Category Archives: Fascism


Yeah. there’s a lot of other stuff to be said about this bit of poorly-recorded braggadocio.w3ztXvTl_400x400

But I thought I’d start with my own pet peeve: If you’re going to shoot video and inflict it on the world, turn the phone sideways! I really don’t want to see those wasted black bars at the sides, thank you very much.

As for the rest… Catherine Templeton has definitely chosen her bed, as both Tweets shown here demonstrate. Let’s see how comfortable she is lying in it going forward…

A discussion Friday about lessons from Charlottesville

Photo by Evan Nesterak obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Evan Nesterak obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Remember a couple of months back, when I moderated a forum for the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council about the Bull Street redevelopment project?

Well, tomorrow we’re going to have another one that may interest you. It starts at 11:30 a.m. at the offices of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices at 930 Richland St.

The topic is “Lessons from Charlottesville.” The idea is to have a discussion about the implications for our own community arising from the issues raised there.

We expect 30 or so people, including Tameika Isaac Devine from city council, J.T. McLawhorn from the Columbia Urban League, and Matt Kennell from the City-Center Partnership.

Bryan came to the Bull Street one, and I think he found the discussion interesting. I did, anyway.

Whether y’all can come or not, I’d like a little advice. I’ve thrown together a short list of questions to offer to the group. The questions are just ways to keep the discussion going as needed. These discussions don’t follow a formal structure, with questions followed by timed answers, or anything like that.

Here are the ones I have. Suggestions?

  1. Could what happened in Charlottesville happen here? If not, why not? And if so, what can we do to prevent it?
  2. Even if we are spared the violence we saw in Virginia, how should we here in the Midlands respond to the issues that confrontation laid bare?
  3. President Trump has been roundly criticized for his response to what happened. What would you like to hear elected leaders in South Carolina say regarding these issues?
  4. Being the capital of the first state to secede, we have more Confederate monuments here than in most places. What, if anything, should we do with them?
  5. Has anyone present had a change of attitude or perspective, something that you’d like to share, as a result of the re-emergence of these issues onto the nation’s front burner?


You MUST read David Frum’s brilliant piece in The Atlantic

David Frum on Tavis Smiley's show earlier this week.

David Frum on Tavis Smiley’s show earlier this week.

The other night, as I turned off the Apple TV and paused just before turning off the tube altogether, I saw that Tavis Smiley was interviewing David Frum — former speechwriter for George W. Bush and current senior editor for The Atlantic.

So I stopped myself from turning it off, because Frum usually has smart, interesting things to say.

He immediately said something rather outlandish. He suggested it was highly possible that Donald Trump’s main goal in being president of the United States is to become the richest man in the world. And that as long as his tax returns are not disclosed, he’s likely to achieve it.

I was about to scoff, but paused. That would be a ridiculous goal to me, or to Barack Obama, or to George W. Bush (despite what Bud and others seem to believe about Republicans.) The sheer petty, two-bit cupidity of it is laughable, particularly since in our history, no one who was thus motivated has ever sought such a position, much less attained it.

But I then reflected that lots of people actually are that motivated by money, as Doug keeps insisting to me that everyone is. And if there’s anyone on the planet who might be that acquisitive, it’s Donald J. Trump.

Well, fine. I don’t care if he does become the richest man in the world. Were it in my power, I would write him a check for the full amount he wants if only he’d walk away and stop doing what he’s doing to our country.

I don’t know, but suspect, that Frum would do the same. Because the problem for him, and for me, is the startlingly insidious ways that Trump is undermining our republic, its institutions — particularly the effectiveness of our vaunted checks and balances — and its standing in the world as a beacon of how self-government can work. Whatever Trump’s goal is — money, popularity, power for power’s sake — the really horrible thing is what he’s doing to get there.

During the interview with Smiley, Frum alluded to a piece he’d written in The Atlantic. I finally read it tonight. It is without a doubt the most brilliant, incisive, on-point, and chilling thing I’ve read since this nightmare began.

