This month’s missive again concentrates on the worsening situation in the country as a result of resistance and refusal to follow public health guidelines mostly inspired by disinformation and partisan lies in response to the worsening Covid-19 pandemic. Most metrics are now consistently at their highest since the pandemic’s inception in January last year.
The rest of the picture looks gloomy for most people: oppressive, misogynistic, destructive, dangerous and downright stupidly regressive legislation, governors’ orders and trends – especially by Trump’s Republican party in the South – have prompted one long-time and respected observer to liken the far right and in particular the Republican party to the Taliban. At least in its love of repressive dogma and violent, virulent implementation of their stunted agendas… anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-science, anti-history, and fervently opposed to any kind of egalitarian society.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, while wildfires still burn out of control in the western states and floods and other weather systems destroy much in their path, an analysis by the Washington Post of declarations of federal disasters found that almost a third of those living in the United States live in a county (there are over 3,000 counties and equivalents in the 50 US states) which has been affected to some degree by a disaster either induced or exacerbated by the climate emergency in the past three months alone.
Already this year California has undergone its hottest summer on record. Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah – nearly one fifth of the contiguous United States – also endured record-breaking summers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Well over a dozen other states have recorded summers this year in the top five warmest ever. The average temperature in June, July and August was 76°F (24°C), which is 2.6°F (1.4°C). Alarmingly, those exceed the temperatures of the ‘Dust Bowl’ summer of 1936. Further, two thirds live in places that experienced a multi-day heat wave.
Yet most of the mainstream media, as well as the far right propaganda outlets like Fox and OAN are either ignoring the issue entirely; or are featuring speakers who claim that there is no such crisis, and say all talk of ‘Climate change’ is – and has always been – a ‘liberal’ hoax designed to deprive the rich and powerful of their wealth and the rest of the population of their ‘freedoms’ by unnecessary regulation.
This – and the upcoming COP 26 in Glasgow – holds no interest for the élite in the Trumpy south in particular. More important for them are the influx of non-white immigrants, the awfulness of schools which teach ‘Critical Race Theory’, and the retention at all costs of spurious self-serving ‘freedoms’. Indeed, on the same day as abortions (after six weeks) became illegal in Texas, a new law was passed to allow residents there openly to carry guns in public without a permit or training.
‘Notes from the US’ commented last time on how far right the Republican party has moved – officially and openly – in the last five years, and the last year in particular. But there is another aspect of the above ground sewer which constitutes public Republicanism. It is influenced by and in turn influences and supports militia groups like the Proud Boys, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers. These are violent, well-armed supremacist, anti-semitic and fascist-inspired corps who appear to be acting increasingly independently of Trump and of even the most vile, bigoted, delusional and moronic Republican party politics.
Fascism in North America has a long tradition. Indeed, the country was founded on supremacism and intolerance. But it’s instructive to examine why and how fascism has once again gathered strength and following in the United States. Trump was inevitable, for example, after the betrayal which the election of a non-white president (Obama in 2008) represents to the far right. The kind of antagonism and aggression being shown towards those advocating masks and vaccines is understandable because fascism cannot function without a (phantom) enemy. These and other characteristics of fascism explain much of the current irrational and pro-death activity. Indeed, irrationality is a (subconscious) tenet of fascism. Thinking, intellect and rationality represent weakness; they are un-masculine. So to slot the current trends of and from the (far) right into the wider structure which picks and chooses its heroes and villains is almost as re-assuring. Such an analysis helps us to comprehend how the delusions originate and spread.
This is not to say that the incipient violence can be brushed off. It is claimed by agencies, investigators and apparently knowledgable commentators on the country’s fascist groups that they are all very well prepared and resourced: indeed, a sitting Republican Congressperson, Madison Cawthorn (North Carolina), for instance, suggested in August that there could be ‘bloodshed’ over future elections; and said that “…there’s nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American…” – implying: “…if the elections don’t go our way, I shall”.
At Trump’s rally (for what? may be asked; he’s not actually a candidate for anything – but craves attention in any way he can get it) in Cullman, Alabama, on 22 August he was booed for admitting that he was vaccinated and for half-heartedly exhorting his audience to do the same. Alabama Republican Mo Brooks (a close Trump ally) drew jeers when he suggested that the MAGA ‘movement’ forget the 2020 election and move on.
Trump created a monster, it’s clear, which he can no longer fully control. Dogma, stupidity, tribalism and obsession with the self (“It is my right not to be vaccinated”) and the amplification of disinformation mixed with nationalism and racism are now driving movements on the right which appear likely to go their own way regardless of their most recent figurehead.
