Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the lesser-known stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.
Trump and Republicans

After the Putsch attempt by Trump, fascist and supremacist militias at the Capitol on 6 January, Trump appears to have made an ignominious exit from public life to play golf. But that looks like being only temporary. At first, the Republican party was obviously undecided whether to disavow his influence or continue to follow his cult. Commentators and analysts were evenly divided between: “He’s finished” and “He and his base are the party’s future… this is a temporary setback”.

After another month, however, it is clear that the bulk of the Republican Party in office still avidly supports him and the ‘Make America Great Again’ cult. It should be noted and accepted that his wider political circle is as responsible as Trump and his most vocal followers are for promoting fascism, white supremacy, the destruction of the planet and illness and deaths in the hundreds of thousands as a result of Covid-19. Indeed, a recent report in The Lancet suggested that up to 40% fewer people in the US could have died if he/they had acted differently.

When Republican lawmakers booed the new Democratic Congresswoman, Cori Bush, of Missouri (who is black) for drawing attention to the racial dimension of Trump’s attempted Putsch, they made it plain where their loyalties and allegiances lie. Just as they did by voting against impeachment on that same day, 13 January; and by trying to end Trump’s second impeachment trial as unconstitutional (it is not) on 9 February; and then by voting to acquit Trump.

What’s more, there is a steady flow of information (here, for instance) which suggests that (Republican) lawmakers, law ‘enforcement’ and other armed sections of the establishment such as the military were actively involved in planning the Putsch.

This was made even clearer on the first two days of that hearing in the Senate as highly compelling evidence was both presented anew and in new contexts with additional data, audio, video and (spoken) testimony. As Timothy Snyder pointed out in a major article in the New York Times Magazine (paywall), fascism most often flourishes when the police and army link and co-operate with ‘external’ movements such as those active in January. Evidence presented at this second impeachment of Trump last week clearly showed how he and his staff assisted in financing and planning the Putsch on 6 January.

This, of course, sets a precedent. From now on anyone who wants to hang on to power, who wants to foist white supremacy and racism onto the rest of the United States, killing resisters in the process, must – according to precedent – now be permitted to do so with impunity and legal precedent on their side.

Now (Republican) lawmakers in three states (Florida, Mississippi, Indiana) have introduced legislation that would outlaw all protests, not just those by Trump’s supporters and other fascist militias.

Let’s not, though, fall – even in passing – for the idea that the Trump mob’s attack on the US Capitol in Washington DC on 6 January was a “dark day for democracy”, “an assault on our American values” or “an exceptional act at which we were all surprised and the like of which, as things reach a new low, we have never seen before”.

The oppressive corners of the élite in the United States built the country’s society on violence, destruction and materialist greed. It was founded on ruthless repression which systematically dispossessed the original populations of their livelihoods – and their lives. The ‘democracy’ in the US was and is a sham: two sides of the same oppressive, exclusionist and destructive minority coin take it in turns to profit from the repression and generalised misery of the rest of the country. They use such sentiments as “the ‘insurrection’ was un-American” in attempts to convince the majority that it was an aberration, not the inevitable consequence of allowing someone as inappropriate as Trump – by any rational person’s standards – to have as much power and influence as he had, and still has.

We shall see the exercise of that negative and destructive power as the Biden presidency progresses, whatever happens to Trump. Very little of what we have seen in the past four years, heinous and horrific though the Trump gang’s conduct has been, is truly out of character with the ‘land of the free’, which represents the zenith of capitalist destruction and selfishness. Indeed the selfishness of the Covid deniers typifies this strain of behaviour.

In other words, this set of (what are widely believed to be) crises was always predictable and inevitable.

