Don’t Be a Sucker

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, the United States Government, fighting on both sides of the world, commissioned a short film about fascism entitled Don’t Be a Sucker. The film describes the fight in which America was embroiled in the style and vernacular of that time; it’s even more compelling to me for its simple presentation.

Americans’ lives were not then without deep contradictions, but the plain, direct defense of American liberty & equality that the film advances is morally superior to anything Trump or his ilk have never said, even these decades later. Indeed, that 1943 defense is a worthy reply to the bigotry Trump’s vanguard (Bannon, Miller, Gorka, Anton) daily foments.

Via Why an Anti-Fascist Short Film Is Going Viral @ The Atlantic.

‘What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump’

Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013 and twice acting director, and Samantha Vinograd of the National Security Council staff from 2009 to 2013, speculate from experience on What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump:

This is a speculative account of a memo that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s national security team would likely send him as he prepares to meet with President Trump for the first time this week. It is not a reflection of how we see the issues; it is a reflection of how we think Putin’s closest aides see the issues.

Mr. President, when you meet with President Trump at the Group of 20 meeting this week in Hamburg, you will do so at a historic time. Russia is in its strongest position since the end of the Cold War; the United States, our great adversary, is the weakest it has been. We are on the road to achieving our fundamental national security objectives — for Russia to retake its place as a great power and to have a sphere of influence in the countries on our periphery.

This did not happen by chance; it happened because we took action. We undertook the most successful covert political influence campaign since World War II. We kept our nemesis Hillary Clinton out of the White House, and we installed a president who is deepening existing schisms in his country while creating new ones at home and abroad. This is the first time in history that the United States has been attacked by another country and not come together as a nation; instead, our actions have caused it to come apart. This is a great victory for us.

Needless to say, I’m not able to speculate reasonably on what Putin’s advisors are telling the Russian dictator, but any guidance that tells him that he’s won a great victory over America seems right to me.

Trump is a huge gift to Russian power, nearly in proportion to his ignorance, bigotry, nativism, mendacity, authoritarian tendencies, and preference for foreign autocrats.

Saying all this about Trump is simply stating the obvious about him, but it’s worth remembering that a core of American fellow travelers and fifth-columnists, having more sympathy for Putinism than America values, made Putin’s meddling and Trump’s excreable rise possible. (See, Useful Idiots: Trump is getting played by the Russians – but so is the rest of the GOP, where John Stoehr applies the phrase, dubiously attributed to Lenin, to contemporary politics.)

There are, in a rough, descending order of culpability for Putin’s interference in our politics, the following: (1) those who have collaborated with Russians or other third parties to undermine American liberty & sovereignty, (2) those sympathetic to Putinism (including white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and theologically-confused & intellectually-stunted Americans who ludicrously think that Putin’s a moral exemplar), (3) those who wilfully refuse to see the damage Putin has done, (4) those who for years have maintained the low standards that have allowed Putin’s lies to flourish (including every glad-handing Babbitt in every town in America), and (5) those of us who should have seen more clearly, and dealt with the rest more assertively & decisively, all these years gone by.

So Much for the ‘Master Race’

I’m white. (I’ll joke and say that, in fact, I’ve been white for as long as I can remember). It’s simply a natural characteristic for me. (It’s easier, unquestionably, to describe matters this way – as though without a social context – if one has not experienced discrimination).

One can’t say the same about Richard Spencer, white nationalist and Trump supporter. He is

a leader in the so-called “alt-right” movement, which has been energized by President Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. He has said that the United States “at the end of the day, belongs to white men,” and at a November conference in Washington, D.C., he received Nazi salutes from supporters.

He’s also too indifferent or too ignorant to comply with the existing tax laws of the country that he believes belongs to his – and only his – race and gender:

The Internal Revenue Service has stripped prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer’s nonprofit of its tax-exempt status because the group failed to file tax returns, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times….He runs the National Policy Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank which bills itself as “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States.”

The group stopped filing tax returns with the IRS after 2012. Failing to file for three consecutive years results in an automatic loss of tax-exempt status. There are also questions about whether Spencer, a vocal supporter of Mr. Trump, violated rules that prohibit nonprofits from supporting any particular candidates or campaigns….

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to make a comment because I don’t understand this stuff,” Spencer said. “It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s not good. We’ll figure it out.”

