After 230 years as a beacon of democracy, well sort of if you do not count slavery, genocide, imperialism, CIA organized coups, and drone assassinations, the United States has lost its shine.
The United States is once again suffering from mass dystopian magical thinking. In the 19thCentury there were several times when hundreds or thousands of Americans gave away all of their possessions and waited for the end of the world. Eventually they had to go home and pick up their lives again. One of the bloggers of Q Anon recently wrote that none of the predictions came through, and it is time to go home and pick up your lives again. But the dystopian magical thinking is especially strong this time and hardly anyone is ready to give up the bubble.
Like so many others in the world I have been pondering why we have a propensity for these millennialist cults. Why the current manifestations are so antithetical to democracy? And what we can do to bring about a more fact based culture. There are obviously many different things going on, and some are more directly related to each other than others, but many of the most dystopian magical viewpoints share an underlying thread. They are based on the rule of the patriarchy in which the rich men get to make all the decisions with no accountability to democracy, to women, or to the planet, and almost all the decisions they decide are to help them steal faster. You can really see the Trump administration as the misogynist patriarchs writ large, in which they try to implement all of their neo liberal economics (rich men get to steal everything), while organizing culturally along strict fundamentalist patriarchal values, that are in direct lineage of the earliest attempts by older men to control the fertility of teenage girls, while expecting others to obey the rules they lay down and violate regularly. Men like Jerry Falwell Jr.
You can see the patriarchy very clearly in the fact all 3 of the modern world wide religions that are directly linked to the god of Moses. (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all make this claim, with the major prophets following each other sequentially in time up until 622AD) All 3 of these religions have a variety of practices around the world, all 3 have powerful conservative, fundamentalist, patriarchal practitioners, and the rules that are laid down for women are remarkably similar. The fundamentalists also tend to have a scorched earth policy towards members of other religions, and often communities led by fundamentalist old men tend towards to great violence and inhumanity directed towards their neighbors. The conservative patriarchs need the other religions as their enemies so they can hold on to power within their own religious community. It should be noted that many other religions and cultures also seem to operate as patriarchies, but that many others do not.
Have you ever wondered about how close the words for a nuns habit and the hijab worn women in the Islamic world are? It is because they are the same thing, simply different pronunciations of the same article of middle eastern clothing approved by the patriarchs that have drifted apart in pronunciation over the years. Places not run by patriarchs do not sequester women or force them to hide when out in public.
The problem with such a patriarchal approach to the world is that information about how the world really works and what is happening elsewhere must be stopped from entering the community. The science of evolution is feared by fundamentalists. It contradicts their excuses on why they should have all the power. And this ridiculing of science, completely out of ignorance and fear, then seeps out to pervade everything else they think about, anything else that could challenge their right to hold all the cards. Climate change, the effects of inequality, the differential health outcomes from living in poverty near toxic emitters all have to be suppressed to keep their power. It is all fake news to a patriarch.
Beyond corporate lying this leads us to a world of alternative facts, fake news mainstream media, and a president who lied every time he opened his mouth along with millions of acolytes who worship him and who were ready to kill congressmen and the Vice president to keep him in power despite a loss in the election.
Following years of insanely stupid imperialist wars, lies, racist bullshit, and attempts to undo voters rights and free elections, the worst president in US history, and his cronies and enablers in the Republican Party, have brought the United States to a place where a sitting president, the one with all of the levers of power, with his party controlling approximately half of all election administrative posts in the various states, saw he was behind in all of the polls and for months claimed that the election was going to be fraudulent and would be stolen from him. Typically he complained all the time, but offered no path to electoral integrity as his only hope was voter suppression.
Only a true incompetent and paranoid narcissist who held the levers of power and saw his own party control many of the levers of the election system would be thinking that the party out of power could steal an election. In most of the world it is the outsiders who claim (often rightly) that the incumbent will win via a fraudulent election. Nowhere in the world does the incumbent claim fraud. They do not claim fraud by their opponents because no one would believe them, knowing the power to steal an election is only in the hands of the incumbent.
But down the Rabbit Hole the American president led the country. Only someone incredibly stupid, narrow minded, and narcissistic would believe that the party out of power could steal it. But in his deluded mind he thought he was popular, though his poll ratings were always in the toilet. Worse, and even more of a reflection of how crazy life under the Orange headed monster was, millions of his supporters actually believed that the only way he could lose was fraud, maybe because the Republican party has practiced voter suppression every chance it gets and has long headed in an anti democracy direction because it only wants white men to vote.
The real question, but one that seems not to have been asked or answered (for obvious reasons) . President Trump since you are so concerned about electoral fraud, what are you doing to insure the integrity of the election other than voter suppression? The answer. Before and after the election was ZERO, ZIP, NADA. And to use intimidation to try to get people to break the law.
The Rabbit Hole gets stranger when we ponder that for the first time ever vast numbers of people are getting nearly all of their information from professional liars. Think what you will of the mainstream media, but they make at least some effort to get facts straight, and there are enough political streams to they catch each other’s goofs and bullshit. You can even read in the Providence Journal the efforts to whitewash history every day that we have to call them on. But now millions of Americans only get information from professional liars, groups strictly out to propagandize, with no competitors to fact check them, and an audience so in the bubble that commentaries and fact checking outside the bubble does not exist to them.
