Archive | August 27th, 2020

Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange

by PAUL STREET


The American ruling class says it is opposed to “big government.” It isn’t. The wealthy Few are only against what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “the left hand of the state” – those parts of government that reflect the victories of past and ongoing social movements by serving the common good, regulating Big Business, and offering support, protection, inclusion and empowerment to the lower and working classes. That is the “big government” the rich and powerful don’t like. That is the big bad State they want to “starve” and “drown.”

Things are different when it comes to “the right hand of the state”– the parts of government that advance and preserve the upward concentration of wealth and power and discipline the non-privileged Many and popular movements for justice and democracy. The bourgeoisie and their many servants, allies, and agents love that kind of big State. Big government corporate subsidies, tax breaks, financial bailouts, military contracts, de-regulation, and privatization deals are peachy keen with the rich and powerful.

Ask a Wall Street CEO if his fear of “big government” prevents him from receiving a giant, profit-preserving bailout check from the U.S. Treasury while millions of Americans line up at food pantries. Ask a major investor in a cost-plus “defense” firm if he worries over “big government” encroachment lead him call for the slashing of the giant Pentagon budget, which eats up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending.

Ask a Chicago real estate developer granted millions of dollars robbed from city social services by local “tax increment financing” if he minds big city government feeding his coffers.

And ask One-Percenters how much sleep they lose over America’s giant, globally unmatched racist mass incarceration system (cruel “home” to nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners even as the U.S. contains roughly 5% of humanity), which ruins millions of lives while capitalist parasites go free for epic crimes including the deliberate destruction of livable ecology.

A Vicious Circle

The urban social justice movement to “defund the police” advances the overdue demand for a shift of metropolitan resources from the right to the left hand of the state. America’s Black metropolitan population has been plagued by a vicious combination: savage deindustrialization, de facto housing and educational apartheid, relentless government-subsidized gentrification, and the rise of a pervasive racist police and prison state. The nation’s disproportionately poor urban and inner-ring suburban Black residents have been dealing with metropolitan blue fascism (“blue” referring here to police uniforms and to the party-in-power in nearly every U.S. city) since long before the American political system elevated the orange fascist Trump into the White House.

For at least half a century now, the main response of American capitalist-imperialist-white-supremacist government to the Black urban crisis (which predates both neoliberalism and deindustrialization) has been a “racially disparate” mass arrest and imprisonment regime so oppressive that one in three Black boys can now expect to be locked up in their adult lives. Prison histories and the crippling lifelong stigma of a felony record (what Michelle Alexander powerfully if somewhat inaccurately called “the new Jim Crow”) have become practically normative facts of life for young Black men in “the land of liberty.” Negative and all too-commonly fatal encounters with abusive police officers are routine parts of Black experience.

This toxic mix concentrates poverty, joblessness, stress, ill-health, and crime in demonized communities whose tragic violence is chronically paraded on the nightly “urban nightmare” news. The real institutional, social, and historical offenders –class rule and racial oppression – are never part of the story, though the news teams are racially diverse (which helps make the underlying causes more invisible).

Racist mass arrest and incarceration has a viciously circular way of reinforcing itself. The more public revenues are directed into right-handed government repression, the fewer resources are left for left-handed social protection and uplift. The less social protection and uplift, the more drugs, violence, guns, gang activity, and crime in Black communities. The more Black Americans are saddled with criminal records, the less able they are to obtain remunerative jobs, garner financial assistance, access education, obtain health care, stay out of illegal activities, and participate in stable families. The more that Black communities are destabilized by mass incarceration, the more that inner-city and inner-ring suburban chaos is available for the media to exploit to advance more racist “law and order” repression.

Call it a Caucasian class-rule Catch-22. The racist right hand of the state feeds on itself, providing its own self-fulfilling pretexts in the name of the very “public safety” it ironically works to undermine.

The more the left hand of the state shrinks, the more government bat(on)s from the right side of home(land) plate.

Meanwhile the neofascist National Rifle Association helps arm the bloodshed of the ghettoes by making sure that the “armed madhouse” that is America is flooded by guns, including military-style assault weapons

What the People Need vs. What They Get

All of this was terrible enough before COVID-19. Then came “the Trump Virus” (give the imperialist Nancy Pelosi her due for coming up with that one). The pandemic has put racial oppression on super-steroids. It has wreaked special havoc in Black communities thanks to a number of factors built into America’s insidiously racialized and savagely unequal capitalist state: widespread pre-existing health “co-morbidities” (diabetes, hypertension high blood pressure, grocery deserts, heart disease, malnutrition and more) resulting from ongoing race-class oppression; Black workers’ disproportionate concentration in jobs eliminated and/or made lethal by COVID-19; overcrowded living conditions (a challenge to social distancing); the non- and under-insured status of many Black Americans; the weak presence of health care services in poor and nonwhite communities; Blacks’ wildly disproportionate presence in jails and prisons that function as petri dishes for the virus; the race-class digital divide, which makes if difficult and often impossible for millions of Black Americans to work or study from home.

To the surprise of nobody who is familiar with the many-sided desolation of inner-city and suburban ghettoes, the virus and the recession or depression it triggered has escalated so-called Black-on-Black violence in the nation’s most “truly disadvantaged” communities.

The nation’s race-class ghettoes need a “Marshall Plan” influx of teachers, nurses, doctors, dentists, counselors, day care workers, affordable housing, sanitation services, mental health services, addiction treatment centers, computers, Internet resources, full-service grocery stores, and much more. What they get instead is cold, right-handed repression from a corporate and imperial state that pretends to have conceded to the demand for racial justice by letting “Black Lives Matter” be painted on to the National Basketball Association’s Disneyland court and permitting the NBA’s mostly Black players to wear one of 29 “officially approved social justice messages” – an oxymoronic phrase! – on their jerseys this summer:

The NBA-permitted list includes the following phrases: “Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.” Not on the list: Black Power, Power to the People, No Justice No Peace, Our Streets, Revolution, Defund the Police, Nothing to Lose But Our Chains, Fight the Rich Not Their Wars, Rent Strike, General Strike. )

As COVID-19 ravages Black, Latinx, and Indigenous America, what poor Black Americans get instead of “justice,” “equality,” “respect,” “love,” “freedom,” “liberation,” and “equality” is Glock-brandishing cops, rotting schools occupied by menacing gendarmes; giant racist holding pens and coronavirus-spreading centers like Cook County Jail, and regular trips to and from rural prisons (“downstate” in Illinois, “upstate” in New York and Michigan). What they get is a racial justice and policing crisis that is intimately interrelated with a racist public health crisis epitomized by the glaring and despicable refusal of urban America’s mostly white police officers to wear face masks as they crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters. Along the way, metropolitan budgets and policies continue to be tilted towards the mostly white wealthy and affluent in ways other than but intimately related to racist policing and incarceration.