The title is “How to Build an Autocracy.”

Orwell’s 1984 has been enjoying a surge of popularity in recent weeks, especially it seems since Kellyanne Conway’s remark about “alternative facts.”

Well, the first 878 words of this essay is a bit of speculative fiction imagining the world four years from now, when Trump has just easily won re-election. It’s scarier than 1984 because it’s not a theoretical projection of just how horrible things might get in a place like Stalin’s Russia. It’s chilling because everything it describes, in explaining how Trump becomes a power that can’t be challenged, is completely, immediately believable. It wouldn’t have been before the past year, but it is now. We’re seeing it happen.

The other several thousand words of the piece elaborates on how we get from here to there, and it’s amazing. Frum doesn’t generalize. He explains in detail why it’s highly likely that the checks and balances we rely on — from official ones like Congress to unofficial ones like the press — are being quite effectively neutralized. He sets out beautifully, for instance, how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are motivated to look the other way because they need Trump more than he needs them. It explains so much.

As for the media, well, Trump is redefining the nature of truth itself, or at least the way Americans regard it. An example of how that works:

One story, still supremely disturbing, exemplifies the falsifying method. During November and December, the slow-moving California vote count gradually pushed Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the national popular vote further and further: past 1 million, past 1.5 million, past 2 million, past 2.5 million. Trump’s share of the vote would ultimately clock in below Richard Nixon’s in 1960, Al Gore’s in 2000, John Kerry’s in 2004, Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012—and barely ahead of Michael Dukakis’s in 1988.

This outcome evidently gnawed at the president-elect. On November 27, Trump tweeted that he had in fact “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He followed up that astonishing, and unsubstantiated, statement with an escalating series of tweets and retweets.

It’s hard to do justice to the breathtaking audacity of such a claim. If true, it would be so serious as to demand a criminal investigation at a minimum, presumably spanning many states. But of course the claim was not true. Trump had not a smidgen of evidence beyond his own bruised feelings and internet flotsam from flagrantly unreliable sources. Yet once the president-elect lent his prestige to the crazy claim, it became fact for many people. A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.

If you sow enough cynicism, you don’t have to murder journalists or imprison opponents. There are subtler ways of achieving autocracy, which have been employed in recent years in places like Hungary, and we Americans are just beginning to learn about them.

He sort of leaves open the idea that Trump is a fascist, and moves beyond it, to tell us that our notions and labels and expectations are behind the times:

Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead….

But I’m not going to be able to do justice to this piece with excerpts. You need to go read it yourself. If you care, you have to.

I’ll just close with a neat thing Frum did today on Twitter. He set out some of the main points of his essay with a series of 21 Tweets. Here they are:

2) Donald Trump is a uniquely dangerous president because he harbors so many guilty secrets (or maybe 1 big guilty secret).

3) In order to protect himself, Trump must attack American norms and institutions – otherwise he faces fathomless legal risk

4) In turn, in order to protect their legally vulnerable leader, Republicans in Congress must join the attack on norms & institutions

5) Otherwise, they put at risk party hopes for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to remake US government in ways not very popular with voters

6) American institutions are built to withstand an attack from the president alone. But …

7) … they are not so well-built as to withstand an attack from a conscienceless president enabled by a hyper-partisan Congress

8) The peculiar grim irony in this case is that somewhere near the center of Trump’s story is the murky secret of Trump’s Russia connection

9) Meaning that Trump is rendering his party also complicit in what could well prove …

10) … the biggest espionage scandal since the Rosenberg group stole the secret of the atomic bomb.

11) And possibly even bigger. We won’t know if we don’t look

12) Despite patriotic statements from individual GOPers, as of now it seems that Speaker Ryan & Leader McConnell agree: no looking.

13) So many in DC serenely promise that “checks and balances” will save us. But right now: there is no check and no balance.

14) Only brave individuals in national security roles sharing truth with news organizations.

