Friday, June 22, 2018

Is the Darkness Descending Again?

Are Donald Trump and his authoritarian "Mini-me's" across Europe setting the stage for a return of the 1930's. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland sees the signs that history may be resetting itself.

You don’t have to go to back to 1930s Germany to know that the first step towards catastrophe is the dehumanisation of a reviled group. It happened that way in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and it’s happening in today’s United States. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” the US president said last month. They want “to pour into and infest our country”, he tweeted this week. “Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human. 
Trump’s defenders reinforce the message. It was a jolt to see Steve Hilton, onetime shoeless guru of David Cameron’s Downing Street, now reinvented as a Fox News host, grinning away as pundit Ann Coulter called the crying infants “child actors”. Her message was repeated on Fox by Nigel Farage, who similarly urged Trump not to be swayed by the “screams coming from the liberal media” and to “stay tough”. 
Farage is a reminder that this phenomenon is not confined to the US. Referring to refugees, Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a purification, or perhaps a cleansing, of his country, “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street”. His plan is to draw up a register of Roma living in Italy. Those with Italian citizenship, “we’ll have to keep, unfortunately”, he said.
The signs are there, if only we can bear to look. Something is happening to our world. Others have noted the way the post-1945 global architecture is beginning to crumble, as Trump undermines the western alliance in favour of authoritarian tyrannies. But the postwar order is unravelling in another, more insidious way too. 
Put starkly, the norms and taboos established after the world witnessed the Holocaust are eroding before our eyes. For 70-odd years, roughly the span of a human life, they endured, keeping the lid on the darker impulses that, we had seen, lurked within all of us. It steadily became taboo to voice undiluted racism and xenophobia. Those fears, those loathings of the stranger, never went away, of course. But they were held in check, partly by the knowledge of where such hatred, unrestrained, could lead. 
Now, in the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the restraints are off. There even seems to be a macho thrill in breaking the taboo, in echoing the words and deeds of that darkest era in human history. It’s as if the boundaries that were drawn after 1945, demarcating acceptable human behaviour, were mere lines in the sand – and now the tide is coming in. 
It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens bit by bit, word by word, each step taking us lower into the pit. It’s why every one of us has to fight today’s horror. Because if we don’t, who knows what terrors lie ahead?


Tal Hartsfeld said...

I don't think the darkness ever left us, actually.

Even in the 1960s public schools had the bullies and xenophobic discrimination towards kids who were "different" and "weird".
And there were the state mental hospitals where one could be committed just for being a little too eccentric, expressing delusional thoughts and opinions, or even talking to oneself.

And, in the 1950s, homosexual practices were felony offenses, using profanity in public could bring about criminal charges against you.

And police brutality was a norm then as well.
And don't forget how many otherwise normal families had their "dark secrets" which were to "never be mentioned or discussed around strangers".

The Mound of Sound said...

We certainly did have these things in the past but they differed from what's happening today. A professor at the University of Manitoba, American-born Bob Altemeyer, produced the RWA test protocol to measure right-wing authoritarianism.

His work was referenced heavily in John Dean's 2006 "Conservatives Without Conscience" and, at Dean's urging Altemeyer wrote "The Authoritarians" that, until recently, was available free online in pdf.

Altemeyer's research found that every society has a relatively large segment of "closet authoritarians" - who remain subdued until someone like Trump or Orban or Erdogan comes along at which time they surface to become the core of that individual's base. They're like sleepers just waiting to be activated.

Wow. I just tracked it down to a site where you can still find The Authoritarians free in pdf.

I hope you'll have the time to take a look at it.

Jay Farquharson said...

Ford got 23.2% of the Eligible Vote.

Toby said...

It is also at

Lorne said...

All of this goes to show how fragile democracy and freedom really are, Mound. I never thought I would be seeing the stuff I'm seeing in this lifetime.

The Mound of Sound said...

Lorne, NPoV, Jay, Tal - I would urge you to read Altemeyer's book. It's an easy read, even mildly entertaining, but it does help you understand Trump's followers, especially aides like Steven Miller.

John B. said...

The mother of all Bait and Switches. The libertarians are laughing their heads off.

Just an example of what's making the rounds in one or more of the many rabbit holes:


One family of rugged individualists is particularly jubilant.


"The Gatestone Institute states that it is funded by ‘private donors and foundations’ but does not appear to publish any further details on its website. Donors gleaned from a range of sources are as outlined below.

"2016. Gatestone's revenue was $$2,190,243 in 2016. Donors included:

"Mercer Family Foundation: $100,000. (Rebekah Mercer was listed on Gatestone's website as being a member of its board of governors in March/April 2017).

"2015. Gatestone's revenue was $$2,192,189 in 2015. Donors included:

Mercer Family Foundation: $50,000."

Keeping the trough topped up for a variety of deserving wingnut welfare stooges: cheap at twice the price.

“I have a lot of respect for Bob Mercer. I think he’s a very intelligent person, a very thoughtful person. If the world knew what he was trying to do, they wouldn’t stand for it.”

- David Magerman, former employee of Renaissance Technologies

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The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, I deleted your comments because you're boring and obnoxious. My site, my rules.

Anonymous said...

No doubt facts and reason are boring and obnoxious when your'e hyped up on laced prole-feed. (Or when you're the one slipping the Mickey in the feed trough.)

But only the first three were mine, Bomber Harris.

Your House, your rules. But not for much longer.