If not for the savage murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, something else would have set off the demand to “defund the police,” which is really a call to shift public resources from right-handed racist repression to left handed and anti- or at least non-racist social protection and uplift.

Orange, Red, Black, and Blue: American Fascism is Bipartisan

Darkly enough, the virus-heightened violence in the ghettoes has combined with the social justice protests that arose after the Floyd lynching to provide the Klansman’s son Trump with supposed pretexts for trying to double down on the triumph of the right over the left hand of the state. Trump claims that he is sending federal paramilitary agents to Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and other cities to end the violence in the ghettoes. That is nonsense. The virulent racist Trump has no problem with people killing each other in the ghettoes created and sustained by the systemic racism whose existence he and his administration ritually deny. What Orange King Covid really wants is to please his Amerikaner base by looking like a “strong leader” who is smacking demonized urban and nonwhite Others and humiliating commonly nonwhite (and often female) big city “liberal” and “radical Left” (fascists like to call corporate centrists leftists) Democratic mayors.

With his fellow Richard Nixon fan Roger Stone (out of prison thanks to a recent presidential commutation) whispering in his ear, the big Orange Archie Bunker is trying to make white-terrorizing campaign hay out of the phrase “de-fund the police.” Let police budgets atrophy, Trump says, and a howling mob of inner-city Black and brown rapists and murderers will overrun and even “abolish” white Americans’ “beautiful” suburbs. The ads are not subtle. They sell racist white fear of You Know Who in no uncertain terms.

Racialized appeals to “law and order” are a critical part of the fascist political playbook. So is rural and suburban fear of supposedly dangerous multicultural and cosmopolitan, crime-ridden cities.

Never mind that Black people are being gentrified out of cities and into increasingly nonwhite and impoverished suburbs by big city governments that heap giant tax breaks and other subsidies on real estate developers who make urban communities unaffordable to working- and lower-class people.

Is Donald Trump, who calls Black Lives Matter protesters “terrorists” and threatens them with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons,” a fascist, as numerous liberal commentators are now claiming to have discovered? You betchya. But let’s not pretend that fascism is new in the American experience. Enforced by Democrats who became ardent Franklin Roosevelt New Dealers and anti-Hitler World War II supporters in the 1930s and 1940s, the Jim Crow South was a vast region-wide fascist terror regime that ran from the last third of the 19th Century up to the last third of the last century. And let’s not pretend we are dealing only with a Republican, rural, exurban, and Red State malady when we talk about American fascism. The bright blue (Democratic) cities have long had their own version of the disease. The neoliberal victory of the right over the left hand of the state is a richly bipartisan affair. It proceeded apace under the militantly state-capitalist, imperialist, and objectively white-supremacist presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Metropolitan budgets that prioritize developer tax breaks, corporate subsidies, privatization deals, and racist police state mass arrest and incarceration over social uplift and justice are overseen by pro-Big Business Democratic Party mayors like Lori Lightfoot (Chicago), Bill DeBlasio (New York City), Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles), Jim Kenney (Philadelphia), London Breed (San Francisco), Keisha Lance Bottoms (Atlanta) and others from coast to coast.

The so-called left wing of the American two-party system is right-handed as Hell. On this and so many other matters, the two reigning U.S. political organizations function very much as Upton Sinclair said they did 116 years ago: “two wings of the same bird of prey.”

Racist Joe

That’s something to keep in mind as we approach an election in which the Democrats’ answer to the demented orange president is the ridiculous right-wing clown Joe Biden. Yes, faux-populist corporate Joe “Pool Chain” Biden, who says he would veto Medicare for All (supported by seven in ten Americans) if it came to his desk as president. Joe Biden, a man who says he has “no empathy, give me a break” for the economic and environmental plight of Millennials in the savagely unequal and eco-cidal world he helped create over decades of abjectly corporatist, imperialist, and racist “public service.” Joe Biden, who helped craft and lead the charge for the racist Three Strikes “crime” (mass incarceration) bill and who says that Black parents don’t know how to raise their children (but “record players” do). Joe “Defender of the Status Quo” Biden, who justifies his past alliance with Jim Crow terrorists in the U.S. Senate by saying they “never called me boy,” who praised candidate Obama for being “clean and articulate,” and who brags that he once prepared to take a rusty pool chain upside the head of a Black tough named “Corn Pop.” Joe Biden, who says that the Latinx community, unlike Black America, is “diverse.” Joe, Biden who worried that desegregation efforts would make his children “grow up in a racial jungle” and once bragged as a presidential candidate that his home state of Delaware sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Yes, that Joe Biden. Thanks, Obama.

Orange Loves Blue

Federal orange fascism recently had a poignant little lovefest with metropolitan Blue fascism. The white nationalist U.S. Attorney General William Barr saw some white “Back the Blue” rally holders outside a suburban Virginia police precinct and told his limo driver to stop and let him out last week. Barr went into the rally and shook hands. The “Back the Blue” people told them they loved him. He said he loved them back. Justice Department press secretary Kerri Kupec posted video of the drop-by, and the Fairfax County Republican Party tweeted out an image from the touching get-together. Cops love Trump, Trump loves cops. Barr loves Blue Lives Matter activists and they love Barr. Orange loves blue, blue loves orange.

Speaking of which, just what are the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA, and ATF agents that Barr sent to work under the name of “Operation Legend” to Kansas City, Chicago, Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland up to with their friends in blue in those cities? “Operation Legend,” Trump’s Justice Department says, “is a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime.” Please notice that four out of those six cities are in contested (“swing” or “purple”) states where Trump and the Republican Party have a strong interest in suppressing the Black and minority vote. The only exceptions are Kansas City (in bright red Missouri) and Chicago (in bright blue Illinois). The latter city that has been in Trump’s racist and fascist crosshairs for years, which makes it an irresistible target for him even if he little to no chance of stealing Illinois in the 2020 election. It is highly unlike that the federal homeland deployment is unrelated to Trump’s clear ambition of becoming America’s fascist strongman for life.

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Americans Scorned

by RICHARD C. GROSS

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Trump administration orders shortening census taking by a month and slowing the activities of the United States Postal Service that may impact mail-in balloting have a common denominator: both scorn the American people.

In both cases, Donald Trump, a rogue president, doesn’t want voters counted, either their ballots or their persons, especially if they’re Blacks, Latinos or undocumented immigrants. Democrats and civil rights leaders are fighting both changes, which have been implemented.

He’s stiffing us, just as he did the World Health Organization when he refused to pay dues owed in the middle of a pandemic? Who does that?

The typical outrageous Trumpian objective against both of these stalwart institutions is to try to enhance Republican electoral victories by short-circuiting mail-in votes for Democrats and, through the census, undercounting the number of people by cutting a month off census-taking. That, in turn, would affect the amount of federal dollars apportioned to each state.

