"We are living in the middle of a fascist takeover"
January 14, 2020 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a an expert on fascism, authoritarianism, war & propaganda. In a 20 minute podcast hosted by Chauncey DeVega (starts at 0:30), she posits that a fascist, authoritarian takeover is not a future event we should worry about, but an actual process we are living through right now, and that if Trump wins again, America will be ‘ready for full-on authoritarian rule’.
Ben-Ghiat warns that societies often succumb to authoritarianism and fascism not in one dramatic moment, but gradually over time. “Only in a military coup do you really have an instant change. A person leaves the house in the morning and five hours later they are living in a dictatorship and there is mass violence. But otherwise, even Mussolini and Hitler took years to get into power.”
Read on Salon.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat previously on M-F

She also issues an ominous warning: Because Donald Trump is an authoritarian who is waiting for an opportune moment when he can declare a national emergency or other crisis and then suspend the rule of law and the Constitution.

Not only Trump, but many other people around him, including Republican elected officials, have been speaking like authoritarian thugs. They say things such as, “Hillary Clinton needs to be executed.” That is how fascists speak. Making such threats is a type of trial balloon. If Trump wins in 2020, those trial balloons of fascist threats will be able to be made real. Even with all the horrible things that Trump has said and done, his popularity remains stable. Trump’s followers have not deserted him. The 2020 presidential election is almost a referendum and a mandate for Trump to finally do what he’s been threatening to do all along.
posted by growabrain (83 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have not yet listened to the pod cast and I hope this is not a derail but I am currently working my way through The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt and there are passages that are chilling in how well they describe the political climate in both USA and many other places in the world right now. I believe that Ruth Ben-Ghiat is likely correct here, and its terrifying.
posted by supermedusa at 8:51 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


I've been watching this from Canada with horrid fascination (and fear that we might eventually head down the same path).

For me, the defining moment was when Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice on his way out of office - which he was fully entitled to do - and the Republican Party flat refused to accept the nomination. But I'm sure there were earlier warning signs that I missed.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 9:12 AM on January 14 [33 favorites]


The seeds have been planted, yes.

Dominionists are delusional enough to play for keeps.

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/national-cathedral-dedicates-bible-for-newly-formed-u-s-space-force-1.614557

Plenty of peeps in the military and civilian police want to see more of that, much more.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:13 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I’m glad there was a transcript provided. This is very important reading!

I don’t think Trump could do this by himself. I think the power behind Trump is the right wing Christian counterrevolution. These right wing Christians are incapable of introspection; they believe that God is on their side, giving them the sense of moral superiority. For example, to outsiders, calling for Ms. Clinton’s execution is outrageous, immoral and just plain nuts. The insiders think they would be carrying out God’s will. I’ve talked to a Trump supporters about this Clinton hatred, have yet to get a rational response. It’s just glee.
posted by coldhotel at 9:15 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


But I'm sure there were earlier warning signs that I missed.

Christian pastors calling for Obama’s death as soon as he was sworn into office?
posted by coldhotel at 9:18 AM on January 14 [20 favorites]


It was a pretty weird interview, actually. It didn't really deliver on its premise. And at least one response just ignored the question completely. Not that I disagree with what the article is saying (or trying to say), but it just wasn't very good. There'll be better discussion right here in this comment thread. In fact, there already is.
posted by sjswitzer at 9:21 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Fine. What are you going to do about it. You, personally, reading this. Where is your prose saying, "No, do not joke about killing people," delivered where it is needed most? Where is your courage, to risk your coworker being "upset" when you say, "I like you as a person, but this is wrong. It is not true that most people are liars. Most people are good, and want mainly to be left alone. They do not really care about what you think they care about." Where is your fatigue and your passion, spent not just fighting, but using every iota of your education to find where and how to fight? Where is your will to be forceful but kind? Find it and let it out.
posted by amtho at 9:23 AM on January 14 [20 favorites]




This is really interesting, and the insights dovetail with another strong work on "democratic backsliding" done by Profs. Huq and Ginsberg at the University of Chicago, which finds that a slower process is more common recently than a sudden coup or similar shocking event. How to Lose a Constitutional Democracy
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:28 AM on January 14 [14 favorites]


I don’t think Trump could do this by himself. I think the power behind Trump is the right wing Christian counterrevolution. These right wing Christians are incapable of introspection; they believe that God is on their side, giving them the sense of moral superiority.

When I was at the Topographie des Terrors in Berlin a few years ago, they had an exhibit that very clearly explained how the Lutheran Church was fine with the Nazis in the early days because the Nazis promised them an opportunity to "complete" Martin Luther's reformation. (You'll recall that Luther's antisemitism is undeniable.) It was eye-opening to see direct evidence (via writings and sermons) that Christians did not, in fact, immediately identify the Nazis as wrong and bravely resist them, as often depicted in popular media or American history narratives.

Anyone living in the U.S. right now needs to interrogate the roles that faith communities are playing in political matters, ask the classic question, "Cui bono?" and face the answers, no matter how ugly.
posted by sobell at 9:37 AM on January 14 [29 favorites]


Anyone living in the U.S. right now needs to interrogate the roles that faith communities are playing in political matters, ask the classic question, "Cui bono?" and face the answers, no matter how ugly.

