Trump is not a xenophobe, just a skilled demagogue

Let’s assume that Donald Trump’ s intelligence and knowledge are at least on an average level, or higher. Then one must conclude that he not for a minute can believe that illegal immigration is the root of 30 year’s stagnation or decline in living conditions for ordinary Americans. However, he is a master demagogue and knows what upset people the most. And he used that skill to manipulate the democratic system and win his first election.

We’ve been through this before in Europe and it ended no good. Trump’s tactics regarding foreign people are similar to those used by fascists then.

With some simplification one may say that neoliberalism has been the cradle in which today’s neo-fascism was nurtured. It goes like this: unfettered capitalism fails and creates crisis of all kinds. The result is stagnation for a majority and fabulous wealth for a few, while everything in the common sector crumbles.

It’s no mystery who gains and who suffers from this focus on privatizing everything and destroying the commons. Those who profit are calling all the shots, not least in the media, and will certainly not spend any energy informing the public about the real causalities. When people finally runs out of docility, up comes the right-wing populists with their popular but false answers.

Immigrants are the easy targets for populists. (We all have some innate xenophobe traits and it takes conscious thinking to repress them.) But people’s real grievances have of course only marginally to do with immigrants. That should be particularly obvious for US citizens with their rich country’s entire wealth created by immigrants. Still the Stranger Card pays off for populists – big!

Sweden is known for its open borders. With the surge in refugees arriving we had last year the largest percentage population growth since 1861. Is this from benevolence only? Hardly! This is where immigration is hurting ordinary people to some degree, namely in holding down worker’s wages, something the ruling property owners find most welcome (here they have a common interest with humanitarian liberals).

That’s not to say that immigrants and refugees are responsible for ordinary people’s problems. The main reason for these problems is instead a power-grab by the ruling elite, the capital owners, by which they have impounded most of the economic growth the last 30 years and funneled it to very few pockets (more pronounced so in USA than in EU, and even less so in Sweden).

But nor is it to say that immigration is problem-free for the society as a whole or above all for the newcomers. They are forced to live in quite meager circumstances, have difficulty learning a new language and finding jobs. The Social network in Sweden is not what it used to be and people are left to solve their own problems, not an easy task for individuals fleeing war zones and burdened by traumatic experiences. Desperation sometimes leads to riots with violence and counter violence between immigrants and right-wing groups, which adds to the aversion against immigrants and refugees.

Donald Trump knows quite well that the immigrants to US didn’t cause the depressing conditions for people during neoliberalism. He just uses them as a potent political weapon among his deceived constituency. He is probably also aware of the real reasons for people’s grievances. He just acts like the businessman he is: go full ahead and don’t bother about consequence beyond the next quarter, regardless of how dire they are.

On the other hand Trump has shown some insight into what created the current, giant refugee crisis, namely West’s unwarranted wars in the Middle East and North Africa. His expressed ambition to withdraw US from these wars is a hopeful sign (and a significant deviation from historic fascist practices). But on this issue he is at odds with strong forces in both parties and the outcome of that remains to be seen.

Democracy as a Glass Bead Game for “academics”

Today’s New York Times has a piece titled Democracy in America: How Is It Doing?, presenting a study that excels in political scientists’ most dear subjects: formalities and instrumentalities forming a rather shallow analysis, if one by democracy means people’s real power. It’s of course presented with much (insipid) statistics and graphics. The summary of the study is: “Democracy in the United states is strong, but showing some cracks”.

I submitted the following lines to the NYT Readers Comments’ section:

Really prudent and knowledgeable American thinkers, most prominently Noam Chomsky, argues convincingly that today’s USA is a plutocracy, not a democracy at all. He bases his view on the fact that the economic powerful simply are able buy political decisions that are gaining their interests. This power mostly overrides voters’ real influence on politics, something that has been demonstrated in numerous polls (such as on health care).

Citizens United stands for legalized corruption on a limitless scale, not really intelligible for many outside US. That should have been be none of our interests, were it not for US being a role model followed by other states, not least Sweden, with some years’ or decades’ delay. So, let’s unite across oceans and reclaim real democracy.

