Friday, June 12, 2020

Henry Giroux and the Age of "Criminogenic Politics"

Criminogenic - was its das, Henry?

One of the great public intellectuals of our age, American Henry Giroux, uses the word to describe a deepening psychosis in "the age of Donald Trump." 

For Giroux, who holds the McMaster University chair of scholarship in the public interest, it's an unusually brief essay but, boy, does it pack a punch. It deserves to be read in its entirety. Brace yourself.

In its late stages, capitalism morphs into a form of neoliberal fascism. In this instance, the structural misery produced by capitalism via its destruction of the welfare state, safety net, and its growing investment in accelerating inequality and criminalizing all social problems merges with the theater of racism, racial cleansing, hyper-masculinity, ultra-nationalism, militarism, scapegoating the vulnerable, and the politics of disposability. Cruelty and hate now become a badge of honor among the financial, political, and corporate elite. One consequence is not merely a criminogenic political and economic system, but a state of barbarism that reflects a death-dealing psychosis among political leaders such as Trump and Bolsonaro. 
This is not merely a matter of the truth or morality being abandoned in the interest of producing a fascist politics, it represents the emergence of a politics that mimics the transition from the mentality of greed and the concentration of power in few hands–celebrated in the film Wall Street–to a dangerous state of mind in which violence and death become the organizing and governing principles of a society. Instead of Wall Street we get the insanity portrayed in American Psycho. Patrick Bateman has become the model for contemporary leadership under the rubric of casino capitalism. Trump with Bateman as his alter ego golfs, retweets posts filled with sexist comments about Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton, discredited conspiracy theories from right-wing syncophantic media sources, and racist comments about Stacey Abrams’s appearance, all the while he is silent as the Covid-19 American death total reaches a staggering 100,000. Noam Chomsky is right in calling him a “sociopathic megalomaniac” whose only allegiance is to himself, “great wealth and corporate power.” 
As the New York Times points out, more Americans have died in the last three months than “died in the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined and nearly twice as many as died of battle wounds in WWII.” Trump responds by blaming China for the outbreak, and sending out endless tweets attacking Obama. Moreover, Trump has blood on his hands. This is evident not only his well-documented late response to the pandemic but also because of his failure to impose one week earlier a lockdown and social distancing, which a Columbia University Study, suggests would have saved 36,000 lives.[1] Trump dismissed the criticism by calling Columba a “liberal, disgraceful institution.” In addition, one wonders how many lives could have been saved if Trump had quickly put in place a federal plan to deal with the virus instead of prioritizing the needs of the economy over human life. 
Trump has cultivated a taste for savagery and defines the world in the image of his own self-interest and war. He has revived the architecture of fascism by mainstreaming its mobilizing passions. He calls people animals, his rallies have all the earmarks of the Nuremberg spectacles; he refers to the press as fake news, not unlike the appropriation of Hitler and the Nazi’s use of Lugenpresse (the lying press), as a way to discredit the oppositional media and journalists who hold him accountable; he rounds up the children of undocumented brown people and puts them in cages; he makes racial cleansing a governing principle of his administration; he normalizes lying, making it the basic rhetorical experience of our time; he amplifies the militarized discourse of fear and numbs the culture with his pervasive anti-intellectualism and control of the right-wing media as unadulterated propaganda machines. He hires white supremacists and acts like the grifter in chief in the White House. All of this points to alarming echoes of the past and the need to learn from history rather than deny it. The elements pointing to the rise of fascism in the United States are on full display, and without apology. Maybe it is time to take seriously Theodor Adorno’s warning: “I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing that the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.”[2]

h/t Counterpunch.


the salamander said...

.. kind of gets most of the shit in one bag.. eh

The Disaffected Lib said...

He sure does. It's a scary time, Sal. No country is immune, nobody is safe.

Anonymous said...

Truthdig has gone on indefinite hiatus, so presumably Chris Hedges' articles will stop or end up somewhere else. Last I read was dated June 2/2020, and is no happier than this Giroux article you've reproduced today.


The Disaffected Lib said...

Thanks for that link, BM. I searched and searched and didn't find that. What is your take on their essays?

Troy said...

American Psycho, that prophetic text. Art imitates life, and life imitates art. In it, the titular character, Bateman, is an avid fan of... Donald Trump.

Both are shallow, dim, uninteresting, helplessly jealous, narcissistic, and pointlessly cruel. And they're surrounded by like-minded men, and all their crimes and misdemeanours ignored by authorities simply by virtue of being "successful".

I remember some time ago lamenting a 100 thousand dead in the USA from Covid-19. Enough time has now passed since Trump "reopened" the economy that 1 million dead is probably baked in now.

People on their own have been mitigating some of the worst—along with the fact that record numbers of unemployed don't have to worry about going into work any longer—but even with that, it's unlikely the USA won't be hit hard by the month's end.

But mass homelessness and starvation probably won't be much of a salve for many to know they won't be infected at work anymore. They'll infected elsewhere, somehow, without government mitigation, which doesn't look to be happening whatsoever.

And 1 million dead isn't even a worst case scenario. It's likely now. The longer Trump and Republican governors insist on "keeping the economy open", the worsening the outcome of what happens to the USA this year.

The Disaffected Lib said...

It's telling how we see death on a mass scale today, Troy. A million dead. What's that in a country of 330 million people? 0.3 per cent. There are some who will look at that and dismiss it as a piffle. Others will see it as a mountain of sorrow and grief.

As for me, I see Covid-19 as a minor rumbling of worse events to follow. As I too often relate, when I was born humankind's numbers stood at 2.5 billion. Now we're closing in on 8 billion. Due to a variety of mistakes, sheer numbers being just one of them, we're in for a massive die-off even if we can avert an extinction event. I spoke with one expert from a prominent NGO who suggested before this century is over we'll be back to 2 billion, perhaps hundreds of millions less.

The good news, Troy, is that you might get your lands back. In relative terms, those more closely rooted in the land will have a huge advantage. I think First Nations won't have much trouble outlasting the rest of us.