The census also affects the drawing of statewide legislative districts. Undercounting in heavily Democratic urban areas, where most minorities live, could mean a power shift to rural spaces, home to more Republicans. If a political party has difficulty winning at the polls, there are other ways to secure victory.

An opinion piece in Friday’s Atlantic said Trump plans a three-pronged attack on the election: “Slowing mail delivery, then urging Republican state legislators to deem Election Day ‘failed’ because of the many uncounted votes, and finally denouncing as illegitimate all vote-counting that continues after Election Day – even as slowly delivered mail-in ballots keep arriving.”

Remedy: “State legislatures should act now to show just how futile this strategy would be for Trump,” wrote Lawrence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law emeritus, Harvard Law School; Joshua A. Geltzer, executive director, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection; and Jennifer Taub, law professor, Western New England University School of Law.

But monkeying with the census, which is taken every 10 years, may be unconstitutional because it was mandated under Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. The first census was taken in August, 1790, 16 months after George Washington’s inauguration.

The order stipulates the census taking should stop Sept. 30, a month earlier than planned. It originally was to end July 31, but was extended to Oct. 31 because of complications caused by the pandemic. About 63 percent of an estimated 121 million households have responded to the census, Huffpost said.

Eric Holder, the attorney general during the Obama administration who now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, told Politico last week the directed change to the census taking violates the Constitution.

“This latest scheme is nothing more than a partisan attempt at manipulating the census to benefit the president’s allies, but it plainly violates the U.S. Constitution and federal laws and cannot stand,” he said.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, wrote:

“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to sabotage the 2020 census so that it reflects an inaccurate and less diverse portrait of America. Its latest effort involves quietly compressing the census timeline to all but guarantee a massive undercount.”

Trump, judged a racist, tried in 2019 to add a citizenship question to the census form but the Supreme Court blocked the move. The bid was an attempt to find and deport illegal immigrants, of course.

Another Trump game, but played in the same insidious league that aims to undermine the election, is the ordered reorganization of the Postal Service and the slowdown in mail deliveries as a result of eliminating overtime for carriers. Overtime is required to ensure that all mail on any given day winds up at its address. There’s already a backlog.

In addition, instead of fighting in Congress to give the USPS enough money to do its job properly, the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally, proved his worth to the president after only eight weeks in the position by overhauling the service, reassigning or displacing 23 executives. The move gives DeJoy more power.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, (D-Va), who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the USPS, termed the reorganization “a deliberate sabotage” of the mail system and a “Trojan Horse,” the Postsaid.

That traitorous horse, a Pony Express of a darker objective, would be certain to stampede in the direction of obstructing postal delivery to eventually affect the mailing of election ballots, slowing their arrival at the counting tables.

DeJoy has said the reorganization of the money losing USPS is intended to make it more efficient. The service said it lost $2.2 billion from April through June.

Trump has been bashing mail-in voting for months, totally ignoring the potential spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 if people line up to vote. States are planning to use the mail as an alternative to people handing in their ballots at polling booths. Another complication is those booths likely will be short-staffed because the elderly poll workers who usually man those places likely will stay away for fear of contracting the disease.

The deadly virus has killed more than 158,000 Americans and infected more than 5 million.

“The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it,” Trump tweeted July 26. He has made more than 70 attacks against mail balloting since March, the Post said.

“There is no evidence that voting by mail results in significant fraud,” the Brennan Center for Justice has said. “As with in-person voting the threat is infinitesimally small.”

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RNC Gave Prime Time to Vigilantes. The Next Day a Gunman Shot BLM Protesters.

an armed man stands with a bunch of other armed men at a gas station
An armed vigilante stands near protesters during the third day of protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020.

BYMark BrayTruthout

The opening night of this week’s Republican National Convention (RNC) prominently featured a speech by Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the wealthy white couple who illegally brandished firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis, Missouri.

Then, just one day after the McCloskeys’ RNC speech, a white gunman killed two people and injured a third at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Police have arrested Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Illinois resident, for first-degree murder. The alleged gunman’s suspected ties to militia groups have not yet been established, but he is reported to be a former police cadet and his social media included “Blue Lives Matter” propaganda.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth has confirmed that militia groups have been patrolling Kenosha streets this week, saying, “They’re like a vigilante group.”

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said, “Last night, with the fans of hate being flamed, you see these militia groups decide to take up arms.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, at least one such group known as the Kenosha Guard had “asked members and followers on Facebook to come downtown and be prepared to defend the city” on Tuesday.

Such militia and right-wing vigilantes seem to agree with the McCloskeys’ call to take up arms against the “radical left.”

By “encouraging anarchy and chaos on our streets,” the McCloskeys argued, “it seems as if the Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.”

Meanwhile, we hear Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and other Republicans saying that cities “run by Democrats” are rampant with “crime, violence and mob rule.” In this context, how can we be surprised if far right militias or similar figures take matters into their own hands with the explicit nod of the GOP? After all, John Antaramian, the mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is a Democrat.

Fascist and far right politics swim in a sea of paradox, especially when in power. Donald Trump Jr.’s comments were particularly indicative of the outward message of the RNC: “We have to be law and order, but that doesn’t mean we don’t call out abuses.” The hypocrisy of such claims is fully evident in the veneration of the actions of the McCloskeys, which brought felony charges. But the duplicity of the RNC message runs deeper than that. We can see it when we examine the alleged root causes of this need to return society to an orderly state.

Speaking at the RNC, Fox News personality and Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle alleged that — rather than listen to law-abiding everyday people — the Democrats cater to “cosmopolitan elites” who focus on how they will “be received by the elites in Paris,” as Eric Trump phrased it.

This allegation of allegiance to “global progressives” is right-wing populism 101 and only differs in its overt form from what you’d find on white power websites by leaving out explicitly anti-Semitic nods to “puppet masters” like George Soros. It also dovetails with the growing “QAnon”-inspired conspiracy theory that a group of satanic Democrats and other cosmopolitan elites run the world “while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children,” as Julia Carrie Wong writes.

According to the rhetoric of the RNC, since the Democrats “blame America first” rather than putting “America First” (a slogan with its own fascist history), they want to “invite MS-13 to live next door,” according to the far right Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, and they are “turning a blind eye towards riots and rage,” according to former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, or are even “captive to the radical left” according to Daniel Cameron, attorney general of Kentucky.

The challenge of restoring order and “protect[ing] our families from the vengeful mob,” is “a fight that only my father can win,” according to Eric Trump and legions of MAGA faithful. As the historian of fascism Federico Finchelstein points out, “Trump replaces the [party] platform because, like Hitler, he is seen as incarnating the program.”

Moreover, the increasingly numerous adherents to the QAnon world believe that their fearless leader is covertly battling the satanic “deep state.” Trump claimed that QAnon adherents are simply “people who love our country.” While Trump sometimes claims to respect the law, he also has a track record of encouraging police brutality and sneering at international human rights.The paradoxical call to subvert the law in order to uphold the law is quintessentially fascist.