Great podcast on this very topic, from today.
posted by Automocar at 9:41 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Thank you so much for the pointer!
posted by sobell at 9:47 AM on January 14


It was eye-opening to see direct evidence (via writings and sermons) that Christians did not, in fact, immediately identify the Nazis as wrong and bravely resist them, as often depicted in popular media or American history narratives.

As usual, it’s not a monolith. Most German churches did support Hitler or quietly go along, but the members of the Confessing Church movement were notable—and often quite brave—in their opposition. The anti-Nazi Barmen Declaration was drafted in May, 1934, and hundreds of pastors were arrested in subsequent years. Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller and others like them became the faces of the resistance.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:50 AM on January 14 [16 favorites]




The Democratic nominee should campaign on the idea that Trump won't leave office if he loses. That will motivate almost everyone on the sidelines to vote against Trump in order to watch the promised train wreck.
posted by Brian B. at 9:53 AM on January 14 [11 favorites]


OK, I take back my ding on the (Salon) article. It's full of important points and if it felt a bit disorganized and discursive, well, it was after all a transcript of a podcast discussion. And hurray for transcripts.

It's not possible to cover every aspect of the problem in a short discussion, but I was surprised that it didn't hit upon Rupert Murdoch's role in preparing the soil. It's hard to imagine that any of this could have happened without him.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:04 AM on January 14 [17 favorites]


Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice on his way out of office

We think of it this way because of the media framing, but I wouldn't describe him as on his way out. Scalia died in February 2016 and Obama was President until Jan 20, 2017. He was denied his constitutionally defined official responsibility for almost a full year. This was also for me a defining moment.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:11 AM on January 14 [119 favorites]


Political bravery from the left today will be to re-frame the conversation and start talking about fascism, pure and simple.

And not just bravery, but also survival, because if they don’t start shining a giant light on this danger, they may find themselves locked up and worse a year or two from now.

/doom and gloom
/worse case scenario
posted by growabrain at 10:12 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


There was a phrase I read on the blue some time ago about what's going on here. I talk to many people who acknowledge all of this... and then go about their business. It's the phenomenon where people do have a sense of what's going on but are afraid to take action because they don't want to be early, or wrong, or out of step. I wish I could recall what it was, because it captured the current world perfectly.

And my own status as well - I would happily take to the streets right now if I thought it could make a difference. But I'm pretty sure I'd be standing on a street corner alone like the cliched "end of the world is nigh!" cranks in movies.

We could still turn him out and send Moscow Mitch and company packing. We could turn things around if we act now. A week of a general strike against Trump and the Senate's complicity would be enough, I think. But I don't think we'll have a tipping point to force that until it may already be too late.
posted by jzb at 10:18 AM on January 14 [19 favorites]


Faith and Freedom , the oxymoron of We the People .
posted by hortense at 10:19 AM on January 14


Worried? Good. GO REGISTER VOTERS. Print the forms, stuff them in envelopes, carry them with you, and ask The Question: Are you registered to vote? This simple act–asking The Question–absolutely CRUSHES DESPAIR. Despair is a primary weapon of the enemy.

In most states, there exists a large reservoir of unregistered voters, many of which are progressive or progressive leaning. At the same time, many of those people are realizing what's at stake, and you can get them registered and voting. The truth is that many people who will register this year will be more invested in voting than a lot of people who have been voting, off and on, for years. These are your people: find them and register them to vote!

Many people you encounter will be registered all ready. This is a good thing: it allows you to enlist them in your efforts, and to explain the math. For example, in my very red state, if only 20% of Democrats (and isn't it usually the case that 20% of people do the lion's share of the work?) were to register a couple of people each, we'd have a lead. If the independents follow suit, it will be a commanding lead. I live in Oklahoma: there are few states "redder" than mine. The numbers favor us. This can be done. Resolve that you won't be a member of a generation that lost democracy in America because we were too lazy to do the work to keep it.

Someone bagging your groceries? Ask them. Someone beside you at the car wash? Ask. This is simple, and you don't need any support from the party to do it.

This is OUR TIME. Yes, fascism is rearing its ugly head. But there has never been a more propitious time for progressive causes than right now. Not EVER! Fill your heart with gladness that you've been given the opportunity to do something that matters. Always remember that the fire is kindled with a tiny spark. You can be that spark in your community.

YOU BE THE SPARK!
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 10:22 AM on January 14 [68 favorites]


I've tried talking to people about this. They just reassure me that we-the-people-in-this-conversation will be fine, of course it's horrible, but whaddaya gonna do? I've tried being direct, subtle, didactic, casual, making a personal appeal to my safety, having a flat stoic affect, being animated, and they all end the same.

