January 3, 2017

Crisis: Noam Chomsky, Wall Street Editor, Washington Post, Tyranny, Neofascism
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Noam Chomsky on Trump
2. Revealing: Wall St. Journal Editor Explains His Hesitation to
     Use the Word 'Lie' When It Comes to Trump

WPost’s New ‘Fake News’ on Russian ‘Hack’
The 15 Warnings Signs of Impending Tyranny
5. Preparing for the Normalization of a Neofascist White House

This is a Nederlog of January 3, 2017. And first of all, because I've said I would say so: To my considerable relief, yesterday afternoon, after some 36 hours of waiting, at long last my two sites turned to 2017.

And this is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 links: Item 1 is about an interview or a speech that Chomsky gave on December 5 (especially about environmental catastrophe and nuclear war); item 2 is about the strange contortions of the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, who does not seem to believe in the concept of lying if the liar is his president; item 3 is about the Washington Post and its fake news; item 4 is about 15 signs of tyranny that Robert Reich sees in Donald Trump; and item 5 is about how the neofascist Trump (I agree!) is being normalized (which is mostly inevitable, I think, at least until he is impeached).

1. Noam Chomsky on Trump

first item is an interview by Amy Goodman with Noam Chomsky:
This is the introduction:
On December 5, over 2,300 people packed into the historic Riverside Church here in Manhattan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Democracy Now! Speakers included Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, institute professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We now face [what] are the most severe [threats] that have ever arisen in human history. They are literal threats to survival: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe. These are very urgent concerns," Chomsky said. "They cannot be delayed. They became more urgent on November 8th, for the reasons you know and that I mentioned. They have to be faced directly, and soon, if the human experiment is not to prove to be a disastrous failure."
Yes, I quite agree. And while the environmental catastrophe will unfold itself in the next thirty to fifty years, and is unfolding itself now and indeed since 2000 or before, the nuclear threat is extremely serious in the coming four years, in which a megalomaniac madman has been elected as the most powerful man on earth.

Next, I will select and comment three bits, but I start with saying that these are selections from a lot more text (that seems to have been given in the form of a speech - and no: I didn't see it, for I read much faster than people speak).

The first bit is about Chomsky's own experiences with fascism and nazism:
NOAM CHOMSKY: For the young people among you, a special word: You’ll be facing problems that have never arisen in the 200,000 years of human history—hard, demanding problems. It’s a burden that you can’t ignore. And we’ll all—you, in particular, and all the rest of us—will have to be in there struggling hard to save the human species from a pretty grim fate.

Well, my wife and I happened to be in Europe on November 8th, that fateful day, in fact, in Barcelona, where we watched the results come in. Now, that had special personal resonance for me. The first article I wrote, or at least that I can remember, was in February 1939 at the—it was about the fall of Barcelona to Franco’s fascist forces. And the article, which I’m sure it was not very memorable, was about the apparently inexorable spread of fascism over Europe and maybe the whole world. I’m old enough to have been able to listen to Hitler’s speeches, the Nuremberg rallies, not understanding the words, but the tone and the reaction of the crowd was enough to leave indelible memories. And watching those results come in did arouse some pretty unpleasant memories, along with what is happening in Europe now, which, in many ways, is pretty frightening, as well.

All I say to that is: Yes indeed (it is "in many ways, is pretty frightening"). And here is Chomsky on the two major threats to humankind's continued existence that he distinguished:
And at this point, the two major threats to survival begin to converge. One is environmental catastrophe. The other is nuclear war, another threat that is increasing right before our eyes. India and Pakistan are nuclear states, nuclear—states with nuclear weapons. They were already almost at war. Any kind of real war would immediately turn into a nuclear war. That might happen very easily over water—over struggles over diminishing water supplies. A nuclear war would not only devastate the region, but might actually be terminal for the species, if indeed it leads to nuclear winter and global famine, as many scientists predict. So, the threats of survival—to survival converge right there, and we’re going to see much more like it. Meanwhile, the United States is leading the way to disaster, while the world looks to China for leadership. It’s an incredible, astounding picture, and indeed only one piece of a much larger picture.
I agree. Here is the final bit I selected (from a lot more), on corporate wealth and corporate ownership:
Corporate wealth, of course, is nationally based, supported by taxpayers like us, but the ownership has nothing to do with us. Corporate ownership, if you look at that, it turns out that in virtually every economic sector—manufacturing, finance, services, retail and others—U.S. corporations are well in the lead in ownership of the global economy. And overall, their ownership is close to 50 percent of the total. That’s roughly the proportion of U.S. national wealth in 1945, which tells you something about the nature of the world in which we live. Of course, that’s not for the benefit of American citizens, but of those who own and manage these private—publicly supported and private, quasi-totalitarian systems. If you look at the military dimension, of course, the U.S. is supreme. Nobody is even close.
Again I agree. I have two small additions:

