If you use the F-word, inevitably some people respond by saying “this isn’t fascism because unlike Hitler…” or whatever. But of course fascism in the 1930s was expressed in its own time; 80 years later, it will be expressed differently. Trump is a fascist, his government fits the dictionary definition of fascism, and he is using fascist techniques: “Only I can save you,” he told the Republican National Convention, a jarring dismissal of democratic institutions and even democracy itself. And his actions since taking office are textbook vilification of minorities for political purposes.
It’s important to call Trump’s executive orders over the weekend what they are — fascistic — so as not to normalize them; they are simply beyond the pale, utterly unacceptable. And if there is anything to be learned from the fascism of the 1930s, it is imperative that good people stand up to fascism before even more horrors follow.
I don’t know how best to fight US fascism from Halifax. I made a donation to the ACLU yesterday because it is fighting the exclusionary policies of the moment, but also because we need strong US institutions that work to counter Trump.
Local people are taking what action they can. King’s College student Erica Baguma started the @Trump_Regrets Twitter account, which “has been retweeting posts from angry and disillusioned Americans who voted for U.S. President Donald Trump and wish they could take it back,” reports the CBC:
“I found that the population is a lot more diverse than I expected,” she said. “I really didn’t have a good picture of why people were voting for him, and so of course that was part of why I started it. Because I’d never met a Trump supporter. And a lot of his supporters really had good intentions.
“A lot of them were really naive and sort of thought all of the racism and misogyny was just bluster, but really he wanted what was best for the American people. A lot of them really didn’t educate themselves on all of his positions and were sort of single-issue voters, like against Obamacare, and stuff like that.”
This is interesting, and I think Baguma’s work is important. Consider Josh Jones’ commentary on Hannah Arendt:
Arendt, on the other hand, looked closely at the regimes of Hitler and Stalin and their functionaries, at the ideology of scientific racism, and at the mechanism of propaganda in fostering “a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism with which each member… is expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders.” So she wrote in her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism, going on to elaborate that this “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”:
In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.
Why the constant, often blatant lying? For one thing, it functioned as a means of fully dominating subordinates, who would have to cast aside all their integrity to repeat outrageous falsehoods and would then be bound to the leader by shame and complicity. “The great analysts of truth and language in politics” — writes McGill University political philosophy professor Jacob T. Levy — including “George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel — can help us recognize this kind of lie for what it is…. Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”
Arendt and others recognized, writes Levy, that “being made to repeat an obvious lie makes it clear that you’re powerless.” She also recognized the function of an avalanche of lies to render a populace powerless to resist, the phenomenon we now refer to as “gaslighting.”
We in the media have an obligation to call out Trump’s lies, to state the truth, and to keep to the world of the rational. We cannot frame this as simply a two-sided political debate, each side given equal weight.
There have already been two good local articles on Trump’s executive orders — CBC’s “‘Reeks of discrimination’: Nova Scotia immigrants react to U.S. travel ban” and Metro’s “Halifax woman from Iran on travelling to United States: ‘just sick thinking about it’.”
We are entering terrible times. We can’t even imagine the horrors that are about to befall us, and no matter what happens, this won’t end well.
We didn’t ask for fascism, but here it is. We have the obligation to deal with fascism now, directly and with purpose. It is what will define us.
2. Examineradio, episode #98
On what is one of the longest episodes in Examineradio’s history, we devote almost the entire show to marking the auspicious occasion of the one-year anniversary of the Chronicle Herald strike.
First we speak with veteran arts reporter Stephen Cooke about the cautious optimism surrounding the current round of negotiations between the union and management and the dearth of in-depth arts criticism in Halifax.
We also speak with two experts in the newspaper industry and modern journalism: Robert McChesney is a professor of communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s a co-founder of Free Press, an advocacy group that “…fights to … curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.” He’s also the co-author of The Death and Life of American Journalism.
Rick Edmonds is a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute in Tampa, FL.