At this point I just feel tired and helpless. I need to start making a timeline for getting a job in Dublin. I don't see what good I do by remaining here. I either end up dead or complicit if I do and neither one seems worth it.
posted by PMdixon at 10:24 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


so this is gonna seem kind of trite and maybe a bit menshevik, but i really strongly encourage everyone with the time to campaign for democrats to campaign for democrats, and everyone with money to give to democrats to give money to democrats. it's one of the few ways to manage the terror of living through these times — at the very least, it works a hell of a lot better than hanging out on the Internet reading about and ranting about the fine details of what the fascist monsters are doing.

i just like 10 minutes ago gave 27 bucks apiece to both of the good candidates, and even though i have precisely zero time right now i'm doing some doorknocking for one of them. i'm not someone with a huge faith in the potential for bourgeois electoral politics to stop the ongoing fascist takeover by itself, but organizing in the context of electoral politics is a good thing and can help you build the connections you need to do real politics.

and shoot, maybe electoral politics will actually work this time. it worked in 2018, and maybe we can get enough of a victory that whatever fuckery trump and the russians are going to pull won't override it in 2020, either.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:36 AM on January 14 [33 favorites]


PMdixon - you've tried talking to people about it. The rest of this comment isn't directed at you, but at myself and everyone.

There are a lot of things we still haven't tried:

- Talking in little bits and conversations in an organized way;

- Really making a structured thoughtful effort to BUILD TRUST before presenting information;

- Any of a number of non-violent, non-talking actions. We are probably the most educated, information-rich, creative people who have ever existed in the history of the world. USE THAT. THINK DIFFERENTLY.


Moving away? Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?
posted by amtho at 10:40 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


She mentioned Barr as particularly dangerous. He is behaving like a man unconcerned with what his successor will uncover. When he's gone and his books are opened and his decisions reviewed, he's done. Completely unconstitutional. Yet he carries on as if that day will never come.

They all do to some extent, yet even Rudy had the clarity to admit he doesn't care because he'll be dead soon. Barr is in a position to create a future without consequences though.

You don't need to be clairvoyant to know Trump won't accept an electoral defeat. He's said it many times. Shit, he's still contesting the last election and he won.
posted by adept256 at 10:56 AM on January 14 [17 favorites]


america is becoming a less powerful country. thankfully. but the death throes of the american empire are uhhh a hell of a ride.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:56 AM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Barr is in a position to create a future without consequences though.
Barr already lives in a present without consequences.
posted by Harry Caul at 11:01 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?

I would prefer to be under the jurisdiction of a state that I don't think will attempt to disenfranchise me and/or kill me in the next decade because I'm gay, yes.
posted by PMdixon at 11:01 AM on January 14 [40 favorites]


She also mentioned the bravery of the people in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: thousands protest over police shooting of teenager

The shooting shocked many in the city; despite copious use of teargas, water cannon, beanbags and other less lethal forms of violence over nearly four months of protests, officers had previously only fired their guns in warning.

It took FOUR MONTHS for the police to finally shoot someone. Hong Kong is just one city. If there were similar protests in every major American city... with your police and your gun culture, four hours seems optimistic.
posted by adept256 at 11:14 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?

There is nothing wrong with fleeing a sinking ship. Yes, yes, I know, stay and fight, don't abandon those who can't leave. Those are noble goals, and I commend those who can follow through on them. Many don't have that ability, and if they can get out, it's their prerogative to do so.

If Trump wins this year, my family is going to try to leave. We have a couple options, and we're laying some groundwork now.
posted by Gaz Errant at 11:24 AM on January 14 [14 favorites]


Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?

Of course. If you can show me how to afford to move legally to a country where guns are illegal and health care is government-run, I am in today. It does not seem feasible for working-class Americans, though, from my limited knowledge. I would love to leave this country.

The Democratic nominee should campaign on the idea that Trump won't leave office if he loses. That will motivate almost everyone on the sidelines to vote against Trump in order to watch the promised train wreck.

Good idea. It will also get tons of free reality TV/news media coverage--will he or won't he?

I would happily take to the streets right now if I thought it could make a difference. But I'm pretty sure I'd be standing on a street corner alone

There are protests on the streets of every major American city almost every week. I would bet there is one near you today or tomorrow. There's certainly a climate-strike this Friday.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:25 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Moving elsewhere might ultimately be a good idea for people who are specifically at risk from an increasingly fascist and intolerant state, yeah. But for people concerned about the direction of society as a whole, really, where are you going to go?

I mean, America is out, and where the US goes, Canada will eventually follow. The UK is out. France, Germany, Italy, even Norway and Sweden are all flirting with right wing ideology. Eastern Europe is in Putin's shadow. Xi Jinping is doing everything he can to maintain an authoritarian grip on China. Modi has brought far right nationalism to India. Ultranationalists are gaining support in Japan. Right wing conservatives are already in charge in Australia. Maduro in Venezuela and Bolsonaro in Brazil are steering their countries toward kleptocratic authoritarianism.

This isn't just an American problem. It's everywhere and it's gaining strength every day.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 11:31 AM on January 14 [47 favorites]


Ruth Ben-Ghiat was also interviewed just before christmas on a Slate podcast, following a similar theme:

A Historical Lens on Trump’s Authoritarianism
posted by adept256 at 11:31 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


You could move to Canada and in general I'd welcome people who aren't welcomed by the US but it'd be great if you could just stay there and do your best to put out this dumpster fire. Think of Canada as the Sudetenland. Moving here won't save you if the country goes full fash and sure as hell won't do anything to stop it.
posted by klanawa at 11:34 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


"Moving away? Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?"
posted by amtho

Sort of? I mean... a big chunk of the money I am paid is going to the government here in the US. Even if I eat ramen and move 3 hours away from my job, I wouldn't be able to match my federal taxes in donations.

