Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Fascists’ Rear Guard

Fascism is an expression of a larger social tendency that, in English language translations of Marx is called “the slaveholders’ revolt.”

It is a process by which every couple generations the revolutionary potential of the angry mob is turned in on itself in the hope that the destruction of society is the only hope to save the rich and their vacation homes from the consequences of their actions.

Every time this happens, there is a faction that arises as the rear guard for the fascists.

This rear guard is usually seen by their contemporaries as being part of the center-left. They will pay lip service to left social causes. They will probably even consider themselves as being politically to the left.

This faction thinks that they can save society and the rich and their vacation homes through small, largely symbolic distributions of pats on the back and cookies. They become covert extremists. Their extremism usually goes unrecognized because it arises in the paradoxical form of their doing nothing or as close to nothing as they can get away with.

As the metaphorical house we all live in burns around us, they insist vehemently that the smoke you feel in your lungs, the char that you see, the heat that you feel in anxious tingles just under the surface of your skin is in fact a problem of interior decoration. Or a misunderstanding.

They will get angry to defend this interpretation. They will gaslight. They will kneecap those with the audacity to acknowledge the house is on fire.

They will finally acknowledge after it’s too late that the house is in fact on fire, but claim that to say the house is on fire is impolite or uncivil.

And finally, when the crisis can no longer be denied, they will market themselves as “the only people who can save us.”

They believe half-heartedly their arrogance will magically make good faith negotiators out of Nazis.

They believe this because to believe otherwise would contradict their savior complex.

They believe this because it’s easier than doing something.

Having gone through bad faith motions of “negotiating” on our behalf, these cowards will offer up the populations they claim to represent as human sacrifices when the wolves show their teeth, craving blood.

The wolves dream of reinventing society to match their internalized self-image of endless opulence and grandeur.

They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.

The moderates dream of history stopping because they feel entitled to it because…they feel entitled to it.

Cruelty shields the wolves from the heat of the burning house. Denial shields their rear guard.

They are a cargo cult. They think if they say “the house isn’t on fire” enough times, the house will cease to be on fire.

The moderates “mean well.” This “meaning well” means nothing.

It means nothing because whether we kill each other or support each other we are ultimately in this together. The world I live in is the same one you have to live in.

The moderates’ denial will not stop the wolves from eating them, it will only clear the space for wolves to eat the rest of us first.

All their “good intentions” just help pave a wider road to hell.

They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.

We Are A Lost Generation

For almost 10 years now, I have been asked by people “Why are you so angry?”

I am part of a generation that has seen, time and time again, that the ground under our feet is not solid.

I was 8 years old when the Columbine High School shooting happened. I was aware of it, but it seemed like an isolated incident that occurred far away. Nonetheless, in school we started running different types of active shooter drills. In order to avoid panic, they never told us why we were turning off the lights and hiding behind our desks. Being very young, we were mostly just happy something broke up the monotony of the classes we attended.

Even as other school shootings started to occur across the country, the threat still seemed far away.

I was 11 years old when 9-11 happened. I remember the teachers at the middle school running off to the teachers lounge to watch the shaky footage of the towers collapsing on loop. I remember them looking nervous, but we weren’t told anything until the end of the day when we were about to get on the bus to go home. The band teacher mentioned briefly in 9th period (the last class of the day) that something big had happened, but that we were going to be fine. He didn’t say what it was.

On the bus, I sat with my best friend. Neither of us really knew what the World Trade Center was or why it was important. I figured that it was where everyone traded everything. We talked about building a tunnel between our houses and pooling Capri Sun juice packs.

In the months immediately following I saw the first germs of what would eventually make the fascist uprising currently destroying the United States and killing its citizens en masse. The conservative adults started making racist claims about “towelheads”, buying Hummers, and plastering every surface they could with “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS” magnets. Business owners started building strange folk art-like shrines on their personal property deifying the dead, as we later discovered, at the expense of the living.

100,000 people protested the beginning of Afghanistan War, but it did nothing and I didn’t even hear about it until years later.

The first year I was in college, the real estate market collapsed. My parents and most of my friends’ parents lost enormous chunks of their savings, yet the federal government gifted 100s of trillions of dollars to Wall Street banks.

