. Seeking to return to office, Trump has threatened the media with charges of treason and hankered for the execution of Gen Mark Milley, the former chair of the joint chiefs of staff.

Sharlet “captures the rage, the despair, the dislocation, the alienation, the aesthetic of violence, and the magical thinking that are the foundations of all fascist movements—forces that are now coalescing around the Trump-led Republican Party.” He does two things which are important and different. He understands the motivations and drive behind these movements of the far-right without dismissing them and he points to the myths and almost complete passivity and inertia of liberal America in the face of this phenomenon.

Even two years ago Sharlet resisted using the term ‘fascist’ to describe Trump’s movement. Here he explains why he now uses that term.


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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    These americans are so long-winded – what they’re saying could be turned into something much shorter and easier to grasp. It is very disturbing but additionally the distinction between reality and the imagination (not quite the right word) as with the street lights as Hershey bars. Many people seem to live in a dream world which has captured them from material reality which is too hard to tolerate.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Cathie Lloyd, agreed, that could have been boiled down (perhaps better than the Bible was boiled down to a “salesman’s manual”) to how USAmerican politicians exploit What’s-in-it-for-Me Christianity, which in turn is enabled by Christianity’s almost complete lack of ethics (obey for rewards). Prosperity, gnosticism (anti-science), martyrs (purer than victims).

      But I was interested in the reports of Donald Trump’s rally performances and the apparent failure of media interpretative coverage. I also agree that the appearance of diversity is no defence against extreme hierarchy (see current UK Conservative government, not just the militia Church mentioned).

      A scathing indictment of the USAmerican educational system, perhaps? Conditioning kids to the “Great Man (Occasionally Woman) View of History” opens the door to these kinds of personality cults? Do many adult males not understand female reproductive biology? But where does this lust for violence come from?

      I hadn’t heard about the potential capture of the USAmerican military chaplaincy by far-right Christian supremacists, though that explains how military Bible evangelicalism to US-occupied territories could be easily accomplished.

      It was only at the end of the broadcast that the issue of the narrowness of USAmerican mainstream politics was addressed (something similar exists in the UK, of course). So worth the slow start, I guess.

      On poets. Well, that’s another form of GM(OW)VoH. In the piece about Snake, the ambiguity of poetry shows how a poem can be used effectively in quite different ways from its original. Let’s not forget the Christian Bible is poetry. That’s why they call it ‘verses’.

      1. Derek says:

        That was an interesting watch.

        The Snake, for reference:-

        (slight pedantry; venomous rather than poisonous….)

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Derek, yes, I was deeply impressed by the Northern Soul versions long before Trump. If the derivation is from Aesop, the fascinating thing is there are two antagonistic fables (farmer and viper, farmer and snake). Therefore, uncertainty. Therefore, ethics is not instructional but complex. How many of us have heard a cry for help, doubted its genuineness, yet answered with personal cost? In the best versions of Christianity, I see a willingness to embrace a viper to one’s own bosom, but a very problematic sense of inviting strangers to one’s own household in which children have no say. The song is not to blame, but the doctrine’s imperative endangers more than the parent. Therefore the State is a solution: acceptance without domesticating the hazard.

          I’m not sure how you distinguish venom from poison? Is that an objective/subjective thing? In which case it doesn’t really work with dosages, does it…?

  2. John Wood says:

    Unfortunately fascism (or if you prefer, neo-fascism, the 21st c variant ) is not confined to Trump, or ‘Right-Wing’ Republicans in America.

    Fascism is essentially rule by coercion, in other words, violence. The word has its origin in the fasces, the symbol of authority held by Roman magistrates. All its various symptoms, such as blood and soil nationalism, racism, sectarianism and so on, are really the result of its methods rather than part of its essence. Fascism differs from state communism in that a communist dictator claims to represent the people, whereas the fascist asserts possession and control as ends in themselves. The ruler (s) and the ruled are separate, and these ends ‘justify’ any means whatsoever to achieve them.

    The real movers and shakers are there in plain sight. but they are not politicians. Trump, Biden, and for that matter Sunak and Starmer are all mere pawns in this game. Those who would rule the planet absolutely play one against the other to distract and divide people. They are completely ruthless and completely unscrupulous. They have unbelievable resources at their disposal and they use them.

    And the world is afraid of them. The utter horror of the genocide in Gaza continues, but not a single country will refer this to the ICJ. They are all too afraid of repercussions. It is therefore a demonstration of American absolute power.

    America has been ruled for at least the last 100 years by the robber barons. Trump, Johnson, and the others soon find that if they don’t deliver, they are discarded. And fascism, totalitarianism, a world ruled by naked violence, is the requirement. One version is well summarised in Klaus Schwab’s prospectus for the Great Reset.

    However, ecosystems cannot be ‘reset’ and humans are not compliant slaves. Totalitarianism cannot deliver any sort of future for the planet and its people – as we are all discovering. As are the robber barons themselves.

    America itself is coming apart at the seams and its attempts to create a unipolar world are making itself hated by the rest of the world. I think that the complete madness being unleashed on Palestine is an act of desperation. They might have the nuclear weapons but they have lost the hearts and minds.

    In America, as in the UK, voters are faced with a choice between versions of neoliberalism, all parcels of rogues who are bought and sold for the same oligarchs’ gold. Unless some politicians come forward who will undertake to represent and stand up for their constituents’ real needs, even the semblance of democracy is dead.
    It is a world-wide regime change. We are all Palestinians now.

    The world won’t go quietly into the night of totalitarianism. Before that happens it will be engulfed in violence. It almost already is.

    America’s robber barons are not invincible. Scotland and other small countries could make a massive difference by just saying no to their ‘investments’ and their threats. We can still build a different future if we just get on and do it.

    1. “Unfortunately fascism (or if you prefer, neo-fascism, the 21st c variant ) is not confined to Trump, or ‘Right-Wing’ Republicans in America.”

      Absolutely, its a point he makes in the interview and in the book – this is part of global fascism, an issue we’ll be returning to in 2024 as a series

  3. Satan says:

    Surprising credence is given to people wearing a golden fleece or a buffalo on their heads. Imagine what terrible things could happen if Vicktor Orban started wearing a wolf, Vlad donned a tinfoil helmet, and Benny strapped on ibex horns. I have a feeling that nationalist populism is as much of a thing in Europe as the USA, and the evangelists are just ’round the corner from me. I’ve never had a political activist knocking my door but the evangelists do, hopefully with pamphlets about Darwin being on the end of the Devil’s toasting-fork.

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