It seems to me like the most effective thing I can do is move away, and stop giving my tax money to this corrupt government. I'm sure there's a flaw* in this thinking, but it's where I'm at after reading this article and thinking about the future (specifically if he gets re-elected in November).

* - like, I know the federal government does some good things with that money, but still. Ugh.
posted by Grither at 11:35 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I want to get out too.

Is New Zealand generally liberal? Relatively safe?

Is Canada really likely to follow the US down the path to hell?

Though no country is likely to want a pair of middle-aged freelancers, I guess.
posted by mkuhnell at 11:38 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


How do we find persuadable souls that we can try to persuade to vote with us? My friends are mostly liberals to moderate. Trying to find an opening generally reveals either a Trump supporter or someone who is disengaged or distrustful of politics- in other words, a closet Trump supporter.
posted by coldhotel at 11:47 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


by knocking on doors and helping people who don't like how things are going but who don't think of themselves as political and who don't vote start voting and start thinking of themselves as political.

also you can make phone calls and send texts.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:51 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


i really really strongly support the decision of anyone who is personally threatened by the rise of american fascism and who wants to get out. one of my closest friends is trans, and skipped the country back in early 2016 because he was better than me at seeing where this place is going.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:53 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?

So, I just finished reading an absolutely amazing book about punks in East Germany, Burning Down the Haus. It was fascinating from like 30 different angles, and I'm going to be digesting it for a long time. But one thing that really struck me: how many of the East German punks, whose whole existence centered around saying "fuck you" to an oppressive state, had no interest whatsoever in going to West Germany, even if the Stasi made it intentionally really easy for them. They wanted to stay where they were and fight; they wanted to rebuild East Germany into something better. And they won, at least kind of. It was mind-blowing to read and absorb this, and it felt like it was putting steel into my spine that I hope I don't wind up needing.
posted by COBRA! at 11:55 AM on January 14 [31 favorites]


Democracy is all well and good when it delivers results that people who hold and know how to work the levers of power could live with. It's easier that way and it gives them a fig leaf. But just as soon as there's a chance that they'll lose grip on those levers, they will work them as if their lives depend on it.

In the face of changing demographics and the chance that one day even Texas might flip they're taking no chances. It's not like they'll ever say, "Oh well," and hand over the keys. Their game is now total and permanent control. I long ago predicted that it would get ugly. Well, it did and it ain't over.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:01 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


Besides all the people looking for suggestions on what to do politically, and those *do* need to be done. (Personally I'm going for a "Democrat 2020" approach.) You might also look at the *many* ways to build alternate versions of the crap dominant society. Small collective efforts are a good place to start. As mentioned in another thread there used be various "countercultures". They need to come back.
posted by aleph at 12:05 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


As I've said before Trump is where the right wing has been going for at least 30 years. I don't think the problem is that he's going to declare himself dictator for life. I think the problem is that when he's gone the forces that put him in office are still there and as strong as ever.
posted by atoxyl at 12:30 PM on January 14 [36 favorites]


Do any of us really think there is any point to moving to a smaller, less powerful country?

By early 2007, towards the almost end of Bush jr and his clutch of warmongering oil hawks, I received a call on a weekend asking me why I had received money in my bank account from foreign parts and what was I planning to do with it. I said, if you'd waited till Monday, you morons, when the bank opened up, which is why I know you're no banker you're pretending to be, I'd have sent it to my college loan - it was a gift from my parents as I moved from a fulltime job in chicago to setting up my own business in San Francisco. A couple of months of this PoC targeting nonsense later, I moved out to a far smaller, much less powerful country (Singapore) and two years after that to an even smaller even less powerful country (Finland). Look up the human development indices for them. I haven't crossed your all powerful immigration checkpoint at the border control of your airports since 2009.
posted by Mrs Potato at 12:30 PM on January 14 [15 favorites]


If you're looking to get out of the states then yes, Aotearoa is a good option, there's a reason all the fucking tech bros are setting up bolt holes here.

From an inside perspective I think of Aotearoa as conservative, racist etc. From a global perspective it tends to be fairly liberal; we just got done with a long period being ruled by our conservative party, they did horrible things, but abided by the rule of law.

If you are going to jump ship to here, I would do it soon. Pacific states are starting to go under the waves and we will be a primary landing ground for the climate refugees. Once that get's going all bets are off in terms of how hard it will be to immigrate.
posted by fido~depravo at 12:36 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


As I've said before Trump is where the right wing has been going for at least 30 years. I don't think the problem is that he's going to declare himself dictator for life. I think the problem is that when he's gone the forces that put him in office are still there and as strong as ever.

The illegal detainment of Americans at the Washington State border after the extralegal assassination of an Iranian has me worried on a deeper level. Not as much the act itself, as the response I see in Seattle media, where commenters make excuses for it or shrug it off as something less sinister than it is.

