Trump and the legitimisation of hate (Letter to America – No. 3 19/02/17)

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 worse 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 in1969; 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

2,024 words

Letter to America (No. 2) 16/02/17

Letter to America (No. 2) 16/02/17

16 years ago, in 2001, another President who lost the popular vote, George W Bush, took his place in the annals of history as the 43rd President of the United States. This year, in 2017, Donald J Trump, who also lost the popular election vote by around 3 million votes, has in the last month taken the office as 45th President of the United States. Both campaigns were run on the grounds of polarised politics. The campaigns and the initial weeks in office have similarities with both Republican Presidents then, as now; the country and the world watch in a state of shock as the current GOP administration implements divisive and appalling measures in the form of Executive Orders (EOs) and Presidential Memoranda (PMs).

This time the Republican Commander-in-Chief is a businessman and television host who has taken on a new role as PoTUS: as he has become the 45th President of the United States of America, a large portion of the global population is aware of his rise to the most powerful position in the Western world.

PoTUS #45 loves the attention that this new role has brought to him, he has garnered attention ever since he was a young man who inherited his father’s wealth from the family property business. What he does not like is the negative attention and people disagreeing with him and his status. It seems that PoTUS #45’s ego cannot abide criticism. However, from his first day in office PoTUS #45 has experienced volumes of opposition – the Women’s March on 21st January 2017 reportedly had larger crowds than at the previous day’s inauguration. The figures of the inaugural attendance – and the size of the election win – have remained sticking (and frequent talking points) for PoTUS #45 and his staff.

There is an abundance of criticism levelled at both PoTUS #45 and members of his cabinet and staff. Firstly PoTUS #45, does not appear to posses or have the ability to share any global political history or diplomacy facts. He has a limited vocabulary and appears unable to grasp the minutia of complex political relationships. Unlike Harry S Truman (33rd President) – initially an unknown quantity in the political arena – PoTUS #45 does not have any of the hallmarks of a potentially great but yet undiscovered President.

His rise and election continues to bewilder and baffle the majority of the country and the world. In his first month in office he has signed a large number of Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda, seemingly in an effort to stamp his authority on to the Office of President. This authoritarianism of the new PoTUS verges on the edge of being a dictatorship or fascism. PoTUS #45 does not appreciate any criticism of his government stance; he uses social media regularly to express his upset on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. James Madison, the father of the American system of government of the Constitution, said, ”Government begins with the recognition that men are born to disagree.”

A daily tracking Gallup poll shows that PoTUS #45 has the lowest job approval rating (currently -40%) of any modern President. Previous Presidents – Obama and Clinton had high +50s approval ratings during the earliest months of their administrations, even though they both had strong opposition to many of their policies and administrative actions. The job disapproval rate of PoTUS #45 has a high of +55%, according to the ongoing Gallup poll; these figures signify a growing dissatisfaction with the performance of the President and his administration.

There have been a swathe of disagreements between the GOP and its opposition that started on the campaign trail and have not ceased. The administration of PoTUS #45 has thus far been one of chaos, dysfunction and incompetence, with disagreements both within the party and from political observers. The first month has highlighted the inexperience of both the PoTUS and his inner circle as incoherent policies and badly managed political events have occurred on a regular basis; the first few weeks have seen a flurry of PMs and EOs being signed and issued.

One particular EOs (issued on 27th January 2017 – a week after the inauguration) has caused great public and legal outcry resulting in thousands of Americans taking to the streets to object to the content of the ban, and the affect that it has on refugees and green card holders alike; the implementation of this EO is seen as an erosion of citizens’ democratic rights and the claim that it is illegal has been upheld by the Department of Justice who have overturned the EO. Refugees who had undergone strict vetting over several years and were in transit were disembarked from their flights or returned to their original locations as the travel ban was clumsily rolled out across the country and the impact was felt throughout the world.

The Court of Appeals also denied the Government’s appeal to stay the ban, they stated, “We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.”

The response to this EO was the continuation of a non-violent rise of public dissent throughout the world; the tumultuous beginning of this political term within the White House has mobilised a community who are in opposition to many of the policies and comments arising from this nascent GOP administration.

These first twenty-five days have been riddled with divisions, controversies, ethics issues and deliberate distractions. The inept press office and personal advisors are a prime example of the turmoil that is the face of this administration. Many will be quick to note that all administrations have teething problems, and these are early days, however, this level of disorganisation and ineffective governance cannot be sustained either by the Government or the country. Washington and beyond are reeling from the chasms being created within the White House and rippling throughout the political world as decades of international relations are undone with many casual, uneducated statements and actions.

After a campaign run around drama and comments designed to incite passions on all sides of the political spectrum, PoTUS #45 has continued in the same mode now that he is in situ in the White House. He surrounds himself with family and friends – many of who have little or no political experience, and he refuses to acknowledge faults and errors that persist from himself and his team. Blame for any failing is placed squarely at the door of the media who continue to report the real-life tragicomedy that is occurring in the American political system.

Stephen Miller, a senior policy advisor to PoTUS #45 is on record as saying that the new President “has accomplished more in just a few weeks than many Presidents do in an entire administration”, also – with particular regard to the EO on immigration (27th January 2017), Miller states, “The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned.” This statement is symbolic of the face of the GOP administration under the lead of PoTUS #45, it is one that runs like an unstable dictatorship.

