January 14, 2018

Crisis: "Fire and Fury" *3, Progress for Merkel, Challenging Trump's Language


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 14, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, January 14, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from January 14, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. The Age of Fire and Fury
2. Why I Hate Michael Wolff's New Trump Book
3. 'Fire and Fury': Juicy Intrigue or Sobering Portrait of an Erratic White

4. Progress for Merkel In Search for a Government
5. Challenging Trump's Language of Fascism
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Age of Fire and Fury

This article is by Susanne Beyer on Spiegel International. It starts as follows - and I have left out the illustration (you can find it on Spiegel's site), while the first three reviews of today are about Wolff's "Fire and Fury":
"Fire and Fury" is the title of the new exposť of Donald Trump's first year in the White House. The tome has only been out for a few days, and yet it has already established itself as one of the books of the year. Even we journalists find ourselves describing the book's contents as "indescribable" and "unfathomable." Can the world's most powerful man really be dumb, senile and addicted to television as the book claims? He spends his early evenings watching three televisions in his bedroom? Eating a cheeseburger and tweeting all the while? An entire White House teetering between hysteria and chaos? And yet, it's still the journalist's job to describe the indescribable and fathom the unfathomable.
I say. And I do so because - while I like the article because of the next part - I do not think that "it's still the journalist's job to describe the indescribable and fathom the unfathomable". In fact, that is quite impossible as stated, for it states two contradictions.

But the next part is fairly interesting, because it indicates Spiegel International's - Susanne Beyer is Deputy Editor-in-chief - assessment of Donald Trump and his government, and the assessment is far from optimistic, as is indeed my own:
Our latest cover story explains how "Fire and Fury" came to be and whether, and the extent to which, it approaches the truth. Most importantly, however, it delves into the consequences for an America and a world that have been confronted with a nuclear-armed fool who is likely to remain in office for some time to come, who is neither mentally nor psychologically suited for the job - apparently also not physically, either, given how late he starts the working day and how early he ends it. That, unfortunately, is precisely the point: Humanity as a whole is being set back just because of one single person. The achievements of decades - the fight against a climate disaster, against the nuclear threat, for equality between men and women, between blacks and whites and so on and so on. Where is the world supposed to start again if it manages to survive Donald Trump?
And I quite agree with this characterization: The present president of the US is "a nuclear-armed fool who is likely to remain in office for some time to come, who is neither mentally nor psychologically suited for the job".

Quite so, and this is a recommended article. There is more of "Fire and Fury" in the next article.

2. Why I Hate Michael Wolff's New Trump Book

This article is by William Rivers Pitt on Truth-out. It starts as follows:

Along with a significant segment of the planet, I downloaded Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff's ubiquitous new tell-all book, the first morning it was available. I expected to love it, for no other reason than its very existence motivated Trump into a paroxysm of cease-and-desist threats and looming defamation suits. How is that not fun all by itself?

I plowed through it, highlighting passages like a college kid working a thesis … then it was over, and there I was, just absolutely hating it. I felt dull, dirty and mean in its wake. It was as if the slime contained in the pages had slithered under my fingernails and into my bloodstream. I felt polluted. I felt like lice. I felt like the president of the United States.

I did not download "Fire and Fury" (and indeed do not pay by computer, except for a few regular bills) and never will, but it does seem to be an important book, and in fact William Pitt agrees:

Don't get me wrong, it's a fine read in the main. While Wolff's reporting in the book has taken a number of justified hits for being sloppy with the details, the essence of what he describes has been confirmed time and again by other reporters pursuing other stories. Since the very first day of this administration, Donald Trump and his people have approached their duties like kids dropping bricks off a highway overpass, and that sort of behavior leaves a very visible mark.

And I agree with this, basically because it agrees with many other assessments of Trump and his government that I have read, while it also seems Pitt is correct in saying that Michael Wolff is a bit "sloppy with the details".

Here is more:

This is how it is, and due respect to the author, anyone who has been paying attention didn't learn much of anything new from Wolff's book. The stories I'd never heard before were only depressing, not revelatory.

In fact, this is one of my reasons not even to try to download the book: I spent a lot of attention in Nederlog during the past two years on Trump and indeed expect my self therefore not to learn much news from Wolff's book.

Here is more on Pitt's assessment that was quoted in the beginning of this review:

Still, Fire and Fury is a storyboard of the putrid place we occupy in history, for everything that has gone sideways and down, for what we have become as a nation. It is a collection of terrible people doing terrible things for terrible reasons. It broke my heart to read it, and I didn't think politics could do that to me anymore.

I say. My heart has not been broken by Trump (and I am 67, meanwhile) but I have been and am disgusted. Here is some more:

I hated reading it because it not only encapsulates the reality TV show our government has become, it expands upon it and in many ways, feeds it. Although there is merit to the book's publication, we should remember while reading it that there is no President Trump without the corporate news media's lavish assistance throughout the 2016 campaign. Candidate Trump was great TV; President Trump is even better. Throw a juicy scandal book onto the pyre and the ratings pop like a knot in the bark.

