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What's the matter with US politics?

One of the front runners in the race to become president of the US uses personal attacks, not logic or plans to bolster his position, but emotional appeals.  It's obviously the Donald who is using his skills honed as a reality TV show actor (Reminds me of another President and a few governors who started as actors.) Some have claimed that he is untruthful about 70% of the time (contradicts himself even) and slanders people the rest of the time. He has proposed few concrete plans, except those that would bankrupt the country or siphon off more money to the existing rich and powerful.  He panders to a set of disenfranchised constituents so that they can pour their blame on to the other: the immigrant, the government, anyone except who is really responsible. How would you assign the blame? And how would you fix it?

Donald's technique of calling people names is the classic propaganda technique of scapegoating or dehumanization. See Scott Adam's evaluation.  This isn't by accident but by design. It seems like a New York or maybe construction industry state of mind. Apparently it is acceptable to lie in a negotiation, the other side should expect it. And it's frightening to think that he might win. Many others have used these same techniques to win elections elsewhere. Here's a short list of what Umberto Eco wrote in 1995 about Fascism, which allows a small group or a single man to change a democracy into a one party state. Umberto grew up in Italy during the rise of Mussolini.  I think Umberto knows what he speaks of. So does Donald.

The best hope is that Donald is confusing the roar of the arena crowd for the will of the voters.
See if Umberto's description rings any bells...

1. The first feature of Fascism is the cult of tradition. As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning.
2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. It is mainly concerned with the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Fascism.
4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. For Fascism, disagreement is treason.
5. Disagreement is a sign of diversity. Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Fascism is racist by definition.
6. Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.
7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one.
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
9. For Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare.
10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism.
11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
13. Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view—one follows the decisions of the majority. For Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the interpreter. Because of its qualitative populism Fascism must be against “rotten” parliamentary governments.
14. Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in 1984, as the official language of Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.

Donald seems to have learned all these lessons very well.

He's learned to exploit them. Can the US public withstand the siren song of Donald?
It's the easy way out, if you don't understand what's going on.
Can we take the hard way out? The way that requires us to figure out what is wrong and fix it rather than just blaming the other?
Can the US do real intellectual work? Being a racist is so much easier and very seductive.
I hope a majority of the voting electorate can avoid this.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading.
-Dr. Mike







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