I told you Donald Trump was a fascist!

December 9, 2015

Well, I hate to be the one who said I told you so, but even mainstream Republicans are using the “F word” to describe Donald Trump. After his ridiculous fantasy about banning Muslims from America, I felt I should chime in, even though I’d rather write about Cozy’s first poop in her IKEA baby toilet. His use of the these emotional hot-button issues certainly is good at keeping this billionaire “man of the people” candidate in the headlines, but there is a frighteningly ugly side to his appeal.

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It’s clear that a lot of people don’t understand the basic political spectrum with fascism on the right side of the continuum and communism on the left. (Hint: We’re pretty much in the middle.) I’ve given up on explaining to people that Hitler’s “National socialism” is not actually socialism but a violently anti-socialist form of fascism. The right is characterized by the rule of the one and the left is characterized by the rule of the many, with lots of gradations between the extremes. (Bernie Sanders is to the left of Hillary Clinton and to the right of Fidel Castro. Similarly, Donald Trump is to the right of Marco Rubio and to the left of Benito Mussolini.)

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So the memes comparing Trump to Hitler have been coming fast and furious. Godwin’s Law aside, I’m sure Trump is flattered by the comparison with a former Time Magazine Person of the Year. They do have much in common. But let’s stick to four hallmarks of fascism.

Conspiracy Theories: Trump is the king of the “Birther” movement. The theory is that Obama was born in Kenya instead of America and his college transcripts were forged. It’s all part of an elaborate conspiracy by foreign Muslims to instal a jihadist in the White House and institute Sharia Law in the United States. Since Obama will be leaving the office in January 2017, he better get his Jihadi ass in gear.

Then there is the fun one about the Mexican government is “sending its worst” to the U.S. (Remember, all those rapists and murderers?). They’re destroying us, he will tell you. “Believe me!”

Obviously, all these guys harp on the “liberal media” conspiracy that is out to get them.  (Hint: The media is only as liberal as the corporations that own it.)

The fact that these juvenile theories are disproven on a daily basis doesn’t really matter. Facts don’t matter to Trump and his minions. Conspiracy theories offer simplistic world views and explanations. Everything is very black and white. And the left has a few conspiracy theories of their own (9/11 was an inside job, Monsanto runs the world, etc.). But Trump’s are rooted in xenophobia and blaming “outsiders” for our problems and that puts him firmly on Adolf’s team.

Racism: I think Trumpies believe that you have to parade around in a Klan robe to be a racist. Trump does have a few black supporters and Hitler had a few Jewish supporters (before he gassed them). But let’s be clear, Trump is either a seething racist or he is an opportunist who uses racism to rally his sub-moronic drones.

A) He’s anti-black. Whether encouraging the man-handling of “disgusting” Black Lives Matters protesters or crowing that “All lives matter,” it’s clear that he has no interest in addressing the institutional racism that plagues the lives of millions of Americans. He’s tweeted “facts” from a white supremacist websites to reinforce his position that black people are a violent threat to his white followers.

B) He’s anti-Latino. His asinine comments about immigrants (he never mentions white immigrants) is based on the most extremist narrative and denies the reality of actual Latino immigrants, including members of my family.

C) He’s anti-Muslim. I know Islam is a religion and not a race, but it comes from the same dark place. He’s denied the role of Muslim Americans in the war on terrorism, in the armed forces, in government, in eduction, in science and even in sports (while  bragging about his “good friend” Muhammad Ali).

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Trump is not the traditional racist but brown is the new black so he can hope for a handful of black supporters by going after Latinos (“Mexicans”) and Arabs (“Muslims”) and his loyal flock is A-Okay with it. The assumption is that all non-whites are voting Democratic anyway so why not just recruit the highly motivated whites and make America great again, “again,” meaning back to early 1954 before America went all to shit.

Of course Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from America is idiotic. According to what he told ABC’s George Stephanapoulos , customs agents would just ask people if they were Muslim and if they said “yes,” they wouldn’t be allowed into the country. You know, because actual terrorists are so honest. And would they be allowed into the country if they converted to Christianity? It seemed to work for the Spanish Inquisition.