The message of the RNC — which is chillingly resonant with the upswell of vigilante and militia groups that are patrolling the streets of Kenosha in response to racial justice protests this week — could be summed up in the words of Charlie Kirk, the founder of the far right student organization (with documented links to white supremacists) Turning Point USA: “this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.”

While the explicit formula for staving off an impending “socialist utopia,” as Tim Scott phrased it, is to win the election, the RNC, many Trump supporters, and their far right and fascist fellow travelers are simultaneously engaging in racist rhetoric about the need for a militant defense of “quiet neighborhoods” from mobs of immigrants and “radical leftists,” hellbent on “replacing” America (reminiscent of the Charlottesville chant “Jews will not replace us”).

The paradoxical call to subvert the law in order to uphold the law is quintessentially fascist. It’s a fascistic worldview that is apparent in the police embrace of the logo of the Marvel superhero The Punisher: a strongman unconstrained by the “weak” and “effeminate” limits of bourgeois legalism in his pursuit of transcendent justice.

Like many fascist and far right leaders before him, Trump — who “jokes” about holding on to power beyond his term limit — has come to embody this paradoxical embrace of illegality in the name of legality.

Beside Trump are legions of supporters who are becoming increasingly comfortable with the notion of engaging in vigilante violence to stave off what Matt Gaetz has described as efforts by Black Lives Matter and other leftists to commit “cultural genocide,” and what other white nationalists simply call “white genocide” (Gaetz hired a white nationalist speechwriter).

While we have yet to learn whether the alleged Kenosha gunman was explicitly associated with the upsurge of right-wing militia activity there, his embrace of Blue Lives Matter propaganda suggests that he was likely influenced by the glorification of vigilante violence that is endemic to the far right ecosphere.

Given another recent shooting of BLM protesters in Pennsylvania and the rash of vehicular attacks on BLM protesters in recent months after the fatal attack on Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, it is hard to imagine that the shooting of protesters last night in Kenosha will be the last of its kind.

As struggles against white supremacy and other forms of domination advance in the coming years, we must be vigilant about how far right memes that glorify police violence or fantasize about murdering protesters exist on a continuum with Republican Party rhetoric.

We need look no further than the RNC to see the many links that exist between explicit and implicit endorsements of white supremacy and authoritarianism.

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As RNC Speakers Denounce Protesters, Police Pepper Spray Activists Protesting RNC

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer sprays a protester with pepper spray during a protest against the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 24, 2020.
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer sprays a protester with pepper spray during a protest against the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 24, 2020.

BYElla FasslerTruthout

Each Republican National Convention (RNC) is met with protests and a corresponding police presence. The resistance against the 2020 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, has taken on a particularly anti-racist character, in line with ongoing rebellion following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others in the spring. The RNC protests are happening amid uprisings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and elsewhere in response to the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Protests — largely organized by Charlotte Uprising, a coalition of community members dedicated to ending state violence against Black and marginalized people — began on August 21 and are scheduled to end today. The coalition called on “all freedom fighters” to resist the RNC in Charlotte and “unite against Trump & fascist Amerikkka.”

On Tuesday, the first evening of the RNC, “some people started burning a flag while talking about police violence and generally the theme was Black Lives Matter, protesting cop violence and ‘no RNC in CLT,’” said Luke, an anti-racist and climate activist from North Carolina who, fearing retaliation, prefers to use a pseudonym.

Suddenly, local police bull-rushed protesters with their bicycles while yelling “Move!” It was a chaotic scene full of screaming, captured by several local journalists, as police pepper-sprayed individuals in the face at close range. One officer rolled his bike over an individual who had fallen after being sprayed in the face. As she crawled away, people came to her aid and pulled her up.

“There were a lot of street medics on scene that administered first aid while we reformed our line to stop cops from pushing in more,” Luke said.

Police arrested four protesters, two of whom were transported to the hospital for their injuries.

Of the assault, Charlotte police tweeted: “Demonstrators push bicycle officer off his bike while he attempted to extinguish a fire lit by demonstrators. Two arrests [were] made and pepper spray was deployed.” Charlotte City Councilmember Braxton Winston, pepper-sprayed while protesting at the scene, tweeted back, “This is a lie,” which video evidence appears to support. When The Charlotte Observer asked Winston whether he would file a complaint, he responded, “to who?”

Throughout the demonstrations, Charlotte police deployed pepper spray liberally and weaponized their bicycles in what Luke described as a “moveable wall.” On August 21, an officer fell over their bicycle and latched on to a protester’s shirt in an attempt to drag them to the ground while other officers tackled, shoved and pepper-sprayed others at close range.

On August 22, Charlotte Uprising tweeted that protesters had been pepper-sprayed at least twice that evening. On August 23, police rode their bicycles directly into a crowd of individuals and knocked at least one to the ground.

Police plowed their bicycle into Kristie Puckett Williams, an activist, organizer and Smart Justice manager with the ACLU of North Carolina. “We were walking, chanting, marching, and a car tried to come through and the crowd surrounded the truck. The police yelled ‘Move’ as they pedaled full speed into people and violently piled onto the people they knocked down to arrest them,” she told Truthout.

During the daytime Resist RNC 2020 rally on August 24, police pepper-sprayed a Black man in the face while a local news station was interviewing Charlotte NAACP President Corine Mack nearby.

After witnessing the assault, Mack told the station, “We don’t know the after-effects of the spray; we don’t know the chemicals in the spray. We don’t know if it has been banned by the military. We don’t know what it is. What we do know is it should not be used on the people who live here in the city who are simply exercising their First Amendment rights.”

By the third day of the RNC, according to Puckett Williams, police tactics had become less aggressive. “When police act in particularly egregious ways, the next day they tend to have a lessened response,” Puckett Williams said. “I know that’s because of the media coverage of them running their bikes into people, them pepper-spraying people with very potent pepper spray directly in their faces as they [protesters] were trying to help people out of the street … it has to do with optics.”

At the convention, Republicans drew a clear line in the sand: “We’re gonna back the blue,” Vice President Mike Pence said during his speech. He did not reference Black lives or express compassion for Jacob Blake and his family amid what they are enduring.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said, “Democrats refuse to denounce the mob, and the response to the chaos — defund the police, defund border patrol, and defund our military,” a fact the movement wishes were true. Eric Trump, Chair of Trump Victory Finance Committee Kimberly Guilfoyle and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise made similar statements. Speaker after speaker has denounced Black Lives Matter protesters.

While some Democrats have taken more symbolically sympathetic stances toward protesters, most of them — from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden — have supported increased police funding.

The younger generation, many of whom are more disillusioned than empowered by the upcoming election because of such reactionary stances, have seemingly paid less attention to the RNC than years past — which typically drew thousands of protesters — in favor of building power against structural racism.

