Travel Ban Gets SCOTUS Seal Of Approval, Fatherly Advice, And More

And the hits keep on coming. The Supreme Court has legally sanctioned the Trump administration’s modified travel ban (this would be the third version, written specifically so it had a strong likelihood of passing the conservative-dominated court). Tweaked verbiage aside, we know how the ban will work in practice. It’s there in the text and subtext of the original executive order, and in the intervening year and a half, our aspiring emperor has shown no respect for legal strictures that hinder him.

In other SCOTUS news: The Roberts Gang has reversed a decision requiring crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that they’re anti-abortion. Crisis pregnancy centers are notorious for pressuring women not to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Tor Ekeland passes along advice from his father for seriously resisting fascism.

If you haven’t been outside the United States of late, you may not be aware we’re now referred to as a ‘rogue state’ with some regularity.

Remember when Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un ended with the president saying they’d made great progress and our military would stop doing war games in the Korean Peninsula? And remember how defense stocks fell and Democrats practically demanded we have a nuclear war with the Kim regime for some reason? And remember how Trump admired said regime’s YA dystopian novel levels of control over its populace? Actually, just remember all of it? It was a profoundly weird time, followed by absolutely nothing.

When investigators threatened his power, he declared himself dictator.

Nazi pederast Milo Yiannopoulos is encouraging vigilantes to assassinate journalists. In related news, 50% of Americans believe we’re in danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country; most Americans’ wages have declined over the past year; machines can fire us now; gay Americans are arming themselves to stay alive; and suicide rates are climbing dramatically. Of course if journalists are hiding in fear for their lives, they won’t have time to report on all the bad news!

And now for something completely different:

“Men have to toughen up,” Jordan B. Peterson writes in 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, “Men demand it, and women want it.” So, the first rule is, “Stand up straight with your shoulders back” and don’t forget to “clean your room.” By the way, “consciousness is symbolically masculine and has been since the beginning of time.” Oh, and “the soul of the individual eternally hungers for the heroism of genuine Being.” Many such pronouncements—didactic as well as metaphysical, ranging from the absurdity of political correctness to the “burden of Being”—have turned Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, into a YouTube sensation and a bestselling author in several Western countries.

12 Rules for Life is only Peterson’s second book in twenty years. Packaged for people brought up on BuzzFeed listicles, Peterson’s brand of intellectual populism has risen with stunning velocity; and it is boosted, like the political populisms of our time, by predominantly male and frenzied followers, who seem ever-ready to pummel his critics on social media. It is imperative to ask why and how this obscure Canadian academic, who insists that gender and class hierarchies are ordained by nature and validated by science, has suddenly come to be hailed as the West’s most influential public intellectual. For his apotheosis speaks of a crisis that is at least as deep as the one signified by Donald Trump’s unexpected leadership of the free world.

Peterson diagnoses this crisis as a loss of faith in old verities. “In the West,” he writes, “we have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion- and even nation-centred cultures.” Peterson offers to alleviate the resulting “desperation of meaninglessness,” with a return to “ancient wisdom.” It is possible to avoid “nihilism,” he asserts, and “to find sufficient meaning in individual consciousness and experience” with the help of “the great myths and religious stories of the past.”

Following Carl Jung, Peterson identifies “archetypes” in myths, dreams, and religions, which have apparently defined truths of the human condition since the beginning of time. “Culture,” one of his typical arguments goes, “is symbolically, archetypally, mythically male”—and this is why resistance to male dominance is unnatural. Men represent order, and “Chaos—the unknown—is symbolically associated with the feminine.” In other words, men resisting the perennially fixed archetypes of male and female, and failing to toughen up, are pathetic losers.

Such evidently eternal truths are not on offer anymore at a modern university; Jung’s speculations have been largely discredited. But Peterson, armed with his “maps of meaning” (the title of his previous book), has only contempt for his fellow academics who tend to emphasize the socially constructed and provisional nature of our perceptions. As with Jung, he presents some idiosyncratic quasi-religious opinions as empirical science, frequently appealing to evolutionary psychology to support his ancient wisdom.

Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations.

Peterson himself credits his intellectual awakening to the Cold War, when he began to ponder deeply such “evils associated with belief” as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and became a close reader of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. This is a common intellectual trajectory among Western right-wingers who swear by Solzhenitsyn and tend to imply that belief in egalitarianism leads straight to the guillotine or the Gulag. A recent example is the English polemicist Douglas Murray who deplores the attraction of the young to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and wishes that the idea of equality was “tainted by an ideological ordure equivalent to that heaped on the concept of borders.” Peterson confirms his membership of this far-right sect by never identifying the evils caused by belief in profit, or Mammon: slavery, genocide, and imperialism.

Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by Peterson’s loathing for “social justice warriors” and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s. Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that “there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.” Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds (“Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.”). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: “Compassion as a vice” and “Toughen up, you weasel.”

In all respects, Peterson’s ancient wisdom is unmistakably modern. The “tradition” he promotes stretches no further back than the late nineteenth century, when there first emerged a sinister correlation between intellectual exhortations to toughen up and strongmen politics. This was a period during which intellectual quacks flourished by hawking creeds of redemption and purification while political and economic crises deepened and faith in democracy and capitalism faltered. Many artists and thinkers—ranging from the German philosopher Ludwig Klages, member of the hugely influential Munich Cosmic Circle, to the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich and Indian activist Aurobindo Ghosh—assembled Peterson-style collages of part-occultist, part-psychological, and part-biological notions. These neo-romantics were responding, in the same way as Peterson, to an urgent need, springing from a traumatic experience of social and economic modernity, to believe—in whatever reassures and comforts.

This new object of belief tended to be exotically and esoterically pre-modern. The East, and India in particular, turned into a screen on which needy Westerners projected their fantasies; Jung, among many others, went on tediously about the Indian’s timeless—and feminine—self. In 1910, Romain Rolland summed up the widespread mood in which progress under liberal auspices appeared a sham, and many people appeared eager to replace the Enlightenment ideal of individual reason by such transcendental coordinates as “archetypes.” “The gate of dreams had reopened,” Rolland wrote, and “in the train of religion came little puffs of theosophy, mysticism, esoteric faith, occultism to visit the chambers of the Western mind.”

A range of intellectual entrepreneurs, from Theosophists and vendors of Asian spirituality like Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki to scholars of Asia like Arthur Waley and fascist ideologues like Julius Evola (Steve Bannon’s guru) set up stalls in the new marketplace of ideas. W.B. Yeats, adjusting Indian philosophy to the needs of the Celtic Revival, pontificated on the “Ancient Self”; Jung spun his own variations on this evidently ancestral unconscious. Such conceptually foggy categories as “spirit” and “intuition” acquired broad currency; Peterson’s favorite words, being and chaos, started to appear in capital letters. Peterson’s own lineage among these healers of modern man’s soul can be traced through his repeatedly invoked influences: not only Carl Jung, but also Mircea Eliade, the Romanian scholar of religion, and Joseph Campbell, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who, like Peterson, combined a conventional academic career with mass-market musings on heroic individuals.

The “desperation of meaninglessness” widely felt in the late nineteenth century, seemed especially desperate in the years following two world wars and the Holocaust. Jung, Eliade, and Campbell, all credentialed by university education, met a general bewilderment by suggesting the existence of a secret, almost gnostic, knowledge of the world. Claiming to throw light into recessed places in the human unconscious, they acquired immense and fanatically loyal fan clubs. Campbell’s 1988 television interviews with Bill Moyers provoked a particularly extraordinary response. As with Peterson, this popularizer of archaic myths, who believed that “Marxist philosophy had overtaken the university in America,” was remarkably in tune with contemporary prejudices. “Follow your own bliss,” he urged an audience that, during an era of neoconservative upsurge, was ready to be reassured that some profound ancient wisdom lay behind Ayn Rand’s paeans to unfettered individualism.

Peterson, however, seems to have modelled his public persona on Jung rather than Campbell. The Swiss sage sported a ring ornamented with the effigy of a snake—the symbol of light in a pre-Christian Gnostic cult. Peterson claims that he has been inducted into “the coastal Pacific Kwakwaka’wakw tribe”; he is clearly proud of the Native American longhouse he has built in his Toronto home.

Peterson may seem the latest in a long line of eggheads pretentiously but harmlessly romancing the noble savage. But it is worth remembering that Jung recklessly generalized about the superior “Aryan soul” and the inferior “Jewish psyche” and was initially sympathetic to the Nazis. Mircea Eliade was a devotee of Romania’s fascistic Iron Guard. Campbell’s loathing of “Marxist” academics at his college concealed a virulent loathing of Jews and blacks. Solzhenitsyn, Peterson’s revered mentor, was a zealous Russian expansionist, who denounced Ukraine’s independence and hailed Vladimir Putin as the right man to lead Russia’s overdue regeneration.

