[T]he debate about whether to turn inward or to engage with the world has been resurrected by Donald Trump. He insists that he is not an isolationist but he describes US foreign policy in unilateral, transactional terms and has championed “America First” — a phrase originally associated with opposition to Roosevelt’s desire to fight Hitler.
The most prominent spokesman for the 1940s America First Committee, the celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh, accused Jewish groups of “agitating for war” and was himself accused of being pro-Nazi.
Embracing the phrase “America First” does not in itself indicate fascism, but there is more to the picture than that.
For Lindbergh and Roosevelt, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. In 1944 American troops waded through the surf of Normandy’s beaches and into the path of Nazi bullets.
Half a lifetime later, at Pointe du Hoc on the English Channel, Ronald Reagan commemorated their sacrifice with the words: “Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.”
Of course, the United States has not always lived up to its own ideals.
This week marks the 153rd anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, when US troops murdered and mutilated women and children of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in Colorado, just one atrocity among many as white Europeans vanquished the native peoples of the New World.
Then a country founded on genocide and slavery covered its ears for shameful ages before it heard Martin Luther King’s insistence that it “make real the promises of democracy” for African Americans. Woodrow Wilson, for one, used fine words but he introduced racist policies too. Even now, that promise of democracy remains only partially fulfilled.
The US has been guilty of bombing civilians, of torture and imprisonment without trial and of subverting the very democracy it professes to hold sacred when it does not like what democracy delivers.
A question comes to mind: did American soldiers fight and die on the beaches of Normandy so their president could promote fascism?
It is an astonishing question, absurd even. To many it may seem offensive even to ask.
But it falls to reporters to describe in plain language what we see, and promotion of fascism and racism is all too easy to observe in the United States of 2017.
Convincing a majority of any nation of the correctness of an argument is difficult. Tedious, even. Outside of one’s own fan club, there will be people who disagree on firm ideological grounds, some who hint they can swayed but never seem to change their minds, and those who stand in opposition for reasons related to personality or identity.
And if, say, one has MacGyvered together a political career using pocket change, bits of string, populism and bullying, lack of persuasive skills will exacerbate the difficultly and tediousness.
That must be why Diable Mandarine is wistful for terror attacks, which could potentially give a boost to fascist cohorts like France’s Marine Le Pen and assist him in maintaining his own power in a pinch.
Not only that, but he all but officially endorsed Marine Le Pen ahead of Sunday’s election. There’s a very real chance that she will be France’s next president. She’s run an ugly nationalist campaign while eliding the inconvenient “f” word that dogs her party. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen led France’s National Front from its formation until 2011, and though the modern party would never openly call itself fascist, well…
The first obstacle to understanding the French fascist dynamic comes from how the FN has been characterized from the 1990s, but especially in the last six years. Many mainstream analysts assure that the FN has transitioned from neofascism to “populism” (or “national-populism”), moving from the far right to slightly right of center. Some even assert that it has never been truly fascist because the French political culture would be “immune” to fascism, as many French historians have been constantly (and absurdly) contending that there has never been such a thing as an authentic French fascism in the twentieth century.
However, the “National Front for French Unity” (which is its original name) was created in the early 1970s by the party Ordre nouveau, which was rooted in the history of French fascism, and the FN was imagined as a broad organization in which neofascists — renamed “nationalists” — could attract, maneuver, and lead all of the moderate nationalists of the traditional right.
But when one stops thinking of the political trajectory of the FN in terms of changing symbols and words, in order to think it in terms of a strategic project, Marine Le Pen’s break from her father represented no fundamental change in the party’s platform, but rather a new manifestation of the party’s longstanding strategy for gaining political support.
The FN’s bait and switch aligns it closely with classical fascist political strategy. In The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert Paxton argues that far-right movements treat ideas as essentially instrumental: their promises contradict each other, and their platforms abruptly and radically change to gain a wider following. For example, fascist parties sometimes reject modernity, industry, and capitalism in the name of more deeply rooted, traditional values. Just as often, however, they defend these ideals in the name of national transformation.
In case the mainstream media’s current flight-of-fancy narrative about the president’s turn toward conventional respectability was holding any sway, let’s remind ourselves: Donald Trump just endorsed a fascist. Donald Trump is a fascist. Donald Trump could be one dramatic terrorist attack on American soil away from making that blindingly obvious.
(Year Zero/Day Ninety-Two)
The CIA’s top Vietnam specialist, George Carver, reportedly said that in 1969, when the North Koreans shot down a US spy plane, “Nixon became incensed and ordered a tactical nuclear strike… The Joint Chiefs were alerted and asked to recommend targets, but Kissinger got on the phone to them. They agreed not to do anything until Nixon sobered up in the morning.”
When Nixon wasn’t busy getting shitfaced and almost nuking North Korea and Southeast Asia, he would fiddle around with his substantial list of political enemies. His obsession with containing, one-upping and punishing his enemies eventually led to his downfall.
It’s been drilled into every student of American history’s head that the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up delivered the coup de grace to 37’s presidency. As the Congressional investigation broadened, Americans learned of Nixon and his associates’ brazen criminality; that the figurehead of the government was willing to engage in a conspiracy to maintain his grip on power. Questions about what the president knew and when he knew were of paramount importance.
Because this all went down in the early 1970s, it’s useful to understand that although his misdeeds were eventually exposed, he was five years into his presidency before it collapsed under the weight of his misdeeds and he was forced to resign in disgrace.
Donald Trump is not Richard Nixon (He doesn’t need a legendary drinking habit to be paranoid and ill-tempered, for one. KFC does the trick just fine.). And yet as the leaks come out day after day, there’s a feeling Nixon and Trump are of a kind. This probably does a great disservice to Nixon, bastard though he was.
What’s striking about the Trump White House is how much we know now. How during his first hundred days (a terrible conceit but one that Washington insiders and the press corps hold on to), there’s a mounting effort within the government to unseat him. You have in our somewhat recent past a figure who is almost universally vilified in popular history, and he’s being upstaged by our unhinged-troll-in-chief. Impressive.
Thanks to The Apprentice‘s own Omarosa Manigaut, we know there’s a good chance he has an enemies list and compiles dossiers on black journalists. We know of his many gross personal defects because there are recordings and living witnesses who can independently verify them. New anecdotes concerning flaws like his violent temper come to light almost on the daily. And his ill-advised war with the Deep State means we get to learn about his back-channel dealings not decades after the fact, but months.
[T]he proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
At a time when Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by American intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and Congress — some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.
If the question is what did the president know and when did he know it, the answer is “everything” and “from the start”. Will it be enough to bring him down, though? We now know the president’s own private organization drafted a plan to remove sanctions and gave it to disgraced National Security adviser Michael Flynn, who was ditched for making illicit contact with Russia and then getting tangled in the web of his profligate lies. But these are uncertain times. Who will claim victory in this internecine war is unclear.
At least we’ll be entertained while the fate of our country sorts itself out.
(Year Zero/Day Thirty-Two)