“I was there generally to help defend my larger community against police brutality and rising fascism. It’s clear that the Democrats are ignorant to the facts on the ground and at worst complicit in the rising fascist violence from the cops and the GOP,” Luke said. “Riots are the language of the unheard…. When we shout ‘defund the police,’ and Biden has very visibly said that he is for giving the police more money, then what else are we supposed to do?”

Some anti-fascists and anti-racists are choosing to vote for Biden as part of a much broader strategy against fascism, while others do not see Biden as a harm-reduction candidate.

Puckett Williams joined the protests to monitor tactics and equipment used by her local police and to monitor civil liberties violations.

“The police are the gateway to the criminal legal system that is racially disparate in the kind and amount of justice Black, Brown and poor folks receive,” she said. “People are tired of not being safe in their communities despite continued investment in police and incarceration. It’s not working and people are waking up.”

Posted in USA, Human Rights, PoliticsComments Off on As RNC Speakers Denounce Protesters, Police Pepper Spray Activists Protesting RNC

Social Media Sites Pull Trump’s Posts for Violating COVID Misinformation Rules

President Trump puts away his cellphone with Twitter and Facebook logos in background
Trump shared a video of himself falsely alleging that children were “almost immune” to coronavirus.

BYChris WalkerTruthout

Two social media sites took bold action against accounts belonging to President Donald Trump and his presidential election campaign for sharing videos of an interview in which he made false statements about coronavirus.

“Team Trump,” the president’s official campaign Twitter account, was temporarily suspended after it had shared the video of Trump’s comments in a Fox News interview that took place on Wednesday, in which he falsely claimed that children are “almost immune” to the effects of coronavirus, and therefore they should return to school in the fall.

“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease,” Trump falsely asserted on the program. “They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”

Twitter would not allow the account to resume tweeting until Team Trump deleted the post.

The social media company also took action against the president’s Twitter account for sharing Team Trump’s tweet, removing it and replacing the post with a message that said it was in violation of Twitter’s rules regarding the dissemination of false information on COVID-19.

Facebook took similar actions against Trump’s campaign team hours earlier for sharing the same video. Facebook removed the post from the site after they deemed the information within the video as false. It was the first time the company had removed a post from Trump’s campaign for spreading false information.

YouTube also announced it was taking the video down from Trump’s campaign channel for violating the company’s misinformation policies. It left in place, however, the original interview, available on the Fox News YouTube channel.

The Trump campaign responded disapprovingly to the removal of the videos from its social channels. “Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth,” Courtney Parella, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, said.

Though children are less likely to exhibit serious symptoms of COVID-19, they are just as likely to spread the disease as easily as adults. And while kids make up a small fraction of those who have died from coronavirus, dozens of children across the country under the age of 15 have passed away due to complications from the disease, as well as hundreds between the ages of 15 to 24.

One study from JAMA Pediatrics examined the treatment and hospitalization of children in the U.S. who were seen by doctors in the early stages of the pandemic. Of 48 children who were part of the study, 31 percent required hospitalization, with 6.25 percent needing ventilatory support.

Illness in children, the study found, is “far less frequent” that it is in adults, but still possible. Coronavirus “can result in a significant disease burden in children” the study also said.

In short, even though children are less likely to die or require the same amount of care from the disease as adults are, saying they are “almost immune” from coronavirus is a false notion that may give off the wrong impression to parents, particularly those who are supporters of the president, putting their children at risk as a result.

While children’s safety and health are among the main concerns about reopening schools this fall, teachers across the nation are also worried that sending kids back during the pandemic may result in dire outcomes for themselves or their families, too.

A recent NPR/Ipsos poll published this week found that 82 percent of teachers said they were concerned about returning to school this year, and two-thirds said they would prefer to teach remotely. Seventy-seven percent of teachers also said they were worried about how teaching in the classroom would affect their health.

“Educators believe they are viewed as expendable, and they feel forced to choose between their jobs or the health of themselves and their loved ones,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement responding to Trump’s statements.

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Trump Isn’t “Failing” on COVID Testing. He’s Carrying Out a Brutal Plan.

President Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 4, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
President Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on August 4, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

BYWilliam Rivers PittTruthout

The still-potent remnants of a dying hurricane rumbled up from the south on Tuesday night and landed a big wet haymaker on my little corner of the northern woods. Electricity, phones — land and cell — and internet were gone with the crash of falling trees and the howl of a humid wind, and for about 40 hours it was the 19th century around here.

For someone in the RIGHT NOW news biz, this was an unnatural state of affairs, but there was little I could do; I had to drive 25 minutes over broken branches and around closed roads, in fact, to find a signal so I could email my boss and tell her there was little I could do. My deadlines would have to hang fire until the utility workers put Humpty back together again, which they did, and in fine style. That kind of work is an especially hard hustle around here, as most of the power lines run through the woods. Downed lines and bears, o my.

The silence that descended once the storm passed was otherworldly. No braying TV in the corner, no phone beeping alerts for new messages and email, no news input of any kind, and for 40 sweet hours, no new Donald Trump horrors to encompass. For the first time in over five years, I was not getting lashed about in the maelstrom of Trumpian mayhem that my line of work has become. I didn’t know how exhausted and horrified I really was until the screaming stopped, and I was able, finally, to be still.

I saw a few things in that stillness that are probably obvious to others, but when your cerebral cortex is plugged directly into the Niagara Falls of news data that never, ever stops, a big-picture perspective can be elusive.

It has never been clearer to me just how deliberate all of this is. Not COVID-19 itself, but the manner in which Trump and his people have reacted to it. This is many light-years beyond mere incompetence, and even farther beyond anything that resembles cruel indifference. Men like White House adviser Stephen Miller are rolling out their most vivid fascist fantasies as the body count rises, and they are playing Trump like a badly tuned cello to do it.

Take COVID testing and the census, for one example. Aside from masks and social distancing, a rigorous national testing regimen is the only way the country will be able to get a handle on this thing absent an effective vaccine.

It is a week into August, and that national testing regimen still hasn’t come to pass because Donald Trump doesn’t want it to. His gibberish arguments that testing is counterproductive are the stuff of nightmares and very possibly illegal in their official neglect, but behind it all is a simple truth: He does not want testing because he does not want the country to know how sick it is. It is the information he fears most.

This is the same deliberate thinking that has led the Trump administration to trash the census process. As with COVID testing, it is the forthcoming knowledge Trump and his allies fear. They don’t want to know how Black the country really is, how Latinx, how anything but white, how young, how poor. Knowing this would rattle the underpinnings of the white power structure in the U.S., and so that information collection must be thwarted.

The census and COVID testing have failed in spectacular fashion, and neither collapse is due to incompetence or indifference. Both have been wrecked to benefit those in power, to help them stay in power. It is cruel, but it is no accident.

The question as ever with these brigands: cui bono? Who benefits?

This way of being has trickled down to local governments across the country, because if the president does it, so can they. Recently, a student at North Paulding High School, just west of Atlanta, snapped a photo of a hallway in his school packed shoulder-to-shoulder with students. The photo — an appalling example of how COVID safety measures are being ignored in the rush to reopen schools — went viral.