Finally, CKDU’s Francella Fiallos was at the demonstration in front of the Chronicle Herald offices this past Monday. She spoke with some of the striking workers as well as politicians and supporters.
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
3. Cyber warfare
“When he addresses military audiences, Gary Brown often fields questions from soldiers who can’t see how cyber warfare is relevant to their lives,” reports Chris Lambie:
They’ll tell Brown, a professor of cyber security at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, that they aren’t involved in cyber operations and can’t see why they should care about cyber warfare.
“You may not in fact be interested in it, but it’s very interested in you,” Brown, a retired US Air Force colonel, told the crowd Friday at Dalhousie University’s 12th International Humanitarian Law Conference.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
1. Another Monday in Chaos
“It’s Monday. So it must be time for the latest zig in the zig-zaggy, twisty-turny, tortured tale of Stephen McNeil and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union,” writes Stephen Kimber.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Mary Tyler Moore
“The continued steep decline in local media was revealed again when no reports on [Mary Tyler Moore’s] death mentioned that Moore filmed a movie for TV here in Halifax in the summer of 2003,” writes Ron Foley Macdonald:
Blessings was adapted from journalist and author Anna Quindlen’s 2002 novel, and told the story of an eccentric 82-year old woman played by a heavily made-up Moore, whose life is revitalized by the arrival of a baby, dropped off anonymously on her doorstep.
Local actors Cory Bowles and Laura Regan provided supporting roles, and the project was broadcast on CBS in October, 2003, right after the catastrophic landfall of Hurricane Juan in Halifax. That might be responsible for the mass amnesia in Nova Scotia concerning the project.
3. Cranky Letter of the Day
To the Charlottetown Guardian:
What is the difference?
“America first!” and “Deutschland uber alles (German national anthem)!”
Thomy Nilsson, Cornwall
No public meetings.
No events; go to class for once already.
In the harbour
3am: Cielo di Hanoi, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
5am: OOCL Kula Lumper, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
6am: ZIM San Francisco, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
10:30am: NYK Daedalus, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11am: AHS Hamburg, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
3:30pm: Adriatic Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 42 from Liverpool, England
5pm: Sara, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 27 from New Orleans
11:30pm: ZIM San Francisco, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for Kingston, Jamaica
More articles are in the hopper, and should be churned out soon.
CBC is reporting there will be vigils today at 4pm (Studley Quad, Dal) and 6pm (Halifax Grand Parade).
Trump, like all fascists, thrives on creating divisions among groups and fear of those who are different from one’s own group and by hiding what he is really doing to consolidate his own power behind bluster about minor issues ( think the crowds at the inauguration). But what makes Trump an even greater threat than earlier fascists dictators is our complete reliance on computers and electronic data and communication and the concomitant weakening of local communities filled with diverse individuals.
If Edward Snowden is to be believed, nothing online is secret or confidential. Living in Halifax, I am probably safe even though Trump and his security apparatus are aware that I am referring to him as a fascist. But should I return to the States and live there, well maybe I might not be as safe. So my advice for the Americans living in the US, resist because you must; but remember that the greatest form resistance may be to stay alive and to rebuild local offline communities of diverse individuals that cut across religious, gender, political, national,racial, income and any other category.
Resistance in Canada also takes the form of rebuilding or strengthening local communities of diverse individuals across the whole spectrum and building a commitment to the broader community and the principles of respect and diversity as opposed to commitment to the advancement of our particular groups. Resistance includes listening respectfully to those that we profoundly disagree with and acknowledging that we are not always right. To achieve this, we must recognize that political correctness is a kind of censorship we cannot afford.
Strong Canadian communities alone are not sufficient to inoculate against Trump’s fascism. Canada must strengthen its connections with other forward thinking countries. Given the long border and the extremely close economic and military ties between the US and Canada, it may be time to take a page from neutral countries with similar issues, like some of the European countries. Despite what we wish or what resistors in the US may wish, Trump may be around long enough to cause war or other real damage.