I like the way you Boomers do not go gently into that good night. Very fitting. Like an orchestra piece or a fireworks display: everything that came before it except even more louder and dramatic!

Your generation has developed quite a flare for ostentatious virtue. A pretty mask to hide the void beneath.

But although the virtue is fake, the easy righteous hatred based upon it is very real – and grows more vicious and fanatical by the day. As well as the callous disregard for all the corruption that grew to the point of ubiquity; and all the evils at home and abroad that grew to the point of banality.

How pretty the masks the monsters wear to feed upon their prey!

But one way or another, not for much longer. Either this House is restored to its post-war splendor and brought to all the world that wants it. Or it falls forever.

Toby said...

Anonymous Bomber Harris, what is your problem with Boomers? The so-called Baby Boom was nothing more than a population bulge. It happens. There was/is no conspiracy of Boomers to keep you down.

Anonymous said...

The other Anon is honest, the last two posts which incurred the wrath of censorship (disguised under - my blog, my rules) were mine and simply asked the uncomfortable questions. Why those global elites whose actions brought us the era of Trump are not only escaping the punishment but now are pretending to be an alternative to him. Asking and answering the uncomfortable questions. That how one grows intellectually, going beyond what one knows and exploring.

Anonymous said...

Funny how religious fundamentalists say knowledge is danger. And that's what "social liberal" Good Shepherds tell us today. They put the Scarlet R on people who reject their hollow Fake-Virtue ideology. They run them off the social media. They even scrub the search engines.

I googled "ad hominem" the other day and got picture of Donald Trump. (From a Wired magazine article cover.) Different result today. (They can track your online activity and know if you're a Trump supporter. "Customize" the search…)

Also Google "Breitbart headlines" and it spits up "fake news" definitions instead of the actual headlines.

And like I said before, Twitler put me on a 7-day "time out" for calling the European Union the "Evil Empire" in a tweet to a mutual follower. I wrote them a GFY! Then I got back the most bizarre senseless response accusing me of suppressing other people's right to free speech. (Like talking to a giant insect. Like something out of "1984" or "Brazil.")

So who put these nanny birdbrains in charge of the new (mandatory) state religion?

Anonymous said...

That's how they made a Fake, Deep-State version of Christianity the official belief system of the West in the 4th century.

They assumed power behind the scenes beginning around 325. They said, we're not in charge. But next thing you know, all other forms of religion were made illegal upon confiscation, exile and death.

By the 380s that was it. All the rich diverse culture of secular, cosmopolitan Rome that let countries largely be themselves across the Mediterranean was wiped out overnight by fanatics. In it's place the Borg. A totalitarian theocracy. Because only evil people reject their idea of good.

This "Whore of Babylon" (cf. the Rastafarian and Book of Revelations definitions) was also a Big City cult of crazy. (Cf. 'pagan'.) Just like today. (The real religious fanatics in the Handmaid's Tale are not American constitution-loving Christians. They are Cultural Left holy warriors who say they got better than the constitution: true values only an evil-doer would reject.)

Anonymous said...

It's called Cultural Marxism. From Akhenaten (who failed,) to Constantine (who succeeded), to the 1000-year "Holy Roman Empire" founded by Charlegmegn, to Victoria, to Stalin, to Hitler, to ISIS, to the scary stuff going on in China, to this present upper-class Deep-State machination: an attempt to find out if Orwell's perfect revolution-proof global tyranny actuallys work. (Orwell wasn't fooling when he wrote 'The Book.')

They said, let's make the East more like the West. Free-trade globalization and then open-border mass migration (from the West destabilizing governments across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, sowing chaos, fanaticism and terrorism.) But then it turns out the West was becoming more like the oligarchal, dynasistic East.

Orwell calls this the "three sheaves" global pact. "War is Peace". Wage constant global warfare but over minor skirmishes to keep the populations war-torn and shell-shocked never able to rise up against their evil oppressors.

(A boot stamping on a human face forever.)

A surveillence state is also on the menu. (Which Obama got the ball rolling on.)

Naomi Klein has this theory in "The Shock Doctrine." Divide the populations up into Green Zones and Red Zones. Gated communities fencing out ghettos and shanty towns and the return to Medieval barbarity outside the Big Big City.

Like in "Animal Farm": the 'Pigs' have no problem wallowing in their own filth. They like it that way.

These days it's Red Pill or Black Pill. (No going back to letting others do the thinking for you on the former. No one ever wants to go back to being cattle. No one ever wants to return to 'The Cave.')

Rachel Maddow Cries

The Truth About Time Magazine Cover Story

Anonymous said...

Let's see: most people in Russia, Turkey, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, England, Austria have recently lost their minds. Sizable proportions of folks in USA, Germany, France and Spain are gone bonkers too. Japan went around a bend long time ago on anti-immigration.

To quote W. Somerset Maugham: "If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie."

Anonymous said...

In a sane political debate, one side might say we need more immigration. Another side might say the immigration rate has gotten out of hand and we need to lower it.

People would argue their positions and vote on it. Over election cycles, the pendulum swing would tend to produce some central tendency that reflects the moderated will of the people.

These days political fanatics say we need to tear down the borders and let in anyone who crosses them. They say "sanctuary for all; no borders, no walls."

Anyone who pays a snake-head or coyote to smuggle them across an existing border is called an "undocumented citizen." In California, they even issue drivers licenses to them.

Then they say if you disagree with them, you're an insane, evil racist who wants Adolph Hitler in power.

Strange days indeed.