Rather than speak to the conditions captured in the photo, the school administrators threatened the student body. “Anything that’s going on social media that’s negative or alike without permission, photography, that’s video or anything, there will be consequences,” was the announcement at North Paulding High.

Inconvenient data? Make sure it never sees the light of day, even if you have to twist some arms to do it.

The Republican-controlled Senate went home today after once again failing to come up with a compromise stimulus package to help the millions of people whose lives are falling apart around them because of the pandemic. There is still no emergency unemployment benefit even as 1.2 million new unemployment claims were announced this morning.

One of the many looming side effects of mass unemployment is the potential for mass evictions. The longer Congress waits to help people who are about to lose their homes, the more likely it is that a terrifying number of people will be put out on the street.

Losing your home or being forced to move makes it much harder to vote — the change of address, perhaps no address at all, could leave many people unable to cast a ballot in November.

Cui bono? At this point, you don’t even have to ask.

That storm knocked down some trees, but around here, it sure let in the light.

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Night Two of the RNC Was All About Mainstreaming the Extreme Right

abby johnson
Anti-choice extremist Abby Johnson addresses the virtual 2020 Republican National Convention on August 25, 2020.

BYWilliam Rivers PittTruthout

The second night of the Republican National Convention was bursting with disappointments for those of us who live to suffer, none more stinging than the sudden disappearance from the speaker’s list of Mary Ann Mendoza. Mendoza is a so-called “angel mom” and a member of the Trump campaign’s advisory board who enjoys more than 40,000 followers on Twitter.

Hours before her scheduled appearance last night, Mendoza favored those followers with a QAnon-inspired conspiracy theory about Jews seeking to enslave the world. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is not a fabrication,” reads the link Mendoza shared. “And, it certainly is not anti-semetic (sic) to point out this fact.” As of 7:54 pm, The Washington Post still had her listed as a confirmed speaker. Soon after, however, she was gone.

Pity, that. I was dying to hear what she had to say.

Rebecca Friedrichs, a public school teacher who espouses the theory that the public school system she herself serves exists to “groom” children to be attacked by sexual predators like Jeffrey Epstein, got to speak her piece at the convention on Monday. From Friedrichs, we learned that public schools are war zones because of unions.

Last night, the painfully dishonest anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson got her star turn at the convention as well but failed to mention her belief that only the head of the household should be allowed to vote, or that she believes it proper for one of her sons to be racially profiled by the police. “Statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons,” she said in a video made earlier this year.

Meanwhile “Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican nominee for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, said in a tweet on Tuesday that President Trump has invited her to the White House to attend his acceptance speech on Thursday evening,” reports Jacob Knutson for Axios. “Greene has repeatedly made offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims in Facebook videos, and she has publicly supported the QAnon movement and other far-right conspiracy theories.”This is the Republican mainstream in 2020, on full display before the nation and the world.

This is the Republican mainstream in 2020, on full display before the nation and the world. The deeply disturbing racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and conspiracy obsession bubbling behind the eyes of Trump’s convention speakers strike an odd counterpoint to the central message of the second evening, which was the same economic trickle-down crap they’ve been peddling quadrennially since 1980.

That part, at least, has not changed very much since Ronald Reagan visited this failed pox of an economic theory on the country. The rhetoric to promote it last night could have been culled from the ‘84 GOP convention in Dallas without dropping a note: Tax cuts and deregulation painted against the rising dawn of economic prosperity that always seems to be just around the corner, but never seems to arrive for anyone but the wealthy.

The second night of this convention was, among other strange and terrible things, a clinic on why organizations like the Lincoln Project exist, and furthermore, why such organizations are not to be trusted.

The Lincoln Project, a cohort of Republicans who seek to defeat Trump, has made an indelible mark with their caustic, cutting TV ads during this election cycle. Their efforts have been widely celebrated by Democrats, progressives, and others who share the Lincoln Project’s goals.

Last night’s collision between Trumpian conspiracy nonsense and boilerplate Republican economic gospel tells you all you need to know about what the Lincoln Project really is. While some of those involved may see the menace Trump represents, most of them want him gone because he and his fringe friends are bad for the GOP brand.

It is not Trump’s terrible policies they disagree with for the most part. Show a member of the Lincoln Project the segment from last night on the economic glory of trickle-down capitalism, and like as not they will stand up and cheer.

That, precisely that, is what makes them dangerous. Republican economic policy has been responsible for enormous damage and pain for more than four decades and counting. The fact that these never-Trumpers don’t like Trump does not make them friends; they want him out of the way so they can get back to looting the Treasury without giving away the game.

As for fringe radicalism, there was plenty on display during the main event of the evening. First Lady Melania Trump’s address to a Rose Garden audience struck a softer, kinder tone than the bombast of the rest of the event, to be sure. Yet there was a message for the nation embedded silently in the moment that the C-SPAN cameras did not fail to miss.

The large, elegantly dressed audience for the First Lady’s speech was not masked, and sat clustered close together. When the speech ended, they rose as one and mingled together shoulder to shoulder like it was a cocktail party in 2019 and not a world in the grips of a deadly pandemic right here and now. “Those who attended first lady Melania Trump’s speech in the White House Rose Garden that capped the second night of the Republican National Convention were not required to get tested for coronavirus,” reports CNN.

If you believe this was not a deliberate middle finger from the president, I hazard to suggest that you have not been paying sufficient attention. Never fear, however. The collision between new Republican extremism and old Republican greed will be going on in prime time for two more very long nights. If you watch, you won’t miss a thing.

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The Republican Convention Opens With a Night of Fascist Fan Fiction

Kimberly Guilfoyle pre-records her address to the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium on August 24, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Kimberly Guilfoyle delivers her address to the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium on August 24, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

BYWilliam Rivers PittTruthout

The Los Angeles Times wins the prize for best description of the thing that happened on my TV last night: “Welcome to a parallel universe.”

You cannot fully wrap your mind around what took place on the first evening of the Republican National Convention unless and until you bear witness to what took place that morning. Donald Trump was re-nominated in Charlotte via a genuinely creepy delegate roll-call video that looked like a flip-card cartoon of aggrieved mostly white male faces. The production value was shabby in its speediness — a bunch of delegates were chopped off mid-word as they endorsed — and then, of course, it got worse.

None other than the nominee himself suddenly appeared before the mostly-unmasked crowd of delegates for the first of multiple appearances at the convention that day. CBS and ABC cut into their regular daily programming to carry chunks of Trump’s volcanically fact-free rant to the faithful, an eerie flashback to 2016 and the $2 billion in free air time the networks gave the Trump campaign because mayhem is good television.

