“You Made a Superman Cape for Me”
Who needs dystopian political fiction in the age of the orange-tinted monstrosity that calls itself Donald Trump ? Two Thursdays ago, as news came in of fatalities and massive destruction caused by a record-setting hurricane that slammed into the Florida Panhandle and Georgia the previous night, cable news buzzed with the story of a strange soap opera that had just unfolded in the Oval Office. In a bizarre reality television episode from the White House, the mentally disturbed Kardashian family member/victim Kanye West gave Trump a model “iPlane,” because, he said, “this is what our president should be flying in.”
West delivered a strange 10-minute soliloquy touching upon his own bipolar disorder, the 13th Amendment, Adidas, Chicago, and Trump as a national father figure who embodied the “male energy” West had missed in his childhood. While dozens of media personnelarrayed around the president’s desk snapped pictures, filmed, and took notes, the self-hating Black man West explained his decision to don the swag of a great white racist by wearing a Trumpian “Make America Great Again” ballcap:
“You know they tried to scare me to not wear this hat. My own friends. But this hat gives me a different power in a way. You know my dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home. And also I’m married to a family that, you know, not a lot of male energy going on. It’s beautiful though… you know I love Hillary, I love everyone. Right. But the campaign, ‘I’m with Her’ just didn’t make me feel, as a guy, that didn’t get to see my dad all the time…It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That’s my favorite superhero and [you] made a Superman cape for me… Also as a guy that looks up to you, looks up to Ralph Lauren, looks up to American industry guys, nonpolitical, no bullshit…and just gets it done.”
It was a pathetic discourse, illustrating how the disintegration of West’s personality has aligned him with the creeping hyper-masculinist fascism of “Superman” Trump. The Great White God Trump helps West, through classic narcissistic identification, feel like a “Superman” – like a “no bullshit…American industry guy” who manfully cuts through all the stupid “political” the crap and “just gets it done” (you know, “make the trains run on time” and all that).
At the end of Kanye’s alarming oration, Trump (who has been known to privately refer to his own 12-year old Barron son as “a fucking retard”) said, “I’ll tell you what, that was very impressive.”
How dystopian it was.
“It’ll Change Back Again”: Male Energy Trumps Clean Energy for a Bit Longer
It was too much for CNN. Even cable news, long in the business of merging politics and soap opera, had to admit that the creepy Kanye-Donald reality television episode was a grotesquely inappropriate distraction from a record-setting hurricane that drew strength from the relentless, lethal, and accelerating warming of the planet by a fossil fuel industry that Trump champions. The storm made landfall just two days after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a dire new report showing that policymakers have just 12 years to cease and desist from turning the planet into a Greenhouse Gas Chamber if the species is not going to face catastrophe. The IPCC now warns that the world faces full-on calamity unless we invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035 and cut coal-fired power down to as close to zero as possible by 2050.
Here’s what the Great God Trump had to say about the IPCC report and global warming the other night on CBS’s 60 Minutes: “I think something’s happening [that’s why Trump has been building walls to protect his golf courses from rising sea levels – P.S.] Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”
The eco-fascist POTUS continues to stand up defiantly against the limp-wristed consensus of the scientific community on anthropogenic (really capitalogenic) global warming.
What a man! Pedal to the metal! You gotta love that male energy.
The Great God doesn’t want to contribute a fraction of the colossal U.S. weapons budget (which pays Lockheed Martin et al. for an immense arsenal of high-tech weapons of mass annihilation that can blow the world up many times over) or “lose jobs” to save life on Earth. It is beyond his manly brain to grasp that “millions and millions” of people would work/find jobs in a clean energy transition and that, as all us “crazy environmentalists” like to say, “There’s no jobs on a dead planet.”
Nature, however, bats last. The remarkable string of extreme weather events (heat waves, droughts, floods, epic wildfires, hurricanes and more) that have hit the U.S. (“America”) this year and in recent years are only early bases-on-balls compared to the season-ending grand-slams Mother Nature is going to nail (perhaps I should say “tame”) “America” and the world with in coming years and decades. “Male energy” has nothing on the big can of whup-ass She’s going to open up on us fairly soon. Even the wealthy and eco-cidal Few won’t be able to escape in the end.