Nowhere in his published writings does Peterson reckon with the moral fiascos of his gurus and their political ramifications; he seems unbothered by the fact that thinking of human relations in such terms as dominance and hierarchy connects too easily with such nascent viciousness such as misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. He might argue that his maps of meaning aim at helping lost individuals rather than racists, ultra-nationalists, or imperialists. But he can’t plausibly claim, given his oft-expressed hostility to the “murderous equity doctrine” of feminists, and other progressive ideas, that he is above the fray of our ideological and culture wars.

Indeed, the modern fascination with myth has never been free from an illiberal and anti-democratic agenda. Richard Wagner, along with many German nationalists, became notorious for using myth to regenerate the volk and stoke hatred of the aliens—largely Jews—who he thought polluted the pure community rooted in blood and soil. By the early twentieth century, ethnic-racial chauvinists everywhere—Hindu supremacists in India as well as Catholic ultra-nationalists in France—were offering visions to uprooted peoples of a rooted organic society in which hierarchies and values had been stable. As Karla Poewe points out in New Religions and the Nazis (2005), political cultists would typically mix “pieces of Yogic and Abrahamic traditions” with “popular notions of science—or rather pseudo-science—such as concepts of ‘race,’ ‘eugenics,’ or ‘evolution.’” It was this opportunistic amalgam of ideas that helped nourish “new mythologies of would-be totalitarian regimes.”

Peterson rails today against “softness,” arguing that men have been “pushed too hard to feminize.” In his bestselling book Degeneration (1892), the Zionist critic Max Nordau amplified, more than a century before Peterson, the fear that the empires and nations of the West are populated by the weak-willed, the effeminate, and the degenerate. The French philosopher Georges Sorel identified myth as the necessary antidote to decadence and spur to rejuvenation. An intellectual inspiration to fascists across Europe, Sorel was particularly nostalgic about the patriarchal systems of ancient Israel and Greece.

Like Peterson, many of these hyper-masculinist thinkers saw compassion as a vice and urged insecure men to harden their hearts against the weak (women and minorities) on the grounds that the latter were biologically and culturally inferior. Hailing myth and dreams as the repository of fundamental human truths, they became popular because they addressed a widely felt spiritual hunger: of men looking desperately for maps of meaning in a world they found opaque and uncontrollable.

It was against this (eerily familiar) background—a “revolt against the modern world,” as the title of Evola’s 1934 book put it—that demagogues emerged so quickly in twentieth-century Europe and managed to exalt national and racial myths as the true source of individual and collective health. The drastic individual makeover demanded by the visionaries turned out to require a mass, coerced retreat from failed liberal modernity into an idealized traditional realm of myth and ritual.

In the end, deskbound pedants and fantasists helped bring about, in Thomas Mann’s words in 1936, an extensive “moral devastation” with their “worship of the unconscious”—that “knows no values, no good or evil, no morality.” Nothing less than the foundations for knowledge and ethics, politics and science, collapsed, ultimately triggering the cataclysms of the twentieth century: two world wars, totalitarian regimes, and the Holocaust. It is no exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of a similar intellectual and moral breakdown, one that seems to presage a great calamity. Peterson calls it, correctly, “psychological and social dissolution.” But he is a disturbing symptom of the malaise to which he promises a cure.

—Panjak Mishra, Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism

An Unhappy Anniversary

How did the night of November 8, 2016 end for you?

Were there tears? Were you panicked? Did you succumb to numb shock? Did you feel something akin to the momentary weightlessness when the trap door opens but before the noose snaps your neck?

I experienced the latter. Sitting in complete silence, not counting the victory speech spewing forth from televisions, I felt spacesick.

Trump’s reign has warped our sense of normalcy, so it’s helpful to recall where Democratic voters and many more non-voters were. The day started with mild optimism. Not for Hillary Clinton, per se, though there was a nation of pantsuit wearers for whom she was an avatar of blasting through the glass ceiling. It was the optimism that a ostensibly democratic system wouldn’t allow a serial abuser and racial demagogue into high office, that the slog — for even then Trump was exhausting — would soon be at an end.

The media narrative was reassuring in this respect. Polls by statistics wunderkind Nate Silver were touted with a kind of religious fervor. I wished I could share their relief; instead, a deep unease disquieted me. I knew, and had been saying for over a year, that Donald Trump was not a joke. He was a threat to democratic norms. He had less in common with the Republican Party than he did with Benito Mussolini. Electing him would spread the poison of fascism deep into the body politic. He was giving fresh voice to America’s ugly racism.

