Trump and the Fascistization of America(2/2)
Were continuing our discussion with Henry Giroux, who joins us again from Hamilton, Ontario. Hes a Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest of McMaster University, an author of his most recent book, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle, and a new book about to come out, America at War with Itself. Hes a regular contributor at Truthout as well. Thanks for joining us again Henry.
HENRY GIROUX: Its a pleasure to be here, Paul.
JAY: So in part one, we had a discussion about the rise of neofascism and whether or not Trump represents that, and whether thats whats on display at the Republican Convention. And we both came to the conclusion that it does and if you havent watched part one–if youre watching live now, this, youll come down our website. Youll see part one. I suggest you do watch part one because were going to kind of pick up where that left off.
In the first part we showed a clip from Rudy Giuliani and Sheriff David Clarke, calling for defense of the social order and everyones in fear. The worst kind of rhetoric weve heard since perhaps, well, I guess we heard it after 9/11, and we heard it during the McCarthy period. And of course what we need is a stronger police force and a stronger military. The big lies in Giuliani’s speech, especially about Saudi Arabia and Iran, and again I say, go watch part one.
So the ability of Trump and his allies to look in the camera and just outright lie–I quoted this thing in a piece I did recently which goes like this: “I reserve emotion for the many and reason for the few.” And thats a quote from Adolf Hitler, and thats clearly what were seeing on display in Cleveland. These guys know better.
Giuliani knows its not Iran funding this kind of terrorism. He knows its been the Saudis and Qataris, and maybe perhaps in some ways the Americans themselves. Certainly during the Afghan War, they did directly millions of dollars, perhaps billions went through Pakistan. to Afghanistan, which helped nurture Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and so on. And these guys know that history.
There was a small lie which everybodys talking about, and while it seems kind of minor, I think it actually has a little more meaning to it. And thats Trumps wife Melania. Heres a little clip from her speech Monday night.
MELANIA TRUMP: From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons.
JAY: So I think everyone knows about this all for now. The language she used is almost word for word what Michelle Obama used at the Democratic Party Convention about her husband Barack Obama and everyone, its so obvious its direct plagiarism. Yet the Trump campaign this morning, Tuesday morning, denies that its plagiarism was lifted. As I say, its word for word. Im sure everyone has seen the comparisons by now. I thought it was worth talking about, Henry, because its such an obvious lie, and yet theyll probably get away with just saying its not. And their base of voters will simply move on and say blame it on the liberal media again.
GIROUX: I mean, what I find interesting about that example is that just one of many, as youve said many times, in which lying has become so normalized for Trump and his cohorts, that the question of reality, the question of argument, the question of evidence, the question of thoughtfulness, the question of in some way trying to engage reason at its best, has become utterly superfluous. I think that what this seems to suggest is that you have an administration that will create its own history by basically creating its own facts because they dont care, and I think that what I find disturbing about that is that they dont care because they can get away with it. That the media doesnt hold them up in the way that it should. That people arent asking the hard questions.
I mean, what Trump buys into–and we all know this–is that celebrity culture confers authority and that you dont have to take people seriously who are a part of that culture because we assume that theyre not serious in the first place. Hes now relegated that or elevated that assumption into a kind of central dimension of politics. And I think its very dangerous. I think when you give up on the enlightenment and you sort of suggest any form of thinking is an act of stupidity, then what that suggests in the long run on questions of policy or on questions of governance around questions of how identities are being shaped, its that the truth doesnt matter. And basically what were going to do is were going to create a scenario where youll never hold us accountable because all the kind of things that make people comparable from evidence to serious arguments to important dialogue to matters of accountability now dont matter anymore. Truly thats the mark of a fascist regime.
JAY: And of course he can get away with this, and hes likely to get away with–and hes likely to get away with this, partly because hes going to say, well, even if thats true and maybe she did it, maybe a speechwriter did it, how does that compare with lying about these emails? And its very likely that the reason Hillary Clinton had this server is to avoid the Freedom of Information Act, which shows some intent at the very least to circumvent the law.