Thanks for pointing out Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism. Sounds like something we should all read.
I travelled in Romania shortly after the overthrow of Ceaucescu. At one point, a tour guide told us how under the Ceaucescu regime she had to describe abundant crops her tour bus was passing, even though everyone in the bus could see they weren’t. Trump’s demonstrably false claims remind me of that experience from communist eastern Europe.
On another note, CBC’s The Current this morning had an excellent and long overdue discussion of the links and differences between Trump and other far right wing responses to legitimate concerns about Free Trade vs. left wing responses. Maude Barlow was at her best – naming the reality based concern and where the problem lies – in over-reaching power given to multi national corporations and the 1% vs. Trump’s blaming ordinary Mexicans. Trump’s response will only make things worse. Also good discussion of the need for re-skilling and social supports to sustain those who lose their jobs as change happens with dignity instead of throwing them to the McJob market as has happened to many in Canada and the US. Now more than ever the left needs to create a just alternative, as Bernie Sanders was doing.
I absolutely agree that a viable alternative is required. Fascism doesn’t come out of nowhere, it appears when people desperately opt into it because the alternatives are failing them.
Thank you for this, Tim. I think it’s essential we call the Trump (Bannon) administration for what it is and will be: fascism.
Organizing locally, getting politically involved, and connecting communities will be important to resisting this in Canada, I think. I hope there will be public events in solidarity with the Muslim community over the horrific terrorism in Quebec.
Also worth noting about that cranky letter, “America First” has a much more direct connection to domestic racism http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/donald-trumps-america-first-slogan-9718899
Just one note: Bannon wrote Trump’s inauguration speech, and he knows where he got “America First” from. It’s a phrase with a very specific and dark history. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/trump-america-first/514037/
I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who voted for Trump and now have regrets. None. What kind of people he and his close associates are, and what he said they would do, were readily apparent. He said all along what he wanted to do. Why is anyone surprised?
It is just over a week in, so these people have close to another four years of regrets. Especially when they discover that after all the disruption and cruelty, he still can’t restore the “golden age” they long for and they will probably be much worse off economically with these clowns in charge. And I think the golden age is largely nostalgia…if there was a golden age, it was only a golden age for some. It wasn’t like people of colour and Indigenous people were being offered the best jobs down at the factory or the mill. It was the same here in Canada.
I suppose Trump may eventually lead to the abolition of the silly electoral college system, which seems to me to be a process without a purpose. But a Trump could be elected directly too, so it isn’t necessarily a safeguard against people like him.
I hope that the writer of the cranky letter is well aware that “Deutschland über alles” used to be the German anthem, but it is not the lyrics anymore, as only one verse of this poem is still used for the anthem. “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit für das deutsche Vaterland” ( unity and right and freedom for the German father land).
One can certainly see parallels with the rising of Nazi Germany, but what is certainly scarier, is the use of the modern means of communication under our eyes.
There is a fantastic movie about what if Hitler would return these days to Germany, it is basically a comedy, but your laughter often gets choked at times, because there are so many truths in it, and it reminds one of what happens right now with Trump. I highly recommend the movie: “Look who’s back” is probably still on Netflix.
Yep, excellent movie. It really makes you uncomfortable.
There’s no room for folks like you, what can you say, what can you do?
So when they come to take you away, are you gonna go with them on that day?
Will you know what to do?
Will you do it?
I subscribe to Halifax Examiner and have an online subscription to the Globe & Mail.
On Saturday the Globe had a 15 minute video and an extensive article about the mental illness of Kenneth Irving, son of Arthur Irving. Kenneth Irving speaks openly about his illness. Great journalism by Alison Hall of CBS Inside Edition and Erin Andersen at the Globe.
Strongly agreed. Kenneth Irving’s piece in the G&M Focus section was heartfelt and excellent.
None of this happens without collaborators. Say what you want about Trump, but these people choose to read the script.
Thank you for saying it like it is, Tim. Trump is the scariest thing since Hitler.