By the end of the night I knew how Cassandra felt.

It’s fitting that the electoral college, a product of the American system of slavery, was the mechanism that solidified our country’s reaction against its first black president. In many ways Donald Trump positions himself as the anti-Obama, the embodied spasm of white rage against the empowered Other. His election was no different. When it became clear Barack Obama had won in 2008, people spontaneously and joyously flowed into the streets. Even many of those who didn’t vote for him felt a cautious optimism about the possibilities of the American experiment. Suddenly the failures of neoliberalism seemed fleeting, a ghost ship passing in the night before the first light of the sun exorcised its terrors.

Eight years of calcified intransigence and growing racial resentment later, we’re under no such illusion. November 8th was the final unspooling of all that hope. In 2016 we were united only in grievance. A year to the day since Donald Trump was improbably elected, his presidency is a singularly corrosive force. America was never great, but what’s happening now threatens to unmake what small progress we were able to scrape together.

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Ninety-Three)

The Revolution Starts Now (Well, Saturday)

Comrades:

Societal upheaval and glorious slaughter are nearly at hand. Lace up your combat boots, don your Antifa-brand black t-shirts, and select your finest identity-obscuring face mask: The Revolution starts this Saturday.

So what we’re gonna do, see, is we’re gonna kill every Trump voter, conservative and gun owner. Possibly with firearms. How will we know who voted for Donald Trump, you may ask? We’ll just know, and this psychic insight will allow us to successfully track down and eradicate 33% of the American population. Don’t ask how this is feasible, or why people who fundamentally oppose the tenants of fascism would enact a coordinated mass killing, or how small, autonomous bands of antifascists organized this without being shut down by the FBI —

“Just ’cause” should be enough. If you were dissatisfied with last November’s election results you know what I mean.

Are my radical supersoliders ready? Are you pumped? Great! We’ll start by beheading white parents and small business owners!

See you Saturday. If you’re going to bring snacks, make sure there’s enough to share and they’re gluten-free.

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Eighty-Seven)

Neofascists In Contemporary Garb (Updated)

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators wielded torches as they marched on to the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Friday night and reportedly attacked a much smaller group of counter-protesters who had linked arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Starting at a municipal park less than a mile away, “alt-right” protesters who have gathered for the weekend Unite the Right rally marched in a long column over the short distance to the campus, chanting slogans like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”.

When the marchers reached and surrounded the counter-protesters there was a short verbal confrontation. Counter-protesters claimed they were then attacked with swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid.

Emily Gorcenski, who shared several live videos of the event, was among the protesters who said they were hit with the mace spray. “[They] completely surrounded us and wouldn’t let us out.”

She said police did not intervene until long after the rightwing marchers had struck out at protesters. “I saw hundreds of people chanting Nazi slogans and police do nothing.”

The Washington Post reported that at least one counter-demonstrator used a chemical spray, affecting a number of protesters.

Charlottesville police did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Two male protesters who said they were also maced, and did not wish to be named, described far-right protesters moving from verbal abuse, to pushing and shoving protesters, to the noxious spray.

“Someone from the alt right maced me right in the face – unprovoked,” said one. “After they maced people they started punching people and hitting them with torches.” Several protesters said a woman using a wheelchair was among those sprayed.

Just up the street from the fracas, a community prayer meeting was held in St Paul’s memorial church, addressed by several preachers including prominent civil rights leader Dr Cornel West. The end of the service overlapped with the torch parade and many people waited for long periods before leaving citing safety concerns.

In an interview, West said: “The crypto-fascists, the neofascists, the neo-Nazis now feel so empowered, not just by Trump but by the whole shift in the nation towards scapegoats.

“I don’t like this talk about ‘alt-right’, that’s an unnecessary abstraction. These are neofascists in contemporary garb.”

–Jason Wilson, Charlottesville: far right crowd with torches encircles counter-protest group

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A planned protest in Virginia by white nationalists was abandoned on Saturday after a spate of violence prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency and law enforcement officers to clear the area.

The demonstration, which both organizers and critics had said was the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years, turned violent almost immediately and left several people injured.

The turmoil began with a march Friday night and escalated Saturday morning as hundreds of white nationalists gathered. Waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, they converged on a statue of Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.”

Hundreds of counterprotesters quickly surrounded the crowd, chanting and carrying their own signs.