 

Trump’s gaffe on Sweden, coming true

“More than half a century ago president Eisenhower sat the standard for mocking Sweden, when he publicly stated that suicides were more common there than elsewhere. The reason implied was that Swedes were so deeply bored in there cuddling socialist state that they didn’t want to live at all. The assertion about the suicides was in itself not true, of course (speaking of lying presidents), but it is still glued to the Swedish image in the whole world.

Eisenhower served an entry, and then it has just rolled on. Every small crack in the smooth facade of the idyllic social democratic paradise did create media frenzy (with mostly less correct reporting) and cozy schadenfreude. That provoking Nordic welfare country, number one in most rankings, was an aching thorn in the eyes of conservatives around the globe.

But the reactionaries may relax now. Sweden has been hit by neoliberalism (facilitated by a right-wing government) and is becoming increasingly compatible with rest of the industrial world. Welfare is fading and there is cause for grievances among the less affluent, a development that, not surprisingly, has handed xenophobes and the Alt-right considerable progress in public opinion. At the same time, economic gaps are widening faster than in other EU-countries. – So: SkÃ¥l, reactionaries of the world! Your future seems bright (but to the others: let’s disappoint them thoroughly!)”

This was a comment of mine on an article in New York Times that mentioned Trump’s gaffe about some attack in Sweden. A day later there really was riots and car burning in a Stockholm suburb, as if Trump were clairvoyant. That elicited the following answer to me in the comment section:

“Odd you say that, knowing that riots just broke out in Sweden. Guess which community areas? Isn’t it terrible when facts on the ground don’t cooperate with dogma?”

Well, I never said anything about a riot-free Sweden; I could have commented on the opposite.

Fascism – an ideology a la mode

If there is no indisputable definition of fascism there are anyhow specific characterizations of the phenomenon. The basic one, at the same time the most despicable, is lack of empathy for other human beings (outside a closed circle). Among fascists, the reasons for living are instead Race, Honor, War, Blut und Boden and equivalent concepts. (Empathy is something that a fascist occasionally may feel for animals.)

In line with these characteristics it follows that fascists see as deadly enemies all democratic movements in favor of equality and solidarity, such as labor movements and other associations engaging ordinary human beings. Fascists embrace mainly people and things that are strictly theirs in some sense, such as their ego, their family, their clan, their nation.

Fascism started, and is responsible for, the Second World War. It’s equally true, but nowadays repressed, that the Soviet Union carried by far the heaviest burden to defeat the worst and strongest of the monstrous fascist war machines. Soviet was then considered by many to be a workers’ state, and workers’ unions thus gained a strong position in most of Europe the years after the war.

This period have been called a Golden Age in industrialized countries. Economies flourished with high growth; income distribution was fairly equal (very much so by today’s standards), welfare measures were carried through and ordinary working families could acquire a comfortable life. Fascists were practically non-existent during these optimistic years (we had a few hibernating Nazis in Sweden, but they were commonly regarded as complete dimwits).

The backlash came in the late 1970s, when the capitalist class finally managed to regain political and ideological hegemony by using its economic power. In the name of neoliberalism, they could enable a strong reaction against wage workers’ acquired rights. Pitched as globalism, the new march backwards became international. One instrument of this redistribution of production results to the very rich was deregulation of the financial markets, resulting in repeated financial crashes hitting poor people the hardest.

With this capitalist reaction the groundwork for resurrection of fascism was laid. We had been through it once before in near history and should have learned, but those in real power doesn’t want us to learn. They obviously prefer fascism before progressive development that really deals with people’s grievances. The right wing paves the way for right wing extremism. Their most important objective is to keep progressives away from power.

A more polite term for right-wing extremism is populism, and both have kinship with fascism. The connections are illustrated in a recent article in New York Times dealing with the ideological preferences in the head of Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist in the most powerful administration in the world. He is said to be influenced by, or at least open to, the world of Julius Evola, an extreme traditionalist that inspired Mussolini and now is openly hailed by Alt-right leaders.

Evola himself broke with the Italian Fascists “because he considered them overly tame and corrupted by compromise. Instead he preferred the Nazi SS officers, seeing in them something closer to a mythic ideal. They also shared his anti-Semitism.” (Evola is called an influential “thinker” which is an odd epithet for a man who conspicuously prefer feeling ahead of thinking.)

