Trump and the legitimisation of hate
(Letter to America – No. 3 19/02/17)
Under PoTUS #45 hate has been legitimised. Well, it has been allowed out from under the cover of white sheets, nighttime raids, and conservative Christianity and placed tenuously in the White House. The irony of the last President (Barack Obama) living in the White House (a house mostly built by the forced labour of enslaved people and immigrants) is now replaced by the horror of a TV presenter and brash businessman performing a comedy role as the new President of the United States, while having his strings pulled by the extremist factions of America.
This rise in fascism is reminiscent of the 1930s when prejudice and hatred were marginalised in western democracies after its defeat in 1945. PoTUS #45 and the GOP administration, like their European counterparts, are threatening the democracy and civil rights of the mainstream.
During the latest Presidential campaign, and for a several years before, the now-President has used his social media accounts, particularly Twitter, to agitate and motivate an uprising of semi-hidden hatred. Analysis of the history of his tweets from 2009 to date shows his most popular recurrent words are, ‘loser, dumb, dummy, terrible, stupid, weak, dishonest, boring, fool, pathetic, and moron’. His subjects for ridicule have included competitors in business, celebrities with whom he has disagreements, other TV personalities and politicians – particularly President Barack Obama.
PoTUS #45 continues to use a barrage of insults and comments to disparage people who he choses to attack. This uninhibited behaviour of open callousness and lack of cultural politeness made him attractive to the seam of hatred that had been simmering in America for decades.
In August 2016, when his campaign was floundering after the resignation of Paul Manafort – who was exposed for having financial ties to Russia – Trump took Stephen K Bannon into his campaign team. Bannon was formerly the executive chairman at Brietbart News, a right wing extremist website. At that time two prominent figures in the KKK (David Duke and Don Advo) commented, “So, something astonishing has happened. We appear to have taken over the Republican Party.” They knew that the appointment of Bannon as CEO of the presidential campaign had effectively given them control of the GOP and a chance to once again legitimise hatred in the United States of America.
Rex Huppke, writing for the Chicago Tribune in August 2016, stated that the hire of Bannon and the link with alt-right philosophy of hate promoted by Breitbart, meant that the Trump campaign had officially declared political bankruptcy. Trump himself had changed political affiliation five times between 1987 and 2012 when he rejoined the Republican Party: in that period (between 1987 and 2012) he had twice been Republican, once Democratic and twice Independent. It appears that he aligns himself to the party that best serves his current needs at any given time. Brietbart News and Bannon are vehicles for Trump to elevate himself and increase his public popularity, hence his connection with them in 2016 as part of the Presidential race. His campaign was heavily focused on an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and also an anti-establishment platform. Bannon, in 2014, said, “People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.” This Brietbart philosophy of community separation and alienation became a unifying tenet of the Trump electoral campaign.
Brietbart News is the conservative, brash and unrestrained version of Fox News. It was founded to oppose the mainstream media, the institutional left and the Republican Party establishment. It adheres to the philosophy that political correctness is incorrect and liberal views need to be accounted for and altered. The extreme nature of the site increased after the death of the founder, Andrew Brietbart, in 2012; this was when Bannon took control of the news site. Brietbart News does not operate on any grounds of recognisable objectivity – just entrenched hatred. Their website does not offer balanced views, merely their one-sided extremists beliefs. Bannon, in 2012, confirmed that the site was engaged in a cultural and political war, and Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of the left-wing think tank Media Matters, predicted that what Brietbart News wanted next, in their ascendency was “a political opposition force that they can align with or consume to gain legitimacy.” In Britain, UKIP was that force; in America, the GOP is the current agency towards political legitimacy of extreme far-right hate.
The supporters of Brietbart News view it as the only legitimate news site in America; the reporters at Brietbart have labelled the majority of media outlets as “fake news”. Bannon was also the person to label the media as the “opposition party” in January 2017. This phrase has been repeated several times by the rest of the GOP administration team, especially PoTUS #45. The majority of the GOP have embraced the current trend of right-wing populism as they have regained political power in the USA.
Brietbart News is not alone in the rise of right-wing populism in America. Although this is a trend that is increasing throughout the world. In the UK, the right-wing group, UKIP – lead by Nigel Farage – spearheaded a campaign to call for Brexit: a separation of the UK from the rest of the European Union and a reduction in immigration being their main campaign slogans geared around the concept of ‘taking back control’ of the country. Farage admits that he ‘mislead’ the campaign with the use of false data relating to the NHS and immigration figures. However, despite the fact that he resigned from UKIP soon after the Brexit vote, he has stated that he does not regret his campaign and desire to increase the nationalistic state of the UK. This fascism, described by Farage as retaining a sovereign democracy, is aligned with the Bannon’s alt-right ideals. Farage has a history of affiliation with fascists’ ideals such as those held by Oswald Molsley, the National Front, and neo-Nazis (being openly anti-Jewish and racist).
