My filmmaker friend and colleague Laurie Kash made this film of the Women's March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017. Full disclosure: I'm in it. Watch it anyway. It is a beautiful portrait of national and global resistance.
Tom McCarthy's Jan 28 Guardian piece is a good peek into President Donald Trump's jealous-toddler view of the world and what drives his policy moves, which are best understood as tantrums. What's most terrifying is that his triggers for his despicable acts rest so trivially, and even randomly, on perceived personal slights and disrespect (does the trajectory of Trump's weeklong tear have anything to do with media having dissed his tiny little inauguration crowd?).
Maybe it is ever thus with tyrants. But Trump does seem a wicked prototype for the pasty postindustrial piggycrat. He is eerily reminiscent of Dune's Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (below), right down to the first name and the iridescent hair. Call him King Twitter Thumbs. The tub of lard and lies whose tweets kill people.
Here is an excerpt from McCarthy's piece on this week of atrocities from His Grand Petulance:
Donald Trump's first week: carnage, both real and imagined
What started with an ominous inauguration speech has ended with executive orders on everything from immigration to banning refugees and reigniting the fossil fuel industry. What does it mean for his presidency?
The crowd was small, the weather was bad and the speech, which described “American carnage”, was dire. For the tens of millions who voted against him and countless concerned others, Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States felt ominous, no matter how widely Barack Obama smiled and no matter how gracefully he and Michelle Obama made the transition from hosts to departing guests.
The feeling of foreboding did not last. It was overtaken within hours by the realization, at the arrival of the first of the new president’s executive actions, that the most outrageous campaign promises Trump had made to the smallest core of his supporters were now official US policy, or about to be.
Within a week, the rally chant “build the wall!” had morphed into a phrase published on White House stationery: “impassable physical barrier”. A proposed ban on Muslim immigrants took shape as a suspension of visa programs from countries that, as Trump put it, “have tremendous terror”. Grumbling about excessive government regulation had become, in one document, an exhortation to bureaucrats to help an oil company skip the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
“He’s delivering the goods to his core constituency in a really visible way,” said John T Woolley, head of the American presidency project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But there are a lot of things that he’s raising that may be above what he truly has the ability to do.”
Seven days into his presidency, the accumulation of Trump’s official actions, at the rate of as many as five a day, has created a new national reality on central policy concerns from the environment to voting rights to international commitments to immigration, healthcare and trade.
“You have to consider this a pretty aggressive use of executive power early on,” said Julian E Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Using it not only on one marquee issue, which presidents often do, but on a series of major campaign issues, all within just a few days.
“So it’s rapid-fire, but more importantly, each one is a pretty significant decision.”
More difficult to assess than the new president’s official actions, but for many Americans just as significant, has been the impact on the public of Trump’s simple presence in office – the finally inescapable fact, as it were, of Donald Trump as president.
During the campaign, Trump’s lies about the fake scourge of voter fraud, his vain obsession with the size of his crowds (and his hands), and his explosions of bile and irrelevance on Twitter could be semi-ignored as the faults of a mercurial political figure who was quite likely, at least, to lose.
Now Trump is in the Oval Office and his lies are voiced by a press secretary standing behind the White House seal in the Brady briefing room. It was there that Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, falsely declared on the day after the swearing-in that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period”. Trump’s audience was in fact significantly smaller than Obama’s 2009 crowd, but members of the media who tried to brandish evidence of the fact were shouted down.
Spicer rolled out another whopper days later, informing the country that the president still (wrongly) believed millions of votes had been illegally cast in November. As supporting evidence, he pointed to a 2012 research report on voter fraud, prompting the author of the report to categorically deny that the report said any such thing.
“Of those votes cast, none of them come to me,” Trump told ABC News a day later, embroidering his fantasy. “They would all be for the other side. None of them come to me.”
