Last month The Southern Baptist Convention voted to confirm that two churches led by women pastors should remain excluded from their organisation. At the same time, it further penalised and restricted women: not only can women not serve as pastors but women also cannot assume leadership roles of any kind. Google, meanwhile, has profited to the tune of US$10 (£7.8) million over the past two years by taking advertisements from groups opposed to abortion, according to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate; many of these were deceptive advertisers purporting to offer ‘advice’ to women.
It had to happen: suburban schools in the Davis School District (the equivalent of the LEA in the UK) north of Salt Lake City has over 70,000 pupils in elementary and middle schools. They will now longer be able to read… the Bible. As part of its fascist-inspired book banning project, the District is bound by law to respond to a parental complaint with immediate removal; then review. It does seem likely that the complaint was received by a parent (although the scheme neither insists that the censorship proposal come from anyone connected with education; nor that they have read the book to which they are objecting) as a ‘prank’ to draw attention to the… ‘inadvisability’ of skewing educational material to avoid anything advocating tolerance or breadth. One of the groups earnestly pushing such censorship and hate is ‘Moms for Liberty‘. It is – unsurprisingly – apparently linked to the Proud Boys fascist militia.
In education in the United States College Board, set up at the end of the nineteenth century, is the organisation responsible – amongst other things – for administering Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high schools. These offer undergraduate-level courses with university-level credits to younger pupils. College Board is now fighting back against the insistence by Florida’s governor, the notorious Ron DeSantis (who seems to think that bellowing the word “woke” often enough will guarantee him the presidency next year), that certain topics of which he disapproves because they advocate tolerance and equality be removed from AP curricula in the state. In late June College Board said that it would “…not modify our courses to accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics”. We’ll see who wins.
Politicised denial of the truth appears to be increasing across the US. If the (far) right and fascist contingents don’t approve of or understand something – or if they fear it – until relatively recently their response was usually to mutter obscenities and sling insults at anyone who refers, say, to the climate crisis, or the rights of same-sex couples, those who want avoid death by being vaccinated or who refuse to believe that white people are superior to anyone else. Now the right has made it all a lot easier (for themselves) by simply saying that such views are wrong: Trump did not lose the last election; Biden is a sock puppet; Covid was a hoax etc. For them these are facts.
Alarmingly, though, the great misguided mob is increasingly taking to projecting their ignorance onto others. For example, Chris Gloninger is typical of many of the many weather forecasters who daily provide residents local to the TV or radio station with news about current traffic conditions and the kind of weather to expect over the next few hours and days. He worked for KCCI in Des Moines, Iowa. But Gloninger has been forced to resign. In addition to advising viewers of heat, cold, snow, wind, rain and so on, he usually added explanations referring to the climate crisis. As a result Gloninger began to receive ‘negative feedback’, which turned into harassment and then threats. He felt that he and his family were both at too great a set of risks to make it safe to continue providing meteorological information… Gloninger is an accredited meteorologist. His experience is anything but unusual.
‘My shadow is Purple‘ is a children’s book which seeks to help (primary school) children who don’t feel they fit in. It tactfully and discreetly encourages such kids and offers them support by an age-appropriate examination of gender beyond binary. Primary school teacher, Katie Rinderle, bought ‘My shadow is Purple’ book for the gifted children aged up to eleven for whom she was responsible at a school (Due West Elementary) in Cobb County Georgia. She bought is at a state school book fair. ‘My shadow is Purple’s author, Scott Stuart, is Australian, where the book has been nominated for a Book Industry Award. On the basis of the book’s status and its gentle message of inclusivity and sensitive acceptance of diversity, Rinderle read it to he fifth grade (ten and some eleven year olds) gifted class at the school. For her belief in supporting all aspects of children’s development – including the social and emotional – and for her belief that such vehicles for inclusivity and tolerance Rinderle now faces the sack. She has fallen foul of Georgia’s fascist-leaning censorship and hatred laws. At the start of June she received a notice of termination; but has vowed to fight.
At the end of June several highly controversial (another way of saying damaging and repressive) rulings of the US Supreme Court were handed down. Federal law now removes the legal legitimacy of affirmative action when considering college admissions, it enshrines greater discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and disadvantages those – often the poor and in ‘minority’ communities – who have student debt.
At least three aspects of these supremacist reactionary rulings can be identified.
In the first place the Supreme Court (which has a right wing majority and increasing numbers of increasingly severe corruption and financial impropriety scandals) is not supposed (some constitutionalists would say not allowed in law) to make law and ‘policy’; it should merely interpret existing law.
Secondly, these decisions open the door to greater and worse (semi-)’authorised’ ever-wider oppression, violence and discrimination.
And thirdly, what has been published at a national level by the Court leaves significant leeway in the individual states for those with more repressive agendas (of which there are many) to take things further. This leads to greater suffering, injury and death as a consequence.
With barely a few months to go to the official start of the 2024 election ‘season’, two thirds of the country experiencing floods and choking and/or baking under unprecedentedly severe weather conditions (the week beginning 3rd July saw the record for the hottest day ever worldwide broken three times) and few doing anything to ameliorate it, many denying that a catastrophe appears upon us (and the powerful trying to ignore science more generally) things look bleak for civil society.