When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I went there as soon as I could. Thousands of people gathered in public spaces and stayed there in order to educate a public that didn’t understand how they’d been screwed over, just that they were hurting. Those who were in a position to deny that anything was wrong, that things weren’t going to return to normal, responded to the Occupy camps with anger and hostility. They thought that by pointing out the emperor had no clothes, we would also make them naked. Those who remembered the 60s treated Occupy with patronizing disdain-they’d abandoned their principles and “gotten that stuff out of their system” and soon would we they supposed.

My peers and I entered a perilous job market filled with “internship” scams-it was taken as a given in the journalism program where I studied that we were going to have to work multiple full time “internships” for free to fight over maybe getting a position that paid $15 dollars an hour. Most people I remember discussing it with at the time defended this practice. It taught you “hard work” or something. A bunch of people who went to college in a time when, adjusted for inflation, you could make $21/hr working at McDonalds decided their kids had it far too easy.

Slowly but surely, we, the kids, decided we didn’t care much if the real estate market crashed again as we also slowly, but surely, realized we would never be in the financial position to own a house. We carved out what space we could. We faced relentless criticism from old people, the same old people who stood by like cowards while the safety net they enjoyed was eviscerated, saying we ruined US culture because we weren’t buying enough things with the money we didn’t have.

With none of the conditions that led to the crash addressed or resolved, the economy bounced back into a hollow zombie boom for a couple years.

With the reality of climate change and the possible extinction of the human race becoming more and more a tangible reality, most people still denied it was happening with their actions, even if they paid the concept lip service. Declaring himself the messenger, Al Gore trained a generation that the proper response to climate change was to be mildly annoyed it was happening but to defend to the death the guy with 5 houses and a private jet who was its PR agent.

And now, after some of us sort of dug ourselves out of the hole, we’re facing a global pandemic set to kill millions and a second Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands will be homeless.

Those who scoffed at the people who fought to defend them now realize they’ve been sitting in boiling water when its probably too late. Those who made great sacrifices to fight back politically face a  population that by and large betrayed them in order to enjoy things “being normal” for a couple more years.

If they didn’t know it was all a ghost dance, why label their children “Generation Z”?

And it took a pandemic to underline once and for all that it was this “normal” that destroyed the hopes and futures of millennials.

Our suffering en masse was apparently the only thing that would even temporarily halt the destruction of the environment we live in and the decade long pandemic of mass shootings.

The last Great Depression lasted 12 years even with a president who (mostly) did the right things and had the realistic option of ramping up industrial production.

We are a lost generation.

That’s why I’m angry.

You Call Yourself a Moderate Because You’re Too Much of A Pussy To Call Yourself An Asshole

It was unbelievably obvious months away from the primaries what the Russian/GOP plan to take down Biden was. They’re gonna hammer him with ads about his son, Burisma, and the probably legitimate #metoo accusations he carries around like some token validating he’s actually a boomer. These things provide enough cover for center-right cowards to vote for Trump out of moral equivocation and cowardice.

And that’s Joe Biden’s fault. And the fault of all those people who insisted he was the safe choice despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that was directly in front of their faces.

If Joe Biden actually gave a shit about anything besides himself, he would’ve dropped out long ago. He has no leadership to provide in this crisis, and the simulacra of leadership he’s attempted to provide has just been a pale shadow composed of ambition, poorly mimicking what Bernie Sanders has done out of conviction.

When Weimar Germany collapsed, the accepted leaders of Jewish community made the decision to pursue a program that could theoretically preserve the possibility their children might lead the same mediocre middle class existences they’d been privileged to experience.

This despite the overt overtures of the ascendant Nazi regime to have them and their children exterminated in gas chambers so they could profit on their tooth fillings.

Joe Biden, not being Jewish, does not recognize the existential threat in the offing. He thinks by virtue of his having been there when things were boring, he can make things boring again. Bernie Sanders understands that the rich will not stop at genocide if there’s money to be made. History has shown us this too many times for your “centrism” or “moderate” stance to play as anything besides ignorance or cowardice, an attempt to feel vindicated at the expense of your childrens’ future.