Evola was Anti everything enlightened, rational, modern, liberal, progressive and humanitarian one can think of. An American scholar has described his ideal order to be based on “hierarchy, caste, monarchy, race, myth, religion and ritual”. This points a straight way back to the heart of medieval darkness. A way that Stephen K. Bannon, on the face of it, at least not entirely abstain from recommending.

All while our media are outraged by silly scandals, alleged leaks, fake news (including their own) and above all: The Russians. There is something rotten in the state of affairs, but it’s more dire than the headlines in our newspapers suggest.

The really hazardous side of Trump

When I was younger one could occasionally pick up the innocent notion here that everyone should be eligible to vote for the President of the United States, since the US had such an impact on the whole world. Naiveties like that are mostly gone nowadays, but in one respect they ought to be revived. And that’s about environmental issues.

US is the worst per capita polluter in the world, by a long shot. One emission that is harmful for everyone on earth is carbon dioxide. Alongside nuclear war, climate catastrophe is the greatest threat to survival of the human species. We’re not talking of some people, or even millions of people being exterminated, it’s literarily the entire human species that is at stake.

Global warming is accelerating at a terrifying pace with its deleterious effects measured almost day by day. Our grandchildren will experience changes in global weather never seen by mankind, most of those highly unfavorable. And that’s just the beginning.

In these dire straits a man elected President of the United States declares that he will do the outmost to enhance this treat to the human species, thereby supported by a Congress filled with likeminded climate deniers. To the latter’s defense one should admit that many of them believe Jesus to come back to earth and rescue them personally in a near future, leaving the rest to destruction. For them it’s at least logical to flout the end of humanity. They have rescued themselves by living an impeccable Christian life (voting for every immoral war possible).

To really underscore his fateful ambitions the President appoints a certain Scott Pruitt to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who according to his own website is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” This was already prepared for when a man named Myrion Ebell, a really dedicated climate denier, in September 2016 was appointed a member of the transition team, responsible for the EPA.

This is certainly a world that it takes a Jonathan Swift to describe and ridicule in a novel. Kafka would not be credible enough.

There is a threat to western media, a well deserved one

The infamous list of 200 treacherous websites has reignited the “information war” narrative (the list is by some suspected to originate from immature Ukrainian hackers). But that war is in reality not about Russia, it’s about us. It’s about our insidious propaganda served with arrogance as if it were truisms. It’s our self-righteous presumption that “the others” are biased, but we (by mere definition) are not, since we always represent the objective reality. And it’s this loathsome conceit propagated in mainstream media all over the western world, almost verbatim identical everywhere.

To be fair, there are honest and skillful journalists and reporters, and there are independent media outlets. But for the core of mainstream media the judgement above is quite valid uniformly. And that observation is certainly no innovation; Herman & Chomsky wrote the standard work on the topic some 20 years ago.

But why take the side of Russia? I don’t think I’m alone in opposing the western narrative without having any specific affiliation with Russia. It’s undoubtedly an interesting and multifaceted country which we know much too little about. But there are traits in the Russian ethos, such as a kind of roughness and emotionality, in which I wouldn’t fit in very well.

The reason to fiercely oppose the western anti-Russian propaganda is not just that it’s unfair, ignorant and often plain stupid, but above all that it threatens to create a development that ultimately may lead to the obliteration of humanity. The very thought that the distorted narrative poured over us by our media with such irresponsible nonchalance might bring us ever closer to the final nuclear shoot-out is just unbearable.

During the first Cold War there was no interest in finding out the Russian points of view at all. Had there been any interest, there was no Internet to do it with anyway. The only picture we had was formed by the unanimous Anti-Communist canon, not subject to objections. Today the scenario is totally different.

Editorial writers in our petrified MSM are themselves evidences to this by getting tantrums about “Putin’s information war”, conducted through media outlets like RT and others. With this our MSM probably reach just the most ignorant or apologetic among their audiences, but they completely miss the informed and conscious ones. And that’s a serious neglect since RT’s posts on Youtube have been visited more than 3 billion times, far more than any other TV-broadcasting news outlet has achieved.