Anarchists should really be surprised at none of this. But the extent to which far-right, supremacist and fascist ideas have found their way into the mainstream (Republican) politics is alarming – if only because that party still has huge power and influence over the (public) life of the USA. The ever-burgeoning far-right propaganda – especially of Fox, OANN (which now has a bedding salesperson repeatedly pushing the ‘election steal’ lie in three-hour chunks) and Newsmax – has barely missed a beat. Long time racist and bigot Lou Dobbs was the only sacrifice made – and only by Fox – as that outlet was sued by the Smartmatic voting systems company for Fox’s slanderous coverage of the 2020 (presidential) election.

Chief among these currents, of course, is ‘QAnon’. Whatever else members of the US government may be guilty of, they most certainly do not run a CABAL of devil worshippers, paedophiles and ‘deep state’ individuals whom only Trump can do anything to stop. QAnon’s adherents also believe that (5G) cellular telecommunications networks spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus, for instance. Although QAnon conspiracies began at around the time Trump was inaugurated (four years ago) and appear to be supported by him, the cult has grown dramatically from the fringe to the mainstream, particularly in 2020.

The US House of Representatives now has two (Republican) open QAnon supporters: Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia), whose Twitter account was suspended – but only for 12 hours – three days before Biden’s inauguration for ‘multiple violations’ of the platform’s policy on misinformation about the election. And Lauren Boebert (Colorado).

As anarchists, we hold no brief for special treatment for congresspeople. But when an elected member of the House of Representatives herself (Taylor Greene) is on record as calling for their murder, we might… blink. Freedom has reported before on the ‘views’, danger and conspiracy theories which Taylor Greene represents. She was eventually removed from congressional committees (though not without a fight – and much support from her party) including that which oversees education (she denied the nature and origins of one of the worst school mass shootings in this century: Parkland in 2018 in Florida). Yet moves to expel her from Congress altogether because of her (endorsement of) physical threats to murder those of her fellow congresspeople with whom she and Trump disagree have fizzled out.

Boebert, who wants to carry guns in the Capitol (Andy Harris of Maryland also tried to bring a gun into the House chamber), is anti-mask, supports an expansion of fossil fuels and is seeking to overturn Biden’s rejoining the World Health Organization. Boebert disclosed and made public the whereabouts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the Capitol Putsch, as its invaders were looking for lawmakers to capture and kill.

There are others, though, including the deniers and hoaxers. They – still – believe (or at least say they believe) that the election was stolen and that Covid-19 isn’t real. It’s also clear from video and personal testimony and evidence before, during and after the attempted Putsch of 6 January that there are elected representatives (let alone support and security staff) who advocate violence to advance a fascist agenda.

Trump and his gang ended their four years as they began: with an endorsement of white supremacy. On Trump’s final full day in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised racial tolerance and equality by describing multiculturalism as “…not who America is… [it] distort[s] our glorious founding…” This came a day after the White House marked Martin Luther King Day by publishing a report advocating ‘patriotic education’; it justified slavery by defending the fact that enslaved Black people were counted as three-fifths of a person.

The arrival of Taylor Greene, Boebert and such ardent Trump supporters and scourges of the more adult members of the Republican party as Matt Gaetz (Florida – and no stranger to controversies) to senior elected positions in the US’s ruling class is concerning. There is a greater than ever public approval of their racism, homophobia, anti-Muslim hate speech – not least by the electorate which did vote from Trump in such huge numbers.

But (other) Republicans at all levels, do now seem firmly wedded to the MAGA nonsense. They are threatening to unseat, remove or otherwise ‘deal with’ those who voted for Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives on 13 January, for example. In all these case, the official GOP leadership has been silent. Their endorsement is clear. In fact the defence of Trump at his (second) impeachment trial – on 12 February – was based on attempted rewritings, distortions and fact-free allegations of what happened and how on 6 January.

Revisionism by the official Republican Party is also rife. At the end of last month, official Republican policy in Oregon was to claim that the 6 January Capitol Putsch was staged by opponents of Trump, that he did indeed win the election and that those who voted for his impeachment amounted to traitors.

Stepping back to look over the past four years and the last four months in particular, it is clear that the ‘ideologies’ of the ascendant fascist right are no longer based chiefly on class… if they ever were.