If the actual lesson you took away from the Holocaust was that we could bargain with these people, you’re a fucking idiot.

Did that make you feel bad?

Good. This isn’t about your feelings. This is life and death.

Think about the consequences of your decisions and the people around you next time, if you’re awarded such privilege.

The Revolution is Now

People know the government is lying to them now.
 
That’s progress.
 
People know the system is rigged against them for the benefit of the 1%.
 
That’s progress.

People know the rich don’t care whether they live or die.

That’s progress.

 
People don’t yet think they have recourse or the wherewithal to fight back.

That’s our job for the next 18 months.

It Can And Is Happening Here

I gave a quick talk about Occupy Wall Street to the Malta NY Rotary Club once. A man came up to me afterward. He looked like the aged Buster Keaton of The Railrodder and had made his living before he retired fixing CRT televisions. In the abstract I should have loved this guy.

He came up to me after my talk, clearly seeing I was Jewish and knowing my politics because I’d just given a talk about them and said “What we need to fix this problem is…a Holocaust but for the Muslims this time.”

I was horrified. I saw in his eyes that he didn’t want Muslims put in concentration camps, tortured and killed because he hated Muslims, but that he wanted to hate Muslims because deep down he wanted to see people put into concentration camps, tortured and killed. And he looked like Buster Keaton.

I went around to practically everyone I knew and described the incident. I said that without some unforeseen major event, this country would either go hard left or hard right within 5 years.

Some of them responded with sensitivity to my evident distress. Some of them shrugged it off and said something to the effect “That could never happen in the US.” (Poor Sinclair Lewis.) Almost no one seemed to take me seriously. Even if they did, I’m not sure I knew anyone who had the power to right this. I just hoped and prayed that I did and didn’t know it.

Now the president* is openly endorsing a woman who is saying, basically “We need a Holocaust, but with the Muslims this time.”

Anyone who thinks that they’re safe because they’re not latino/a so they’ll never be put in a camp, please read your history. That’s not how it works.

The racist mob wants to feel better about themselves by killing men women and children. But they never actually will feel better, so they will not stop torturing and killing men, women, and children until they are obliterated and marginalized. We need to stand together against this. We can’t be afraid to be arrested, assaulted, or worse. Never again means no more concentration camps.

The mob wants blood. They don’t care whose blood it is. In Nazi Germany, children sent their own parents to concentration camps, and officials within the Nazi party would even kill each other and lie about it in order to feel like big shots.

Leaders of the Jewish community, early on, would say “We need to work with them and then they’ll be appeased”, much like the establishment Democrats are saying now. These former leaders were, in all likelihood, gassed or shot and dumped in anonymous mass graves along with the communities that mistook their cowardice for leadership.

If you’re Jewish and think that Trump’s base won’t come after you and doesn’t hate Jews, you are delusional. Your being delusional is probably endangering the lives and safety of your friends and loved ones, and definitely endangering the lives and safety of the groups the Nazi GOP have decided to use as trial balloons to see if the US, “land of the brave, home of the free” will be fine with them throwing whoever they want into concentration camps.

Please share this with anyone you think should read it.

*I had a link in this article sourcing the president* endorsing someone who’s openly advocating for genocide against Muslims, but it was messing up the article formatting, so I’ve provided it in the comments section below.
 

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi

Dear Nancy,

You keep saying now isn’t the time to impeach for reasons that apparently us mere mortals are too simple to understand. Or maybe you’re just bluffing because you don’t actually want to do anything.

It can’t be because you’re busy working on some other agenda because all the Democratic party seems to have done since we, the US population, overwhelmingly voted your party into a Congressional majority, is pick fights with the president* over his tweets and capitulate to unreasonable demands from the fascist insurgency currently destroying the United States. You act like somehow you can get elected to Congress but can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, as if the only things you could possibly do are pass an impeachment resolution or put out tepid press releases, but only one at a time.

The fascists don’t act like that. The fascists push their agenda aggressively from all directions because even though its wrong and will probably destroy the climate sustaining human life, they want it badly enough. You don’t seem to want anything besides to hold onto the idea you’re the big shot in the room who has everything under control. Despite your weak track record as a legislator, we begrudgingly let you become House Speaker again due to your seniority or the fact we don’t get to vote on the House Speaker, mostly the latter.