So, they are shooting their own feet point blank. They provide RT and its colleagues with the most effective marketing efforts – for free. People have computers and it takes a few seconds to get to RT.com. And there, probably to their surprise, they will find that “Putin’s information army” is a Foreign Legion, manned mostly by an enlightened crew of US and western European citizens. They’ll have to look hard to find a single Russian reporter.

But, alas, we have the talk show host Sophie Shevardnadze, granddaughter of a former Soviet Foreign Minister. Sounds Russian enough. Well, she’s of Georgian descent (a country nowadays induced by the West to become an enemy to Russia), moved to Paris at age 10, then on to USA where she studied at both Boston and New York University, speaks idiomatic American English. So much for Russia there.

What people curious of RT certainly find are some well substantiated news that never appear in their domestic media (of course there is also a small share of “local” Russian material, easy to skip for anyone who wishes). And they can listen to numerous western scholars, pundits, journalists and other experts talking about issues and taking standpoints ignored or suppressed at home. That’s the basis for RT’s success and for the new “Red Scare” in our domains. It’s in a way a popular revolution against western corporate media which for at least a century have been using their dominance to manufacture consent in a way that serves economic power, the only indisputable power in our societies.

The lukewarm war, threatening to become hot

One can’t stop wondering about the deep irrationality and inconsistency that the human species is capable of. I had a friend once who was very emotional and loved his children beyond everything. If they had died, he probably would have lost all reason for living himself. At the same time, he was a raving right-wing apologist, warmongering fiercely against our standard enemies. Never did he connect the two discrepancies and realize that his sons could be among those killed in the war he acted as to facilitate.

And this man is just one among millions deceived in the same way. We are all prone to swallow even the most stupid propaganda and conjure up hatred against “enemies” who for some reason are considered suitable. Today the number one of these enemies is Russia. And that’s nothing new.

Through the centuries Russia has endured constant pressure from western powers, and numerous attempts by them to conquer the vast Eurasian land. Not that Russia ever has posed a significant threat westwards; it obviously must be conquered just because it exists (like mountaineers say about the next mountain top).

In the beginning of the 18th century Sweden’s king Charles XII was one who tried but was stopped already in Ukraine by Петр Великий. Charles ruined his country through endless wars, which he carried through mainly because that kind of life pleased him. The positive side of his catastrophic adventures was that Sweden became forever cured from all dreams of being a permanent great power in Europe. (Instead we eventually turned into a role model in peaceful achievements.)

We know the other attempts to conquer Russia in wars of aggression: France under Napoleon, Germany in WWI and Western powers in the civil war following the revolution. When Germany again in WWII steamrolled its war machine eastwards it was at least with a declared motive, stated in Generalplan Ost. According to the plan, more than half the population in occupied East were to be exterminated or deported, the remaining to be used as slave labor in the service of the Nazi empire. Executing the plan started without delay, and 14 million civilians were murdered by SS and their accomplices before the killers were stopped.

Lack of aggression, comparatively speaking, on the part of Russia against other countries can hardly be attributed to moral superiority, rather to military weakness. Occasionally they have tried, for instance when they occupied Manchuria in 1900, where they were punched in the nose by the Japanese.

During the first Cold War (which we now experience over again) the Soviet Union was pictured by us as the main aggressive power, threatening the whole world. And yes, they performed some horrible atrocities in eastern Europe such as in East Germany 1953 (55 killed), in Hungary 1956 (3 000 killed) and in Czechoslovakia 1968 (72 killed). We have these crimes in vivid memory, frequently reminded by our propaganda outlets.

The Soviets engaged in one major military operation during the post-war period – the war in Afghanistan. It may have been as close to R2P one can get, since the objective was to help the Afghan government, probably the best government that country has ever had. Nevertheless, the Russians simply proved that war mostly lead to disaster. US was provoked to create the Mujahidin to fight the Russians, the government was overthrown and ultimately the Taliban arrived at the scene. In the end the Soviet system collapsed.

For being the giant threat to the world one must say that Soviet Union was rather modest compared to the western world, led by USA. In almost perpetual wars – one more illegal and immoral than the other – millions and millions of people have been killed, mostly innocent civilians. That is something we more rarely are reminded of.

