It’s Not 1934

 

Wanted: A name for the hypertrophied fear of Trump that’s overcome so many — maybe most — of his opponents. Do you really need examples? There was the ThinkProgress editor terrified of his plumber:

He was a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional. But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this weeks news. … I couldn’t stop thinking about whether he had voted for Trump, whether he knew my last name is Jewish … I couldn’t shake the sense of potential danger. I was rattled for some time after he left.

More recently, here’s Adam Gopnik in one of those New Yorker paragraphs so classily convoluted you don’t notice the embedded hooey:

Assaults on free speech; the imprisoning of critics and dissidents; attempts, on the Russian model, likely to begin soon, to intimidate critics of the regime with fake charges and conjured-up allegations; the intimidation and intolerance of even mild dissidence (that “Apologize!” tweet directed at members of the “Hamilton” cast who dared to politely petition Mike Pence); not to mention mass deportations or attempts at discrimination by religion—all things that the Trump and his cohorts have openly contemplated or even promised—are not part of the normal oscillations of power and policy. They are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse. … [**]

The best way to be sure that 2017 is not 1934 is to act as though it were.

Of course, you don’t need these examples if you have Democratic Facebook friends. Just read their posts — alarms about journalists jailed and killed, brownshirts, ethnic cleansing, pervasive surveillance, people living in fear, exterminationist violence, the whole nein yards. They’re scared.

The thing is, they’re not poseurs — they’re sensible citizens. They are, many of them, my friends. They’re in no way ignorant. That’s why the dismissive label “Trump Derangement Syndrome” doesn’t seem an accurate description (in addition to being belittling and ineffective). If they see the seeds of authoritarianism in Trump’s “Hamilton” tweet — or more plausibly in his suggestion that he might pick and choose which reporters can attend briefings … well, sure. Those are seeds. There’ve been seeds before, of course. There were the seeds of authoritarianism in Truman bullying a press critic who panned his daughter’s singing. There were more than seeds in Roosevelt’s NRA, in Nixon’s wiretapping and J. Edgar Hoover’s longrunning COINTELPRO surveillance and harrassment of dissenters.

It’s not deranged to extrapolate from seed to tree, and to worry that the relative handful of alt-righters (50,000?) and smaller handful of anti-Semitic trolls (1,600?) might produce something very bad. You can imagine a world where Jews are attacked by their plumbers. My mother grew up in such a world (Frankfurt, Germany in 1933) and I’m here because her parents had the good sense to flee.

It’s thinking that such development — from seed to tree — is at all likely today that seems … well, wrong. Let’s call it wrong! We have strong counter-majoritarian institutions (including an independent judiciary) and a culture that supports them. The idea that Trump is going to mobilize some army of thuggish supporters to intimidate the press, the courts, the opposition party and half of his own party seems a fever dream, no less feverish because of its rational basis.

Yet those who adhere to this unnamed tendency — let’s call it ’34ism, unless you can come up with a better name *** — allow the power of their terrifying dream to overwhelm sober consideration of everything Trump does or intends to do, good or bad (on trade, taxes, regulations, immigration, etc). We’re supposed to draw up sides — condemning (and ostracizing) those who are “complicit” in Trump’s administration and welcoming those who “stand on the right side of history” — even before we know whether the authoritarian seed will grow or wither, disregarding all the other positively auspicious seeds (reform of trade, control of borders, fewer foreign miliary adventures, ending the Republican threat to Social Security and Medicare, etc.) that might flourish instead. In Slate 34ist Yascha Mounk’s head it’s practically Life During Wartime already, with brave Trump critics fired from their jobs, sleeping on the couches of their secret colleagues in the Resistance. Keep the car running.

Suggested alternative: See what happens first! Don’t let the reaction to Trump be dominated by one extremely unlikely bad possibility, at the expense of nurturing the far-more-likely good possibilities.

Coming in next post: How does 1934ism go away? Is it enough that the brownshirts don’t appear? (Spoiler: Maybe not.)

