In this shocking and yet brilliantly observed post, AJC Boone deconstructs the Goebbelsian propaganda in play thoroughout contemporary America, gripping the reader throughout with the evidence behind her fears. She examines the creation of blinkered catechism and vicious demonisation, suggesting with terrifying credibility that violent frustration and social breakdown in the US have moved from Hollywood future-fi to genuine probability.
Full disclosure: I am a housewife. My work-day is a tissue of trivial, repetitive tasks of the sort given to POWs to break their morale. However, the upside is that it gives me time to watch the passing political parade in the US and UK with a beady-eyed intensity that people with proper jobs can’t afford. I do notice a lot. (A hat-tip in advance to the beady-eyed among you who have noticed as much or more — a challenge to essayists these days is pitching arguments to abipolar audience.)
One of the paradoxes of our age is that the internet information-pool, social media connectivity, 24-hour news channels, and the peculiar flavour of advertising that is popular today weave the illusion that our societies are vast, lucid, and egalitarian. Our industrial “elites” wear hoodiesand ride skateboards to yoga class; our political “elites” roll up their sleeves and share recipes and hair-do fails on Tik-Tok. We’re all in this together. Except that we aren’t.
And at the risk of appearing to be that person windmilling his arms while ranting at the #46 bus stop, I offer that it looks to me (and not only to me) as if some kind of bell-dome of control and subjugation were lowering over our heads. There is a split as profound as that between the damnèd peasant toiler and the kings with Divine Right separating those who will be under the bell-dome and those whose will remain outside of it.
I would like to be on record as acknowledging that this sounds insane to anyone not paying much attention. Though in the last 72 hours, among those who are paying attention, there has been a growing roar of angry chatter on social media about The Great Reset (and how the great U-turn against democracy — against Brexit, against Trump, against any sort of restraint and common sense inCOVID policy — looks to be acting as its midwife).
The question lurking beneath the floorboards of every dystopian nightmare, whether it’s Winston Smith’s Oceania, the Moscow courts trying Kamenev and Zinoviev, or the railroad platforms where cattle-cars decant orderly lines of Jewish people holding their suitcase in one hand and their child’s hand in the other — how in the hell did we get here? — looms before us right now.
Since nightmare scenarios are complex, Rome wasn’t levelled in a day after all, I will share with you an abbreviated version of the four years of connect-the-dots that spells out “civil war” to me.
My dots start on a personal note. In the summer of 2016, I was visiting the northern California home where I grew up in the 1970s, where we siblings try to coordinate travel from far-flung corners to overlap at least once a year. The dinner table conversation turned to the upcoming presidential election. Hillary Clinton looked sure to win; and Donald Trump, a fixture on the landscape since the 1980s, with his pugilistic New York-style, a backer of boxing and wrestling matches, golf, beauty pageants, and casinos, not to mention a reality-tv show I never watched, represented nothing I found appealing. I had therefore not paid much attention to the race.
But when my sisters were puzzling over what sort of sicko could possibly be drawn to him, I suggested that maybe Trump represented to his supporters liberation from the straitjacket of political correctness. He gave them permission, by doing it himself, to say what they wanted to say but had been bullied out of saying.
“Like ‘n-…’?” my sibling suggested, in a voice full of disgust.
This floored me. Why, of all the words in the English language, would anyone suppose Trump or his supporters crave saying that word? A culturo-anthropological note: the n-word is literally not in the vocabulary of Californians. People just never use it. I have never heard it pronounced, nor heard of it being used through friends, acquaintances, etc. The “n-word,” however casually ubiquitous it might be in the inner-city lexicon, registers for white, middle-class Americans as a cloven hoof and forked tail. My sister’s instant recourse to it struck me, therefore, as bizarre and significant.
In hindsight, having seen the subsequent cycling and recycling of three basic media slurs against Donald Trump – Russian agent, white supremacist, and ill (“25th Amendment”) – I suspect that the reason my sister so reflexively associated Trump support with racist kryptonite is that brainwash of enormous quantity, intensity, and sophistication that linked Trump and “racism”had already been sluicing over the American public in the months before the 2016 election took place. In his four decades in the public eye, Donald Trump had been many things, but there is a consultable public record showing “racist” wasn’t one of them, until the Establishment needed it to be.