Since January 20th 2017, the revered office of PoTUS has been weaken to its foundations as incompetence and unsubstantiated information have become the overriding currency of the 45th President’s tenure.

©Marjorie H Morgan 16/02/17

My Letter to America 12/02/17 American Political Dissent in 2017

My Letter to America
12/02/17

American Political Dissent in 2017

Under the current American Republican government the people of the country, and the world, appear to have been motivated into a vocal and physical show of dissent, specifically and particularly, against the 45th President of the United States.

To dissent is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as to ‘hold or express opinions that are at variance with those commonly or officially held.’ Most dissenters lack political power and their persistence in vocalising their point of view, and calling for a change in the status quo, has often seen them labeled as unpatriotic. In the political arena, dissent is also categorised according to the party in power, and the origins of the dissenters.

Throughout the terms of different political parties in 21st century politics, dissent has variously been reported in the media as treason, obstruction, racist, or “the highest form of patriotism” – as noted in the presidential term of George W Bush.

Nonconformity and rebellion against the government is a means of resisting the control of established authority. Rebellion is seen negatively by those who desire to retain their positions of entrenched power, yet it is seen as justified and for the greater good by those engaging in the dissent. The right to dissent is the right of citizens throughout the world to meet up, organize themselves, and themselves heard in order to achieve political and social change and oppose government policies; legally citizens of America currently have this right to dissent without fear of impediment or reprisal. The 1964 case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, reinforced the law relating to modern-day dissent when it was stated that the First Amendment was a constitutional safeguard that “was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.”

The early seventeenth century English colonies of the Americas were founded on a tradition of dissent. In England there is a historical custom of organised dissent, particularly against the established church. From the 16th century onwards those who held different beliefs, opinions and views separated from the church and government and formed their own establishments and communities – some emigrated to America – also known as the ‘New World’. The historian, Ralph Young, noted in 2015, that we “need to recognize that dissent is American, that protest is patriotic. It is, in fact, one of the fundamental traits that define us.”

Rebellion is not just the property of the alienated, it can also be identified when unfair authority attempts to implement power structures that violate basic human rights; a contemporary example in shown in the behaviour of the 45th President of the United States, who continuously refuses to adhere to the norms and conventions of the office of PoTUS as he attempts to govern by social media and refuses to accept the power of other branches of government that disagree with his frequent edicts.

There appears to be a balance of irrational authority in the GOP administration that is focused on entrenching personal power and removing all obstacles that challenge the authority of the PoTUS.

There is a sense that the GOP administration is in institutional disarray and is guided by this irrational authority that seems to be based on the desire to retain undeserved privileges (promoting a family member’s product line from the White House), and unfair rights (breaching ethics laws), while entrenching structures of power to ensure the tyranny of abuse continues (granting privileged access to national security briefings to a confirmed political extremist).

It appears that the underlying motivation behind these actions from within the White House is to maintain and perpetuate unfair power balances where one group suffers and the other group continues to benefit and increase its position of strength. These actions indicate that the 45th President of the United States is experiencing the vulnerability of his position because he, like the rest of the USA and the world, are aware that his authority as PoTUS is not rational because he lacks any actual political skills or knowledge that should be employed for the benefit of those who lack these attributes.

While the 45th PoTUS appears to relish the public theatre of his new position, it appears he is trying to retain the control and behaviours of his previous jobs as a television reality show host and a business executive. However, the position and power of the PoTUS is regulated by the American Constitution (Article II, Sections 2 & 3), and is not merely ‘free-reign’ to manage public affairs as if the country were a business empire. As the head of the executive branch of government, all PoTUS’ are subjected to the constitutional duties which include ensuring all the nation’s laws are “faithfully exercised”; and important aspect of this fact is that legislation can only be enacted by Congress, it cannot be initiated solely by the PoTUS.

All new political administrations seek to make changes that reflect their particular standing, however, the current GOP administration is trying to implement actions that have been deemed unlawful by other branches of government. In the past three weeks many thousands of people have taken to the streets and to airports to demonstrate against the unfair partisan laws that the 45th PoTUS and his inner circle have tried to enforce without any factual basis.

There appears to be a plethora of unsubstantiated misinformation being shared from the press office, and the social media accounts of the current incumbents of the White House. This has reinforced the public’s determination to obtain truth and justice for all people, not just those in positions of power.

People generally object to a steam-roller type of administration – history shows that the tyranny of dictatorships are never accepted without resistance. The protests against this administration have been varied and frequent in nature, and the GOP administration has been openly hostile to any criticism of their plans and regularly address the press and general public with rancour. The First Amendment of the American Constitution prohibits Congress from passing a law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” it also protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” and their right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

However there is always hostility to dissent. Activists are frequently vilified and maligned for their opposing beliefs, however history often records them as heroes (Kirsten Gillibrand or Elizabeth Warren perhaps: the future will tell). Many people have united as communities of humanitarians against these unfair policies and unjustified legislation.

In April 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr wrote the following words from the jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was modelled on the tactics of previous dissenters and protesters. In a similar way, the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s used past protests to create their vision for a new future, founded in equality.

Henry David Thoreau – protesting a war with Mexico – also stated that when there is an unjust law, then it is the duty of every just man to break that law; a true patriot would not allow injustice to stand. As Thoreau wrote, “I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

If continued dissent and resistance is the correct humanitarian action to take in any circumstance, then it must be done. Organise and resist.

Persistently.

© Marjorie H Morgan 12th Feb 2017