Farage is not the only British person with links to neo-Nazis and the US President; the British-born Sebastian Gorka is now a senior advisor to PoTUS #45. Gorka has recently (Feb 2017) been forced to deny sympathies to neo-Nazi groups after wearing a medal associated with Hungarian fascism.
The rise in right-wing populism is the belief that the design of the government system, and the increase in globalisation, creates a disadvantage to ‘the ordinary people’. This is the notion that Bannon has utilised to mobilise the undercurrent of hatred from the section of society that feels that their values, beliefs and concerns do not matter to the decision makers in government. Bannon suggests that the seemingly marginalised people exist with the fear that the majority of what happens in the world is decided by a small, selective group of people – in the US, PoTUS #45 designated this group ‘the swamp’. The phrase, “drain the swamp” was used in the same political sense by President Ronald Reagan in 1983; both Reagan and Trump utilise the metaphor to indicate the desire to remove the bureaucracy in the federal government. Also, both Reagan and Trump had careers in television before entering the political arena.
The GOP administration team, ostensibly headed by PoTUS #45, but realistically manipulated by the sinister, almost publicly silent, figure of Bannon, is orchestrating hatred against a myriad of groups including Black people, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT people, women, non-(white)Americans, and Democrats. The worst thing would be to think of the leaders of this hatred as unorganised and ineffective. They have planned this attack on democracy with care and precision. Bannon’s selection to the campaign and administration of PoTUS #45 has exploited the dual weaknesses of Trump: his showmanship and his parallel desire to keep ‘winning’ – at anything. Trump was facing another Chapter 11 in his business – bankruptcy was inevitable it seems; the Presidential campaign and subsequent election is an attempt to refinance his business and retain his position in the limelight as a leader. Trump has instigated a Chapter 11 a total of six times in his businesses. This alliance with Bannon and the GOP appears to be a desperate act to re-inject life and finance into his personal business by increasing his public profile. With this number of bankruptcies as a businessman it is difficult to envisage how Trump can successfully understand and run the political economy of the country, distributing both national income and wealth.
However, it is evident that Bannon and Trump have made a pact – it’s hard to know which one is the devil: they both could be. Their collaboration of skills as political puppet and political stage manager have created a live theatre of hatred that is gaining ground worldwide. Under the lead of PoTUS #45 and the GOP administration, democracy and civil rights are being threatened and marginalised while prejudice and hatred are becoming mainstream. Bannon, the chief strategist and senior advisor to PoTUS #45, is on record in 2014 as stating his plans to regain a global capitalist foothold on power, he said, “we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … [a] center-right revolt [which] is really a global revolt; We’re [Brietbart News] backers of entrepreneurial capitalists”, Trump presented himself as the ideal candidate to be backed by this organisation constructed on hatred.
Evidence of the hatred encouraged by this alliance is shown in the dramatic rise of racist, homophobic, and sexist attacks (amongst other hate crimes). In the UK, after Brexit, the official figures state that hate crimes rose dramatically post vote. Ordinary citizens were once again subject to the prospect and actuality of living lives in the shadow of fear and intimidation fuelled by the legitimised hatred of UKIP. In September 2016, the National Police Chiefs’ Council released figures which showed the number of racially or religiously aggravated incidents rose by 58 per cent in the week following the vote to leave the EU. Galop, an anti-violence charity which supports victims of homophobic violence, said homophobic attacks rose by 147 per cent in the three months following the Brexit vote.
In America, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that 2016 was “a banner year for hate,” and cited the election of Trump as one of the typical reasons for that description, because it corresponded with the increase in reports of hate crimes – the largest increase, 197 per cent, was of anti-Muslim hate groups. The hate groups grew from 34 in 2015, to 101 in 2016; these represent a significant part of the trend of established hate groups that rose from 892 in 2015, to 917 in 2016. Interestingly, in February 2017 there are news reports that suggest that PoTUS #45 may revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program so that it focuses solely on Islamic terror threats, thus removing the White Supremacists (with whom Bannon has close links) from the list of terrorists in the USA.
The majority of people (i.e. the 48.2 percent (65,844,954) who voted Democrat in the 2016 US election – 2.9 million more than voted Republican (62,979,879 – 46.1 per cent)) who are witnessing this political and social change are resisting this hatred, there has been an increase of community groups collaborating, organising and mobilising against the destruction of democracy as dictated from the White House. Nevertheless, the obstinate GOP administration is considering the use of military force to implement its orders – as did Governor (later President) Reagan when he ordered the National Guard to act against protesters in 1969; as did the Nazis who, upon obtaining power, began a system of comprehensive marginalisation against people not aligned with their model of nationalistic socialism, and implemented a regime of repressive measures against their political opposition.
History records the aftermath of the German Nazi regime: it continues to painfully echo through time.
It also records that dissent and resistance is the correct humanitarian action to take in these circumstances. So, it must be done. Educate. Organise and resist. Persistently.
©Marjorie H Morgan 19/02/17