__________

**– The Hooey: Gopnik says authoritarian measures against critics “are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse.” This is fatuous on both counts. 1) Even direct assaults on free speech are far from unprecedented –e.g. the Sedition Act of 1798, passed not too long after our nation’s founding, or the imprisonment of Eugene Debs for opposing World War I. 2) They also haven’t been that hard to reverse. The Sedition Act was repealed in Thomas Jefferson’s term. It’s highly doubtful that Debs could be imprisoned under current First Amendment law — the opposite of what Gopnik declares “history tells us.”

*** — Better name ideas appreciated — just put them in the comments section below, or tweet them to @kausmickey. Thanks.

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  1. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    I learned from “Liberal Fascism” that fascism was actually very popular in the West, when it was just a theory of government and economics. It was the future! At least those on the Left thought it was. It only has a bad rep now because of Hitler and the Holocaust.

     

    • #31
  2. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Mickey Kaus: *** — Better name ideas appreciated — just put them in the comments section below, or tweet them to @kausmickey. Thanks.

    ‘Ah, God! what trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.’

    Ahabism?

    • #32
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Well I’m not Jewish but I fear my plumber as well. One visit costs more than my annual health care premium, and then there is there is the construction cleavage when he bends over to work on whatever needs repair, which is more traumatic than writing the check.

    • #33
  4. cirby Inactive
    cirby
    @cirby

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    And yet, it was the Nazis that were both Democratic and Socialist. This really can’t be pointed out enough.

    On top of that, Hitler lost the election that would have put him into political power, and was appointed as Chancellor.

    We should probably keep an eye on Hillary.

    Especially since her slogan “Better Together” would make a perfect one for fascists. Instead of brown shirts, her supporters are more likely to wear paisley, though.

     

     

    • #34
  5. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Mickey Kaus: Wanted: A name for the hypertrophied fear of Trump that’s overcome so many — maybe most — of his opponents.

    Kristol-McMullin Syndrome?

    • #35
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Mickey Kaus: The thing is, they’re not poseurs — they’re sensible citizens. They are, many of them, my friends. They’re in no way ignorant.

    How can you say they aren’t ignorant if they don’t know anything? How can you call them sensible when they have no self-awareness?

    • #36
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Don’t worry, Zafar. If they put you in a camp I’ll convert to Islam and come with you. We’ll have fun! I’ll teach you to knit.

    But I’m already camp! Oh wait….

    Seriously.

    Look, camps are only one iteration of fascism’s expression  – and frankly one that’s unlikely to re-occur, at least in North America. (Camps also grow out of “not fascism” – I’m thinking Gulag..)

    So: camps are bad, mmmkay? but “no camps” isn’t a clean bill of health, in and of itself wrt fascism.

    In fact I know that there’s unlikely to be camps or anti-semitism or even any legalised discrimination against Muslims.  I know that.

    And yet there is stuff that makes me (and apparently other people) uneasy.  Despite that.

    • #37
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Don’t worry, Zafar. If they put you in a camp I’ll convert to Islam and come with you. We’ll have fun! I’ll teach you to knit.

    But I’m already camp! Oh wait….

    Seriously.

    Look, camps are only one iteration of fascism’s expression – and frankly one that’s unlikely to re-occur, at least in North America. (Camps also grow out of “not fascism” – I’m thinking Gulag..)

    So: camps are bad, mmmkay? but “no camps” isn’t a clean bill of health, in and of itself wrt fascism.

    In fact I know that there’s unlikely to be camps or anti-semitism or even any legalised discrimination against Muslims. I know that.

    And yet there is stuff that makes me (and apparently other people) uneasy. Despite that.

    I thought Hillary lost.  ??

    • #38
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Mickey Kaus: The thing is, they’re not poseurs — they’re sensible citizens.