First, from 1945 onwards, the USA has been the strongest military force in the world.

And second, I think it makes sense to distinguish those who suffer from those who profit from American capitalism (that is very rapidly turning into neofascism, and not only because of Trump, but also because of Bush Jr., Obama, Clinton and Reagan):

It turns out - according to the latest statistics [1] - that is quite fairly 90:10, that is: 90 percent of the Americans earn and own the same or (mostly) less than they have earned and owned since 1980, and 10 percent of the Americans earn and own more than they did since 1980 (and often a very great lot more, and especially billionaires).

I think the last proportion will probably be more or less constant (as long as the USA is capitalistic): 10% grow richer, at the cost of the 90% who grow poorer.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Revealing: Wall St. Journal Editor Explains His Hesitation to Use the Word 'Lie' When It Comes to Trump

second item is by Alexandra Rosenmann on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Much like he did with the New York Times and the Washington Post, President-elect Donald Trump targeted the Wall Street Journal on the campaign trail.

"I'm not a believer of the Wall Street Journal, I think it's a piece of garbage, it's going to lose a fortune, don't work," Trump said last February at a rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

"Don't worry, it'll be out of business like all the rest of them very soon," Trump asserted.

The most frightening thing here is that Trump seems to be quite serious that he doesn't want any criticism of his megalomaniac person or cabinet, and will try to shut up all critics and shut down all their magazines and papers.

That will be a neofascistic totalitarianism. I think myself that Trump is quite serious about this, and would much like to have it, but I don't know yet to what extent he will succeed (and much will depend on the judges and the judicial institutions in the USA).

Next, Gerard Baker is the strong, individual, ethical, scientific, realistic light that currently guides the Wall Street Journal as editor-in-chief - except that he appears to be none of these things:

Yet Baker is still hesitant to call out Trump's lies. “I’d be careful using the word ‘lie’,” Baker told Todd. “Lie implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

Baker would prefer to investigate Trump's outlandish claims, giving the example of Trump's lie regarding "thousands" of American Muslims being seen celebrating 9/11. Otherwise, he feels the publication risks its objectivity.

“I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied,” Baker said. “I think you run the risk that you look like you are — like you’re not being objective.”

In fact, from a strictly logical point of view, Baker is more right than he knows, for logically speaking one also may lie while speaking the truth. In fact, here is the first part of the item on lies in my Philosophical Dictionary:

Lie: Conscious assertion of what the speaker knows he does not believe.

Note that it is not required that a lie is a false statement: What is required is that its speaker considers it one, but states it as if it is true.

Most human lying is in fact done by the conscious non-saying of truths one does know but rather does not give voice to in public, whether from cowardice or self-interest. A large part of public lying - as in the tale of the emperor's clothes - is collective collaborative public non-saying of things, that may indeed be motivated by justified self-interest, as in dictatorships, or common politeness, but also by conformist egoism.

Clearly - or so it seems - this is beyond the level of intellectual sophistication of the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal.

This - in turn - may be beyond your beliefs (and indeed mine) but then you should consider the extent of his sophistication from this bit - after more than a year of Trump's lies, pardon me, falsehoods, pardon me: fantasies conceived by the megalomanic brain of Trump, that Trump considers truths, and that the incredibly sophisticated or else not at all courageous brain of Gerard Baker now seems to accept:

“I think if you start ascribing a moral intent, as it were, to someone by saying that they’ve lied,” Baker said. “I think you run the risk that you look like you are — like you’re not being objective.”