“This is the greatest scam in the history of politics, I think, and I’m talking about beyond our nation. What they’re doing is using COVID to steal an election. They are using COVID to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election, and we can’t do that,” Trump told the crowd. “We’re going to win this election. The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election. We’re going to win this election.”

In the background, as Trump raved about Democrats using the pandemic he failed to contain as a vehicle for stolen electoral victory, shouts of “Yes!” and “Right!” could be heard. This was the appetizer, the tone-setter for the remainder of the day. GOP promises of an upbeat, optimistic convention went by the boards before lunch. From that point on, it was the Trump Show from soup to nuts.

“The absence of Republican Party heavyweights is vivid,” I wrote yesterday morning. “Instead, a great many of the week’s speakers are either family-connected to Trump, or are people who gained fame by going viral in a video that Trump likely saw in his Twitter feed. Due entirely to the influence of the man at the middle of it all, the Republican National Convention appears poised to be little more than a trolling festival designed to ‘own the libs.’”

So it was. A part of my skull is going to vibrate forever with the fear-fetishing of Kimberly Guilfoyle, campaign official and girlfriend of Donald Trump, Jr. “They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear,” she warned. “They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.”

Was she the worst of the lot? Not by many long nautical miles.It’s not real, what was portrayed last night, any more than all of the pig-eyed lies Trump has unspooled over these long years were real.

There was Don Jr., looking like a bad advertisement for Just For Men’s beard treatment, staring daggers at the camera with eyes borrowed from Keith Richards as he raved of anarchists flooding the streets. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida declared Democrats would “lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones — before praising the legacy of notorious racist segregationist Strom Thurmond — claimed Trump “ended, once and for all, the policy of incarceration of Black people.” Right-wing activist Charlie Kirk somberly declared that Trump is “the bodyguard of Western civilization.”

“As an act of communication with the American public, it was a dishonest travesty,” writes Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg. “But as entertainment tailored for President Trump’s hardcore base, it was a brilliant act of fan service.”

And that, right there, is the final takeaway from a nightmare evening of far-right fantasy nonsense, fear-mongering, brazen lies and racist dog whistles that were shrill enough to crack crystal: The dystopian socialist hellscape described by Trump and his friends last night was meant to be heard by a small segment of the population, half of half of the country, the devoted Trumpian base which needs feeding lest it stop patrolling the yard like an angry hound at the end of a frayed length of rope.

It’s not real, what was portrayed last night, any more than all of the pig-eyed lies Trump has unspooled over these long years were real. The damage being suffered by the nation is not due to some left-wing revolution, but by the collapse of a right-wing revolution that began more than 50 years ago.

The first night of the GOP convention was fascist fan fiction, no more and no less. Why? Because that base is all Trump has left to reach out to, and they already believe all this shit anyway. Fish in a barrel make for more difficult targets than the folks last night’s message was meant for.

The real and ongoing damage caused by this administration went unmentioned. COVID and its 180,000 victims all but disappeared last night. The millions who are unemployed and still waiting for Republican Senators to get off their dime were elbowed aside for an ersatz rendering of a “great” economic recovery lurking just over the horizon, one that will somehow come to pass even as the Trump administration continues to stagger through its pandemic response. Fossil fuels and fracking were cheered. Basic human decency was stopped at the door, and in two separate sit-downs between Trump and supporters in the White House, nobody wore a mask.

While last night’s high-voltage hate festival will surely buttress Trump’s standing with his devotees, a vast majority of the country has been moving steadily away from that worldview for many months now. People want mask mandates and testing. People want Black lives to matter, and not to be used merely as props in Trump’s theater of the absurd.

All of Trump’s bridges to various portions of the electorate — older voters, younger voters, women voters, voters of color, COVID-concerned voters — are either burning or burnt at this juncture, so he stormed across the one bridge he had left. Where did it bring him? Right back to where he started.

“Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who Wisconsin officials say was ‘shot in the back seven times’ by law enforcement in front of his three sons, is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his father,” reports Matt Naham for Law & Crime. The whole world is watching, again.

Trump and his conventioneers can splash all the white paint in the world over the America that is. They are trying to conjure a wildly false image of a country that is simultaneously under mortal threat from the left even as it has already been perfected by the right, and they want to sell it to you at twice the staggering price. The real America is falling down around our ears, and most of us see it with clear eyes. Three more nights of this will only reinforce the yawning chasm between Trump and the nation he has so enthusiastically run into the ground.

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Republican Convention Takes on the Weighty Task of Boosting Trump’s Bruised Ego

Donald trump speaks at the rnc
President Trump speaks as delegates gather during the first day of the Republican National Convention on August 24, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

BYWilliam Rivers PittTruthout

The Republican National Convention (RNC) begins tonight, and I honestly don’t know how to complete this sentence. Many will watch, many more will not, and I’ll be fixated on this four-day failapalooza for one reason only: to see if the Audience of One phenomenon rears its orange head and burns the whole project to the ground. I very strongly suspect it will.

The “Audience of One” media phenomenon is perhaps the most vivid, daily available evidence of the stranglehold Donald Trump has on the Republican Party. A member of the administration, or someone who wants to be a member of the administration, or a senator looking to curry White House favor, will go on a news show and spout astonishing conspiracy nonsense or hateful lies that cut deeply against the grain of basic, established reality.

Why?

Because they know Trump is watching, because he is always watching, because watching TV is almost all he does. This is how the president is reached: Not via phone or in a meeting, but through a “Fox & Friends” segment. Millions of voters tune in to such broadcasts over the course of a given year, but they don’t matter to the person in the studio trying to reach the Audience of One. The only one that matters is the member of the audience squatting in the White House, remote control in one sweaty hand, Twitter phone in the other.

For the next four days, those who partake in the RNC’s festivities will bear witness to the Audience of One phenomenon swollen to obscene proportions. This convention exists to serve a single purpose: to bolster the battered self-image of the president of the United States. The GOP didn’t even bother with a platform this year. Instead, they released a letter essentially declaring that everything Trump has done or will ever do is cool with them, period.

And that’s before the thing has even started.The “Audience of One” media phenomenon is perhaps the most vivid, daily available evidence of the stranglehold Donald Trump has on the Republican Party.

“This week’s Republican National Convention will be The Trump Show from start to finish, aiming for ratings-juicing stunts, attention-grabbing speeches from MAGA stars, and executive power as performance art,” reports Jonathan Swan for Axios. “President Trump made clear to aides that he wanted a grand, raucous convention — to the extent such things are achievable during a pandemic…. People familiar with the planning said Trump will be portrayed as the ‘tough’ leader standing between safe streets and leftist anarchy.”

The glaring “tell” of the whole thing is the fact that Trump will be appearing all four nights of the convention. Usually, the nominee for either party will do a very brief fly-by or two before delivering their acceptance speech. It’s a time-honored way to build momentum and anticipation for the big finale on the final night. Not this convention. Because Trump cannot stand to be anything but the center of attention for any meaningful length of time, he will install himself in the middle of each night in an apoplexy of “Me!”