Via IRS strips Richard Spencer’s nonprofit of its tax-exempt status @ CBS News.

If a similar failure had happened to a racial minority, one could be sure that Spencer would attribute the failure to some sort of intellectual or moral inferiority. When Spencer commits the same act, however, he contends that he doesn’t “understand this stuff” and shrugs it off with how “it’s a bit embarrassing.”

This repulsive, racist failure, who washed out of Duke with the lame excuse that he left to pursue a life of “thought-crime” (although speech alone has never been criminal), begs off that it’s all a muddle, isn’t it?

We are taught – and I do not dispute the teaching – that we are to love even our enemies. I will, however, candidly confess of how deeply one can despise men like Spencer, how their words are a spur to action and opposition, how much one might wish to see the utter ruin of their racist band.

Spencer’s followers – pustulous every one of them – want the command of this continent, forever. They claim this through blut und boden, that their race (as they see it) should command this territory.

They disingenuously tell others to stand down so that they might march on. They tell others to speak softly so that they might shout. They dismiss others’ legitimate concerns so that they might advance their own unchecked lies. They now bring challenges to us, but we will return far worse to them.

So many of us are of Spencer’s race (united truly with vast millions of all races, ethnicities, faiths), are also on this continent, and are equally committed to oppose his false teaching. His claims are not simply ‘offensive’ to us, not simply ‘hurtful,’ they are instead the animating and motivating force for a relentless, increasing opposition until Spencer comes to see the loss of all he professes.

We in opposition seek the preservation and growth of a free, diverse society of individual liberty and equal rights. These are principles worth defending, and we find ourselves now, against our hopes for amity with others, in a fight for the defense of that free society. It’s a long path ahead, with many hardships to come, but for it all we will see it through.

Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders

We’re early in the formation of a grand coalition in opposition to Trump, but however long the task, that effort should focus on the top: Trump, his inner circle, principal surrogates, and media defenders. All in all, that’s a small group on which one may concentrate.

There will be endless tactical debates about how to reach this voter or that one, to shrink Trump’s room to maneuver here or there. These discussions will be well-meaning (as they’ll be directed at Trump’s political ruin), but they shouldn’t be our principal focus.

A focus on Trump, key aides, and those who defend him in the media will accomplish three things: (1) assign responsibility where it is most deserved, (2) allow concentration of resources, and (3) speed a separation of Trump from ordinary people who are mere marks in his long confidence game.

Blaming those he’s conned is a sideshow. (There’s a necessary exception for the very few who are of the alt-right; they deserve, in-and-of-themselves, obloquy whenever one has the time.)

If Trump breaks politically, it will come from the case against him, and his present supporters will by turns break away (or in any event will have nothing left to support). In this way, his remaining supporters won’t be able to bolster him adequately in the end. He’ll stand or stumble despite them.

If Trump should meet his ruin (and he will), it will come from a relentless case against his mediocrity, lies, bigotry, character disorders, and authoritarianism. One needn’t ask why people support him now; it’s enough to show him again and again as unworthy of support.

Now, there are alliances to build, and a case to make, against Trump and those in his circle.

Distillation for a Resistance (First Edition)

We’re early in this new political era, with a long time ahead of us, and there’s a need to get a sense of one’s bearings. (The sound way to approach the new politics that has overcome America through the three-thousand-year traditional of liberty to be found in many places, the Online Library of Liberty being only one. But that’s the reading and study of a lifetime; there are essays contemporary to us that are both useful and readily distilled.)

These recent essays and posts consider, or a useful to understand, the incipient authoritarianism of America’s next administration. They are a good basis for a beginning, for a distillation of one’s thinking.

Some recent essays for consideration:

The Work of the Next Several Years 

Charles Blow writes of the work ahead for those many citizens who now find themselves compelled to defend their rights:

I fully understand that elevated outrage is hard to maintain. It’s exhausting.

But the alternative is surrender to national nihilism and the welcoming of woe.

The next four years could be epochal years in the history of this country. They could test the limits of presidential power and the public’s passivity.

I happen to believe that history will judge kindly those who continued to shout, from the rooftops, through their own weariness and against the corrosive drift of conformity: This is not normal!

Via Donald Trump, This Is Not Normal! – The New York Times.