    Nah. They’re poseurs alright. They want repression. No, not the real thing — not jackboots on the front stoop, truncheons knocking on the door, Black Marias rumbling through the night. Remember Tim Robbins’ “chill wind blowing through this nation?” Free speech itself hung in the balance. The fact that he was in the nation’s capital addressing a luncheon of the National Blinkin’ Press Corps did nothing to restrain his eagerness for affirmation that the shadowy minions of Big Brother Bush were about to swoop down and carry him off to durance vile. They need to pretend that they are real heroes resisting real evil. The only alternative is that they are pompous little twerps gassing on and on because they didn’t get their way.

    • #39
  10. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Zafar (View Comment):
    (Camps also grow out of “not fascism” – I’m thinking Gulag..)

    I think communism has a terribly many similarities with fascism.

    • #40
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    (Camps also grow out of “not fascism” – I’m thinking Gulag..)

    I think communism has a terribly many similarities with fascism.

    Arguably, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing.

    • #41
  12. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Arguably, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing.

    Correct. I think of communism as government appropriating the means of production and I think of fascism as the continued existence of a free market that is subordinate to the state. But both are similar in that the state is spiritual locus of your life. In some ways it is a rejection of secularism. When Mussolini addressed the Jewish question, he basically said, “Your religion doesn’t matter. The glory of the state matters. Your self-worth is derived from the state.” Spiritually that is very similar to communism.

    Since everyone is talking about Trump tonight. I will say that Trump has this nationalist streak that bothers me but he isn’t a fascist. He seems to say that the right kind of government can fix things. I believe that government can fix very little but he isn’t interested in camps or oppression. He has a very different kind of nationalism than Mussolini or the various communists.

     

    • #42
  13. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    The term you are looking for is Xenophobia.  They have an irrational fear of the other.  I mean melting down in public with anxiety attacks and everything.

    I mean it doesn’t get any more textbook here.

     

    • #43
  14. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    In our new age of political narcissism where everyone wants to be the next Ghandi, MLK, Harvey Milk , Rosa Parks from their keyboard hub connected to some forum, predicting the next Hitler is surely going to be a pastime.

    I bet 85% of these people have had the fantasy that they found a time machine, went back and assassinated Hitler saving the world and then somehow getting a ticker tape parade, in both eras.

    Absent that, they can certainly do their part to prevent the next fascist takeover, even if it means smashing windows and kicking in faces.

    • #44
  15. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Mickey Kaus:

    There was the ThinkProgress editor terrified of his plumber:

    He was a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional. But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this weeks news. … I couldn’t stop thinking about whether he had voted for Trump, whether he knew my last name is Jewish … I couldn’t shake the sense of potential danger. I was rattled for some time after he left.

    This reads like the beginning of an Edgar Allen Poe story, continuing:

    Unable to shake my consternation I could only begin a fantasy. For days I struggled. Killing a man would be wrong. I’d have to hide the body and other gruesome chores, but the image of this man, living in happy ignorance through a Trump administration vexed me and tore through my soul.  I began to formulate my plan. I would break the pipe under the sink next week when my wife is away. Then…

     

    • #45
  16. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    I do hope all of Mickey’s long-form stuff ends up here. There is an important battle to be waged on immigration in the coming days, weeks and months.

    • #46
  17. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    (Camps also grow out of “not fascism” – I’m thinking Gulag..)

    I think communism has a terribly many similarities with fascism.

    Yes, as it does with all other forms of Statism.

    • #47
  18. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Arguably, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing.

    Correct. I think of communism as government appropriating the means of production and I think of fascism as the continued existence of a free market that is subordinate to the state. But both are similar in that the state is spiritual locus of your life. In some ways it is a rejection of secularism. When Mussolini addressed the Jewish question, he basically said, “Your religion doesn’t matter. The glory of the state matters. Your self-worth is derived from the state.” Spiritually that is very similar to communism.

    I would say that in both cases the State allegedly serves the true source of meaning (or self-worth) – a Golden Calf, if you will.  (And that is why individuals serve and participate in the State.)

