Fantasyland

The American ISIS – Part Two


This is Part Two of The American ISIS. Part One was published on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. You can find it here.

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Kurt Andersen’s 2017 book Fantasyland is a remarkable journey through our 5 century endeavor to perfect our ability to believe almost anything. It’s about how we blind ourselves to obvious reality and embrace outrageous explanations and fantasies to fill our gaping ignorance and feed our passions. We may be reaching perfection in that right now and could achieve escape velocity.

I recommend Andersen’s book to you but caution that you may find some of his views objectionable. Should that happen, simply focus on the basic American manias of belief in whatever puffs our bubble and our need to be wowed by ever more spectacular wow. There are hard consequences to those vulnerabilities. Our enthusiasm to believe the otherwise unbelievable is especially true when we live in fear of the ground shifting farther away from what feels solidly familiar. We clutch after vaporous memories of an imagined better time that never happened and we demand that it return.

He concludes his book quoting Hannah Arendt, who escaped Germany in 1933, came to America and became a leading political philosopher. In her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism she wrote, “The essential conviction shared by all ranks [in a totalitarian movement], from fellow-traveler to leader, is that politics is a game of cheating.” Consider that in the context of our fellow-traveler mobs chanting “Stop the steal!” and their dear leader having whined, accused and lied incessantly since 2015 about rigged elections and who now donkey brays about how the 2020 election was “stolen” from him and his mobs.

Back to Arendt:

“A mix of gullibility and cynicism have been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true  .  .  .  Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable truth of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

Her references were to Stalin and Hitler but she could as well have been writing about 21st century America and Donald Trump. We’re not a different species from any other people at any other time and this story is a recurring one. The difference is that it is being played out on us today and it is our democracy that is in danger.

The Nazi Brown Shirts and Stalin’s Death Squads and Pol Pot’s Kymer Rouge were each absolute followers of an absolute, tyrannical leader. They were constantly infused with propaganda. So, too, were and are the al Qaeda and ISIS vengeful mobs.

Right here at home our American ISIS is propagandized by Trump. He is yet another megalomaniac who will get his way or he will burn it all down. His followers have promised death to whomever he points a stubby finger at, including the Vice President of the United States. There are over 300 million guns in private hands in America and most are owned by a relative few, meaning that we have propagandized militias with over-stocked arsenals and barely contained rage. Even some of our military and police are fully propagandized.

These American ISIS members have promised ongoing violence fueled by their self-righteous certainties of patriotism and their imagined unity with 18th century revolutionaries. They have demonstrated their eagerness to inflict their violence on others. In fact far right extremists are the biggest perpetrators of domestic terrorism in America – by far. Now consider what will happen when their tyrannical leader, their Caligula, is indicted and convicted of his crimes.

Consider, too, how critical it will be to pass S.4263, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and H.R.1, the For The People Act to stop a Republican steal of our upcoming elections and of our democracy.

The facts are before us, so expecting the American ISIS to make good on their threats is an exercise in reality. Believe your eyes.

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Good News!

On Friday President Biden fired the Trump appointed head of the Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul, and solicited and received the resignation of his chief deputy, David Black. Saul spent the past years doing everything he could to deny benefits to seniors, our disabled and others for whom the system is supposed to work. He tried to bust the employee union and more.

Saul’s firing is a fine start to removing all the Trump toadies who have their jobs due to campaign donations and blatant conflicts of interest with the agencies they lead, like Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who spends his days hobbling the post office system and slowing your mail.

Well done, President Biden. Keep purging!

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Relativism and National CPR


Relativism: The idea that nothing is any more correct or true than anything else.

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I know, it sounds preposterous, but that is the prevailing assumption about reality in much of our society. Example: Kellyanne Conway did an interview from the White House lawn shortly after Donald Trump moved in. She was defending a false claim that press secretary Sean Spicer had made at his first press briefing a day earlier. He had insisted that Trump had the greatest number of attendees at his inauguration of any president, ever. When presented with empirical evidence that the claim was false, Conway announced that they (the administration) believed “alternative facts.”

Let’s be clear that “alternative facts” doesn’t mean that they were looking at other metrics, nor does it mean that they had additional information not included in the original observations. It means specifically that they believed that they were free to make up anything they wanted and that their made-up story was just as valid, accurate and true as any other. For them and for so many others, false = true, fiction = fact. Relativism.

While Trump is gone from a position of power and is now preparing for his position as defendant, alternative facts have not disappeared. We hear them every day from politicians blabbering some vacuous reinvention of history, from QAnon spouting another impossible conspiracy fiction, from yellow journalism masquerading as news and from extremists breaking the law while claiming they’re protecting the Constitution. But these conjurors of alternative facts aren’t alone. Indeed, we have a major cultural problem.

Kurt Andersen’s book Fantasyland is an historical trip through our wondrous American tapestry of belief in fantasy, in anything goes. Andersen quotes science fiction writer Phil Dick, introducing his words writing, ”  .  .  .  he wrote a perfect summary of his dread about the transformation of American society and culture as the real and unreal became indistinguishable.” Sounds a lot like today, don’t you think?

‘The problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups – and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener.  .  .  .

‘And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes.  .  .  .

‘I consider that the matter of defining what is real – that is a serous topic, even a vital topic. And in there somewhere is the other topic, the definition of the authentic human. Because the bombardment of pseudo-realities begins to produce inauthentic humans very quickly, spurious humans – as fake as the data pressing at them from all sides.  .  .  .  Fake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves. So we wind up with fake humans inventing fake realities and then peddling them to other fake humans. It is just a very large version of Disneyland.’

And here we are in our alternative worlds, stumbling through our cultural Fantasyland of alternative fact inbreeding. We believe whatever we want to believe and then accept the mutants we’re creating, as we befuddle ourselves to death, all because relativism rules.

This is dangerous stuff. It is where people believe whatever they want to believe with no weight given to reality. They believe whatever serves their motives and fears and hopes, like believing that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump; like sending partisan know nothings to audit the last election so that they can fabricate the desired result; like people selecting themselves to attack democracy, even as they invoke the red, white and blue. It is what causes little self-inflated men and women to lie and to cling to power over others, while justifying their actions with fantastical fabrications. That and more goes on every day in America, regardless of how our detachment from tangible facts causes us to self-immolate.

Perhaps that is why President Biden speaks of fighting for the soul of America. It needs life support intervention right now and nobody else is showing up to do national CPR.

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Tweets So Far This Week

From @richardhine:

“If 53% of Republicans think Trump is still President but only 26% of Americans say they belong to the decaying Party of Trump, that would mean only 14% of Americans think Trump is still President. Which might be an accurate measure of the batshit fringe.”

From @HunaNaMeaHuna

“Vote Theft Is Your Future Denied”

Gerrymandering and sham voting audits will do that.

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Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.

Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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