Anti-Trump Trumpism

January 14,2017

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“The nation and all of our freedoms hang by a thread and the military apparatus of this country is about to be handed over to scum! Those who ignore these elemental, existential facts – Democrats or Republicans – are traitors to this country and will immediately and forever after be held accountable.”

The passage above comes from a clip recorded for GQ magazine by former MSNBC presenter Keith Olbermann. It’s a case study in what we might call ‘anti-Trump Trumpism’.

Railing against the incoming administration, Olbermann apes the distinctive tics associated with Donald Trump’s media supporters. The steely gaze directly into the camera; the emotional oscillation between chest-puffing bravery and lachrymose despair; the enraged thumps on the table: The whole performance eerily channels Infowars’ Alex Jones, the doyen of the
“alt right”.

The resemblance isn’t merely stylistic. When Olbermann insists that a “bloodless coup” has taken place, with conspirators in the political elite jeopardising America’s very existence, he’s arguing against Trump with rhetoric identical to that used by Infowars and to make the case for Trump.

Indeed, the uncritical embrace of such a dubious artefact by anti-Trump liberals recalls the enthusiasm of Trump’s supporters for the equally lurid “Pizzagate” conspiracy, with progressives revelling in prurient allegations about Trump’s sexual peccadilloes with just as much glee as conservatives once showed for equally fanciful exposes about DNC involvement in “spirit cooking”.

During the Bush years, the comedian Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” for assertions that could be accepted without facts or evidence simply because they felt true “in the gut”.

Millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump, one of the most odious candidates of modern times, not because they were hypnotised by Putin but because they thought (wrongly) that the billionaire represented their interests.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll, 50 percent of Clinton voters believe that the Russians somehow manipulated voting tallies - an almost exact replication of the pre-election Trumpite fantasy that widespread voter fraud would deliver the presidency to the Democrats. In reality there’s precisely zero evidence of Russian ballot tampering. Nevertheless, the truthy notion that Vladimir Putin “hacked the vote” continues to circulate throughout both mainstream and social media, in a curious liberal echo of the “fake news” widely blamed for Trump’s victory.

Olbermann’s feverish rhetoric about a coup rests on intelligence reports about Russian involvement in the election - reports that, as Masha Gessen shows in the New York Review of Books, contain far less than meets the eye. Traditionally, progressives denounced the CIA and other agencies of the Deep State not just because of their role in (to borrow William Blum’s phrase) “killing hope” around the world through assassinations, blackmail, torture and similar methods, but because of their pernicious influence on democracy in the US.

Today, liberals laud what they call the “intelligence community” and denounce anyone who questions the agencies’ motives and honesty. What kind of political climate does this create, in an era in which the Deep State has become larger and far more powerful than ever?

Anti-Trump Trumpism drives progressives to embrace a militarised nationalism: Think of Olbermann’s hysterical calls for “traitors” to be held to account, a rhetoric reminiscent of the John Birch Society.

The most credible allegations about a Putin-Trump nexus pertain to the supposed role of Russian intelligence in providing Wikileaks with emails from John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign.

In any case, whatever Russian hackers did or didn’t do, their efforts pall next to the NSA’s global intercept programme, which, as well as sweeping up the private information of millions of citizens, allowed the US to monitor the personal calls of world leaders.

As Juan Cole reminds us, George W Bush once had German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s phone hacked so as to check his position on the Iraq war.

More importantly, the Podesta files aren’t fakes or forgeries. The argument that the publication of genuine emails cost the Democrats the White House thus amounts to an assertion that Clinton lost because the voters learned too much about her.

Millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump, one of the most odious candidates of modern times, not because they were hypnotised by Putin but because they thought (wrongly) that the billionaire represented their interests.

Rather than offering a genuine alternative to the Right, the anti-Trump Trumpists are helping to entrench conservatism’s authoritarian, conspiratorial nationalism within the US mainstream.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘The liberals embrace anti-Trump Trumpism’



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