For Americans who doubt his leadership, just as disturbing as Trump’s new freedom to spout untruths with significantly inflated authority were early reports on his conduct behind the scenes, as he made his first decisions as the most powerful individual on Earth.
Repeatedly, Trump threw thunderbolts from his Twitter account – threatening to “send in the Feds!” to stop violence in Chicago and impugning Chelsea Manning – immediately following negative coverage of those topics on Fox News, which Trump told the New York Times he watches morning and night.
It was TV coverage of his small inauguration crowd that prompted Trump to trot out Spicer. The bad press had not allowed the president to “enjoy” his first weekend in the White House as he felt he deserved, the Associated Press quoted “one person who has spoken with him” as saying. Trump’s decision to act on voter fraud was inspired, Trump told members of Congress, by a conversation with a German golfer.
If Trump’s character is immutable, however, his executive actions may not be. His orders have the power to guide the conduct of federal agencies and officials, but cannot contravene existing law.
Woolley said: “The question always is – and this is a real question for Trump – whether the president is going beyond the scope of the law, whether he’s infringing on congressional power, and whether he’s infringing on the divides between national, state and local power.
“There’s going to be a festival of lawsuits about almost every controversial action that he takes.”
Next week, Trump is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress and announce a nominee to fill the vacancy on the supreme court.
For those of us in America who have the cushion of assuming a daily life free of being physically kicked in the ass, jailed, blacklisted or fired from our jobs for political reasons, or threatened or worse by goons who do whatever the state pays them to do, it is now time to let go of the illusion.
That kind of normalcy has long been a First World problem. Not anymore.
Our personal American bubbles, within which our opinions don’t endanger our uneventfully going to the store or having company over or exercising our right to free speech, are bursting. Fast. Entire swaths of our population – people who work for entire governmental departments that are suddenly forbidden to talk to the public or to the press(!!), law enforcement officers who are ordered to round up newly targeted populations, journalists who are put on brutal notice for what they can and cannot ask or say, citizens who are forced to accept the possibility of being disappeared into unaccountable “black sites” according to the whims of a regime that makes and enforces its own rules in secret – are being herded, under threat of injury, into a new way of life.
This is me, and you, that I’m talking about. Every day this week in the United States, more corporate supervisors and religious leaders and mayors and teachers and police and janitors and hospital administrators and writers and child care workers and musicians and congresspersons and government administrative workers are treading more carefully, self-editing, yielding ground, backing off, facing an awful and humiliating choice between what is right and what is safe.
If you’re not scared, and if you’re not pissed off beyond belief at having to confront being scared, you’re in denial.
So let go of what you thought the ground rules were for America in 2017. Adjust to what they are.
And choose: in the face of half our population’s being drunk on an intoxicating autocracy, who are you going to be? Right now?
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe the easily-disproved “alternative fact” that Trump's inauguration crowd in DC was not dwarfed by Obama's in 2008 or by the Women's March in 2017.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that giving brown people less will give struggling white people more – while the rich boldly suck up even more of virtually everything.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that going back to giving more power to for-profit health insurance companies will somehow, for the first time ever, give people more generous choices at lower prices.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that you can gut government (e.g., freeze federal hiring) and wildly expand it (e.g., build a wall, prosecute women for abortion, enforce a ban on Muslims) at the same time.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that suicide bombers and shooters are a greater danger to each of us than more poisonous air, water, and food.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that virtually all of the reputable climate scientists in the world are scammers and that the handful of climate denial scammers are telling the truth.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to believe that a white serial bankrupter who stiffed contractors and ran a phony college is a better ally than a black president who lowered unemployment and favored a higher minimum wage.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to trust a notoriously greedy billionaire because he repeats the obvious truth that “the system is rigged,” even after he fills his cabinet with greedy billionaires and brazenly pursues policies that favor CEOs over everyone else.