Punch a Nazi a day to keep fascism at bay.
No. Violence begets violence. How can you condemn violence and then respond with violence? Annoy the nazi. Make them angry. Make them defensive. If they punch you, have them charged. Embarrass them in public, make them a public spectacle. But do not hit them unless you are protecting yourself. Also, truly, when is the last time you punched someone? Is this something you would ACTUALLY DO? I suspect not. Inciting violence in others is exactly what fascists do!
While I think violence is bad and is never a good option, I couldn’t care less if someone wants to punch a white supremacist or nazi or whatever the fascists end up being called. FAR worse violence is done every day to PoC, indigineous people, women, Muslims, etc and often justice is not served. We should focus on the people who promote that sort of violence. Once we’ve solved the problem of violence against vulnerable people, then we can start criticizing one another for wishes to punch nazis.
I agree 1000% Ashley.
Resisting Nazis means violence against Nazis. Not resisting Nazis leads to violence against everyone else.
I should make clear that I don’t promote such violence, but I’m definitely not going to shed any tears or start a debate about whether violence is okay just because a fascist got punched.
That debate should be focussed entirely on violence against vulnerable people. If the only time we question the justification of violence is when a white supremacist is punched, and not when terrorists are killing Muslims or the police are violently cracking down on PoC and protestors, then we’re doing something wrong.
I grew up in the punk/hardcore community in the 1980s. If you give nazis an inch, they’ll ruin your entire community.
Can I punch Nazis?
I don’t know. Can you?
I am capable of the act, yes.
Then you should.
The answer to that is also yes.
My mother told me that violence was never the answer.
My mother told me I was handsome; you can’t always listen to your mother.
What happened to letting the other guy throw the first punch?
Nazis don’t throw the first punch. Nazis burn the first Reichstag.
Aren’t the Left supposed to be the tolerant ones?
Supposed to be the smart ones, too, but they keep falling for that “I thought you were supposed to be the tolerant ones” horseshit.
What about dialogue?
Dialogue is for reasonable people acting in good faith. Dialogue is between two acceptable positions. “Taxes need to be raised” vs. “taxes need to be lowered” is grounds for dialogue. “Taxes need to be raised” vs. “Jews should be thrown in ovens” is grounds for a beating.
But isn’t this sinking to their level?
That depends. After you punch the Nazi, do you espouse the tenets of National Socialism?
Then you’re better than a Nazi.
But doesn’t this just give the other side ammunition?
The other side in this argument are lying fucks who can twist any piece of information into a swastika-shaped balloon animal if you engage them in good faith; lacking a piece of information, they’ll just make shit up. Might as well punch a Nazi.
What about peace, love, and understanding?
Great goals, and once we get rid of the Nazis we can get to work on them. All three are completely impossible when Nazis are about.
When should you punch a Nazi?
Whenever you get a chance. Preferably when they’re not looking.
What if they’re smaller than you?
Hit them with your fist.
What if they’re bigger?
Hit them with a bat.
Isn’t this a slippery slope?
After we defeated the Nazis in World War II, did we keep shooting people or did the troops come home and start having babies?
The second thing.
There you go. The slippery slope argument is nine times out of ten bullshit. Human beings are good with slippery slopes: we build stairs.
What if you think you’re punching a Nazi, but you just hit a white guy with a shitty haircut?
What should you do if you hit a Nazi?
You should run then, too. Don’t get me wrong: punching Nazis is still illegal. We’re discussing morality.
But I don’t want to punch anyone.
Then get off your duff, mister, and give aid and support to the folks on the front lines. We’re all in this together. Again.
“Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”
That perfectly describes Shawn Spicer’s hostage video after the inauguration.
Of course we also can’t underestimate the complicity of those who surround his Trumpness. They are true belivers as well.
Kellyanne Conway knows exactly what she’s doing and why.
Truly terrifying times require staunch resistance. Never thought it would show uo south of the border though. Canadians must be on our guard.