It may seem odd that Republican leaders have not learnt from occasions when this has happened before: forty years ago during the Reagan era the ‘conservative’ wing of the Republican party in Congress had at last elbowed its way into power after decades of a carefully-planned initiative to infiltrate almost every corner of (public) life)… school boards, mayoralties, police commissions, local judiciaries – as well as (state and national) elected offices and state governorships.
That was the era of Newt Gingrich. He eventually found himself outmanoeuvred by ‘his’ far right; they obstructed Gingrich’s attempts to end the government shutdown which he engineered in 1995-1996 (then the longest in US history). Similarly, George W Bush fell foul of the same ‘base’ in and after 2004: he initially relied on its bigotry and ignorance to win. But when he tried to tinker with immigration ‘reform’ the far right turned on him.
How the tiger which Trump and his addicts in positions of power across the country have by the tail may be tamed – indeed IF it can even be subdued now – is hard to see. Yes, fascism can – and does – collapse because of its own illogicalities, irrationality and fallacies. But before it does, it causes a huge amount of suffering and destruction. As we are seeing at the moment.
“There will be no room in our hospital for your sick child until the next child dies.”
This sort of admission is now being heard more often from hospital administrators in the Trumpy southern states where sado-governors tout ‘freedom’ not to wear masks and ‘freedom’ to refuse to take the vaccine as more important that saving spluttering, coughing children’s lives. As of last week, a quarter of all new cases of Covid 19 in the United States were children’s.
Protests against educators trying to save children’s lives are becoming more widespread as nearly 5,600 students and more than 300 employees of Hillsborough County Schools in Florida have either tested positive for Covid-19 or are currently in quarantine. Reports of increasing numbers of infected pupils and deaths rose as schools re-opened either with refusals to mask or the inclusion of rules which allow opt-outs. These, of course, still leave everyone in schools vulnerable. In the Miami area in Florida 13 staff have already died of Covid since the start of the school year.
After Nancy Pelosi (Democrat Speaker of the US House of Representatives) called her opposite number, Kevin McCarthy, a ‘moron’ in July – apt and under her breath, but ‘caught on tape’ nevertheless, the latter – adult, sophisticated and respectful, wise, insightful genius that he is – started to sell T-shirts proclaiming: ‘mo•ron: “A term coined by Nancy Pelosi referring to freedom-loving Americans who oppose Mask mandates”‘. The Republicans continue to fail to grasp that their ‘freedoms’ kill other people. This, by the way, was on the day that the number of new cases in the US was at its highest (nearly 291,000) since the pandemic began.
Many hospitals in the south (now estimated to have amongst the worst rates of infection in the world) are out of beds and unable to treat new patients arriving there with any condition until previously admitted patients die. In many cases where hospitals which have succeeded in re-purposing wards for Covid, and equipping them accordingly, there are no doctors or nurses to staff them. The mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, had to ask residents there to conserve water. Not because of the climate crisis. But because liquid oxygen, which is used in treating the area’s water supply, is needed more urgently for the dramatic surge of Covid-19 patients in Orlando.
At the same time the fascist propaganda outlets continue to broadcast their anti-mask, anti-vaccine disinformation to the nation. Leading this – as usual – are OAN (One America News Network) for whom wearing a mask is only ‘virtue signalling’ and Fox, where child-abuser-in-chief Ron DeSantis has appeared more times (21) to spew disinformation and Death Cult rubbish than he has talked to his state’s top public health official Surgeon General Scott Rivkees (seven times). And that was only up until the end of June before DeSantis sadistic refusal to allow masks in schools really took hold. Several school Districts (the equivalent of British LEAs) are refusing to comply with the governor’s ruling. Among them are schools in Broward and Alachua counties in Florida, whose officials were given 48 hours to comply or face ‘punishment’. They refused citing their responsibilities to ensure their pupils’ wellbeing. Their pay has now begun to be docked.
On Wednesday last week a judge in Florida ruled that the governor’s order was illegal and allowed schools to insist on masks. The state – in the person of DeSantis – immediately appealed that ruling. And on Friday a second judge sided with the Death Cultists. For the moment, pupils and staff in Florida schools can continue to become ill, infect others and die with their ‘freedoms’ in tact.
So obsessed by opposing vaccines and masks are the pro-death factions in Trumpy states that footage is beginning to circulate and be broadcast of young people being mocked for their exhortations that public health measures be respected – in one case as a high-school pupil in Tennessee described how his grandmother had died from Covid.