I get it. You’re old and will probably die soon. Climate change doesn’t seem that important to you. “By the time the fascist insurgency gets reaaaaally bad,” you think, “I’ll probably be dead.” Does this seem cruel? Prove me wrong.

People don’t really trust or like you because you have not used your pulpit to push back against the evils surrounding us. People don’t really trust or like you because you went after the Speakership position like a dog chasing a car. Now that you have it, you just look confused. I repeat, there are fascists in high places and concentration camps on the border and many other places. If you don’t want to fight for us, get the fuck out of the way and let someone who wants to actually fight for us take over. Your “centrism” ego trip is going to kill a lot of innocent people.

You claim to have no power so its not worth pursuing anything much less impeachment, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who theoretically has less power than you do, has been out in the fray, fighting back and getting her message to the American people. She has had great success in doing so. You haven’t. You seem to feel like the right thing to do when you’re being pelted by the enemy is to go down with your ship. The rest of us are on that ship, and fucking hell if we’re going to let you take us all with you so you can feel like a big powerful lady.

Do you understand messaging at all?? When president racist grandpa acted like president racist grandpa over the weekend, Democratic house members, including yourself, lined up to live up to being the ineffectual boogeymen the GOP base has been trained to think you are. Don’t be fooled-the GOP base wants excuses and validation for their reactionary racism. They want to be united against an enemy and are willing to make that enemy out of anyone who threatens their getting their jollies by being an angry racist mob. You play into this constantly, thinking you’re being clever and savvy.

President racist grandpa snaps his fingers and you act outraged and bring up other members of congress to go up and act outraged. Anyone who’s been half-awake during this illegitimate administration knows that president racist grandpa put the “go back where you came from” tweet out to distract from the fact he has extensive ties to a guy who just got arrested for smuggling and raping children. You have the power to call the press to attention. You used that power to just repeat what president racist grandpa said in the negative, further amplifying his racism. A more savvy and/or competent politician would’ve called the press out to mention that, then pivoted to repeating the message over and over that the president* HAS EXTENSIVE PERSONAL TIES TO A GUY WHO GROOMED AND RAPED CHILDREN FOR A LIVING.

This has a better chance of dividing the GOP base. Anyone thinking the GOP base has any shame about their being racist has not paid one lick of attention to anything going on for the last 4 years. They love being racists. They love to hate. But they don’t want to be associated with A GUY WHO RAPED/FACILITATED OTHER PEOPLE RAPING CHILDREN FOR A LIVING any more than anyone would want to be, outside of the president*, who sure seemed to be having a great time being friends with A GUY WHO RAPED/FACILITATED OTHER PEOPLE RAPING CHILDREN FOR A LIVING, especially while riding the “Lolita Express”.

If you cannot win a messaging battle with a guy who has extensively documented ties to another guy who RAPED/FACILITATED OTHER PEOPLE RAPING CHILDREN FOR A LIVING, then why are you still in your position? I’ve been fired from far less important positions for far more minor derelictions of duty, yet you, Nancy Pelosi, feel you’re the only person in the room who can lead the party. This is despite the fact that in your time as a legislator and periodic House Speaker, the US has done nothing but lurch toward oligarchic fascism. The far right somehow loses voters while consolidating more and more power. This is because you and your centrist colleagues have been asleep at the wheel.

There have been many op-eds saying things to the effect of “Don’t discount Nancy Pelosi, she’s secretly super smart, she’s playing 4 dimensional chess.” But somehow, you’re continually being outsmarted by a guy who seemingly can’t even spell his own name. I’m calling bullshit.

We know you’re a creature of habit. We know you’re not going to change. So please get out of the way so the rest of us, the us who are going to have to live in this country ten years from now when you’re dead or retired, can have some fighting chance. Let somebody else do this job. You clearly don’t feel like actually doing it anymore, if you ever did.