- Trump thinks his followers are stupid enough to continue to cheer on the Trump regime’s increasingly brutal scapegoating (e.g., of women, Muslims, blacks, brown immigrants, and LGBT people) while Trump’s billionaire policies lay waste to the lives of working white people.
None of this is new. Dictators thrive on telling bald-faced lies to desperate people.
But what we don't know is: How many Trump followers will see through the con? How many of we Americans as a whole will actively risk being targeted, fired, jailed, or worse to protect our futures and that of our kids? And how many journalists will actually fight – and by that I mean put their careers and possibly their physical safety at risk – for what is provably true and morally non-negotiable?
I shot these videos at today's Women's March in DC. At the latest count more than 500,000 people marched in DC -- double the number that attended the Trump inauguration -- and more than 1 million marched globally.
This from columnist Lindy West on why we stop at “alt-right” when we’re talking about ethnic-cleanser racial supremacists:
What does it take to call a Nazi a Nazi? In the interminable fortnight since the election of Donald Trump, the US press has been floundering in a gyre of panic over the internal taxonomy of racists.
For months, many (myself included) indulged Trump’s base in their euphemism of choice, the “alt-right”, an attempt to rebrand warmed-over Reconstruction-era white supremacy as a cool, new (and harmless!) internet fad. Despite the fact that Breitbart News (described by former honcho turned Trump adviser Stephen Bannon as “the platform for the alt-right”) had, at one point, a news tag labeled “black crime”, and was a driver of the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was a secret Kenyan Muslim, the press contorted itself into labyrinthine knots to avoid applying the word “racist” to Bannon or Trump in any committed way. (In our post-meaning world, being called a racist is nearly as grievous as being a racist.
Public outcry has prompted some hemming and hawing over the finer distinctions between “white nationalists” and “white supremacists”, the mainstream media not allowing either term to get too close to Trump himself, even as antisemitic, anti-black, anti-gay and Islamophobic hate crimes (not to mention KKK victory parades) continued to proliferate in his name. The website Boing Boing published a “White Supremacy Euphemism Generator for journalists”, explaining: “even when people pander to the idea Western culture’s wellbeing is inseparable from European ethnicity, they somehow avoid being called white nationalists or supremacists by journalists”. One hang-up seemed to be a lack of self-identification. If a person doesn’t consider himself a white supremacist, can he still be one? (Answer: OF COURSE.)
Finally, though, at Richard B Spencer’s closing speech at Saturday’s alt-right conference just a few blocks from the White House, it became undeniable what we’re dealing with here (at least among this particular sect of Trump’s true believers): it’s a bunch of straight-up neo-Nazis.
According to the New York Times, Spencer – who claims to have coined the term “alt-right” – “railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people … As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute.” The crowd joined Spencer in a cry of “Heil victory!”
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Richard Spencer: ‘railed against Jews and quoted Nazi propaganda.’ Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images
And yet, still, headlines were tentative. The New York Times gesticulated wildly toward Nazism without actually using the word (“Alt-Right Exults in Donald Trump’s Election With a Salute: ‘Heil Victory’”), and a CNN panel managed to avoid saying “Nazi” entirely, despite discussing a chyron that read, “Alt-right founder questions if Jews are people.”
But if declaring the superiority of the white race, quoting Nazi propaganda, calling for “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, and provoking Nazi salutes from his audience isn’t enough to qualify one as a neo-Nazi, then where on earth is the bar? What is the hesitation? And, given the close ties between the “alt-right” and Trump’s cabinet, how is the top story on every front page not some version of “NEO-NAZIS ATTEMPTING TO SEIZE CONTROL OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT”?
A reader, after seeing my post about Trump’s privileged hypocrisy over Mike Pence’s being booed at Hamilton, observed that she would have re-postedit on Facebook but my message was too angry.
As it happens, I wouldn’t have posted it on Facebook, either, because Facebook, unlike a blog or column, is a chat room intertwined with people’s personal lives. But her comment begs a larger question, which some of we progressives (especially we progressives of color) hear a lot, about our being “too angry” about our nation’s cruelties and injustices, including those of the ascension and incoming regime of Donald Trump.