    In the case of Marxists this source of meaning is: Class.

    In the case of Fascists it can be Nation, or Race, or Tribe (or imho Religion). Or some combination.

    • #48
  19. Isaac Smith Member
    Isaac Smith
    @

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Mickey Kaus:Suggested alternative: See what happens first! Don’t let the reaction to Trump be dominated by one extremely unlikely bad possibility, at the expense of nurturing the far-more-likely good possibilities.

    Good idea, and I hope you’re right.

    And I (too?) am irritated at the tendency to cast current struggles in a WWII film guise.

    But consider: fascism does not have to, if fact probably will not, visit the West twice with the same face. Anti-semites and neo-Nazis in the US are a nostalgia focused fringe joke in bad taste.

    If fascism comes to the US it will not be because of them (the very very few), but because of a meme, or idea, that appears fair and attractive (and unburdened by Nuremberg) to the many.

    It probably won’t be antisemitic. It probably won’t use race as its defining marker. It will wear a different face.

    Maybe it might even wear anti-racism as its face, imposing a fascist vision in the name of battling racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Climate Change, etc.  One sign of that might be violence in the streets at any sign of a pushback against their program.

    • #49
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    It’s certainly possible.  Though I think it lacks critical mass.  Not flattering enough to enough of the population.

    • #50
  21. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    The left predicted that if Trump won, people would be attacked in the streets and the country would be in flames.  And they were right.  Leftist protesters are attacking people in the streets and setting fires.  “Deranged” means insane, and I think that is the perfect word to describe these leftists.

    And Mickey, you need to run for the Senate in California again.  I didn’t think it was possible for my former home state to elect someone worse than Barbara Boxer.  But they did.  California itself is doomed, of course.  But their Congressional delegation is hell-bent on bringing down the rest of the country with it.  You are that rarest of creatures in our current society – a sane Democrat.  Please help us!

    • #51
  22. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Don’t worry, Zafar. If they put you in a camp I’ll convert to Islam and come with you. We’ll have fun! I’ll teach you to knit.

    But I’m already camp! Oh wait….

    Seriously.

    Look, camps are only one iteration of fascism’s expression – and frankly one that’s unlikely to re-occur, at least in North America. (Camps also grow out of “not fascism” – I’m thinking Gulag..)

    So: camps are bad, mmmkay? but “no camps” isn’t a clean bill of health, in and of itself wrt fascism.

    In fact I know that there’s unlikely to be camps or anti-semitism or even any legalised discrimination against Muslims. I know that.

    And yet there is stuff that makes me (and apparently other people) uneasy. Despite that.

    I meant it metaphorically—and I think Mr. Kaus is right; there is reason for unease. The good thing is, just about everyone is uneasy right up front. When Obama was elected, I for one was the exact opposite of uneasy. Total confidence in one’s elected officials, while comfortable, is not actually the proper stance of a good citizen. Unease, dubiety, skepticism and even hostility are healthier.

    • #52
  23. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    Have we all forgotten that Nazis were socialists. ( National Socialist German Workers Party) Its the left that mostly creates totalitarian government. The reject free markets and individual freedoms and force adherence to what they are touting much like BHO did with Obamacare.

    They also hate homeschoolers and outlawed them.

    • #53
  24. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Of all the insane accusations that the left is hurling against Trump, I find the competition for the most insane is between “homophobe” and “anti-Semite.”  Trump has been a lifelong supporter of gay rights.  He was in attendance at Elton John’s wedding at a time when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were taking the position that such weddings should be illegal.  (Shame on Elton, by the way, for not turning out for the inauguration.  Coward!)  LGBT’s who are claiming to be terrified that they will be sent to camps (or whatever), are pretty damned insane.