Even if Trump is just where the right has gone, he has encouraged it to go further much faster — he has normalized unchecked fascism and made it acceptable in public discourse and behavior, whereas in the past, right-wing hate movements were at least marginalized, restricted to militias and nutball separatist or dominionist movements, where there was not a place for their members to participate in normal society.

We have a right-wing domestic terrorist in Washington State called Matt Shea. "Domestic terrorist" is not my phrasing, but that of a bipartisan investigative committee that looked into his actions. And Republicans in this state are still debating whether to remove him from office, or not, despite being a terrorist. They would rather wait to let the terrorist be voted out of office, and allow him to continue in his legislative role, rather than protect the public from him. Examples like Shea highlight the very real danger that America is in.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:29 PM on January 14 [17 favorites]


I get the "jump ship" discussion, it's nice to think about possible things.

But save for a very lucky few, I don't think any of us will have anywhere to go. These flames will consume us all. Might as well go down fighting.
posted by elkevelvet at 1:35 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


"Barr is in a position to create a future without consequences though."

I'm not trying to derail or troll or 'whatabout' - as the fact is Barr is complicit and responsible for his own actions.

But if you want to talk about the lack of consequences - the real moment for us to send that signal? A certain President Obama washed his hands of the past, and did nothing with regard to justice for the previous administrations torture and war crimes, because "expediency" is more important than morality.

Well here's our expediency.

Expediated right to a Mitch McConnell (who if there were a hell, should be sent there forthwith by the good lord himself) who expediated a blocking of every possible attempt.

I judge myself quite harshly for my failures. Some reasonable judgement, some not. IN the end I am complicit and culpable.

But let us not deceive ourself that merely voting for (D)'s will solve the problem. We still have 2 D's willing to go along with the Trumpism when it suits their political chances just recently, for example. What good is a big tent part of that tent is enabling the very forces you are trying to rid yourself of?

I feel hopeless. I have been involved (to too small a degree, but more than most) of the meatmaking in some of the more radical anti-fascist spaces (but not directly within Antifa, mind - but I knew some folks more directly involved and worked in similar circles).

Why am I hopeless? Because we are very very good at fighting against ourselves.

We are seeing *some* splintering and division within the Repubs when we see people like Amash speaking up loudly and strongly against Trump and Gaetz getting some ire even though he is certainly no radical. Meanwhile "Nevertrumpers" bend over backwards to help the one they said were "never" (Looking at you, Graham et al). Or "moderates" like Susan Collins.

How do we work towards encouraging such factionalism and splintering on that side where we fail to police our own factionalism. The Religious Reich have clearly shown they are more than willing to overlook any moral sin so long as "their side" wins. And what have they suffered for that belief? Nothing. They keep winning.

They win not by being sensible and moderate, but by being ever more pugnacious and repugnant to those with a good strong moral sensibility.

Meanwhile "our" side keeps giving us John Kerry and Hillary Clinton (Triangulations ahoy!). We can't ever have any authenticity or rage on our side, we need to constantly march quietly and never make a fuss. WE are not allowed to be angry, except to laugh in irony at a John Stewart joke. Or we DO get angry, but online. Or against those on our sides. But when it comes to action? Resistance and coherence and unity? Where is it?

But further?

The organization and structures of our systems right now are fundamentally stacked against, the more populous the populous states become, the weaker they get, and as long as one house of congress is beholding to this a very tiny minority of the total amount of represenation have the power to derail any fundamental change. Add in sly and devious operators with no moral qualms for using that power for their own gain and we now have generations of control handed over to them.

Make no mistake. The presidency alone will not be enough. The Senate is a necessity, and... Does anyone have hope there will be a chance to regain it?

Look at the Supreme Court... We are absolutely fucked.

But the moral stance must be to continue, like Sisyphus, rolling that boulder of love and compassion against the endless forces of hate, acting like gravity, holding us down.

That's all we can do. At least we must try.
posted by symbioid at 1:54 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


My god when James Dobson is more upset about the word Damn in a corporate commercial than bragging about sexual assault and locking children up you have NO moral voice in my opinion and anyone who buys into this bullshit needs to just admit they are pawns of Satan.
posted by symbioid at 1:55 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


Is New Zealand generally liberal? Relatively safe?

Yes, and Jacinda Ardern is one of the most progressive world leaders we currently have. New Zealand has a lot of the same problems Australia has - e.g. it is presently on fire - but it also has the benefit of not (yet) being completely controlled by Murdoch, and is planning to do some definitely great stuff like planting a billion trees, and some potentially great stuff like signing up with One Belt One Road.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:56 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


having trouble listening to this. is the interview strangely edited? so many of ms. ben-ghiat's statements are incomplete or seem to be pasted together from disparate recordings, often seeming to break mid-sentence, that it seems almost incoherent. sounds like devega made up questions to lead to edited collages of ben-ghiat statement put together from different recordings, rather than asking questions and receiving answers as in an interview.
posted by 20 year lurk at 1:58 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Yes, yes, I know, stay and fight,... I commend those who can follow through on them. Many don't have that ability, and if they can get out....