Sincerely,

Me and the Tens of Millions of Other People Who Are Thinking This Right Now

Radio Without Money Episode 8: Everybody Hates Donald and Why Roy Moore Will Win (Oops! and Hooray!)

everybody hates trump

In a break from the radio silence from Writers Without Money, we return with our first content in over a month, and that’s the first new episode of Radio Without Money, the official WritersWithoutMoney.com podcast, in nearly nine months, fittingly recorded eight weeks ago (ugh). And, if we’re lucky, perhaps even the missing seventh episode will turn up one of these days! In a meeting more rare than a believable Donald Trump lie, Ross Snider, Daniel Levine, and Aloysius VI assemble once again, as Voltron or the Avengers might, to discuss Trump, the Russia investigation, incompetence and the DNC, the Franken resignation, NIMBYism, privacy, rifle madness, Nazis, the Forever War, public impact on policy, and the then-forthcoming Roy Moore/Doug Jones election.

Podcast recorded Sunday, December 10th through Monday, December 11th, 2017.


<-Check out the last episode!

Mass Shootings As Republican Anti-Politics

The several hundred mass shootings that have happened since Columbine have produced some literature from the shooters detailing their political ideologies or lack thereof. Given that a common complaint from the right leading up to their current moment of hysterical mass psychosis was “why does everything have to be political?” despite their clearly saying so for political reasons about everything from Colin Kaepernik to an imagined war on Christmas leaves me wondering whether these acts can and should be taken as acts of political terrorism and warning signs of our current situation in retrospect.

Columbine as Political Terrorism, Anti-Politics as Politics

The Oklahoma City Bombing, ostensibly a white supremacist response to FBI overreach in the handling of the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas, was framed by the Columbine shooters in the numerous written and taped materials later confiscated by the FBI as the opening shot of a “political revolution” of…well…there wasn’t an ideology, simply resentment and bloodlust. No one at the time looked at Columbine as a political act because it was politically incoherent. Yet over time, future shooters ranging from the V-Tech shooter to Vester Flanagan would cite the Columbine shooters as “inspirations” while carrying out similarly cold-blooded and politically incoherent shootings. These spiked in frequency in the years leading up to the current crisis to where there was nearly one per day, and met their official counterpart in a rash of racially motivated killings of unarmed black people, many of them disabled or children.

We are now stuck with a president who lacks any ideology beyond the glorification of resentment and violent displays of power. We are now stuck with a Congress and Senate that state their supposed remorse for the children killed in Newtown, the thousands of others in Las Vegas and elsewhere, then refuse to do anything to stop or even slow down their occurrence. They are essentially tossing Puerto Rico out the airlock as I type this. Our Republican representatives are sadistic voyeurs, mesmerized by the spectacle of their own deepest violent fantasies being offered as tributes from a distributed gestapo the way people burn goats as offerings to the devil.

If I might be allowed to play a game of id, ego, super-ego:

-The Congress and Senate Republicans are the super-ego who pose as the moral authority but are in fact just getting off on both the authoritarian thrill of screaming at the spectacle and the cozy, insular benefits it disproportionately accrues to them.

-The base is the id. The Republican base, perhaps best exemplified by Sandy Hook trutherism and Pizzagate, has grown increasingly schizophrenic and detached from reality. They aren’t guided by conscious concerns or their surroundings; they reimagine their surroundings in order to justify wanton indulgence of base impulses. It’s not a coincidence the people claiming they need guns “for their safety” are the ones assaulting people with them, that they believe they’re the chosen agents of Jesus Christ when they worship wealth.

-The ego is…irrelevant at this point? John McCain?

While much of the rise of the right could be seen as simply a perfect storm merger of the collective interests of white supremacists, Christian fascists, internet trolls, individual billionaires and large corporations, what ultimately brought them together were sustained outbursts of mass psychosis defined by mob violence and outright denial of reality-Gamergate, the police shootings of blacks*, the genocide by neglect going on in Puerto Rico, the denial that any children were shot in Sandy Hook.