Yes indeed: Pitt is quite right in saying that "there is no President Trump without the corporate news media's lavish assistance throughout the 2016 campaign". He would very probably not have been chosen without the lavish and free assistance of the mainstream media.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

I don't like Donald Trump. The Wolff book doesn't like Donald Trump. I was predisposed to enjoy it, and I did, because it is a peek at a wreck, and if some of the facts have a case of the wobbles, it's still difficult to look away.

I suppose I more or less agree with this, and this is a recommended article.

3. 'Fire and Fury': Juicy Intrigue or Sobering Portrait of an Erratic White House?

This article is by Carlos Lozada on Truthdig. It is another review of "Fire and Fury" and it starts as follows:

Dishy political books such as Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” are typically assailed for centering on palace machinations at the expense of policy substance, for privileging White House turf battles over meaningful debates about national challenges. In keeping with that tradition, the pages of Wolff’s book are littered with insults and intrigue, backstabbing and dysfunction.

In this case, however, such focus seems sadly appropriate. If there is one thing we’ve learned during the first year of the Trump presidency—something that “Fire and Fury” affirms—it is that in this White House, the intrigue is the thing; substance is almost incidental, while policy is often just a weapon wielded in the service of careerism, vanity, personal advantage and brand management. The president himself appears driven by insecurity, ego, and a constant fear of ridicule and failure more than by any ideological conviction.
Yes indeed - and the second quoted paragraph also is quite close to the judgements of psychologists and psychiatrists, that are summarized here and here. (Both are from 2016.)

Here is some more on the incompetence that is part of Trump's government:
Establishing policy priorities has not been, well, a priority for this White House. “The president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations,” Wolff writes, “had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy, nor a team that could reasonably unite behind him.” Senior staffers proposed conflicting ideas that might enhance their own power bases; rather than flowing down from the president, policy bubbled up somewhat randomly.
And there is this on the style and content of "Fire and Fury", that fairly well accords with the previous review:
Wolff’s prose is lively and entertaining—“Fire and Fury” is at times a riveting read—but the author has something of a mixed reputation as a faithful chronicler of reality.
There is also this:
Some of the juiciest tidbits in “Fire and Fury” are also among the pettiest, with Wolff listing pejoratives that various associates and staffers have supposedly leveled toward the president (not to his face, of course). McMaster called him a “dope.” Priebus, an “idiot.” Rupert Murdoch upgraded that to “f—ing idiot,” while economic adviser Gary Cohn went with “dumb as s—.”
Actually, I do not think these are among the pettiest tidbits, precisely because the people mentioned did know Trump personally and did closely collaborate with him. And in fact few people know Trump in these two respects, while the mental capacities of the most powerful man on earth certainly are quite relevant: a mistake of his, and human civilization may be gone.

Here is more on Trump's mental capacity from the ending:

The president’s mental capacity has become a subject of public debate, and in this book Wolff suggests Trump’s faculties are deteriorating. He describes the president as “semiliterate,” unable to conduct a meaningful one-on-one exchange with another person and prone to awkward repetitions in speech. Wolff is not a mental health professional, and his concerns seem to mix temperamental and cognitive fitness. But if it is true, as he reports, that people close to Trump are seriously questioning whether the president has “the wherewithal to adequately function in his job,” that becomes a matter of national concern, especially when the self-proclaimed “very stable genius” in the White House is bragging about his big, powerful nuclear button.
Yes, I entirely agree and this is a recommended article.
4. Progress for Merkel In Search for a Government

This article is by Florian Gathmann on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

Not surprisingly, relief was the dominant emotion. And that proved rather helpful as the trio of party heads finally stepped up to the podium at the headquarters of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Berlin at 11 a.m. on Friday, intent as they were on playing down the arduousness of the overnight negotiations that had just ended.

It was a grueling night for Christian Democratic Union (CDU) head Angela Merkel, Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer and SPD chair Martin Schulz. Indeed, it seemed at times as though it would never end. The talks, aimed at determining whether there was sufficient agreement among the three parties to begin formal coalition negotiations, had begun 24 hours earlier on Thursday morning. Some of those involved in the talks ultimately spent more than 26 hours at SPD headquarters.
This article is reviewed here because Germany is important in the European Union; because it is Sunday (in fact a very early morning for me); and because these political negotiations between several parties to form a government are quite common in Europe, though not in the USA, basically because in Europe there are traditionally more than two political parties that draw a good part of the votes (and often quite a few more), unlike in the USA.

