Things subtly changing around you
May 11, 2017 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Experts in authoritarianism advise you to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember. It has been a little exhausting to keep track of the news lately, and things can start to seem normal or quickly disappear from memory when something new takes its place. Amy Siskind of the New Agenda has been posting a weekly list of events since Trump has taken office. We're up to Week 25 with 73 items on it. MoveOn recently made a short video about her which gives a good overview. "There's so much chaos, so much volume of change, that we're starting to normalize."

Or you can just read WTF Just Happened Today? if you can't wait a week.
posted by Peach (38 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
Goddamn, I was recently reminded that this month eight years ago at the start of Obama's first term, this is what passed for a major scandal in the Executive branch: President Poupon.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:38 AM on May 11, 2017 [17 favorites]


There's alarms and fucking sirens everywhere from day 1 with Trump, and the destruction of democracy is pretty clearly a goal of every Republican and this is their shot at it, but openly obstructing the FBI from investigation feels like things got stepped up a notch.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on May 11, 2017 [14 favorites]


Look, I hate Trump, but this is a list of 60-some reasons why he's an incompetent, racist idiot who thinks the purpose of the US government is to stroke his ego, not reasons why he's about to turn the US into an autocracy. The things on here I find potentially or actively troubling solely through a "Trump is an autocrat" lens (as opposed to a "Putin/Erdogan/Duterte is an autocrat, no duh," lens, a "Trump does not understand the United States government," lens, or a "Trump has conflicts of interest," lens) :

#32 - if Colbert is actually fined or arrested, I will be worried. He hasn't been.
#35 - this could be a sign of Trump attempting to muster a cult of personality. He hasn't succeeded. He's the most unpopular first-term president ever.

The fact that Trump has fired everyone who has tried to investigate his ties with Russia is something we should 100% be watching, and we should definitely watch who he replaces Comey with because if it's a close family member or personal friend that's a potential sign of autocratic behavior. But for now, all we know is that Trump gets mad when people threaten his self-image as best and most winningest president.
posted by capricorn at 11:51 AM on May 11, 2017 [13 favorites]


I've really been having trouble maintaining the will to keep up with all of this. It's a problem. I know it's my privilege to be able to ignore it as needed. I subscribed to WTFJHT, as it seemed like a useful consolidation, one place to look once a day, but I can't bring myself to open the emails a lot of days. Sigh...
posted by limeonaire at 11:52 AM on May 11, 2017 [9 favorites]


Goddamn, I was recently reminded that this month eight years ago at the start of Obama's first term, this is what passed for a major scandal in the Executive branch: President Poupon yt
The Hannity "Grey Poupon" piece is a good reminder why we should be on guard against the periodic derails that arise any time people talk about Trump's dining preferences. "OMG, he likes well-done steak with catsup, he's a monster.." -- time and time again. It generally starts as a joke but inevitably veers off into people sincerely trying to reach conclusions about his deeper values based on deficiencies in his appreciation for food.

He is indeed a monster, but it has nothing to do with ruined steaks.

It has to do with the long term, possibly permanent, damage he is doing to the civic and social institutions of the USA and the very direct and harmful effect his policies and actions will have on a vast number of individuals who do not deserve to have their lives ruined by this living manifestation of ego and entitlement.posted by Nerd of the North at 11:53 AM on May 11, 2017 [10 favorites]


Capricorn - I do not compare your complacency and do not believe anybody should.
posted by Artw at 11:53 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


Not entirely new, but picking up momentum: Feds searching passenger cell phones at SFO
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


Trump’s Savage Capitalism
The Nightmare is Real - Enzo Traverso
In his racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, Donald Trump resembles a 20th-century fascist-but historian Enzo Traverso argues the likeness is superficial. Trumpism is the product of recent transformations of capitalism, and thus he embodies something new, dangerous, and not yet fully realized.
Stay Outraged - A Conversation with Masha Gessen
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


Oh, other things I'd watch for:
-The institution of curfews in major US cities
-Trump allies and cabinet members actively ramping up attempts to purchase media companies, forcing all media to become an arm of the government
-The secret arrest of protesters. This actually did happen, during the inauguration, and I'm surprised it wasn't included in the list.
-Oh, another thing that did happen and continues to happen, though I'm unsure how much it's actively Trump-directed: massive roundups and deportations. But currently the media just chooses not to report on it, they haven't been gagged.