Maybe it wasnt outright illegal, but who knows. But much bigger lies in terms of the defense of what happened in Libya–I mean, Trump might even go there, I dont know. He certainly critiqued Clinton on Libya. Even though he himself, and this is where his own big lie is, at the time of the Libya intervention he called for American troops to invade Libya to overthrow Gaddafi.
So this supposed opposition of his to regime change in Libya is another big lie. But on the other hand, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–but if we understand it correctly, Clinton was the sort of [impotence] here. They committed war crimes in Libya. Even if one accepts the UN resolution in defense of Benghazi, and a lot of people dont, but even if you do, the overthrow of Gaddafi was a war crime because it was not authorized by the UN.
It was supposed to be simply defense of Benghazi. Clintons been involved in targeting Assad and helping create the conditions for the terrorism in Syria, and so on. She supports the Iraq War; I mean go on. Then the even bigger arching, overarching issue–and this is what I wanted to talk a bit more about in this segment–is the massive transfer of wealth from most ordinary working people to this tiny fraction.
People say 1 percent. Its probably more like 10 percent. Even though most of it went to the 1 percent. This massive transfer of wealth, particularly during the time of the Obama administration, has helped create the conditions for all this. So the–how do you deal with this issue, Henry, of the enablers of this rise of neofascism? Because they–so many peoples lives have been ruined over the last decade and a half. And the phenomena itself of Trump?
GIROUX: I think that what youre suggesting, and what I believe is actually quite true, is that Trump and the Democrats really represent two different elements of the same coin. I mean, what you have is a savage form of neoliberalism that now dominates most of the globe, in which questions of power and questions of justice are completely removed from any sense of accountability. And you have a system that basically consolidates in the interest of basically a financial lead. What youre witnessing is kind of a class war with two different discourses. Two different modes of legitimacy.
One is very outright and very savage in its endorsement of the kind of [grudishness] and what wed call the bleeding group for violence and injustice. And the other sort of takes, I think, a softer side. It doesnt call for eliminating 12 million, 11 million Mexicans in the United States. But at the same time you have a president who has an assassination list. You have a candidate on your Democratic Party whos basically a war monger. I mean, both of these positions share, it seems to me, in a political economic system that basically is injustice, it is brutal. And I think what we need to do is be able to understand what they have in common.
When we talk about the lying as you just did, it is very interesting where politics become unaccountable, people lie and they think that can get away from it. We see this both in the Republican and Democratic Party. Both are now parties of extremists because theyre basically governed by the financial we. We no longer have a sovereign state. We have an economic state. And I think that when economics drives politics, at one level you get the most rabid representations of that, of course in the Republican party, and then near the hand you get representations that try to downplay what it does in the name of democracy.
Trump doesnt about democracy. Hes unapologetic about democracy. He doesnt need it. He doesnt want it. He doesnt think it works. On the other hand, you have the Democratic Party that hides what it does in the false language of democracy. But they both share something in common. They both share in a system that is as savage as it is brutal. That produces enormous inequities. That has ruined the social state and has basically celebrated and expanded the punishing state. I dont just talk about militarization. To me Im more concerned about a society that it increasing criminalizes and militarizes all aspects of foreign and domestic policy and they both share in that.
JAY: They both share in being forms, political representation and alliances of sections of the elites, of the billionaires. They both–their, really, underlying economic policies not different. And most represent hyper-capitalism. They both represent defense of this sort of parasitical Wall Street. There is some difference, I believe, and they debate in the elite just how intense can the exploitation of American workers get?
I think that the Democrats have represented here represented over the last decades, even including Roosevelt in this about he represented a kind of more rational sector of the elites. But theres a fight over how intense you can get and the–Reagan, I think, represents the coming to consciousness of a section of the elites that the working class is actually quite weak now. The Soviet Union is no longer a model anyone believes in. Its starting to fall apart.