Here is the outcome of the negotations (a compromise between "the conservatives" and "the socialists" - I put both names in quotes because they are both correct and a bit misleading):

But from the perspectives of the politicians involved, the marathon was ultimately worth it. Merkel called the 28-page document a "paper of give and take, as it should be." Seehofer, who leads the CDU's Bavarian sister party, said he was "extremely satisfied." And Schulz, who hosted the talks, even went so far as to speak of an "outstanding result." Germany still doesn't have a government -- the talks that concluded on Friday morning were merely to determine if a coalition was possible -- but the three party heads made it sound like most of the hurdles had been cleared.

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.

5. Challenging Trump's Language of Fascism

This article is by Henry A. Giroux on Truth-out and originally on News Analysis. It starts as follows:

George Orwell warns us in his dystopian novel 1984 that authoritarianism begins with language. Words now operate as "Newspeak," in which language is twisted in order to deceive, seduce and undermine the ability of people to think critically and freely. As authoritarianism gains in strength, the formative cultures that give rise to dissent become more embattled along with the public spaces and institutions that make conscious critical thought possible.

Words that speak to the truth, reveal injustices and provide informed critical analysis begin to disappear, making it all the more difficult, if not dangerous, to hold dominant power accountable. Notions of virtue, honor, respect and compassion are policed, and those who advocate them are punished.

I think it is fair to argue that Orwell's nightmare vision of the future is no longer fiction. Under the regime of Donald Trump, the Ministry of Truth has become the Ministry of "Fake News," and the language of "Newspeak" has multiple platforms and has morphed into a giant disimagination machinery of propaganda, violence, bigotry, hatred and war.

I believe I do not like Henry Giroux, but my reasons are probably quite personal: I have met something like 25 years of supposedly "social democratic", or "socialist" or "Marxist" "academic intellectuals" who all talked big in the Marxist and Postmodernist "University" of Amsterdam between 1977 and 2005 - which in fact was given to the students between 1971 and 1995, in all of Holland, which also introduced extremely much "Leftish" academic posturing there, and elsewhere in Holland during these years - and most of these Dutchmen were paid a whole lot for everything they did and everything they published, all of which was, at best, partially true and often misleading.

And while I do not know that Giroux is of the same kind as the very many academic liars that I met in Holland, I do know that he reminds me a lot of them, which is why I normally skip Giroux's contributions.

In fact, the present article - which is too long to properly review in Nederlog, for which reason I only quote form the beginning - supports my judgements: it is not so much the language which
has been or is being changed, as it is the totalitarianism in the rightist ideology that has been changed a lot (but I grant this - perfectly logical - inference of mine is incompatible with the sick redefinition of "totalitarianism" that was very recently added to Wikipedia).

Here is more on Giroux's take:

With the advent of the Trump presidency, language is undergoing a shift in the United States: It now treats dissent, critical media and scientific evidence as a species of "fake news." The administration also views the critical media as the "enemy of the American people." In fact, Trump has repeated this view of the press so often that almost a third of Americans believe it and support government-imposed restrictions on the media, according to a Poynter survey. Language has become unmoored from critical reason, informed debate and the weight of scientific evidence, and is now being reconfigured within new relations of power tied to pageantry, political theater and a deep-seated anti-intellectualism, increasingly shaped by the widespread banality of celebrity culture, the celebration of ignorance over intelligence, a culture of rancid consumerism, and a corporate-controlled media that revels in commodification, spectacles of violence, the spirit of unchecked self-interest and a "survival of the fittest" ethos.

It is not "language" which takes a shift: it are always people who make these changes, and more specifically people's ideology. And one of the problems with Giroux's prose this intellectual has is that it piles up no less than eleven or twelve different specifications of what it is supposed to mean if "[l]anguage has become unmoored from critical reason, informed debate and the weight of scientific evidence" (from "increasingly shaped" onwards).

Besides, it is not so much language that is being changed, as people's thoughts, and besides Giroux totally does not mention the fact that those who are being deceived by these changes in their ideologies also tend to be the most stupid and/or the most ignorant:

Under such circumstances, language has been emptied of substantive meaning and functions increasingly to lull large swaths of the American public into acquiescence, if not a willingness to accommodate and support a rancid "populism" and galloping authoritarianism. The language of civic literacy and democracy has given way to the language of saviors, decline, bigotry and hatred. One consequence is that matters of moral and political responsibility disappear, injustices proliferate and language functions as a tool of state repression. The Ministry of "Fake News" works incessantly to set limits on what is thinkable, claiming that reason, standards of evidence, consistency and logic no longer serve the truth, because the latter are crooked ideological devices used by enemies of the state. "Thought crimes" are now labeled as "fake news."

As Giroux has put it, it is (bolding added) "language has been emptied of substantive meaning and functions", while for me it is mostly an increase in totalitarianism - and indeed there is no "Ministry of "Fake News"" that "works incessantly to set limits on what is thinkable" and that claims "that reason, standards of evidence, consistency and logic no longer serve the truth": These are - as yet - simply not true and are exaggerations.

But I stop here
and leave the rest to your interests.


[1]I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!). 

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