The stakes are particularly high at present. In the space of one week — being last week — Trump watched his former campaign wizard Steve Bannon get arrested for defrauding a fund meant to build his nonsense southern border wall. His own sister slagged him in the public prints. A Republican Senate committee released a scathing report on his Russia dealings that went far beyond the Mueller Report, and the courts told him to go pound sand regarding the secrecy of his precious financial records.

To top it all off, the RNC is coming hot on the heels of a Democratic Convention that was pulled off without a hitch, despite the restrictions of a pandemic world. Last week’s days were filled with news stories of Trump’s corruption, greed, lawlessness and failure, while the evenings fairly sang with powerhouse speakers coming down the mountain to grind his relentlessly shabby record under their heel.

At present, it sounds like the producers will still be painting the set when the curtain goes up. “As Monday’s kickoff looms, Republican officials were still deciding what segments to air live and what would be taped in advance,” reports The New York Times. “Typically, convention broadcasts require weeks of highly technical preparation. By the weekend, producers at the major TV networks had only a foggy idea of what to expect, although Republicans provided a more detailed rundown on Saturday evening. Still, broadcasters will head into the week with some unknowns.”I have a feeling it will be that very man in the middle who might cause the most trouble of all.

Besides Trump, the convention’s slate of speakers is a perfect distillation of where the Republican Party finds itself at this juncture in history. This evening’s presenters include Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Jr.’s girlfriend, before Junior himself rises to rock the mic. The execrable Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan will give Florida and Ohio a bad name, again. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the wealthy couple who menaced peaceful protesters with firearms, will have their say. Turning Point USA founder and Trump othermind Charlie Kirk will speak.

The absence of Republican Party heavyweights is vivid. Instead, a great many of the week’s speakers are either family-connected to Trump, or are people who gained fame by going viral in a video that Trump likely saw in his Twitter feed. Due entirely to the influence of the man at the middle of it all, the Republican National Convention appears poised to be little more than a trolling festival designed to “own the libs.”

I have a feeling it will be that very man in the middle who might cause the most trouble of all. Imagine the Audience of One the morning after some speaker or another fails to adequately bathe him in rapture. We could very well see/read the Republican nominee attack his own convention because it didn’t make him feel sufficiently good about himself.

Trump is a bull in a china shop, and because of his flailing between Charlotte and Jacksonville, the planners have had very little time to nail this four-day megaproduction together. Forecasters predict a possible shitshow, followed by two tropical storms and a dead cat bounce in the polls. Take appropriate precautions.

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Trump Is Campaigning on a Fiction. That Doesn’t Mean He Won’t Stay President.

President Trump holds hands with First Lady Melania Trump at the conclusion of the third night of the Republican National Convention at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, August 26, 2020.
President Trump holds hands with First Lady Melania Trump at the conclusion of the third night of the Republican National Convention at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, on August 26, 2020.

BY: William Rivers PittTruthout

Donald J. Trump is the most perfect coward in the long, weird history of American politics. I know this, because he has spent the last three nights showing the nation and the world how grossly thoroughgoing that cowardice is. Many have worked to produce this Republican convention, but all of it has flowed from one mind, Trump’s mind, and he is terrified of showing you who and what he truly is.

Wednesday’s theme was “A Land of Heroes,” and the convention used most of its 150 minutes poaching the tattered dignity of soldiers and police officers for its own scurvy needs. Yet in the throat of a pandemic made worse by Trump’s malfeasance, one that claimed yet another 1,000 lives that very same day, the speakers made mention of frontline medical workers and their life-and-death fight against COVID-19 precisely three times by my count. Each time, they brushed against the horror of it all with gossamer recognition before pivoting to ersatz praise for the man whose failure has laid so many low.

It has been this way since this filthy enterprise began. The brutal racist eager to use “heat ray” crowd weapons against civilians at the border two years ago spent part of Tuesday night hiding behind immigrants made newly sworn citizens, at least two of whom had no idea the ceremony would be shown at the convention until five minutes before it took place.

Trump barely showed his face on Wednesday for a change of pace, yet his minions — at his obvious direction — perpetrated a fraud upon the public in his place. Trump was that fraud; not the real Trump, but a self-serving fantasy caricature.

After all the bluster and bombast of the last going-on four years, after all the bullying and Twitter screaming and strutting and mockery and bravado, one would think Trump would hold true to everything that has brought him to this convention and the cusp of re-nomination. One would think a man of such towering arrogance would stand on the ashes of his record and dare Joe Biden and the Democrats to knock him off.

That has not happened. Instead, Trump has gone into hiding in broad daylight, seeking shelter behind a false narrative that absolves him of blame while bathing him in stolen glory. The three nights of this convention have denied the ghastly baseline reality we have been struggling to endure and survive since he rode down that golden escalator five Junes ago.

That reality includes, in no particular order, the true nature of Trump’s racist white supremacist intentions at the border and throughout the land. It includes his astonishing subversion of the Constitution he swore to uphold and protect, going so far as to unleash federal forces on protesters. Of course, it includes his comprehensive and ongoing failure to address this lethal pandemic because doing so, in his mind, would make him appear weak.

To watch him deny this reality with his bare smirking face hanging out, to watch him run like a deer from that which made him so proud only one week ago, is to know the nature of cowardice as we have never witnessed it before.The small fraction of a man who would be king — “Twelve more years! Twelve more years!” — is more mirage than meat, and always has been, and always will be.

The irony, of course, is the deliberately narrowed vision of this convention — as orchestrated by Trump — has hurled the entire enterprise into blazing conflict with a majority of the country. The speakers crow about a President Biden who will lock everyone in their homes, even as most of those people are desperate for an organized attack on the virus, and are willing to make sacrifices to see it done.

They mock the Democrats for their Green New Deal — No more cars! Or cows! Or fracking! Silly Democrats — even as climate-fueled Hurricane Laura spreads its dark wings over millions of terrified, fleeing people, even as California and Colorado burn, again.

They growl of law and order even as police pump rounds into the backs of retreating Black men and then greet as an ally the pro-Trump gunman who murdered protesters on the same city streets.

They warn of a nation in collapse while ignoring who has presided over, augmented and profited from that discord and mayhem.

They have lied nearly with every breath for three grueling days to help Trump the coward hide from Trump the president. The small fraction of a man who would be king — “Twelve more years! Twelve more years!” — is more mirage than meat, and always has been, and always will be. Long nights of low-ratings television cannot obscure this, and indeed have only illuminated it.

And yet tonight, Donald Trump will accept the Republican re-nomination for president, likely before a rapturous and unmasked audience willingly complicit in the construction of his citadel of lies. Their confidence will be extreme, as will his, and why not? They prevailed last time, and fully expect to do so again.

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Posted in USAComments Off on Trump Is Campaigning on a Fiction. That Doesn’t Mean He Won’t Stay President.


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