Turning a parable on its head
I remember nearly two years ago, when friends were sharing a video of Yale professor Timothy Snyder encouraging his students to take to the streets to save democracy. Snyder had shot to prominence by declaring, from his lofty perch of wisdom, that America had less than a year to defend the very existence of our democracy from Trump, who was bound to contrive some sort of Reichstag fire to enable a sudden fascist shift.
Then came week after week of meme after meme declaring that democracy had already been overthrown, in some nebulous but utterly damning way, by Vladimir Putin. The other shoe was perpetually about the drop. In fact, it already had, we just hadn’t heard about it quite yet. There was a pee tape, and in addition, some Russians had taken out Facebook ads, while others were poised to take down the electrical grid with malware.
Trump fired Jim Comey, for Chrissake, what more evidence do you need that the Fourth Reich was on the march?!?
Yet, here we are almost two years later, voting in a midterm we were warned would never come. Not to say, of course, that that is any reason not to keep believing that the fascist wolf is right outside the door – if, indeed, he isn’t already sleeping in the bed.
So it is that the New Resistors have turned the old story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf on its head. The moral, from this new perspective, isn’t that the boy had undermined his own credibility by a host of false reports, but that the people should keep themselves in a perpetual state of credulity, because eventually there will be a wolf.
This state of perpetual credulity is the primary duty of every good person. After all, people in Germany doubted the rise of fascism, too. The very existence of doubt, therefore, only proves the case that we are recapitulating Hitler’s rise.
Such is the consistent refrain from the New Left: You have a duty to believe. And to question this duty is to be at the very least an unconscious enabler of fascism.
To the Barricades!
It’s hard to tell the difference between the idiots, the fools, and the intelligence operatives. Snyder’s vague, histrionic, encouragement of his students to take to the streets, suggesting they have no other recourse to save their democratic birthright, might be evidence of a man caught up by the sense of his own transcendent importance. He is, after all, something of a nerd, and an old nerd at that, holding court before a bunch of his younger and more attractive social superiors. It’s easy to imagine his ego clutching after an edge to elevate itself while flattering the radical vanity of his audience.
But, he’s also a professor at Yale, home to Skull and Bones and Ground Zero of the CIA, so it doesn’t seem all that implausible to me that he’s consciously acting out an agenda. It’s hard to know where to draw the line, and maybe there isn’t one.
It seemed clear to me – from, for example, the leak of a transcript of one of the incoming president’s phone calls – that powerful forces within the American intelligence establishment were determined to undermine Trump’s legitimacy. It doesn’t seem beyond possibility that Snyder is aligned with these forces.
Remembering to Forget 9/11
It is, of course, virtually impossible to know where a person’s honest perspective ends and their assumed perspective begins. As Upton Sinclair famously remarked: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Of course the situation wouldn’t be so grossly simple in Snyder’s case. I don’t mean to say he’s insincere, or completely mistaken, in his analysis. Still, it’s hard to make sense of a man who believes that Trump’s firing of Jim Comey amounts to some sort of analog to the Reichstag fire, unless it were the worst Reichstag fire ever.
The strain in this analogy is made especially salient by Snyder’s silence around 9/11, which fit the pattern to a tee. Somehow, all of these people who are now certain fascism is right around the corner failed to notice the domestic crisis that transformed the security services of the US, creating a whole new meta Department of Homeland Security, while secretly abolishing Constitutional protections and initiating a state of perpetual war.
How should we trust the judgment of a man who slept through all that but suddenly sees Trump’s firing of Comey as the Second Coming of Reichstag? Again, if that’s Trump’s Reichstag it is on a par with Trump University. Worst Reichstag ever. Rather than taking control of the FBI, all Trump did was launch an unlimited special prosecutor on his ass.
Quick, Yale students, to the barricades, it’s almost Halloween!!!
Rise of the Russian Bots
Another fascinating bit from Snyder is his contention that Trump “won on the Internet thanks in part to Russian trolls, bots, and fake news.” I see in this a species of a more general trend to dehumanize Trump supporters, literally. His followers aren’t even real people. They’re just bots pretending to be people on Twitter.
This dovetails with Clinton’s reduction of half of Trump supporters to sub-human “deplorables”, which fits further with the attempt to reduce opposition to economic and administrative globalism to mere bigotry. It’s all a bunch of bitter clingers and bots, funded by Russian Oligarchs. There is no resistance to the progressive new world order that is not made up of anti-semites, sexists, traitors, racists, sexists and transphobes… plus bots and trolls.
The Big Picture
And really, it’s not such an implausible narrative, except for the last bit. I have no doubt Trump would be a dictator if he could. He’s fascist in temperament, and it seems entirely likely to me that he owes a ton of money to Russian oligarchs.
The issue to my mind is that the march to fascism proceeds on two legs, and that the culture of belief being relentlessly fostered by the Resistance to Trump is one of those legs. Put another way: denying and dehumanizing the opposition to progressive globalism, the False Messianic Dawn of Neo-Liberalism, helps push the world toward the crisis in which a reactionary authoritarian might take power.