The less powerful you are, the harder it is to change countries, unless you already have roots somewhere else. If emigrating is a realistic option for you, then you probably aren't under-resourced.
posted by amtho at 2:04 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Also, Postcards to Voters. I have an anxiety disorder that makes phone calls and texts really stressful for me, never mind canvassing (though I've done all of those things, too) but I can write 5-10 postcards a night all year long. PtV has done studies that show their efforts are roughly comparable to canvassing in terms of affecting voter turnout.

I have also worked on postcarding directly with campaigns. My metro councilor won by a landslide against a Trumpian candidate, for example, and I think the 1,000 postcards I sent in the month prior to the election helped.

I also set up monthly events (eg) to get others out and writing to help spread the effort and build community. It's a big effort for me and I'm always exhausted afterwards, but it also helps me so much to know others who are fighting.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:04 PM on January 14 [20 favorites]


The less powerful you are, the harder it is to change countries, unless you already have roots somewhere else. If emigrating is a realistic option for you, then you probably aren't under-resourced.

Yes it is definitely the case that having the resources to leave the country means you have the resources to survive the state pointing its capacity to do violence at a class you belong to.
posted by PMdixon at 2:06 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


If emigrating is a realistic option for you, then you probably aren't under-resourced.

Emigrating is only a realistic option for us because of roots somewhere else. Regardless, shaming people for wanting to flee potential persecution is a bad look.
posted by Gaz Errant at 2:13 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Although, all the migrants risking death by drowning trying to leave their authoritarian countries on the African continent have neither power nor resources.
posted by Mrs Potato at 2:21 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Lurk, I hear you. I made some of those points above and then retracted them. But you have to separate the form from the content. The form was really messy, but it was just a podcast after all. And a transcript, which yay!

But a transcript can only do so much to clean up narrative and logical lapses in a freeform discussion. If this were an essay or a proper interview, it's quite a mess. But it's just a podcast after all and you kinda have to cut it some slack for that.

The important point is that fascism has gotten much more than its nose under our tent. I wish that point had been made in a more coherent way, but it is what it is.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:23 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Examples like Shea highlight the very real danger that America is in.

Examples like Shea (in office since 2009) are sort of what I'm getting at, though. Framing things in terms of Trump 2020 as the big pivot point is I think not actually taking the underlying analysis of an ascendant right wing seriously enough.
posted by atoxyl at 2:34 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Framing things in terms of Trump 2020 as the big pivot point is I think not actually taking the underlying analysis of an ascendant right wing seriously enough.

Or more accurately I just think it undermines the larger and more important point that it is not a matter of moments but of movements.
posted by atoxyl at 2:43 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


It seems to me like the most effective thing I can do is move away, and stop giving my tax money to this corrupt government. I'm sure there's a flaw* in this thinking, but it's where I'm at after reading this article and thinking about the future (specifically if he gets re-elected in November).

I don't know how much money you make, but if it's over like around $100K, you'll have to pay federal income tax even if you live abroad. And you still have to file, regardless. If you don't want to pay taxes, you'll have to renounce your citizenship, and that doesn't come cheap, either.
posted by Automocar at 2:45 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I've read a bunch of books about the rise of the Nazis and I'm very apprehensive about what could happen if Trump wins. (I mean, he literally used to keep a book of Hitler speeches by his bed.)

My only solace is that I will probably outlive him (I'm 55 and don't believe exercising diminishes your lifetime supply of energy), but I'm not sure I'll outlive what he brought.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:10 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


@automocar this was a good conversation
posted by growabrain at 3:14 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


ivanthenotsoterrible I can see encouraging random people you meet to register to vote, but is there some reason to think they'll be more likely to vote for the Democrat?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:28 PM on January 14


Ctrl+F "child imprisonment" no results
Ctrl+F "John Brown" no results
Ctrl+F "Harper's Ferry" no results

Getting Dems elected is good. But if that doesn't happen we should probably look to history for some alternatives.

The last thing I want is bloodshed, but the fact that this comment will probably be deleted is what makes me the most anxious. At some point we might to have to find alternative ways to stand up to Trump and Company. We need to be able to talk about that.
posted by nushustu at 3:50 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


(Those alternatives may very well be the only way to avert what's coming, but discussing them here in anything beyond the vaguest of terms puts the site at risk unfortunately.)
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 3:58 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Won't be able to fully catch up on the conversation until after work, but posting now in case it's helpful. The Gaslit Nation Action Guide has lot of practical and concrete suggestions for ways we can try to turn around the dire straits we find ourselves in.

Their podcast got me to door-knock for a carbon tax initiative in my state. The initiative failed, but I don't regret the time I spent working on it. Doing something still felt better than watching things get worse and feeling helpless to prevent that.
posted by FallibleHuman at 4:08 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


I would also encourage anyone looking for inspiration to check out March, an autobiographical graphic novel written by congressman John Lewis, relating his participation in the civil rights movement.