By 11 a.m., the scene had exploded into taunting, shoving and outright brawling. Barricades encircling the park and separating the two sides began to come down, and police temporarily retreated. People were seen clubbing one another in the streets, and pepper spray filled the air.

Police cleared the area before noon, and the Virginia National Guard arrived as officers began arresting some who remained for unlawful assembly. But fears lingered that the altercation would start again nearby, even as politicians, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a Republican, condemned the violence.

A couple hours later, a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, and city officials said there were multiple injuries after a three-car crash.

Emergency medical personnel treated eight people after the earlier clashes, the Charlottesville Police Department said. It was not immediately clear how severely they were hurt. Several area hospitals did not return telephone calls seeking information.

The fight was the latest in a series of tense dramas unfolding across the United States over plans to remove statues and other historic markers of the Confederacy. The battles have been intensified by the election of President Trump, who enjoys fervent support from white nationalists.

–Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Brian M. Rosenthal, State of Emergency Declared in Charlottesville After Protests Turn Violent

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump is rarely reluctant to express his opinion, but he is often seized by caution when addressing the violence and vitriol of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, some of whom are his supporters.

After days of genially bombastic interactions with the news media on North Korea and the shortcomings of congressional Republicans, Mr. Trump on Saturday condemned the bloody protests in Charlottesville, Va., in what critics in both parties saw as muted, equivocal terms.

During a brief and uncomfortable address to reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., he called for an end to the violence. But he was the only national political figure to spread blame for the “hatred, bigotry and violence” that resulted in the death of one person to “many sides.”

For the most part, Republican leaders and other allies have kept quiet over several months about Mr. Trump’s outbursts and angry Twitter posts. But recently they have stopped averting their gazes and on Saturday a handful criticized his reaction to Charlottesville as insufficient.

“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name,” tweeted Senator Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans.

“These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” he added, a description several of his colleagues used.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and the father of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not dispute Mr. Trump’s comments directly, but he called the behavior of white nationalists in Charlottesville “evil.”

Democrats have suggested that Mr. Trump is simply unwilling to alienate the segment of his white electoral base that embraces bigotry. The president has forcefully rejected any suggestion he harbors any racial or ethnic animosities, and points to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an observant Jew, and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to the faith, as proof of his inclusiveness.

In one Twitter post on Saturday, Mr. Trump nodded to that inclusiveness.

“We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” the president wrote, a statement that had echoes of his campaign slogan, America First.

But like several other statements Mr. Trump made on Saturday, the tweet made no mention that the violence in Charlottesville was initiated by white supremacists brandishing anti-Semitic placards, Confederate battle flags, torches and a few Trump campaign signs.

Mr. Trump, the product of a well-to-do, predominantly white Queens enclave who in 1989 paid for a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty for five black teenagers convicted but later exonerated of raping a white woman in Central Park, flirted with racial controversy during the 2016 campaign. He repeatedly expressed outrage that anyone could suggest he was prejudiced.

When he retweeted white supremacists’ accounts, he brushed aside questions about them. When he was asked about the support he had been given by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, he chafed, insisting he didn’t know Mr. Duke.

Finally, at a news conference in South Carolina, Mr. Trump said “I disavow” when pressed on Mr. Duke. He later described Mr. Duke as a “bad person.”

When his social media director, Dan Scavino, posted an image on Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed with a Star of David near Hillary Clinton’s head, with money raining down, Mr. Trump rejected widespread criticism of the image as anti-Semitic.

In an interview that aired in September 2016, Mr. Trump said “I am the least racist person that you have ever met,’’ a statement he repeated at a White House news conference in February.

In Bedminster on Saturday, Mr. Trump said he and his team were “closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.,” then tried to portray the violence there as a chronic, bipartisan plague. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country,’’ he said. “It’s not Donald Trump, it’s not Barack Obama.”

Mr. Trump did not single out the marchers, who included the white supremacist Richard Spencer and Mr. Duke, for their ideology.

While Democrats and some Republicans faulted Mr. Trump for being too vague, Mr. Duke was among the few Trump critics who thought the president had gone too far.

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he wrote on Twitter, shortly after the president spoke.

The president remained silent on the violence for most of the morning even as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, and dozens of other public figures condemned the march.

Mrs. Trump, using her official Twitter account, wrote, “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville.”

Mr. Ryan was even more explicit. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry,” he wrote on Twitter at noon, around the time that Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the city.

–Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Trump’s Remarks On Charlottesville Violence Are Criticized As Insufficient