The NRA, the 2nd largest right wing organization in the US behind the Republican Party, has a financial incentive to want mass shootings, because every time one happens, gun and gun accessory sales spike. Yet I think their hearty embrace of Trump and the violence of the current moment isn’t exclusively financial, though they have every financial interest in guerilla civil war breaking out and have even basically threatened it in recent advertising. This is after all an organization that exists as much as a culture of violent paranoid fantasy as a gun rights advocacy organization. They have been incredibly racist for most of their existence. They use “thugs” and “home intruders” as dog whistles to mean “black people” in tons of their literature. Their most famous spokesperson got the job because he was famous for screaming “Those damn dirty apes!” for fucks sake.

Violence as anti-politics is hardly a new phenomena, but has been accelerated through the return to tribal politics facilitated by the internet hive-mind and the slight decline in the financial fortunes of the privileged non-oligarch class.

Two years ago I wrote about the exceptionally banal manifesto that accompanied Elliott Rodger’s drive-by shooting in Santa Barbara, CA:

Rodger’s “manifesto” tells us a bit more. The MRAs, like Roof’s Stormfront folks, are the product of white men revolting over the fact they might not be as privileged as they once were. But Rodger more clearly outlines the surreal banality of the spiritually dead culture of privilege he was an extension of.

Rodger spends portions of his manifesto nostalgically lamenting how everything was fair and right with the world when he was a young man playing Pokemon, and how happy he was there was brand synergy between the cans of Mountain Dew he was drinking and the World of Warcraft MMOs he was playing. I’m not making this shit up, it’s all there. Rodger may have been the most boring person who ever lived.

By being more boring, Rodger takes on a weird interest. His privilege, and he had tons, is not enough. He fears the universe is manifestly unjust; that maybe women can’t actually be bought. In more optimistic moments he clings to the hope that maybe they can be bought but he just can’t afford them yet.

The surreal climax to his autobiography/manifesto describes his staking whether he’s going to kill himself and go on a shooting spree or not on whether he wins the Powerball lottery. He spends his time driving 8 hours across state lines because the Powerball tickets weren’t available in California. He can’t buy other lottery tickets because he doesn’t consider anything less than a couple hundred million dollars capable of making his life anything other than a story of someone tragically wronged by fate.

Part of how he’s wronged is by being a white man who can’t get literally everything he wants right this second. This being wronged doubles over on itself because his mother committed the cardinal sin of not being “white” so he can’t feel as fully wronged about his not getting everything he wants as he could if he were unambiguously “white”. Rodger spreads white supremacist diatribes all over his manifesto despite his being mixed race because white supremacy is an aspirational ideology.

Remember when Charles Koch, a man whose net worth equals a couple dozen Powerball jackpots and whose whiteness probably attracts moths, said when he was caught stealing oil from an Indian reservation: “I want what’s coming to me, and that’s all of it”?

Maybe Rodger was right about himself. He wasn’t crazy. He was just a loser.

Of course the opening shots of a revolution of anti-politics would be incoherent. That was the point. The longer we keep pretending the right is acting on rationales of anything besides the naked display of power through spectacles of opulence and terror, the more shit we’re gonna have to deal with later.

*It seems worth noting that Trump thinks the Central Park five did it but OJ Simpson is innocent. Perhaps by killing and sexually abusing Nicole Brown as violent tributes to the patriarchy, Simpson became honorarily “white” in Trump’s eyes. Trump clearly sees some of himself in Simpson and therefore could never believe Simpson was guilty.

How Did We Get Here?

There’s nothing new about an American politician calling for police violence. Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California partly on his promise to crack down on those dirty hippies at Berkeley, a promise he kept. But let’s not underestimate Trump’s fascist thuggery. He’s much closer to George Wallace than he is to Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, both of whom seem restrained by comparison.

How did we get here?

People on the far left, whom I mostly number as my political allies, will say don’t kid yourself. We’ve always been here. The United States of America is a settler colonial nation built on stolen land. President Donald Trump is simply the latest manifestation of our brutal, white supremacist id. While I certainly think the far lest gets closer to the truth than liberal Democrats — who argue that Trump is a foreign, specifically Russian, plant — I don’t think simply pointing out the history of slavery and native American genocide fully explains why the quasi-fascist, far-right completely took over the American government in 2017.

Let’s look at the Trump Administration along three different historical timelines.