One cannot say that this will be the work only of the next few years, knowing that often a few years stretch into several. There will be some moments of weariness; they will prove nothing as against the vigor that comes from being in the right.

Libertarianism is Enough: Goodbye to the LP

There’s a saying that some libertarians are born and others are made (as a result, tragically, of experiencing misconduct at the hands of the state). Libertarianism of both origins, especially those of us from movement (old) libertarian families, has been around long before the Libertarian Party – the LP – was formed in late 1971. Needless to say, there have been liberty-centric political views long before the term libertarian became popular.

Some of us have been both libertarians and members of the LP.  Now, however, after a contentious major-party election in which the LP did poorly, and more significantly after which libertarians now face an incoming administration that promises to increase vastly state intrusion into all parts of civil society, one may soundly contend that the Libertarian Party is of no use to libertarians.

I cannot imagine joining one of the two major parties, now or ever.  Still, there are votes to be cast, and we will have to choose from among the principal choices before us.  Those of us with views far older than the LP need no party membership to make our way in this country, or in traveling anywhere else in the world.

The recent obsessive pride with how long some people have been on this continent – so common among the radical populist right – is both wrong and futile: it’s wrong because the past confers not entitlement but obligation, and futile because most of this ilk are themselves relative newcomers by the measure of settlement on these shores.  They are fanatical, destructive, and obdurate.

When one recalls one’s past, it is in reply to those few nativists who believe that the past means only what they believe it means.   They are wrong, of course, but it is just as important to remember that they are not to be underestimated: they show delight and pleasure in the wrong.

Imagine, then, after an election in which the LP did poorly, and in which libertarians now face a long struggle against radical populist advocates of state power, the surprise in reading an invitation from Wes Benedict, executive director of the national LP, that

It is time to party…

You are invited to an end of the year

CELEBRATION!

2016 has been a record-breaking year for the Libertarian Party!

Wes Benedict may go to hell, and celebrate there in the outer darkness for so long as he wishes.

Others of us, libertarians by birth or circumstance, inheritors of the freedom philosophy, have work to do: an authoritarianism has ruined one great political party, crippled another, and seeks to direct the lives of hundreds of millions across a continent.  Some of our fellow citizens will yield from ignorance, others from misplaced hope, and a few from selfish opportunity.

We’ve work, not celebration, ahead.  Our views, and not a party that so carelessly and indolently represents them, is all we need.

Trump’s Surrogates Know Exactly What the Alt-Right Is

A few days ago, during a panel discussion, New York Times columnist Charles Blow and Trump surrogate former Congressman Jack Kingston clashed over the racism of Trump’s alt-right supporters.  Kingston claimed not to know what the term alt-right meant, and Blow scolded Kingston for Kingston’s professed ignorance.  (Their exchange begins after 6:30 on the video.)

As a rhetorical matter, Blow’s response (‘your deficiencies of understanding are not my problem’) works well; but one should be plain that Kingston, a longtime politician with close ties to the Trump team, surely knows what alt-right means.

Kingston’s either a liar or an ignoramus to profess ignorance of the alt-right.  Breitbart Media, of which incoming Trump strategist Steve Bannon is CEO, published a guide to the alt-right in March (see, An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right).

The so-called guide begins as an exoneration of the alt-right from charges of racism, but quickly elides into praise for white nationalists, racial supremacists, and their publications.   The whole purpose of the guide is to acquaint traditional Americans with an ideological future under the alt-right: “[a] specter is haunting the dinner parties, fundraisers and think-tanks of the Establishment: the specter of the “alternative right.” Young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies, they have become public enemy number one to beltway conservatives — more hated, even, than Democrats or loopy progressives.”

The authors (Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulis) aim to shock conventional sensibilities; they aim to awe a traditional audience.

One will excuse me if, upon considering all this, I don’t find myself shocked or awed, let alone haunted: the last century was filled with false theories of racial supremacy, and this new clique pulls from those ideas, while pulling any number of obscure theorists to power.  (In any event, the play on Marx’s famous lines from the Communist Manifesto doesn’t shock, either: a theorist whose entire work went to the dustbin presents no insurmountable threat.)

This is how Trump surrogates will begin: denying connections while simultaneously appointing a few alt-rightists (like Bannon) to high posts. In six months there’ll be no denying – there’ll be celebrating by the same ilk while they simultaneously welcome more into the government.