15) But those individuals can be found & silenced. What then? We take it too much for granted that the president must lose this struggle

16) The “oh he’s normal now” relief of so many to Trump’s Feb 28 speech revealed how ready DC is to succumb to dealmaking as usual.

17) As DC goes numb, citizen apathy accumulates …

18) GOP members of Congress decide they have more to fear from enforcing law against the president than from ignoring law with the president

19) And those of us who care disappear down rabbit holes debating whether Sessions’ false testimony amounts to perjury or not

20) Meanwhile job market strong, stock market is up, immigration enforcement is popular.

21) I’m not counseling despair here. I don’t feel despair. Only: nobody else will save the country if you don’t act yourself. END.

Illustration by Jeffry Smith in The Atlantic.

Illustration by Jeffry Smith in The Atlantic.

Trump suggests gun owners could deal with Clinton

How to characterize it? Since no headline writer in the history of the nation has ever before had to try to describe such a statement by a nominee for president before, let’s take a look at how they did:

WSJ‘Second Amendment People’ Can Stop Clinton on Guns, Trump Says

NYTTrump Suggests Gun Owners Could Stop Clinton Agenda

NPRTrump Appears To Suggest ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Stop Clinton

WashPostTrump appears to encourage gun owners to take action if Clinton appoints anti-gun judges

The GuardianTrump hints at assassination of Hillary Clinton by gun rights supporters

The reason you see all those hedge words — “suggests,” “appears to,” “hints at” — is that as usual, Trump did not speak in actual sentences. And he tends to be even less intelligible than usual when he’s saying the most outrageous things.

Here’s what he said:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in Wilmington, N.C. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

So how do you interpret that? There’s not a lot of wiggle-room there, although I expect Trump will indignantly claim that he didn’t say what he said.

The Post stressed the ambiguity, because that’s what news people do:

It was not clear whether Trump was inciting gun owners to use their weapons against judges or a sitting president, or was encouraging some other action.

Did you think Trump couldn’t top himself, or bottom himself, or whatever you call it when a candidate is having a contest with himself to see how low he can go?

Well, think again.

OK, let’s have another show of hands from Republicans who are actually going to vote for this guy?

Of course, we know that a lot of Republicans had already decided not to vote for him. There’s a smaller group of Republicans — including some heavyweight policymakers from past GOP administrations — who will actually vote for Hillary Clinton. Small, but growing. The Post is keeping a list. You may want to peruse it, and praise these folks for their integrity.

I’ll close with this Tweet from The Hill:

Check out the often chilling ‘Look Who’s Back’

Just wanted to bring to your attention a fascinating dark comedy that recently made its appearance on Netflix, in case you haven’t seen it already.Er_ist_wieder_da_(book_cover)

In English, it’s called “Look Who’s Back.” But it’s a German film, and the original name is “Er ist wieder da.” It’s based on a satirical novel of the same name. Here’s the premise…

One day in the present, Adolph Hitler wakes up, disoriented, in a park located on the site of the Führerbunker. He meets up with a desperate man who has just lost his job at a TV network, who uses the Führer to turn his fortunes around. Subsequently, Hitler becomes a huge draw on a popular show called, “Whoa, dude!”

The idea is that no one knows this is actually Adolph Hitler. People think he’s a brilliantly ironic comedian or method actor (since he never drops out of character). They love him. And many come to love him for the wrong reasons.


What makes this interesting is that it punctures our smug assumptions that we moderns are so much better than those awful people who live in the past. Two of the most chilling moments:

  • Hitler is delighted by many aspects of modern life. He particularly is drawn to the Web, especially because anyone can make use of it, without editors or other conventional controls being in the way. When he learns that no one ultimately controls Wikipedia, he is delighted. He sees the opportunity that provides.
  • HUGE SPOILER ALERT: Repeatedly, the Führer runs into everyday people on the street who are filled with indignation over the way nonEuropean immigrants are flooding into their country. Hitler encourages them in this, and declares, in the very last line of the film, “I can work with this.”