There's a lot more to that story than I ever learned in school, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what I learned from those books as I watch what's happening in the country today.
posted by FallibleHuman at 4:17 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


George Saunders, discussing our inability to see it coming (2012):
When something really bad is going on in a culture, the average guy doesn’t see it. He can’t. He’s average. And is surrounded by and immersed in the cant and discourse of the status quo. The average person in the U.S., in, say, 1820, assumed white superiority, and, if he happened to be against slavery, was for a gradual solution, which probably involved sending all the slaves back to Africa, notwithstanding the fact that most of them had never been there and were Americans in every respect. And this would be the nice, moderate, urbane, educated person of that time, who fancied himself “progressive.” Likewise, even Klemperer, a Jew who would end up losing everything to the Nazis, didn’t seem to see it coming. He would note things about Hitler and the Nazis very peripherally in his diary, but his main focus was on the minutiae of his life—his wife was being difficult, he’d hit the fence with the car, he was having panic attacks, etc. etc. (Whenever his colleagues or his neighbors took something away from him because he was a Jew, they would always explain it to him à la “Those dopes in Berlin are making us do this,” and he would accept this gracefully—“I know, I know it’s not you, it’s Berlin.”) Also, interestingly, he was a professor who wrote about French literature, often from the perspective of “the French personality.” So even the idea that there was some sort of Jewish personality—i.e., an innate national or ethnic personality—seemed O.K. to him. I’m guessing that when the Nazis started talking about “Jewish tendencies” he objected to the mischaracterization of those “tendencies” but not necessarily to the idea that a “race” had “tendencies.”
New Yorker
posted by mecran01 at 5:08 PM on January 14 [19 favorites]


and shoot, maybe electoral politics will actually work this time. it worked in 2018,

If the USA falls to the totalitarians in November, it is all over for the rest of us too, and the historically brief era of democracy, and the chance for a half decent life it offers the average human, will be over, and will almost certainly never be coming back.

Greed, lunacy, deceit, and thuggery will have won, and forever.

Moving to New Zealand/Ireland/Finland/wherever, sure as shit ain't gonna save anybody. At best it will buy a little time.

It is all going to come down to Dem voter turn out.

So turn out, you complacent fuckers, in vast numbers, like you have never turned out before, and make damn sure your vote counts. Especially in the swing states.

And then do it again next election.

AND. EVERY. SINGLE. ELECTION. FOR. THE. REST. OF. YOUR. LIFE.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
Plato
posted by Pouteria at 6:46 PM on January 14 [21 favorites]


The illegal detainment of Americans at the Washington State border after the extralegal assassination of an Iranian has me worried on a deeper level. Not as much the act itself, as the response I see in Seattle media, where commenters make excuses for it or shrug it off as something less sinister than it is.

Perhaps they are shrugging it off because they’ve been paying attention and they realized that a couple weeks ago wasn’t the first time it’s happened.

My naturalized US Citizen but born in Lebanon bro-in-law has been held up at the Mexican/US border more during Democratic administrations than Republican ones. And twice he’s crossed into the US literally the day of, or day after, Israel has bombed the shit of out Beirut. Both times the hold up was multiple hours. What happened in Seattle literally happens all the time.
posted by sideshow at 9:50 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Look guys, those of who are considering leaving aren't saying we won't fight. I will, wherever I am.

And yes I am super financially privileged to be able to even consider leaving, but that doesn't make my queer-as-fuck partly-Jewish family any safer here.

Buying myself and my partners--and especially my daughter--more time to fight freely is not giving in.
posted by mkuhnell at 8:17 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


> It is all going to come down to Dem voter turn out.

i mean yes and also the right isn't particularly committed to democracy (electoral and otherwise) so it's not just about the ballot box but also about just in general becoming the sort of place where democracy is possible and meaningful.

and i think agitation from both inside and outside the united states is necessary and worthwhile. one, because international agitation can help bring dictators down (for example, pinochet), but also because — not to get all hokey or old-fashioned or whatever — our ultimate goal must not be just saving america for liberalism. our ultimate goal must be bringing about international socialism.

> One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
Plato


well but also plato hated democracy so much. more than anything. he hated democracy more than he hated, like, poets and playwrights. plato was all "democracy, ew, democracy killed my intellectual daddy, go away democracy."
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:53 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Point taken about Plato. IIRC, Socrates was equally appalled by the idea of democracy.

That said, Plato's point applies independent of the system of government.

You still have to pay close attention to what is going on in the halls of power, even if you are not politically active in any conventional sense. Mere survival demands it.
posted by Pouteria at 4:52 PM on January 15


"If you don't want to pay taxes, you'll have to renounce your citizenship, and that doesn't come cheap, either."

Source? Tax Withholding is a known tactic. I did it in 1998 to protest the Bombing of Sarajevo, and even included a nice little circle-A art with a spiel about "fuck your wars" (hey i was young and headstrong!).

No taxman came for me.

Did I ultimately cave? Of course, I'm a chickenshit in the end, but I let them not get my money for almost a year. Is it a moral choice? Moral as not buying chic-fil-a or shopping walmart or amazon. Will it do anything for actually bringing it down? Not on an individual level.

And that's where we get to the crux of what resistance means, and how we go about it, and what are we willing to tolerate. I've failed that test. Because I'm safe, secure and don't want to jeopardize my own safety and that's how they destroy us.
posted by symbioid at 4:54 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


well but also plato hated democracy so much. more than anything. he hated democracy more than he hated, like, poets and playwrights. plato was all "democracy, ew, democracy killed my intellectual daddy, go away democracy."