I myself have not lived much in the US since 1990. My mother, with whom I have always had an exceptionally positive, “morally synchronised” relationship, now lies across the ideational divide.We explicitly avoid political discussions, but while skirting a political topic, she has often said“Well, you don’t live here,” by which she means to de-escalate: let’s put the cordon sanitaire across the Atlantic, and you can have jurisdiction over your half, and I’ll have it over mine. I now think she is correct about “not living here” mattering, insofar as my objectivity, such as it is, has not been subject to the relentless psychological bombardment going on in the US. The Establishment has clearly seen it necessary to groom the public. The coming radical change might otherwise startle the horses.
My California family members represent a major American demographic. They are college-educated, materially-secure, world-travelled, and news-consuming. They are also completely uninterested in a political conversation that doesn’t begin with the conclusion that Donald Trump is a monster bent on destroying America.
But — and here’s where the soupçon of civil war takes the shape of an implacable divide (don’t forget the eldest son of “Founding Father” Benjamin Franklin was exiled to Britain as a Loyalist) I also have close relatives who have been praying for Donald Trump to remain in office another four years. One teaches fine arts in a midwestern university town; she keeps schtum on politics, as university students and faculty even in the Midwest literally shun her perspective.
Another Trump-supporting relative lives in one of America’s once-great cities, with their worldclass orchestras and art museums, that were turned into the urban equivalent of a bleached coral reef in the last spasm of misguided “social justice” and de-industrialisation in the 1970s (Buffalo, Cleveland, St Louis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit…) He wrote me: “I’ve registered to be a poll-watcher to stop them changing ballots; I’m sending money to the RNC and Trump’s reelection fund. Any other ideas about what I can do?”
A third is a born-again Evangelical. When I told him how shocked I was by the ostracism and vitriol directed at anyone presuming to defend Trump even from irrational and uninformed attack, he replied: “Welcome to my world.”
A meme that has gotten considerable mileage on social media is a cartoon dog sitting at a table,oblivious to a room full of flames, saying “This is fine.” While my California relatives seethed about Donald Trump’s pronouncements against the ills that follow from open borders and sanctuary cities, they reacted with vagueness and befuddlement to my question about Bambi Larson, a February 2019 Silicon Valley victim of a home intruder who sliced her to death with a box cutter. Larson’s killer was a multiple deportee from Mexico, with a string of violent offences to his credit, now out and about in the “sanctuary” county of Santa Clara. Larson was killed in her home, which is four miles from my parents’ home and just blocks from where they do the weekly shopping. Bambi was my sister’s high school classmate.
The family’s younger generation is also picking up cues and developing the resultant idiosyncratic outrage. In Facebook exchanges, one youngster raged about police violence against “medics” during violent summer demonstrations; I suggested that normally police work hand-in-glove with emergency services, so had she considered that the “medics” were not what they purported to be? (“Street Medic Guide” gives advice on the “Paper Revolution” website.)
Another responded to my mention of ongoing (to this day) nightly destruction by rioters in Portland, Oregon, as if this were unknown to him. My links to Andy Ngo’s shocking video reportage on it met with the dismissal that Ngo must be agenda-driven.
Unquestionably the ambient level of violence has risen since the summer of mayhem licensed by the death of George Floyd. Regular crime statistics in multiple cities have climbed over last year’s by double – and even triple- digit percentages. Cities like Minneapolis, where militant city council members dramatically strode ahead to “defund the police”, are now hiring security services to try to fill the gap. Gun sales have sky-rocketed since the summer, and exit polls seem to show suburban white females constituting a measurable portion of the “shy Trump voter.”
A ludicrously implausible election result — with vote tallies in black urban centres topping Barack Obama’s for the basement-bound “old white guy”? — and the stifling and curtailing of its review, will not help matters.
I re-read Orwell’s “1984” in June 2019, having read it first 40 years ago. Something striking that I’d forgotten was quite how central and overwhelming the dystopian regime’s use of visceralhatred was. Hatred can be manufactured when and where needed, and functions in a handy, all-purpose way, like duct-tape or bicarbonate of soda. The targets of hate can easily be expanded by association, as pins can be magnetised. Within the first paragraphs, the novel’s hero Winston Smith recalls a recent night at the cinema where the audience had roared in mirth at footage of helicopters shooting the enemy (men, women, children) floundering in the sea.Within the first few pages, we see the office Two Minutes Hate, which has even the mostmild-mannered and unassuming colleagues panting and gurgling with fury and hurling things at a screen projection of the state’s arch-enemy, who may not even exist.