And on preview, Artw, don't mistake me, I am not complacent at all. I am actively, currently, pants-crappingly worried about the following:
-The fact that US government has been turned into a machine to reify and strengthen socioeconomic disparities. It has been turned into a machine of death. The purpose of the healthcare bill is essentially mass genocide, or whatever term we have to invent now for killing people based on social class. Trump is an instrument of that machine--his racism and elitism, and their public acceptance, are convenient for it--but he is not the machine. The "tea party" and Congressional Republicans are the machine.
posted by capricorn at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2017 [22 favorites]




Call (email, fax) your reps. Every day.
posted by stevil at 12:18 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's weird to me that this doesn't mention Jared and Ivanka's roles more prominently. The head of the executive branch just giving jobs and office space to family members who incidentally share his financial interests seems like a major thing that is both bad on its face and a sign of creepy authoritarianism. Also I want them mentioned as often as possible. When I'm waiting for the bus, I mentally compose mean letters to Ivanka. I would write them on my nice monogrammed stationary and tell her that we all know that her cravenness is transparent and none of us will forgive or forget her role in this. I want everyone in that horrifying, racist, selfish family to know that people are paying attention.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2017 [14 favorites]


-Trump allies and cabinet members actively ramping up attempts to purchase media companies, forcing all media to become an arm of the government

You mean like Sinclair Broadcast Group buying Tribune Media, which is in 70% of the broadcast markets in the US?
posted by briank at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2017 [16 favorites]


-The institution of curfews in major US cities
This could be "justified" in Chicago due to the gun violence in a few neighborhoods, so they could try it with that as an excuse, but it would be impossible to justify throughout the rest of the city. Plus as far as I can tell our Mayor hates Trumps' guts and isn't going to help him with anything.

-Trump allies and cabinet members actively ramping up attempts to purchase media companies, forcing all media to become an arm of the government
Trump and FOX-friendly Sinclair Broadcasting just bought our most independent TV news station, WGN.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


Note that fascism and kleptocracy are not mutually exclusive.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:47 PM on May 11, 2017 [6 favorites]


It's really weird how the media keeps acting like Ivanka is "the good one" just because she gives lip service to the environment once in a blue moon and promotes the most privileged white feminism. She just wants her dad to do the right thing! She cried about the pussy tape!

And yet Chelsea Clinton is just a foul appendage of the Clinton dynasty.

I don't think being a president's daughter makes you qualified for anything in either case, but the sympathy in the face of extreme nepotism is weird.
posted by ikea_femme at 2:04 PM on May 11, 2017 [9 favorites]


And yet Chelsea Clinton is just a foul appendage of the Clinton dynasty.

Heck a couple weeks ago my entire twitter feed dedicated itself, it seems, solely to the destruction of Chelsea Clinton, despite the fact that

1) all of them supposedly identify as left or leftist
2) half of 'em voted for her mom
3) SHE ISN'T FUCKING DOING ANYTHING EXCEPT EXISTING, HOLY SHIT.

It's goddamn deranged and caused me to shut down my twitter account entirely. And I definitely feel like it's the product of something inorganic - some sneaky fucking nonsense prompted by some Bannon-bot on some subreddit. Whether it is or not, it definitely feels like a sign that things are permanently unmoored.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:16 PM on May 11, 2017 [18 favorites]


If you want until 'sure signs of autocracy' before ringing alarm bells, it's already too late.
posted by empath at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


I mean the red line here was when trump scapegoated immigrants and encouraged his followers to attack protestors. Whether or not he colluded with Russia or did any of the other terrible things he's been accused of, the fact that we elected a monster like that represents the end of the American experiment, whether he's going to be the one who ends it or not. Maybe he's a Julius Caesar, but there is going to be an Augustus or a Napolean after him, unless there is a massive house cleaning and major reforms after his ouster.
posted by empath at 4:58 PM on May 11, 2017 [9 favorites]


My personal theory: he doesn't realise that colluding with a foreign power to take over the US government was a crime. He saw that Russian support and thought "I even have international backing!".

Citizens need to remember what normal looked like, but the president never knew in the first place. How could he?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2017 [6 favorites]


Heck a couple weeks ago my entire twitter feed dedicated itself, it seems, solely to the destruction of Chelsea Clinton, despite the fact that

1) all of them supposedly identify as left or leftist


Basically, at this point it's safe to assume that any self-identifying Leftist that spends their time ragging on Clintons or the Democrats is either a conscious or unwitting dupe of the 1% and/or Putin. We really are in the "Who can you trust" phase, and I checked off the "Supposed activists acting to enable the authoritarians" box a while ago.

But at least we haven't checked off the "Internet denies that Amy Siskind and her list ever existed" box. Yet.
posted by happyroach at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2017


Highly recommend following Sarah Kendzior on twitter. She is an expert on authoritarianism and has been on point about Trump's actions for at least a year.
posted by Jacob G at 8:31 PM on May 11, 2017 [6 favorites]


David Roberts, in a 40-tweet storm, argues that Trump does not actually have a mind and that people trying to impute motives to him beyond establishing dominance in any one setting are making a mistake.
posted by Peach at 8:32 PM on May 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


I think it doesn't matter if Trump has a master plan or not. Either way, what he does tests the limits of the executive branch and shifts the public's idea of what the government can and should do. The Muslim ban sounded crazy, but now that we've seen two different versions of it pushed out without congress's involvement, people see the president as having dictatorial-like abilities to just will policies without debate.