The long term: 1607 – 2017

The medium term: 1945 – 2017

The short term: 2001 – 2017

The far left explains Trump mostly along the overall, grand arc of American history.  Trump isn’t even the most blatantly white supremacist President we’ve ever had. That title would probably go to Thomas Jefferson, a man who raped his underage slave, Woodrow Wilson, a patron of the second Ku Klux Klan, or Andrew Jackson, who organized the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee from the old southeast. Smarter liberal Democrats tend to see figures like Trump and Sarah Palin, not as a Russian conspiracy, but as part of the backlash against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which culminated in the election of the first African American President in 2008, and which produced toxic political movements like the Tea Party and the Birthers. Rick Perlstein, perhaps the preeminent historian of postwar American conservatism, has recently attempted a synthesis of the long and medium term explanation of the rise of Donald Trump. Trump, he argues, is the immediate product of the deep, reactionary undercurrent of “liberal” New York City in the 1960s and 1970s.

The 1960s and ’70s New York in which Donald Trump came of age, as much as Klan-ridden Indiana in the 1920s or Barry Goldwater’s Arizona in the 1950s, was at conservatism’s cutting edge, setting the emotional tone for a politics of rage. In 1966, when Trump was 20, Mayor John Lindsay placed civilians on a board to more effectively monitor police abuse. The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association — responding, “I am sick and tired of giving in to minority groups and their gripes and their shouting” — led a referendum effort to dissolve the board that won 63 percent of the vote. Two years later, fights between supporters and protesters of George Wallace at a Madison Square Garden rally grew so violent that, The New Republic observed, “never again will you read about Berlin in the ’30s without remembering this wild confrontation here of two irrational forces.”

Perlstein’s article is incisive and well-worth reading. I’m old enough to remember Trump’s call to lynch the Central Park Five. Trump is eerily reminiscent of the New York City of Bernhard Goetz and the fascist 1970s film Death Wish. Nevertheless, I also think it’s important to look at Trump’s rise in the very short term. With many liberal Democrats calling for an alliance with neoconservatives like John McCain and David Frum, I think it’s important to remember that there are two events that made the 2017’s apotheosis of the extreme right almost inevitable.

The first, of course, was 9/11 and George W. Bush’s use of the worst terrorist attack in American history to manipulate the American people into standing behind his invasion of Iraq. 9/11 was, perhaps, the greatest day in the history of the post-war American right. 9/11 made racism and Islamophobia respectable again. It ended the “Vietnam Syndrome,” the skepticism of militarism and the American empire that came out of the antiwar movement of the 1960s, for good.

The unwillingness of the American media to fully investigate the baffling success of a small group of Islamic terrorists in penetrating the security of the most powerful military the world has ever seen also gave rise to a whole new generation of antisemitic conspiracy theorists, the best example being Trump’s crude, almost demented, yet widely popular supporter Alex Jones. The “9/11 Truth Movement” not only revitalized the John Birch Society’s hysterical views of post-war American history, it also gave a new lifeline to classical antisemitism. For Jones, every event in recent American history, from 9/11 to the Sandy Hook Massacre, is a hoax played on the American people by a small cabal of “Illuminati,” Jews. Trump’s constant drumbeat about “fake news” in 2017 would have been impossible without Alex Jones’ wild accusations of “crisis actors” at Sandy Hook back in 2012.

The second event is the financial crisis of 2008 and the betrayal by Barack Obama of his progressive supporters. If 9/11 made the federal government look ineffective in the face of a well-organized terrorist conspiracy, the Wall Street bailout of 2008 made it look corrupt. By essentially declaring Wall Street and the banks to be above the law, “too big to fail,” Obama drove a wedge between black Americans and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, and the American left. You could support the first African American President, or you could condemn Wall Street. You couldn’t do both. In spite of Bernie Sanders’ strong run in the 2016 Democratic Party Primary from the left, a run that was constantly undercut by charges of racism and sexism by the Clinton campaign, by 2017 the extreme right had already captured the anti-establishment anger that has been simmering since the Republican and Democratic Party elite got together behind closed doors, overruled their own rank and file congress members, and funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to the corrupt oligarchs who had destroyed the housing market, and, not incidentally, an entire generation of black, middle-class wealth. In the 1960s, if you said “down with the man” you were almost certainly on the left. In the 2010s, it’s not so clear.