Globalization is taking off. Youre going to be able to play workers around the world against each other. You can up the ante on actually now targeting especially the upper echelons of the American working class so you dont have to pay auto workers $26 to start. Now you can pay them $14 an hour, which is what came out of the Obama saving of the auto industry.
But there is still a difference here, and I think its an important one. The constituency of the far right, of the Trump Republican Party, and as we talk about in the first segment its a constituency of the American public willing to accept a level of kind of overt fascism. A rhetoric that would support rounding up Black Lives Matter and putting them all in jail and charging them with conspiracy for terrorism.
Thats certainly the language were hearing already. And from Sheriff David Clarke that speaks and others that directly try to connect the language of Black Lives Matter with the assassination of cops. Even though theres not a shred of evidence of any of that, quite the contrary. Black Lives Matter made it clear that they have nothing to do and dont support anything like that. You know we know that it wasnt that long ago that the amendment to the NDAA, the act that authorizes the financing of the military, where theres an amendment where the army itself could round people up and put them in detention camps.
In fact, again heres the enablers of this sort of thing. Barack Obama signs off on that to even include US citizens. But this you can see this regime–if its a Trump regime surrounded by a David Clarke and Rudy Giuliani. I mean, these are the guys that would use that legislation to round people up. What Im getting at is there is more danger here, and this language of greater evil and lesser evil, I think its a mistake to even frame it that way. Its not a moral question and evils a moral category.
This is a strategic tactical question for people that are organizing to defend whatever democracy is left, and to try to move society forward to something new. That if these guys are in power there is going to be far less room to move. Because these are the guys that will make dissent illegal. The Clinton type forces, Obama type forces, they depend on a black folk. They depend on a Hispanic vote, they depend on educated voters, they depend on urban workers who dont fall for this kind of stuff. So as long as theres still electoral politics for the foreseeable future, there is. We dont know how long that last. I actually think strategically it is better to have a Clintonesque presidency–I mean a Clinton, not -esque, a Clinton presidency. But be truthful with everybody what this all means.
GIROUX: I completely agree with you. I think that Trump is a real immediate danger to the planet and to human existence. And I think any vote for him is far more dangerous than, lets say, a vote for Clinton. There were two things you could have recognized here. At one level, youve got a system where power is now separated from politics. The social contract is basically all but dead. Certainly on the extreme right. Meaning that power is global and politics is local. The people who now control the states, who control the nation states are basically global international organizations.
Were talking about the IMF, the World Trade Organization. I think that in Clinton at least strategically there was an attempt to sort of waive the idea that Clinton give lip service to against the reality of the politics that she produces. Thats an opening. I think that in short term and long term strategies. I think youve pointed to this. One level on the short term, I think we have to put somebody in power at the moment that is not going to destroy the planet and end up putting everybody in a concentration camp or in a prison.
I mean thats a real danger. To think that what he can do to the Supreme Court and to claim that Clinton is just as bad as she is because shes a warmonger, I think is nonsense. I mean as bad as she is, shes not Trump. Shes not the extreme right. But is she acceptable as a [carry on] for what it might mean to expand the possibilities of democracy? Absolutely not.
I think in the long run what we have to do is we have to organize people to basically participate in the short term in strategic kinds of elections. For instance, where school boards will not be turned over to the right. Or make sure that social provisions are being put into place that benefit the working class. But do everything we can do defend public schools. Do everything that we can do defend public goods.
But in the long run we need a third party. More when system is utterly corrupt. Its going to be changed. But that doesnt mean we simply drop out of the system entirely and turn it over to the lunatics and the warmongers. I think thats completely [inaud.]. I dont buy that left argument. I think that the left doesnt sense the most immediate danger that we face with these fascists who are about to unfortunately potentially come to power.
JAY: Yeah, and I dont think in doing that you need to create illusions about Clinton.