(To be continued…)

US Election – Swedish media

Since media here overflows with coverage of the circus called the US Presidential Election a postcard from Sweden can’t escape that issue. The fact that the charade is more farcical than usual doesn’t prevent our media from treating it with subservient sincerity, although every enlightened person knows that the outcome is irrelevant for the real policy executed by the next president. It’s just two factions of the same Business Party competing, and the only thing entertaining is the fight itself.

We all remember Barack Obama in 2008. In his victory speech – indeed a rhetoric masterpiece – he appeared as an almost socialist savior who intended to redress every injustice and restore peace in the world. And we know what happened. He kicked off his tenure by bailing out some of the richest crooks in the country with §700 billion and (thus) helped them evade prison sentences. He didn’t fill Guantanamo with new unwanted people, instead he sent drones to kill them in their homes on the other side of the globe (thereby ridiculing the Norwegian Peace Price Committee).

Such issues are handled with kid gloves by our media, eager to bolster Big Brother. Our apologetic and protective attitude towards USA is obnoxious to the brink of suffocation. To have at least some fresh air and rational critique one has to turn to the New York Times, then you’ll understand!

Despite numerous and daily articles and reports on the US election it’s telling how such a central concept in US policy as Citizens United is treated by our main media: namely not at all. Searching the archive of our most important paper yields a few hits where this democratic abnormity is mentioned in passing, without explanation. It’s as if they want to spare their audiences the insight that the leading democracy in the world is nothing of the sort, just a genuine plutocracy.

It’s true that two (what’s called) populist candidates, one to the right and one to the left, have advanced fairly far in the process this time, indicating that people’s voice has some relevance after all. But it was unavoidable that Bernie Sanders were to be outmaneuvered one way or the other (and that was secured by DNC itself). The infamous “pussy grabber” to the right has come a step further, though he seems to stop there. Should he become president – God and the world forbid – he will be forced to implement the basic Business Party policy with just some minor modification.

There is no alternative.

Except that there really is! Real alternatives!

Homo Sapiens – a species too clever for its own good, but too stupid to do anything about it

Two prominent scholars, one physicist and one biologist, were asked the compulsory question: do you think there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? The physicist said yes: given the unimaginable number of galaxies and solar systems, there must be organisms with cognitive capacities somewhere, from pure statistical reasons.

Faithful to his experience regarding the conditions of life the biologist was more reluctant to conventional wisdom on the matter. He assumed that life can be suspected to follow the laws of evolution everywhere it exists. And evolution doesn’t further higher organisms; the simple ones are the most sustainable. Looked at it that way humankind on earth may exist in a unique and extremely short period in astronomical terms, sufficiently unique that it not necessarily occurs elsewhere right now.

I apologize for this depressing opening, but I’m about to try a rough thesis:

Homo Sapiens is a species too clever for its own good, but too stupid to do anything about it.

We could begin with the most obvious risk of total extermination, nuclear weapons. Sharp human brains have figured out how to exploit the energy inherent in the bonds between elementary particles in the nucleus of atoms. Savvy technicians used this knowledge to construct a bomb with monstrously explosive power. Then these devices were handed over to politicians and generals, usually not famous for their intellectual brilliance.

Maybe the balance of terror and the threat of total destruction have hindered the Third World War (and the definitely final one) so far, but it has been a close call several times. And the attempts to diminish the risks haven’t been overly impressive.

On the contrary, the United States enhanced the danger unilaterally by abandoning the ABM treaty in 2001. Russia was then still a harmless wreck, posing no threat. And anti-ballistic missiles are offensive, first strike weapons, in that they block an enemy from retaliating to a nuclear attack. The stupid part of the human nature accepted this unprovoked increase in the risk of total extermination without much debate. Today the US has installed ABMs in Poland and Czech Republic, obviously aimed at Russia. We can’t do much more than keep our fingers crossed.

A less stochastic menace to human survival than nuclear weapons is climate change. We can now be sure that this threat can’t be eliminated, only somewhat mitigated if we put all our efforts into doing so. But do we?