This paves the way for future presidents to act like this. The separation of powers then dies slowly, and then quickly.

Besides, I'd rather we not let Trump be an authoritarian, rather than just lean on a hunch he's just full of hot air.
posted by ikea_femme at 9:37 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


David Roberts, in a 40-tweet storm, argues that Trump does not actually have a mind and that people trying to impute motives to him beyond establishing dominance in any one setting are making a mistake.

Plausible.
posted by Artw at 10:21 PM on May 11, 2017


a vast number of individuals who do not deserve to have their lives ruined by this living manifestation of ego and entitlement.

Marvel movie or news?

* Refugees escape from Mexico, to Canada, via the U.S, as the increasing mental fragility of an elderly gentleman with powers he can't control puts the population at risk
* Living manifestation of ego and entitlement attempts the ruination of the lives of billions
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:01 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]




At this point I'm resolved that Trump is a thug who has created a sphere of thuggery where ordinary political and legal considerations barely apply. Since thugs can't rely on the protection of the law or basic decency they need confidants and allies, which you buy with favors, largesse, and "protection". But Trump is so miserly. I think that will be his downfall. Too many grudges, too little protection. He's not a good leader.
posted by dmh at 5:17 AM on May 12, 2017


I think many of the Administration's decisions follow the trend toward authoritarianism, whether or not they are intended that way. For instance, Trump threatens to stop holding press briefings. Does he intend to make one more step toward a fascist state that way? I would suspect he doesn't. He just sees himself as a beleaguered target and the press as a childish and offensive entity not worthy of access.
posted by Peach at 5:37 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Autocracy is often a consequence of incompetence. He is incapable of negotiating or delegating, so pulls power closer and closer to himself.
posted by empath at 6:20 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I guess we can draw comfort from the fact that this probably dies with him - he's leaving no structures in place that can self perpetuate. On the other hand the damage he's doing to legitimate structures is vast.
posted by Artw at 6:30 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


We've always been at war with Eastasia.
posted by evilDoug at 8:53 AM on May 12, 2017


he's leaving no structures in place that can self perpetuate

He's got children. Whie Ivanka is being groomed to be a queen, probably one of the big game hunters will inherit the presidency.
posted by happyroach at 9:34 AM on May 12, 2017


If he thinks thats happening he is delusional.

He probably thinks that is happening, then.

But it won't. They'll get torn apart in the shitstorm.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


The thing that's been bugging me the most about this is that most of what we've had so far in terms of presidents, congress people, judges, and so on are people that saw the rules of the government, of the concept of the United States, and thought that not only were these rules valid, they were attached to something worth preserving. With the Republican refusal to even hold confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court candidate last year, and now Trump this year, we're seeing the violation of the spirit of the rules triumphing. The strategy works, the damage is done. After this, who needs to follow the spirit of the rules when it clearly isn't the most effective way to win?

The only analogy I have really been able to come up with is children playing a made up game. Hell, let's say it's Calvinball, and Calving and Hobbes have slowly been able to introduce the game to others. People take the arbitrary rules to heart, and they're all having a great time, and they're having a great time by playing the game. Then, along comes a new player, let's say Moe, the bully, who sees the game, and assumed the point of the game is winning, not playing. He just applies brute force to the game, scoring at all costs, cloaking himself in the rules where convenient, calling inconvenient rules stupid, and essentially doing whatever he wants. And he wins. He's broken the game. He's called the spirit of the game stupid, but he won. And other people who come after, they'll see that this strategy works. People might still play the game, but they won't be playing because the play is worthwhile, they'll be playing to win, just like Moe. The game is broken, rendered meaningless for its original point. The people who started the game, who loved and cherished it, are pushed out or walk away, and whatever it is that the game has become, it isn't what it was, and never will be again.

The only problem is that somewhere along the line, winning the game ended up being more important than governing well. McConnell and Trump have carried that forward to a degree that the game just doesn't even seem valid anymore.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:36 PM on May 12, 2017 [12 favorites]


[A couple deleted; this isn't about the Clintons.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:15 AM on May 13, 2017


I find this comforting in these times: Watch the exact moment when a brutal dictator realizes the crowd has turned against him

This guy also like gold a lot. Everything about his fall makes for a satisfying read.
posted by Artw at 7:29 AM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Ghidorah, you've captured my disappointment exactly. Really, the only way back is for them suffer such a horrifying comeuppance that it's not seen as a way to win at all. Bring back "will of the people" as a thing that matters at all, even for self-preservation. Though I'm not advocating violence, Republicans need to start having some scary confrontations with angry constituents. And by scary, I mean more than toothless threats of voting against in an election that's already rigged.

Thus justifying the police state even more. I'm not sure there's a way back. But it took violence for the labor unions to begin to limit the worst capitalist exploitation. Just saying.
posted by ctmf at 6:17 PM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


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