With the caveat – again – that as anarchists we see the spectrum of (even ‘radical’ left) Independent and Democrat to Republican politics as essentially variations on the same élitist, materialist destruction and oppression, we can reliably examine what has changed – or what has come into sharper focus now.

In the first place, there are broadly-speaking two ‘camps’. Remembering not to hold out any hope from one party or the other, the fascist right does distinguish itself in this case because it flatly refuses even to acknowledge the veracity and validity of any opinion but their own. They thrive – as do all such fascist tendencies – on strengthening the sense of ‘Them vs Us’… the danger(s) of immigration and ‘liberalism’, the myth of a ‘golden age’, a strong cult leader, and a wholehearted denial of science and objective facts.

In their adherence to Trumpism, they lie doggedly about the election. They deny the (extent of the) pandemic and climate catastrophe. They adhere to massive and dangerous conspiracy theories like QAnon. They (tacitly and implicitly – but substantively) support the overthrow of an elected government – unless it is of their own ‘side’. Because ‘patriotism’ is such an easy watchword, many (Republicans, and those further to the right) nationwide see the 6 January Putsch as a patriotic act. The growing Trump cult members are intolerant of any and all opinions, lifestyles, religions, (political) philosophies and beliefs except their own. They look to an incompetent, mentally ill, racist, sexist, homophobic, materialist moron as their cult leader. And are apparently ready to use armed force to have the cult, its leader – and their own interests – prevail.

Biden and the Democrats mischaracterise this as an absence of consensus. But it is important to see it for what it really is: incipient fascism where the whole point is to have ‘sides’, factions, an enemy.

In other words, it can be argued, the defining characteristic of the new Right (The GOP, the MAGA movement, conservatism and the militias) is sadistic selfishness justified by gullible, wilful ignorance where dogma has taken over from judicious reason. The approach to life of such factions and constituencies is that of the (spoilt) juvenile trying to get its way by tantrums, impossibly incomplete misunderstandings of the way the world works and the threat of violence.

The beliefs advanced by the neo-fascists in congress (and unchallenged by the Republican party leadership) make it impossible for any kind of adult dialogue to take place… as the still widely-supported Taylor Greene has it: “The wildfires in California were caused by aliens pointing lasers controlled by ‘the jews’ at the state from outer space”, “Mass shootings are staged”, “The Democrat party is a cabal of pizza- and child-eating abusers who fixed the election against the greatest president the country has ever had”. And much of such tripe is endorsed, echoed and re-inforced by TV, radio and print propaganda outlets – even though, presumably, these are run and staffed by nominal adults.

We may not be at the end of Trumpism, but at the start of a wider fascist (at best authoritarian), racist, supremacist, homophobic, nationalist militaristic cult. Its members believe they have right on their side. That they have a legal right (after Trump’s recent acquittal) to use force to advance their goals. And that they have no obligation to look after anyone but themselves.

Pandemic

The US Congress has passed a number of bills to send financial relief to a population so seriously affected by Trump’s sadistic denial of the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic. But amongst those who have received money (US$850,000 or £625,000 in all) are five anti-vaccine organisations known to spread lies and/or misinformation about coronavirus: the National Vaccine Information Center, Mercola Health Resources, the Informed Consent Action Network, the Children’s Health Defense and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center.

The deniers and hoaxers continue to be ever more active and dangerous: On 30 January a Covid-19 vaccination centre at the football Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles was forced to close for an hour because about 50 far right anti-science protesters threatened and obstructed those in cars waiting to be vaccinated.

As the far-right and fascist propaganda outlets continue to refer to Covid-19 as ‘the Chinese virus’, there is increasing evidence of continued, and larger numbers of, attacks on Asian Americans. In San Francisco, for example, the brutal assault of Vicha Ratanapakdee on 28 January was captured on video and shared widely. Ratanapakdee died from his injuries.

Louis Further

Photo by Tyler Merbler, published under CC BY 2.0.