This trend has been accelerating in recent years, but was turbo charged by Donald Trump, who has never knowingly told the truth about anything and who hates fact checking because he has no capacity or ability to actually understand facts or to be accountable for his actions. I imagine that testifying under oath will be torture for Trump knowing that if he lies he can be charged with perjury. I write this after Biden has been inaugurated but the once most powerful man on the planet still thinks his great victory was stolen rather than that 81 million people thought he really messed up and was putting their lives in danger with his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dystopian magical thinking, that the only way Trump could lose was fraud, despite him being both capable of stopping the fraud if he was so worried about real fraud, and the only one who could cause it to be done on a large scale, really went off the rails on January 6 2021 when several thousand people attacked and ransacked the Capitol while Congress was accepting the votes of the Electoral College. 6 people died in the melee including a Capitol police officer hit on the head with a fire extinguisher. The magical thinking was that that despite massive scrutiny by many people with good reason to hope that fraud was found no systemic fraud was found, and in all cases the hand counts matched the machine counts, every law suit he and his cronies filed was thrown out of court due to lack of any credible evidence (lots of assertions of fraud and lost ballots were made, but every single one of them was debunked) and yet the president was demanding all manner of fraud occurred and that he was the rightful winner. And he was willing to go so far as to call his supporters to go to Congress and prevent the vote from being certified. And all his acolytes believed that they were upholding democracy and would be scot free to do their worst with no repercussions. It has to be magical thinking to think that one could ransack the Capital, post selfies of doing it on Facebook, and expect to get off with no repercussions. What probably got them even more is that their families, friends, and neighbors are the ones who turned them in. The kicker on this is that despite all the pictures and family identifications of Trump acolytes in the Capitol, the right wing insisted that Antifa and Black Lives Matter were the ones who staged the riot.
And that is what it comes to. The white supremacists, and let us be clear that is exactly who Trump’s acolytes (though not all of his voters) are, intend to turn back the clock to empire and whiteness, and think that democracy gets in the way. The white supremacists worry that if they people they want to eliminate get to vote, they will lose, and that has to be impossible as whiteness has the divine right to rule.. Thinking the Confederacy will rise is clearly magical thinking, if for no other reason than its economy will crash when it denies the creativity of millions of people.
The collection of costumes for the occupying mob was also indicative of the Rabbit Hole getting excessively large. They did not have either a plan a or a plan b, but followed the call of a leader who never had a plan other than to bully people into doing what the spoiled little rich brat wanted, and could not adapt to anything he could not bully. Did he really think he could bully Nancy Pelosi or was he hoping his crew would kill her? And when a mob sent by them president goes after his loyal VP because the magical fantasy went over the edge and believed it was in the Constitution that the VP really did have to power to stop the election from being certified, the country is going to have a long trek back to sanity.
I engaged in a months long and very unfriendly conversation with a Trumpist. The frustrating thing for me, a person who reads widely, uses data, checks facts, was that facts meant nothing to him, that One American News and NewsMax was all he believed (he stopped trusting Fox when Trump told him to) and that Black Lives Matter was a communist front as were everyone to the left of Genghis Khan. I regularly asked him to back up his claims, but all he would do is send propaganda and say the mainstream media lied. The bubble got tighter the longer he went and his belief in the fraud claims was almost unfathomable. He thought every law suit would win, that Sidney Powell was a great human being and lawyer, that every discredited claim brought with no evidence demonstrated how deep the deep state communism was imbedded and that Pence would throw out the election and declare Trump the winner. He went so far to state the constitution allowed the VP to change the results, and claimed he carried a copy of the constitution at all times. But he never responded when asked to quote the article of the constitution that allowed that.
These narratives, and the rest of the crazy stuff the right wing tries to pass off as fact, and the replacement of real facts by insanely evil lies ranging from cigarettes do not cause lung cancer, climate change is not being caused by burning fossil fuels, and tax cuts for the rich help the economy are the results of a long term effort by the right wing to undermine science, facts, and the integrity of government so that the rich can continue to steal easier and white folks can continue to ruin the world with no accountability.
These narratives, and the efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution, climate, and real American history are part of a long term effort to protect the power of the rich while using pseudo populism and culture wars to confuse the populace as to what government actually does to make life better and to protect the health and safety of the public. How is undermining a public health system put into place to stop pandemics actually for the people? How is denying kids food or anyone healthcare really for the people? How is failing infrastructure helping us meet the challenges of the rolling climate disaster? How does the dismantling of public competence put us on the right track for the future?
The American people rallied this year, but it was incredibly close. The reality of climate change, pandemics, injustice, and a crazy economy mean that there is work to do to make things right, but with so many people in denial, with so much money being spent to prevent people from learning the facts and to help keep the bubbles of ignorance intact, the struggle will be long and hard. And with the patriarchs around the world aware that they need to keep the world on a knife edge and roiled with violence in order for the patriarchs to maintain their power, I expect that we shall be living in most interesting times for quite a while.