You see, if you (as the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal) see someone who is hunting for the presidency of the United States and whose statements are said to be not true in around 70% of the cases (of his many statements that were checked) then you (as the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal) conclude - strong, individual, ethical, scientific, realistic as you are - that this man is not lying (while 7 out of 10 of his checked statements are utterly false).

Presumably (I must guess for I don't know) what Mr Baker means to say is that
(i) somebody who tries to be voted in as the most powerful person on earth cannot possibly be accused of having "
a moral intent" ("as it were"), while (ii) that man is in fact speaking the truth while around 70% of his statements are false, which means that (iii) this man is an utterly insane fantasist (who is so insane that he believes his own fantasies).

As I said: I am trying to make sense in the previous paragraph of Mr. Baker's sayings. Do I believe Mr Baker? Not really, for one of his problems is that the Wall Street Journal wrote - among other things - the following about Trump in the days they believed he was not going to be the next president:

"Imagine a Sane Donald Trump," read one Wall Street Journal  headline two weeks before the election, followed by the question: "You know he’s a nut. What if he weren’t?"

PolitiFact rates 69% of Trump’s public statements as mostly false and just 4% as true.

I agree (as a psychologist) that Trump is not sane, simply because a sane man would not have uttered so many - falsehoods, no: not according to Mr Baker, truths, no: not according to Mr Baker - fantasies that Trump himself genuinely believed, that is, according to Mr. Baker (who seems to believe presidential candidates cannot possibly lie, as soon as they are elected).

This seems the best reconstruction of Mr Baker's ideas about Trump - he is a mad fantasist who believes his own fantasies - but I don't know whether he would agree.

And this is a recommended article.

3. WPost’s New ‘Fake News’ on Russian ‘Hack’

third item is by Annie Machon (<-Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews
This starts as follows (after a brief bit in which Annie Machon says she is not considering the present "Russo-phobic hysteria"):

Instead, I am dipping back into history – the old Watergate scandal – when Richard Nixon’s “plumbers” stole information the old-fashioned way; they broke into the DNC offices, rifled the files and planted listening devices. On June 17, 1972, when police captured five burglars inside the DNC offices at the Watergate building in Washington, the case slowly unfolded over the next two years until President Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, and was replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford who declared “our long national nightmare is over.”

During those two years, The Washington Post became internationally and justifiably famous for breaking the story about Nixon’s role in the Watergate cover-up and – since then – generations of cub reporters have dreamed of being the next Woodward and Bernstein. Besides leading to the downfall of the mendacious and paranoid Nixon, the scandal contributed to the reining in of an out-of-control intelligence establishment culminating in the Church Committee hearings of 1975.

Yes indeed, I agree (and I can recall these days in the early Seventies, for I was then in my early 20ies). Also, the reference to the Church Committee (<- Wikipedia) is quite good, indeed in part because of the following quote from the late Frank Church, which I have given quite a few times before, but which I give again because it is very good:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

Also, I think Frank Church's nightmare now has been more than realized:

The NSA now knows everything about anybody who lives anywhere (with internet)  and knows all he or she does and said and thought and wanted and wrote on their sites: "no [one] [has] any privacy left [for that is] the capability to monitor everything" that the NSA now has and is secretly using on all inhabitants on earth who are connected to internet, and in fact since 2001.

Also, I think myself that the last bit of Church's warning has been more than realized:

I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

That is were we are (also all non-Americans), and because I know how incredibly much power the Gestapo and the KGB had, and because I know the powers of the NSA are far stronger and extremely much more better informed than were the Gestapo and the KGB, I think we have crossed "the abyss from which there is no return".

The one qualification I have to the last statement is: "unless the system collapses economically" - which I think is quite likely (see especially here), but I do not know when. (And this will also be accompanied by very much human suffering and many human deaths, but then there may be a real choice whether the very few secret state's terrorists can be trusted with knowing everying - in secret - about everyone. I think that saying "Yes" amounts to embracing neofascism and the state's terrorists [2].)

Here we have arrived at considering the present Washington Post (which in my opinion only has the name in common with The Washington Post of the early Seventies):

But – regarding The Washington Post – how the mighty have fallen. Over the past couple of months, the Post has blown what was left of its journalistic reputation out of the water.