In that interview he likened his plan to FDR’s WWII internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, one of the great American human rights abuses of the twentieth century and a massive violation of the due process constitutional rights of 110,000 Americans and thousands of Japanese immigrants whose only crime was being Japanese. In 1988, President Reagan apologized for the atrocity but here is Trump using it as his model. Even Jeb Bush described Trump as “unhinged.” He may be nuts or he may be secretly trying to help ISIS make the case that Americans hate all Muslims, but most likely he is  just be rallying his rabid jingoist base.

Aggressive Nationalism: All this is wrapped up in a flag and rhetoric about “making America great again,” taking us back to a time when straight white Christian males didn’t have to be bothered with the “politically correct” language that addressed all the others who thought they deserved a bit of equality at the American table. Trump hates political correctness. He doesn’t want to have to be sensitive to the issues of the needs of Americans other than his brat pack. “Believe me, they are doing horrible things.” He wants to kill the families of ISIS members, including their children. (“Pro-life!”) He wants to be a bigger terrorist than the terrorists. He wants to save America. He says, “We’re at war. We don’t have a choice.”

Donny, you always have a choice.

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Fearmongering: This is what Trump does best. The Mexicans are going to rape you, the Muslims hate you and are going to kill you, and anyone who disagrees is second rate and is a less valid human because they don’t get the ratings he does. He demagogues until his voice goes out. “Believe me, I saw thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after 9/11.” No you didn’t. Maybe you saw Muslims helping people and got confused.

“Believe me, there will be lots more 9/11’s if we don’t do something.” Remember when Rudy Giuliani tried this scare tactic in his 2008 presidential campaign? It’s only slightly historically removed from Father Coughlin who, in the 1930s, told his radio listeners that Jews were coming to kill Americans.

Trump is using the fear of terrorism and the general ignorance about Islam to whip his followers into a nationalist lynch mob. Listen to them carefully and then listen to people at a Klan rally and tell me how they differ. Scapegoating is an old tool but it is very effective.

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I’ve gotten some flack for referring to Trump’s followers as “sub-moronic” and it’s a fair criticism. It is not my intent to dehumanize them. I’ve been studying right-wing extremists and white supremacists for thirty years now. I know what connects them and the Trumpies is a desire for  simplified world view provided by a charismatic leader who can explain how to solve their problems, whether they be real or imagined. It’s how cults work and it’s how fascism works. But I also know many intelligent, compassionate, and progressive people who once subscribed to those ideologies and then walked away from them toward the light. There are plenty of former neo-Nazis and former jihadists who can testify that it’s entirely possible. And soon we will have some former Trumpies to add to the list.

This piece could be about the list of hate groups that have endorsed Trump or hate crimes that have been committed by his “very passionate” followers. It could be about how the Tea Party has dragged to the GOP into the ditch and how we should celebrate the death throws of an increasingly irrelevant political party that now only appeals to rednecks and fascists. But I just want to remind people, that America has been here before, in the 1930s. The specter of fascism was growing in America and the exact same bogus claims that Trump is now making were made by little Hitlers here. But America was better than them and America is better than Trump. We reminded ourselves of our core values and turned away from the fascist tide. It’s refreshing to hear this message from traditional Republicans, like Paul Ryan. We are so much better than Trump.

But for those who continue to follow this megalomaniac, here is a picture of my daughter’s first toilet turd. I’ll look forward to your brilliant comments.

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Explaining the world one tragedy at a time.

November 30, 2015

The world can seem so chaotic. Does it ever take a break?

Sometimes, in my line of work, things get a little busy. I’ve been getting a lot of media time lately. From local hate crimes to the global terror alert, from suspected Klan activity in Oregon to responses to the Black Lives Matter movement. Throw Paris into it and a few other issues in the news flow and I’ve been in overdrive lately. I’ve written about playing the role of “expert” in the media and hopefully I mentioned that I never get paid for any of it. But there’s a reason I’m on your TV.