If we don’t understand these two short term causes, I fear, an alliance of neoliberal Democrats and neoconservative Republicans in 2018 and 2020 will simply try to paper over the deep fissures in American society the election of Donald Trump has made visible in 2016 and 2017, and set us up for someone in the not too distant future who might be even worse.

Donald Trump is the Thing After Post-Modernism

What is to be made of the current collection of vernacular/folk “types” of people that frame the writing of the US cultural narrative? The “hipster”, the “troll”, the “social justice warrior”, the “alt-righter”, the “young professional”? Where do the archetypes come from? How do they drive the country’s current momentum toward postmodern authoritarianism?

Nearly all coverage of the hipster, despite never being able to confidently pin down just what the hipster is, has concurred that there is something sinister about the trend. What is the cultural undercurrent, the geist these critics were chasing?

A theory: What has made society so uncomfortable with the emergence of the so-called “hipster” is the predominant tone of irony; of insincerity; of a put on that is frequently described as “having nothing behind it”-but if the insincerity has nothing behind it, doesn’t it become its own truth? Isn’t a copy with no original simply a mislabeled original? And so shouldn’t the ironic eventually loop around into its own unironic self-appreciation? Or at least attempt to?

The “hipster” and the radicalization of conservatives developed along parallel tracks in response to the post-modern restructuring of society that followed the end of the post-war economic boom in the early-mid 1970s. When Robert Ashley dramatized the arrival of post-modernism in Perfect Lives as a story of people who rob a bank then bring the money back before anyone notices as various townies state their unease at a sinking feeling the money wasn’t there for some short time, was he consciously trying to invoke the collapse of the Bretton-Woods system? Was there a more post-modern event in the 20th century than the collapse of the Bretton-Woods system? Think about it-the signifier and signified, gold and cash, both functionally symbols despite the perceived “tangibility” of gold, legally divorced in a giant ceremony.

Despite the fact that gold is a placeholder for commodities and doesn’t offer much practical value besides as a conductor or tooth filling, the divorce troubled many. The money was there, but it wasn’t. Sort of. The success of Bitcoin among gold bugs despite its being even less traditionally tangible than cash speaks to the extent the appeal of gold was rooted in its being a symbol of limit and exclusivity. The symbol trauma of the end of the gold standard (one of many such traumas) has been one of the far right’s obsessions for decades now. Ayn Rand’s “A=A” satisfies both the conservative’s desire for a perception of solid reality and Baudrillard’s definition of hyperreality-the symbol (the written letter “A”) correlates to the symbol (the written letter “A”)-a closed loop of symbols.

If modernism was about insisting there’s an underlying particular meaning that can be codified, and post-modernism was about the dissolution/impossibility of meaning and the arbitrary quality of codes, then the thing after post-modernism is perhaps best dubbed Frankenstein Modernism-the attempt to reconstruct the comfort of fixed meaning from an environment that can’t allow for the comfort of a fixed meaning.

In an always-already doomed effort, the conservative ironically attempts to preserve the sanctity of “the real” by clutching desperately to the crudely symbolic-the flag, race, etc. Any conservative ideology must construct a sanctified past because its attempts to “conserve” the current status quo will always be undermined by the fact time goes forward and things change, up to and including the interpretation of the past-this dissonance has to be accounted for. Explanations and scapegoats are needed to maintain the conservative’s superficial sense of control over their surroundings.

In the conservative imagination this looks like the return to “sanity”, to the more comfortable prior status quo.  To the non-conservative, it looks like a strange and garish pastiche; the Hollywood reboot except real-even the players themselves seem to be operating, consciously or otherwise, on this logic-what else is to be made of the endless attempts by Trump and May to portray themselves as the return of Reagan and Thatcher?

What does this mean? The age of the remake is total; the age of high fidelity recorded media which has barely gone on for more than 150 years has swallowed society whole-there is no hope for a new thing or else why would there be such bitter and violent squabbles over the aesthetics of remakes, all the way from the Twitter harassment of Leslie Jones up through the selling of Donald Trump as fat Reagan.