Hate campaigns are labour-saving for the opinion-shaping professionals. Once a person or thing is demonised, every subsequent news “story” about him or her or it will break as desired in the public’s imagination. Reportage never subsequently needs to analyse any charge, nor make any provable, or even particularly clear or coherent, allegation; it is enough to raise a smell, to call something “troubling” or “concerning”.
The US impeachment ball got rolling with a perfectly normal telephone conversation bogusly branded “inappropriate.” Experts in persuasion know that if people are given hints from which they themselves must formulate a conclusion, then that conclusion will be nigh on unshiftable.
Any obstacle to the US and UK Establishment’s favoured Narratives is now disabled with the charge of being racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, Russian, nazi, or simply “dangerous”. The traditional media’s total connivance has transformed the court of public opinion into a kangaroo court. And, as in kangaroo courts everywhere, the accusations are so outlandish and unfounded that the disbelieving will be neutralised by dumb incredulity, while the company men and fools scramble to assimilate the latest “2+2=5” into their worldview.
An alarming pivotal shift in the use of hate campaigns is seeing them this year deployed not only against fallible mortals, but also against the deathless principles that undergird a democratic society. The reliable Establishment mouthpieces of the Washington Post, the New York Times , and The Atlantic have each carried stories this year to demonise the very notion of free speech, arguing that free speech is a dangerous vector for spreading hate speech, and in The Atlantic’s case to explicitly recommend a Chinese approach to what truth the public is allowed to entertain and share.
This week (November 9 and 11) the Telegraph and the Times are running GCHQ’s campaign to convince the public that expression of scepticism about the safety of (particularlyCOVID-related) vaccines is 1) hostile Russian disinfo, and 2) should be criminalised.I came across two interesting archival pieces showing the juggernaut career of the hate-campaign in the Democratic Party. Here in one of Clinton campaign head John Podesta’s wikileaked email chains, dated 16 August, 2015, donor Catherine Hand tries to give Podesta some friendly advice:
As we can see from his driving a hate campaign just this August against the idea of a traditional Election Night (see first page), Podesta was not remotely interested in that advice. The Democrats have not dropped demonisation as an obsolete artifact of the 1980s; in 2015 they were just getting started.
Eight years earlier, a review of two (sympathetic) 2007 biographies of Hillary Clinton shows machiavellian/Alinskyite embrace of demonisation-as-a-tactic had startled the Beltway’s OldGuard in 1993:
The problem today is that there is no one in the Democratic centre or UniParty, in the Establishment – that has made Donald Trump (and Brexit, mutatis mutandis) its mortal enemy, to stand up against “arrogance, disdain, hypocrisy and the assumption that people with questions are enemies”. That pantheon of values is, to coin a phrase, the New Normal.
The rise of the hate campaign as the central tool of the Establishment signals an existentialvictory of deceit over truth-telling. It signals the death of “acting in good faith” which is a sine qua non for the gentle adversarialism that is democratic self-governance. In short, it makes democracy impossible.
I was initially intending to list other “dots” I have connected in the last fours years, from the gross and serial failures of the executive branch to comply with constitutionally-mandated congressional oversight, to the burlesque of congressional impeachment of a president without actual evidence of any crime, to the insane efforts of the judicial branch to continue a blatantly political persecution when even the state prosecutor is too embarrassed to do so; to the break-down of command between the nation’s commander-in-chief and the top-brass of the US military. But adding “constitutional crisis” to “the impossibility of democracy” seems like overkill.
Meanwhile, the media press on with their alternative reality that Biden’s victory is the sale-we-should-be-talking-past. Biden will use a Delaware beach home as his “Summer WhiteHouse,” it is newly reported in the New York Post, as the New York Times (repeat: the NewYork Times) cheerfully covers the Biden family pets as the “First Dogs”.
The civil war is not only upon us, it may actually be over. Spoiler alert: the bad guys won and no shot was fired in defense of the principles of liberty and self-government.