First it unblushingly reported the PropOrNot “blacklist” of “fake news” Internet sites that were allegedly working at the Kremlin’s command to swing the U.S. election to Donald Trump, except that the list encompassed many of the most reputable independent (i.e., not U.S. corporate-owned) English-language international news sites (including Threatened with angry writs from some of the sites, the paper quickly printed a disclaimer distancing itself from the anonymous people behind PropOrNot, but still not apologizing for the McCarthyistic smear.

Yes indeed - and I fear the same thing will happen again, and again, and again under Trump, who then is president of the USA.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article, that is about the new owner of the Washington Post:

Bezos is also, since 2013, the proud owner of The Washington Post, a purchase that heralded his unexpected business swerve into the old mainstream media. The deal to buy the newspaper was reported in the business press to have cost him $250 million.

Interestingly in the same year Amazon cut a deal to develop a cloud-based service for the CIA – a deal worth a reported $600 million over ten years. It also appears that this service has expanded across all 17 of America’s intelligence agencies, so who can tell what it might be worth to Amazon now and in the future?

The $250 million this cost Bezos were in fact less than 0.5 % of his total riches (of $60 billons). And as I have indicate before: I think he is a major neofascistic creep, and indeed his services to the CIA and "all 17 of America’s intelligence agencies" is for me one reason (among quite a few more) to completely avoid Amazon.

4. The 15 Warnings Signs of Impending Tyranny

fourth item is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts with:

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

and it ends with:

Consider yourself warned.

Inbetween are 15 things that all do apply to Donald Trump. I leave them all to your interests (and they are interesting), but I think that - right now, at least - Trump is less of a tyrant [3] than of an aspiring dictator [4], and that whether he will be a real (effective, very dangerous) dictator or something less will depend on the strenghts of the American institutions.

Two considerations to keep in mind are that Trump was elected with the smallest number of votes, and that 60 million (Trump voters) : 320 million (Americans) is less than 1 in 5.

5. Preparing for the Normalization of a Neofascist White House

fifth and last item is by Juan Cole on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

It is 2017, and shortly the White House will be inhabited by an unscrupulous, corrupt narcissist who has shamelessly mobilized the Neo-Nazi fringe of the Republican Party to get into power.

Despite all the cries of ‘no’ to normalization on the left, Trump will be normalized by the same corporate media that virtually boycotted Bernie Sanders. He will be respectfully called “the president” and his wishes and goals will be praised on cable news, and not just on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Fake News. He’ll flash a smile and be friendly and anchors will treat him like a buddy (despite his having threatened their colleagues with bodily harm at his rallies and despite his having pledged to weaken the first amendment and sue reporters for libel). Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal is already pledging never to call Trump out when he is obviously lying. Since Trump is, like Dick Nixon, a pathological liar, this is like pledging not to cover his presidency.

I agree with the first paragraph, but I do have two precisifications:

First - and I am talking psychology now, and see here and here - Trump is indeed "an unscrupulous, corrupt narcissist", but narcissists (<- Wikipedia) (aka megalomaniacs, which I think is in fact the better term, in English) are not sane. And since I am a psychologist, and since I agree that Trump is a narcissist, I think it is high time to draw the additional conclusion, that indeed anybody intelligent would draw if the subject was not Trump himself: A man who talks and acts like Trump does is not sane. And should not be president of the USA.

And second, I think it also is quite clear that Trump not only "mobilized the Neo-Nazi fringe of the Republican Party": He simply is a neofascist as I defined them (and I took considerable care on that definition, and indeed wrote it before knowing about Trump).

As to the second paragraph: Trump has been elected the president, so I do not mind calling him "the president", and I also do not think that amounts to "normalizing" him. But the point about the Washington Post - see also item 2 - is correct, and shows that the Washington Post now is a major and conscious source of lies (except that their editor probably thinks of them as fantasies).

Then there is this:

Americans who don’t go along to get along are branded traitors by fresh-faced young Neo-Nazis who have infiltrated our supposedly democratic institutions and engage in blackballing and smearing.

Just in the past week we have been treated to a number of classic fascist themes by the PEOTUS and his team.

As to the first paragraph: I think I agree (but I don't live in the USA), although I do not know what Cole means by "Neo-Nazis" (he gave no definition of any kind) and anyway I very probably prefer my own definition of "neofascism" for them, indeed in part also because I think Trump is less of Nazi (mostly because he doesn't have the military style of the Nazis).