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The world can seem so chaotic. But a lot of it is our media-saturated culture. Sociologist (and now Lewis & Clark University president) Barry Glassner wrote about this in his 1999 book, The Culture of Fear. Just think about the local news. When I was a kid it was on for a half-hour at 6 and 11 pm. The local news in Portland starts at 4 am and then occupies at least 8 hours of daily broadcasting on each channel until 11:35 pm. That’s a lot of space to fill. And “if it bleeds it leads” can drive each one of those hours. Terrorism abroad, mass shootings at home, and a story about packages being stolen off porches for good measure. It’s enough to keep a person inside their house and watching TV. Suffice it to stay, research shows that the more TV people watch, the more fearful they are of the world.

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I can either try to ignore it or subvert it from the inside. So the reason I say yes to most local, national, and international media requests is that it provides an opportunity to slip a critical perspective into the shockingly uncritical news paradigm. And this is usually a feminist perspective. For example, the numerous mass shootings I’m called to comment on must include an analysis that this is male violence in a culture that promotes violence as an acceptable means for men to express themselves. Can you imagine if all these shootings were by females?

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So we hop from crisis to crisis trying to patiently explain things to people who are often resistant to anything other than the explanation that fits their picture of the world. A perfect example is the folks who blurt “All lives matter” in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. These people are either ignorant (which is something we all share about different things) or they are straight up racists. So here is the simplest explanation I can offer these folks: “Black lives matter,” means all lives matter, including black lives that have been devalued by the criminal justice system and racism in general. Got it? It does not mean your white life doesn’t matter. Now shut the fuck up.

Often I offer an analysis to try to explain a very complex social problem and what gets on the air is a three second sound byte that really doesn’t explain much. That’s why I prefer live TV and radio because you can go for the one point that really want to make. I learned this the hard way when I appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. Bill O’Reilly just talked over me the whole time. One of my conservative friends emailed me and said, “You just should have yelled over him.” I guess that’s how Fox rolls. Lesson learned.

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There is a root cause that links most of this together and it’s patriarchy. Friday’s shooting at the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic is an obvious example. Conservatives wage a war on women’s advancement and rights. A Trump follower commented on this blog recently, “Does your wife bring home the bacon while you blog and change diapers or take of your children? Very manly there. Get a real life fool.” Trump, Fiorina and others spread lies about Planned Parenthood to their war-loving moronic minions who just want to bomb SOMETHING. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that this week’s domestic terrorist (aka, right-wing white male) attacks a women’s health center with an AK while ranting about Obama and “baby parts.” This is what patriarchy looks like.

There is also feminist perspective on the racial issue. The dehumanization of other people, including African Americans and Syrian refugees (who my cousin compared to snakes and Ben Carson likened to rabid dogs) starts with the dehumanization of women. Religions with male gods do this especially well. It’s easy to claim power over someone who you think is a child or an animal or a thing. Or a terrorist.

There’s just not a lot of places to get the macro analysis in the mainstream media. We just get little corners of the real issues that are at the core of the nightly news stories. Where is bell hooks or Noam Chomsky being interviewed on the news? Lord knows, there’s enough time to fit them in. But instead we get sound byte analysis for the short-attention span masses. Here’s a clip of Trump mocking a disabled person. Here’s a talking head saying his followers could care less and on to the next non-story.

I became a feminist in my head a long time ago because it helped to explain the big picture throughout human history. I became a feminist in my heart with the arrival of my daughter and the hope the world could finally make a great leap forward for her generation. That the trifles of Trump and travails of war would become artifacts of the past. (This optimism may come from watching too much Star Trek.)

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And I’m happy to take my show on the road. Last week I was in Washington, D.C., making a case for the re-evaluation of hate crime laws at a meeting of criminologists from around the world. This week I’m off to New York City where I’ll be discussing how plea bargains institutionalize racism at a university in Manhattan. You can’t shut me up. These issues are too important. And yeah, I’m going to continue to be pissed off at the people who choose not to get it. Their world is changing and they are becoming an obnoxious minority (not a “silent majority”). But that keeps me going and at some point we can talk about the big picture.

See ya in the funny papers.