Beating Up on “Horse Face,” “Pocahontas,” and Other “Extremely Unattractive” Women
Did Kanye feel the “male energy,” did he get a thrill up his leg, when the Trumpenstein called Stormy Daniels a “horse face” via Twitter three days ago? The vicious sexist pig Trump calls women “dogs,” “horse-face,” “pigs,” “fat,” “ugly,” “crazed,” “crying,” “lowlife,” “disgusting,” and “extremely unattractive.” Still, millions of white women vote support this sexist dirt-bag and/or don’t divorce or otherwise break up with men who back him.
Did Kanye get a male rise out of Trump’s big man smackdown of U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)? Trump has been calling Warren “Pocahontas” for years. That’s his cutely racist way of mocking her (admittedly silly) claim to possess Cherokee ancestry. At a white-nationalist rally in Montana last July 5th, Trump said that if he ever debated Warren he’d have her take a DNA test. He said he’d pay her a million dollars if she could prove any indigenous heritage.
I hold no brief for Ms. Warren, another in a long and depressing line of fake-progressive and imperial dollar Democrats. She deserves to be known as “the Senator from Raytheon.” She has been playing an inanely identity-politicized game with race and genetics with her claims of Cherokee identity. It’s precisely the kind of game that Steve Bannon and other right-wing Republican strategists want her and her ilk to play: it swings right into their base-rallying white-nationalist wheelhouse.
The Cherokee Nation rightly rejects the notion that a DNA test makes her remotely Native American. And where was Senator Warren during the great, indigenous-led struggle against the eco-cidal Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock?
Still, Warren took the tangerine monstrosity up on his taunt. She took one of those tests and found a small hint of Native American lineage. The parasitic billionaire (who owes his fortune to his wealthy father, as the New York Times has recently shown) should do the manly thing and send her campaign committee a million dollars. Trump responded by saying “who cares? Who cares?” and falsely claiming that he’d ever made the offer he clearly made. What a lying sack of orange-scented shit.
Did Kanye dig the “male energy” this week when Trump ran interference for the be-headers in Riyadh? Trump stood up like a real man when news emerged that the decapitationist and absolutist state of Saudi Arabia recently sent a recently high-ranking, crown-affiliated kill-team (including the sick kingdom’s leading forensic specialist) to dismember and then execute Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident Washington Post journalist with children who have U.S. nationality?
The murder was so manly that it took fifteen Saudi men to carry it out. Talk about male energy.
Orange Truth-Crusher said he talked to his good friend the young Saudi crown prince “MBS” and that MBS denied any knowledge of what happened. The manly prince told the Great White (if tangerine-tinted) Male of America that the murder must have committed by some “rogue killers.”
Trump relayed the message to the folks he likes to call “enemies of the people” – that is, to reporters. It must have been some “rogue killers,” Trump said. He warned the people’s enemies not to go crazy with all that nasty left-wing “guilty-until-proven-innocent” stuff it did to the odious onetime sexual predator and mean drunk – to Ly’n Brett Kavenaugh.
Hair Fuhrer also warned U.S. journalists and Congresspersons not to get too upset about the ghoulish chopping up and homicide (in that order) of people’s enemy Jamal Khashoggi because the blood-soaked Saudi regime purchases a lot of arms from the U.S. “They buy our military equipment,” Trump told 60 Minutes. Leaving aside the grotesque immorality of his argument for ignoring state murder, Trump badly exaggerated the size of the Saudis’ arms orders. He also absurdly suggested that the Saudis could easily shift to Russian or Chinese weapons systems and failed to mention that that United States’ position as Saudi Arabia’s leading arms supplier gives Washington huge leverage over the Wahhabist kingdom.
“And, you know, as he’s said often,” the historian and journalist Terry Thomas wrote me, “the Saudis spend a lot of money at Trump properties.” Even Trump wasn’t man enough to bring thatup in defense of the Khashoggi butchering, however.
It seems (the last time I looked) that Riyadh regime is getting ready to admit that they killed Khashoggi in “an interrogation gone bad” — you know, the kind of interrogation where you chop off the subject’s fingers and head and cut him into pieces, under the supervision of your kingdom’s leading forensic expert…the sort of questioning where you just get a little too carried away with “male energy.”