So, for the record: Not being angry about Trump’s obscenity – and the 400 years of rich white straight male presumption to which it appeals – is a luxury that I do not have. Millions of we black and brown Americans, and disenfranchised white Americans, have been very angry for a long time, with good reason, and it is now long past time for those who have enjoyed a bubble of privileged “normalcy” (by race, gender, orientation, religion, or plain denial) to catch up with the larger reality. The new rich-take-all normal for an increasing swath of suffering white Americans is the old normal for many of the rest of us, and we will not wait to act while those who have been relatively sheltered from these centuries of abuse now fret over how angry they are willing to be.
If now, after all this, is not a time to be angry, what is? America flirts passionately with fascism, in a chilling parallel to the way in which the intelligentsia of 1930s Germany mocked the seemingly ludicrous appeal of the legally-elected Adolf Hitler, but anger would too greatly disturb the daily routines of those who wish it were not so? Imagine how it would sound today to have told fervent anti-fascists during the rise of the Third Reich, “You’re too angry in your opposition to Hitler! Your protests are too inflammatory for me to share them with my friends.”
At a certain point of extremist national change, previous “normal” standards for everyday conversation and political opinion no longer apply, whether those who have been relatively insulated care to acknowledge it or not. Being afraid to be angry about a modern norm of economic and human rights outrages, and clinging instead to mild-mannered Democratic Party business-as-usual prescriptions (Clinton’s “Stronger Together” platform never even came close to addressing the need and desire for deep economic and political change) at a time when many people's lives are falling apart, lost Hillary this election.
Anger – grounded in a righteous love of fairness and of building a better society for one another – is an appropriate and necessary response. Repressing or denying the anger is worse, both for the health of the country and for our personal well-being as people who hunger for better (and who often suffer and die for the privilege, whether through stress-induced illness or selective targeting by police and policy).
Some of us are forced to that recognition sooner than others.
...Donald Trump takes offense with a tweet demanding an apology.
So, just to make sure we understand: President-Elect Trump believes that he and his surrogates are entitled to call Mexican immigrants "rapists," to call women "pigs" and "dogs" who you can "grab by the pussy," to claim that President Obama was not born in the United States, to advocate banning Muslims from the country, to insult a military Gold Star family and their self-sacrificing son on religious grounds, to mock disabled people, to validate white supremacists, to encourage violence at his rallies, to call the former secretary of state and his presidential opponent a "nasty woman," and to sneer "they don't look like Indians to me" at Native Americans who challenge his casino interests.
But an audience at a smash musical that touts diversity is not entitled to voice its displeasure at such wanton racism, sexism, and hatred.
To paraphrase that paragon of principle MittRomney, this is a textbook example of white male bully delusion. It's an affliction of those taught to inherit the 400-year-old self-image of captor and master: they can dish it out but they can't take it.
Ex-slaveholder, ex-master of women, and ex-majority over brown people are all positions with no future. In today's world they are guaranteed dead-end jobs. And I do mean dead: in the sense of an aging and shrinking white male-dominated demographic that can feel itself shriveling nationally and globally. Within decades its majority in America will be gone, replaced by a thriving predominance of brown people and of white people who are comfortable with difference.
One recent example that will jerk your head back is the testimony, on the seminal radio chronicle This American Life, of economically screwed white Americans who bitterly report, with no sense of historical irony whatsoever, their shock at feeling "their" country and communities occupied by differently-colored newcomers from overseas. Uh, has anybody here looked beyond the white experience to see how their feeling of dispossession is neither unique nor accurate?
But that's the problem with defined whiteness: its world starts and ends with itself. Trump is part of its end, its desperate death throes, its final mythology. The only remaining question is whether the rainbow of humanity as a whole can survive this deadly fiction.