    But I think the accusation of antisemitism is even more insane.  Trump has never said or done a single thing that carried even a whiff of antisemitism.  On top of that, we have just rid ourselves of the most anti-Semitic and anti-Israel President in our history.  When Iran launches it’s nukes at Israel, I hope people will remember that the architect of the next holocaust was Barack Obama and his Iran deal.  (And, by the way, Obama’s defense that he “gave” Israel military aid is pure balderdash.  The Republican Congress voted that military aid, and Obama reluctantly signed that bill so as not to alienate Jewish donors to the Democratic Party.  Come to think of it, Jewish donors to the Party that encompasses 99% of the true anti-Semites in the country is probably the most insane position of all.)

    • #54
  25. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    When Iran launches it’s nukes at Israel, I hope people will remember that the architect of the next holocaust was Barack Obama and his Iran deal.

    What will happen is wall-to-wall coverage by the mainstream media about how it is Trump’s fault because he did not stop it from happening.

    Seawriter

    • #55
  26. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Mark (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):
    I seem to remember how W was going to usher in a bible thumping theocracy and ban abortions and fun.

    Don’t you remember how when Obama came into office, the Dixie Chicks were released from Gitmo and Fahrenheit 911 was finally allowed to be shown in theaters?

    I do remember Obama making it very clear…”I won”  and that he had a pen and a phone, so he didn’t need the Republicans to pass laws, he would just do it on his own.

    • #56
  27. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Of all the insane accusations that the left is hurling against Trump, I find the competition for the most insane is between “homophobe” and “anti-Semite.” Trump has been a lifelong supporter of gay rights. He was in attendance at Elton John’s wedding at a time when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were taking the position that such weddings should be illegal. (Shame on Elton, by the way, for not turning out for the inauguration. Coward!) LGBT’s who are claiming to be terrified that they will be sent to camps (or whatever), are pretty damned insane.

    But I think the accusation of antisemitism is even more insane. Trump has never said or done a single thing that carried even a whiff of antisemitism. On top of that, we have just rid ourselves of the most anti-Semitic and anti-Israel President in our history. When Iran launches it’s nukes at Israel, I hope people will remember that the architect of the next holocaust was Barack Obama and his Iran deal. (And, by the way, Obama’s defense that he “gave” Israel military aid is pure balderdash. The Republican Congress voted that military aid, and Obama reluctantly signed that bill so as not to alienate Jewish donors to the Democratic Party. Come to think of it, Jewish donors to the Party that encompasses 99% of the true anti-Semites in the country is probably the most insane position of all.)

    This is very good Larry.

    • #57
  28. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    all the insane accusations that the left is hurling against Trump, I find the competition for the most insane is between “homophobe” and “anti-Semite.”

    If anyone still wonders how something like the Salem witch trials could have happened, look no further than this behavior.  It’s mass hysteria on a massive scale, and bears no connection to reality.  (The Salem witch trials have been a favorite topic of the left for many years, so I’m using an example they may be familiar with.)

    • #58
  29. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    And yet, it was the Nazis that were both Democratic and Socialist. This really can’t be pointed out enough.

    Quibble, but the D in NSDAP was for “Deutches”, German, not Democrat.  Still, our modern Democratic party has a lot in common with them in some ways.

    • #59
  30. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    A problem is that the parade of horribles that the fear-mongers see is actually the fear-mongers projecting onto Trump what they would do if they were in power. The details of the subjects for action and punishment would be different, but the instinct is there.

    We saw strong evidence of this in the week before and the few weeks after the election. The people who had been before the election  lecturing Trump and his supporters on how to behave when Trump lost the election turned around after the election and did all the horrible things they had been lecturing Trump and his supporters not to do. So, apparently their lecturing was based on their knowledge of what they themselves would do. Their fears are that Trump will behave in the same way that they would were they to have the power.

    Your friends may not have this, but unfortunately they probably get most of their news from sources that are sympathetic to the fear-mongers (Gannett (USAToday), Washington Post, and NYTimes newspapers, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.), and so are in a way ignorant (have limited information).

    • #60
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