GIROUX: We dont need to apologize for Clinton to recognize were in a state of crisis so severe that its unlike anything were facing in probably the history of this nation since the Civil War.
JAY: The critical thing we have to keep saying, its not about Hillary Clinton and its not about the Democratic Party. Its about hyper-capitalism. Its about how hyper-capitalism has become so parasitical that finance and the preponderance of the elites, they make more money out of this gambling casino capitalism, not very interested in what actually goes on in the economy. Theyve become so short sighted theyre such con men and snake oil salesmen as I was saying, that Trump is really a legitimate face of them. Whether even though they–I would say the majority of them trust Clinton to manage capitalism more than they trust Trump to do it–a couple of things I think are for sure.
One is either one of two things is going to happen over the long run, because we know theres going to be another economic meltdown. Theres going to be another situation where theres going to be a tremendous impetus to go to war. And we know about the coming climate disaster. And one of only two things are going to happen, which is the Democratic Party as representative of parasitical hyper-capitalism is either going to create the conditions for another Trump, or Trump himself, to come to power.
Or two, the Democratic party will give rise to their own Trump, and theyll morph into this type of [huge] right populism and win over enough sections of society so that they can play that card. So in the longer run we better get organized independent of these elite parties and tell people all of this. But in the shorter run to say theres no difference between a Trump and Clinton to ordinary people in terms of their ability to get organized, its an illusion. I mean just go think about organizing under the dictators we know about from Latin America to–you dont even have to go to the extremes of Hitler. You can find much more modern examples.
GIROUX: Paul, you and I under Trump will be put in jail.
JAY: No doubt.
GIROUX: I think under Clinton well be ignored. But it seems to me that theres also another issue. Theres also the possibility that the Democratic Party basically will recognize in some ways that the demographics and the mobilizations that are taking place all over the country have to somehow be addressed. And that might make it a party thats a little more–actually less parasitic than weve assumed that weve–and predatory that it might become. I dont know.
I dont know if theyll embrace that New Deal sort of logic. But the Democratic Party, unlike the Republican Party of extremists, has to find ways to legitimate itself. That means that it has to somehow create ideologies that give the impression that its truly about furthering democracy rather than destroying it.
On the other hand, Trump doesnt care about ideology. He doesnt need an ideological justification for what he does, in ways that suggests he has something to do with democracy itself. Hes just simply saying hey, look, the countrys in crisis. Im going to mobilize fear, Im going to get rid of people who dissent, and Im going to be a warmonger. And Ill do everything that I can to make sure that financial class is happy. because basically theyre going to fund my campaign. And I think that as you say, the third way is to basically begin to mobilize people in ways that recognize that the real enemy here is not the Republican or Democratic Party.
The real enemy here is finance capital. The real enemy here is a savage form of neoliberalism that has–that breeds nothing but misery, intolerance, inequality, and massive degrees of human suffering. I mean, look, 70 thousand people die a year because of poverty. I mean, you have young people that have been completely written out of the script of democracy, burdened with debts. Sort of told that all the problems that they face, theyre responsible for. Weve lost the ability to translate private issues into public concerns and we need to mobilize in ways in which matters of education become central to politics itself.
We need to convince people. The left needs to convince people that the problems that theyre talking about are problems that people can identify and recognize themselves in. Thats going to take a long time. Thats not going to happen tomorrow.
JAY: And whats your take on what many people are turning to, the Green Party and Jill Steins candidacy?
GIROUX: I think the Green Party is one possibility. I think that we need a broader social movement. We need a movement that basically brings all factions of the left together. Those are the concerns of our economic domination. Those are the concerns about the theological domination. Those are the concerns about the environment. We need as you said, a broad-based social movement. And I think the Green Partys fabulous and important. I dont think its reaches lie enough. I dont think that the banner under which it operates speaks to what I would call the emergence of the necessity for discourse for radical democracy.
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