And fellow sado-governor Greg Abbott, in Texas, issued an executive order banning any government mandates for the (Pfizer) vaccine almost as soon as it received formal and full FDA approval as safe. That was in the week in which deaths in Texas from Covid-19 rose by 138% over two weeks before, and on the same day as 164 Texans died from the virus. Earlier that week, Trump addict and Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed his own executive order to allow businesses to disregard local rules put in place recently to try and safeguard residents from some effects of the pandemic.
Significantly, polls taken in the days after the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine show that – if they were telling the truth – most respondents who were anti-vaccination before approval will remain that way, and nothing will change their minds. It is hard to see how this won’t condemn the United States to a permanent state of infections, sickness and deaths even before any even more virulent strain of SARS-CoV-2 emerges.
The measures announced by Biden on 9 September obviously do not go anywhere near far enough. Many (most?) people seem set simply to ignore the new rules, and/or refuse to follow them. There are already legal challenges to Biden’s measures by pro-death factions. What’s more, there is no kind of national register which can be reliably used as proof of vaccination in those circumstances where it is required.
Within hours of the speech in which Biden set out his new steps, the fascist propaganda was presenting a more determined set of twaddle and lies urging their audiences and viewers to resist masks and vaccines even more strenuously. To ‘mask up’ or take the vaccination, they shouted at viewers, would be to ‘give in’ to Commie Biden. It may even be that Biden’s approach could backfire. This will probably be clear by this time next month. By then we shall also know how violent (or otherwise) the fascist rally to be held on 18 September in Washington DC turns out to be.
For the last several weeks most of the highest profile prime time hosts on Fox ‘News’ have been advocating that those ‘scared’ of Covid-19 should take a drug intended to rid farm animals of worms, ivermectin. Presumably this is because advocacy of its sale appears to have originated with the same group, America’s Frontline Doctors, has so impressed Trump with their public pronouncements on the steps of the US Supreme Court in July last year that masks don’t work, that any vaccine (whose release was then still over six months away) will turn those who take it against religion and that we had better beware of alien DNA and the effects of having sex with witches and demons in our dreams. At least one member of America’s Frontline Doctors has been indicted for crimes in the 6 January Putsch.
So prevalent has the abuse of ivermectin become that health officials have had to step in and try and persuade people not to take it. As the Mississippi Poison Control Center, foe example, began to receive increased numbers of calls, the State Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, had to warn people not to take drugs intended for the cloven hoofed to protect them from getting COVID-19: “Ivermectin at high doses can be toxic and even deadly in really high concentrations in animal models … I think some people are trying to use this a preventative, which I think is really kind of crazy, so please don’t do that”.
Not all doctors, though. Some are following the far right line on the drug and appear to be letting fascist propaganda dictate their actions. At the end of last month a judge near Cincinnati (Ohio), Gregory Howard, actually ordered doctors at West Chester hospital to administer ivermectin to a patient in their care.
Just as bad are reports that prisoners in Washington County gaol have been (and may still be) receiving ivermectin without their consent or knowledge; they were told it was “vitamins, steroids and antibiotics”. In other words, if information which they gave to the Associated Press is true, illegal medical experiments are now being conducted on prisoners, exploiting their vulnerability and diminished access to (reliable) information – contravening established ethical standards.
As well as pushing dangerous and ineffective remedies like ivermectin, Fox ‘News’ Tucker Carlson (the most watched presenter on the most watched cable ‘news’ show in the United States) has also effectively been promoting the production and use of fake vaccination cards.
The US Supreme Court announced at the end of last month that it would disallow the continuation of the moratorium imposed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has had a major role in guiding action nationally on the Covid-19 pandemic) on eviction for those so adversely affected by the pandemic that they have been unable to pay their rents. In other words landlords have been favoured at the expense of millions who now face homelessness.
Daniel Darling used to be senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters. On 2 August he gave a very reasoned interview with a national TV outlet (MSNBC) explaining why he had decided to get vaccinated, and how important he thought it was to listen to those who refuse, to hear them out and not to pressure them. For doing this, for contributing to good public health practice, Darling was sacked at the end of August.
Lastly, in late August in the growing suburb of Santa Clarita a few miles north of Los Angeles an unknown (and as yet unapprehended) white male about 60 years old deliberately drove his vehicle into a vaccination station injuring the medic on duty there and damaging equipment. A few days later at a meeting of Los Angeles councillors to discuss public health, fascist attenders violently threatened those who considered voting in favour of masks and vaccines with the usual “We know where you live. If you don’t drop it there will be civil war” bravado. Unlikely to come to such? Sure. But an indicator of how fast fascist rhetoric is growing and how intimidating it is to those watching it grow.
~ Louis Further