Let’s look at my country, Sweden, considered to be progressive in a number of ways. If you ask an average Swede what s/he first of all does to save the environment the answer most probably is: “I separate my household waste into different fractions, which I deliver at specific waste stations”. Anyone who knows fundamentals about waste realizes that such efforts don’t save any environment, rather the opposite. It just saves the conscience of a misinformed population.

The next thing a house-owning Swede may do is to drill a couple of hundred meters into the ground to capture somewhat warmer water, install an expensive heat pump and thus reduce the amount of electricity needed for heating his house (what he probably not reflects upon is that earth’s heat mainly comes from nuclear reactions). His reduced electricity bill may please him, but considering what he has to pay for investment, maintenance and repair, the bottom line is not overwhelming. And the effect on global warming is thus insignificant.

These everyday environmentalists are usually friends of wind and solar power but opposed to nuclear power. The most enthusiastic among them buy “wind power” from their power company, install solar cell panels on their roofs and vote for the Green Party. The effects of their conviction is not just to promote symbolic actions, but in fact counter-productive for reducing global warming.

Take solar energy. Happy headlines announced that electricity output from solar cells in Sweden had doubled two years in a row. What the news didn’t reveal was that the total output now amounts to 0.04 percent of the country’s energy demand (that is: equals zero with an error margin). To spend large amounts on meaningless investments affects indirectly also the environment.

And then the dedicated and hoodwinked Swede goes out to buy a car which has some kind of “environment certificate”, satisfied that he has contributed to save the world.

The only energy source capable of really reducing carbon emissions on a global scale is nuclear energy. Countries like China, India and Russia take this seriously and install new nuclear facilities. Russia is an important producer of plants, and even developing countries show great interest in nuclear energy. Is this where the future is built, while pampered and deluded western ideologues are reading the map upside down?

What the climate issue – and thus human survival – really needs is for us to adopt an entirely new lifestyle, which most likely requires a completely different economic system. There will be no room for brainless consumerism generated by perverted profit-hunting. Instead we have to see genuine solidarity among entire populations.

In short: the intelligent side of our human nature has to take command over the emotional (stupid) side.

Brendan Dassey to be released – a decade too late, though

A Swede nowadays is not in the least entitled to criticize other countries’ judicial systems. We have our own legal scandal which severely affects a hero exercising his freedom of speech for the benefit of all people’s right to know what despicable or even criminal acts their rulers are engage in, acts that would have been kept secret were it not for his brave work that endangers his life and freedom. I refer to Julian Assange, of course.

Another name today is Brendan Dassey, a once young boy with learning disabilities, known to the world through the TV series “Making a Murderer”. He has become a world citizen, and that’s what gives me permission to comment on his case.

The young Brendan Dassey was 2007 convicted of the murder of Theresa Halbach, together with his uncle Steven Avery. For those who saw the touching and convincing documentary these names will be hard to forget.

What specifically is engraved in viewer’s memories is the perverse police interrogation of Brendan, a sickening exhibition of a technique which is capable of producing false confessions even from normal adults. The sequence is available on YouTube, and should be introduced into the curriculum in every police school.

It’s so glaringly obvious that the confused and absent-minded young boy was desperately trying to give interrogators the answers they wanted to hear, supposedly in the vain hope to be free to go home, something that was implicitly promised him. Instead he was in the end taken into custody, and from there to jail. The fact that a jury with twelve supposedly sane people could watch this totally rigged interrogation and still sentence the immature victim to life in prison is mind-boggling, to say the least.

Today we at last have some positive news. After Brendan has spent almost ten years in prison a federal judge with his head screwed on has finally concluded the obvious. Based on the facts that the interrogation was both illegal (no adult supporting the under-aged Brendan was present) and performed with improper techniques, the judge has ruled that Brendan shall be released. If prosecutors don’t bring him to trial again, Brendan will be released in 90 days.

With all its imperfections the US justice system has some bright spots. Now it’s time for the absurd Swedish prosecutor in the Assange case to exhibit an ounce of sane behavior, free herself from her political bias and stop acting like a US puppet. And do the perfectly obvious thing her bright female predecessor did: Drop the case!!!