This condition is made worse by the fact that conventional discourse between multiple holders of multiple policies (however unsatisfactory this has always been to anarchists) seems no longer effectively to exist. On the one side there are those in positions of power who cling to a vague sense of what could be called ‘policies’ – in the sense of ‘whether or not to nationalise the dockyards’ was once a policy issue. The others are driven by supremacist dogma, their own fear and prejudices, slogans, racism and bigotry.
And worse still by the ruse and deception now openly employed by the right as well as the far right and fascist segments in public to advance the idea that white people are superior to black, men to women and ‘straight’ to gay and lesbian etc by calling compassion for and tolerance of each of the latter ‘woke’; and then by disparaging ‘woke’ as some sort of disease or aberration.
And yet worse by the sad truth that we have to acknowledge now that the figures who started the rot are in some ways no more to blame that the apparently 100 million (over a third of the United States adult population) who approve of the bigotry and hatred, lies, calls for violence and criminality.
The MAGA, Republican and overtly fascist segments of the population – those who think like this – are to be commended, one might say, for two things.
Start by assuming that many voters are young, not particularly well-informed about either social policy or history… figures ranging from a quarter to a third of respondents in polls such as this have little idea that fascism 80 years ago led to the Holocaust, for instance. They may be unaware, too, of the dynamic between left and right. Thus leaves the way open for apparently ‘new’ and unconventional political figures and movements which offer a ‘clean sweep’ (“Drain the swamp”) to seem attractive. Like most of us, the MAGA mob – can plainly see that politics doesn’t work. But not in the way they think.
Then, note how many voters rightly suspect that the state can and does act in its own best interests, and not those of the wider population.
But perhaps up to half of those responsible for electing figures like Trump fail to see that what these congresspeople, senators, governors and presidents etc offer (incipient fascism) is not a sensible alternative to the performance of Democrats and Republicans.
It’s almost impossible to judge with any accuracy how large the Trump ‘base’ actually is; how potentially enduring; and how likely its members are to act as they say they will.
We may dismiss such trends as these as likely to lead nowhere in the wider context. But we should be wary: a look at history tells us that trickles can become floods. After all, the (office of the) District Attorney in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, has received thousands of phone calls and emails from Trump’s supporters with various degrees of threats in the weeks after he was charged with 34 felony counts for falsifying documents related to the hush money which he and/or his organisation paid adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, before the 2016 election. Many of these threats appear to be from well-armed duped people like those referred to above. They seem unafraid to carry them out.
So let this cheer you up a little.
The wave of book-banners should be seen in the knowledge that fully 80% of states in the US have either introduced and/or enacted legislation and other legal measures to promote hatred, supremacy and intolerance of diversity… in many places, for instance, it is now illegal to acknowledge and discuss racism in many schools and colleges. For example, the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oklahoma, the state’s most senior education official, Ryan Walters recently denied that race was the main reason behind the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921 in which 300 people were killed and thousands of Black residents displaced.
Although the misconduct of Florida’s governor Don DeSantis has received much coverage in recent weeks, the almost equally disgusting Greg Abbott threatened to leapfrog his fellow fascist along the coast by an act that appears to be pure malice and cruelty. As the climate catastrophe causes temperatures in his state, Texas, to rise to unprecedented levels, Abbott signed into law last month a measure that not only invalidates the existing ordinance whereby building workers are entitled to a 10-minute break for water every four hours, but also prevents local governments and authorities from similarly protecting – and without doubt saving – the lives of workers in their jurisdiction. Two aspects of this savage attack deserve attention: firstly it appears to be an attempt to endorse climate denial; secondly 60% of construction workers in Texas are Latino or Black.
A report published last month by International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons showed that almost US$44 billion was spent in 2022 on weapons of mass destruction; that’s nearly £125,000 each minute. The United States, though, spent more of its residents’ money than all other countries combined. Last year was the third in a row where spending on killing and destruction rose.
Throughout June Texas was one of the states bearing the greatest brunt of the excessive heat induced in part by the climate catastrophe accepted in most parts of the world – except the United States. Indeed, it was at a rally in Eagle Pass, Texas, that presidential candidate Ron DeSantis was heard to advocate the use of “deadly force” in combatting the “invasion” into the US of immigrants driven out of Central America – ultimately – by previous US oppression in their countries. DeSantis, ignoring what his supporters call the “climate cult”, said that immigrants would end up “stone-cold dead”.
In Montana last month sixteen children and young people aged between five and twenty-two won a welcome victory in court when it accepted that say they are being harmed by smoke from wildfires, excessive heat and (the many adverse effects of) the climate catastrophe in general. Judge Kathy Seeley also ruled that the state (actually one of the least populated in the US) has a constitutional responsibility to protect those living there. At the very least, the plaintiffs’ assertion is that the Montana Environmental Policy Act is wrong to prevent Montana from taking the crisis into account when planning energy policy. Of course, there is a symbolic component to this. Yet it seems likely – according to some activists – that other states in the USA will try and build on the success of this ruling. The Republican-controlled Department of Environmental Quality and Montana’s Attorney General reacted by saying that they will not change the way in which approvals for fossil fuel projects are made.
~ Louis Further
Image: Rod Webber