I choose to believe he disliked populism, which is a result that appeals to the majority on a single issue, but which never represents all other concerns to everyone else involved. It's the reason why we need a system that votes for more than one candidate at a time, to winnow out single-issue populists.
posted by Brian B. at 7:20 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


i mean choose to believe what you want to believe, but plato hated democracy, full stop. he thought that the proper society was one run by a rigorously educated aristocratic class.

there were very few supporters of democracy among the greek philosophers whose works have come down to us — i think if you want to find someone who supports democracy, you got to look at the sophists rather than at people following on the socrates-plato-aristotle lineage.

(well also diogenes the cynic can be thought of as sort of a proto-anarchist)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:42 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


there were very few supporters of democracy among the greek philosophers whose works have come down to us

Plato's future ideal was also communistic, which he knew to be aristocratic and class dependent. Primitive democracy had local limits, and if the Allegory of the Cave is any guide, it was viewed as culture-dependent and something to beware or escape from, with nobody to protect us from those hating the perceived bad influences among us. Same as today really, but where modern notions of general equality, rights, constitutions and a legal class were largely missing from their conceptions and were developed in Rome. Chalk it up to the invention of paper and historical literacy.
posted by Brian B. at 9:46 AM on January 16


For a 'takeover' to work the local DAs and Courts have to opt to not enforce the State and Federal Constitutions.

And while people talk and talk about how electing this or that representive will do whatever at the end of the day the local court system is where those laws get enforced. And people point out how one group or the other is in a choke hold. Yet the system of opression is, in part, enforced with the gavel.

Yet so few are willing to court watch and then file grievances or even criminal charges VS the judges and DAs when they violate their duties. Go court watch. Notice how the Deputy and even the Judge will ask who you are and what you are doing. Get a group of you and the Judge will make an off-hand comment on how it is rare to have people in the gallery.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:27 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Chip, chip...

U.S. deports Iranian student despite ACLU efforts to block his removal
Boston-based U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs halted Abadi's removal on Monday for 48 hours after an emergency petition filed by the ACLU. The DHS official said Abadi already had boarded a flight to leave the United States at that point.

Carol Rose, executive director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, argued in a statement on Tuesday that border authorities could have stopped the removal, but "defied a federal court order and deported Shahab without due process."

Whether CBP officials could have retrieved Abadi from the flight on Monday evening remained unclear.

A second Boston-based federal judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns, said during a hearing on Tuesday that the challenge to Abadi's detention was moot since he had been removed from the country, according to the ACLU and the DHS official.
posted by non canadian guy at 3:03 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


My naturalized US Citizen but born in Lebanon bro-in-law has been held up at the Mexican/US border more during Democratic administrations than Republican ones. And twice he’s crossed into the US literally the day of, or day after, Israel has bombed the shit of out Beirut. Both times the hold up was multiple hours. What happened in Seattle literally happens all the time.

First off, it didn't happen in Seattle, but about a three-hour drive north of Seattle.

Second, this doesn't apparently happen all the time, and Iranian-Americans were targeted, according to a border guard brave enough to be a whistleblower:

The officer, who said he personally interrogated nine U.S. citizens, wrote bluntly about how he saw things.

“Was there an Immigration reason for detaining them? No. Was there a Customs reason for detaining them? No. Was the sole reason we detained and questioned them due to their national origin? Yes. Was it the right thing to do? No.”

posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:19 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Blaine lawyer: CBP memo appears to order border stops of Iranian Americans, others from Middle East

A Blaine immigration lawyer said Thursday he has obtained what appears to be a photocopied memo from the Seattle Field Office of Customs and Border Protection directing officers to vet Iranian and Lebanese nationals, among others, including people of any nationality who had traveled to Iran or Lebanon.

U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said she was working to verify the authenticity of the memo and has requested an immediate meeting with the Seattle field office director.

Attorney Len Saunders said the memo was left at his office Wednesday in a white, sealed envelope by a man in a hoodie who did not give his name. Saunders said the memo is proof — despite earlier agency denials — of a directive for prolonged stops and questioning of people based on their ethnic heritage over the weekend of Jan. 4. The stops caused an uproar. Most if not all of those stopped — as many as 200 people, according to Jayapal — were American citizens or green card holders.

“Oh my god, this is the smoking gun,” Saunders said of the photocopy dropped off at his office.

CBP spokesperson Jason Givens said the agency “does not comment on leaked documents.”

posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:45 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Commissioner: Officials overzealous in Iranian border stops

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said Tuesday that border officials in Washington state “got a little overzealous” when they detained Iranian and Iranian-American travelers at the U.S.-Canada border last month.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:37 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Trump’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of kids are bullied in classrooms (Perry Stein, John Woodrow Cox and Hannah Natanson; WaPo)
Since Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the way he delivers them.

Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim, according to the analysis. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period.

Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found that Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped. Even without the huge total from November 2016, an average of nearly two incidents per school week have been publicly reported over the past four years. Still, because so much of the bullying never appears in the news, The Post’s figure represents a small fraction of the actual total. It also doesn’t include the thousands of slurs, swastikas and racial epithets that aren’t directly linked to Trump but that the president’s detractors argue his behavior has exacerbated.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:47 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


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