Because, you see, while everyone else thinks their using Hitler — to drive TV ratings and such — he is single-mindedly bent on rising to power again.

Oh, and don’t think this is just a German problem, given how well politicians with similar messages are faring in this country in this election year…

Trump abortion comment may be the ultimate example of his malevolent cluelessness

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for 'thought' with him.

Donald Trump, engaged in what passes for ‘thought’ with him.

Donald Trump outdid himself yesterday, managing to alienate everyone on both sides of the abortion divide with his utter malevolent cluelessness:

APPLETON, Wis. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under fire Wednesday for saying that women should be subject to “some sort of punishment” for undergoing illegal abortions, a position that antiabortion and abortion rights groups alike emphatically denounced….

This prompted plenty of comments to the effect that Trump had evidently not thought carefully about the issue — which would mean that he has treated this issue the way he treats all others.

Say “Donald Trump thinking about issues,” and I picture a flat rock skipping across a pond before it runs out of momentum and eventually sinks to the bottom. Trump is the rock, in case the metaphor is too complex for you.

I would take it another step, though, in this case. I think what he said reflects that, to the extent he’s thought about the issue at all, he still holds a view (left over from his “very pro-choice” days, back when that was more convenient for him) of us pro-lifers propagated by those who oppose us: That our opposition to abortion arises not out of a concern for the unborn life, but from a hostility to women and their interests.

To the extent that something one would characterize as “thought” passed through Trump’s mind before he spoke in response to prompting from his interviewer, it seems to have been along these lines: “This is the way those pro-lifers think, so since I’m pretending to be one of them, I’ll say that.”

Mixed in with that, we should probably take into account his general preference for sounding “tough,” whatever the issue. The tougher — and the stupider — he sounds, the more his base seems to like him.

So where does this leave us? With this guy still the GOP front-runner, which means that unless a miracle can be pulled off at the convention, the allegedly pro-life party will be represented by someone who holds actual pro-lifers in contempt, while the left will characterize him the way this NYT headline yesterday did: “Donald Trump, Abortion Foe, Eyes ‘Punishment’ for Women…” Even though Trump is as much of a “abortion foe” as the aforementioned flat rock.

Presidential campaign generally produce much heat, and little light, on the abortion issue. But things seldom go this dark…

Heil Trump! — no, really; watch the video…

We’ve spoken before about the undertones of fascism in the appeal of Donald Trump. (Or maybe I just Tweeted about it; I’m not immediately finding the previous reference.)

Now there’s this, which somehow I missed over the weekend and didn’t see until today.

From the latest column by Dana Milbank:

So it has come to this: The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at a campaign rally Saturday in Orlando, leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute.

“Can I have a pledge? A swearing?” Trump asked, raising his right hand and directing his followers to do the same. He then led them in pledging allegiance — not to the flag but to Trump, for which they stand and for whom they vowed to vote.

Benito Mussolini (1883 - 1945) the Italian dictator in 1934. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) the Italian dictator in 1934. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Trump supporters raised their arms en masse — unfortunately evoking the sort of scene associated with grainy newsreels from Italy and Germany.

Among those not engaging in such ominous imagery were the demonstrators, who, by my colleague Jenna Johnson’s account, interrupted Trump’s event more than a dozen times. The candidate watched a supporter grab and attempt to tackle protesters, at least one of them black, near the stage. “You know, we have a divided country, folks,” Trump said. “We have a terrible president who happens to be African American.”

Loaded imagery, violence against dissenters and a racial attack on the president: It’s all in a day’s work for Trump….

If you watch that video and let it go on to autoplay the next one, you’ll hear the bit that goes, “We have a terrible president who happens to be African American.” You don’t want to miss that one, either.

Yeah, he’s a buffoon. But so was Mussolini. Hitler, too, but I think the Mussolini comparison is more apt. All that comic-opera strutting and mugging…