The second paragraph refers back to points made by Umberto Eco, that are both decent and correct, although I should point out - and see my "On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions" from October 28, last - that in fact Eco did not study the classical fascisms of Spain, Italy and Germany, because he was concerned with "the modern form" of fascism.

Then there is this on Trump's English and on his narcissism:

And of course the very medium in which these irrational statements are delivered, a tortured English with impossible syntax making sweeping assertions that the truth can never be arrived at, is Newspeak of the fascist variety.

With his typical narcissism, Trump maintained that he “knows things about hacking” that others do not and will reveal them in a few days. The narcissism feeds into the fascism, since he is the great leader who should be trusted above other sources of information, even when it is obvious, as it usually is, that he does not have the slightest idea what he is talking about.
Hm. I don't think Trump's language - which I agree is mostly false and lying, and which I agree is very often neofascistic, very simplistic, and extremely repetitive - is a kind of Newspeak (<- Wikipedia). (And yes, I do know what newspeak [5] is, and I've read Orwell's "Nineteen Eightyfour" and his Collected Essays. That is also why I say no.)

Also, while I agree Trump is a
narcissist (and for that reason is not sane) and while I think Trump also is a neofascist (but not quite a fascist, as I defined them) I think that the connection between his narcissism and his neofascism is mostly accidental: He might very well have been the one without being the other.

Here is the ending:
Trump will be normalized. All the rest of us can do is simply keep in mind that he is a fascist, and to continue to point to his record on fascism, from hatred of Mexicans and African-Americans and Muslim Americans to his contempt for women to his pledge to carpet bomb Iraq and Syria to his threat to imprison his chief political opponent. (...) This is the real thing, folks. We are Italy, 31 October, 1922. Bad things are about to happen.

Again, I think it is less true that Trump is a fascist and more true that he is a neofascist, though I grant I am supposing my own definitions. Also, I do not think that "We are Italy, 31 October, 1922" though I agree it is extremely likely that many things that I regard as bad will happen: This is 2017 and Trump is a neofascist rather than a fascist.

Finally, about the normalization: It will happen and Trump is president. But one is or should not be forced to like or admire any president, while I happen to think (not gladly, indeed) that it is true that the new president of the USA is an extremely dangerous mad neofascist (who certainly does not think he is mad: he merely thinks He Is The Greatest In Everything That Matters (and you must be mad or bad for not admiring him)).



[1] Here I have to excuse myself: I have seen them but forgot to copy them.

[2] In case you worry about my "the state's terrorists": See my terrorism lemma in  my Philosophical Dictionary: There are two kinds of terrorists, namely (i) those who work for some state (as secret service men, policemen, military) and (ii) those who do not work for a state. Both use violence and murder against civilians, but historically the state's terrorists (such as the Gestapo or the KGB) were much more dangerous and made many more victims than the non-state terrorists, mostly because they were the servants of strong and dictatorial states.

[3] For here is the beginning of the Wikipedia lemma Tyrant  (quoted without note numbers):

A tyrant (Greek τύραννος, tyrannos), in its modern English usage, is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution, or one who has usurped legitimate sovereignty. Often described as a cruel character, a tyrant defends his position by oppressive means, tending to control almost everything in the state.
Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as "one who rules without law, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others". It is defined further in the Encyclopédie as a[n] usurper of sovereign power who makes his subjects the victims of his passions and unjust desires, which he substitutes for laws.

[4] And this is the beginning of the Wikipedia lemma Dictator:

A dictator is a ruler who wields absolute power. A state ruled by a dictator is called a dictatorship. The word originated as the title of a magistrate in the Roman Republic appointed by the Senate to rule the republic in times of emergency (see Roman dictator and justitium).
In modern usage, the term "dictator" is generally used to describe a leader who holds and/or abuses an extraordinary amount of personal power, especially the power to make laws without effective restraint by a legislative assembly.
The term "dictator" is comparable to – but not synonymous with – the ancient concept of a tyrant (..)

[5] Finally, here is the beginning of the Wikipedia lemma Newspeak:

Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state Oceania as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, and peace. Any form of thought alternative to the party’s construct is classified as "thoughtcrime".

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