The story is so absurd it is almost beyond belief that Riyadh and Trump actually have the gut to advance it. But nothing is beyond belief anymore.
This ought to mean huge egg on Agent Orange’s socio-pathological face but it probably won’t since the United States is an Orwellian state where 2+2=5 and up is down and only a tiny slice of the population has any idea what “their” nation[‘s foreign policy establishment] does in the world. Like the fake liberal Barack Obama, Trump has paid no political price for helping the Saudis commit epic war crimes and create an abject humanitarian catastrophe (replete with mass child famine and the spread of cholera, a supposedly 19th century disease) in Yemen. What’s one dead journalist (an “enemy of the people”) compared to thousands of dead Yemeni children anyway in the scheme of things?
“Corruption” Means Declining Whiteness to the Trump Base
But enough about Trump. What about the millions of very predominantly white U.S.-Americans who back this racist, sexist, authoritarian, malignantly narcissist, and creeping fascist uber-asshole of a POTUS?
Most liberals and progressives I know are stunned that Trump’s clear despotism, taste for tyranny, racism, and sexism do not seem to bother his base very much if at all. But there’s no basis for their astonishment about this. Nobody who pays attention to the relevant survey data should think that the president’s at once authoritarian, racist, and sexist inclinations would be a problem for his supporters. In December 2015, the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams surveyed 1,800 registered voters across the country and the political spectrum. Employing standard statistical survey analysis, McMillan found education, income, gender and age had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. “Only two of the variables I looked at,” MacWilliams reported in January of 2016, “were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.” Trump, MacWilliams found, was the only candidate in either party with statistically significant support from authoritarians. “Those who say a Trump presidency ‘can’t happen here,’ ” MacWilliams wrote in Politico, “should check their conventional wisdom at the door. … Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity.”
A year and a half later, a poll conducted by political scientists Ariel Malka and Yphtach Lelkes found that 56 percent of Republicans support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump and congressional Republicans advocate this to “make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote.”
This brings us to Trump’s racism, evident from numerous statements of his before and during his presidency. Is it a problem for Trump backers? Know any other good jokes? Trump’s disproportionately Caucasian base is fused by an embattled white racial identity. This Trumpian “make America white again” heart- and mind-set holds that whites are becoming a minority targeted by discrimination and “politically correct” liberal and leftists have been turning the nation’s politics and policies against white values, culture, needs, rights and prerogatives. This curious “reverse discrimination” victim whiteness (devoid of evidence for its claims) informs the Trump base’s understanding of the meaning of the word “corruption” in ways the liberal writer Peter Beinart captured in the Atlanticlast August. For Trump’s base, Beinart writes, the idea of corruption isn’t so much about politics and the law as it is about racial and gender purity:
Trump supporters appear largely unfazed by the mounting evidence that Trump is the least ethical president in modern American history. … Once you grasp that for Trump and many of his supporters, corruption means less the violation of law than the violation of established hierarchies [of race and gender], their behavior makes more sense. … Why were Trump’s supporters so convinced that [Hillary] Clinton was the more corrupt candidate even as reporters uncovered far more damning evidence about Trump’s foundation than they did about Clinton’s? Likely because Clinton’s candidacy threatened traditional gender roles. For many Americans, female ambition—especially in service of a feminist agenda—in and of itself represents a form of corruption.
Cohen’s admission makes it harder for Republicans to claim that Trump didn’t violate the law. But it doesn’t really matter. For many Republicans, Trump remains uncorrupt—indeed, anti-corrupt—because what they fear most isn’t the corruption of American law; it’s the corruption of America’s traditional identity. And in the struggle against that form of corruption—the kind embodied by Cristhian Rivera [the “illegal immigrant” accused of murdering the young white woman Mollie Tibbetts in rural Iowa last July], Trump isn’t the problem. He’s the solution.
The Color of U.S.-American Authoritarianism
But, of course, it’s not about either(a) right-wing white male racist and nativist ethnic and gender identity or (b) authoritarianism when it comes to understanding Trump’s base. White racial and gender identity and authoritarianism have long merged with and cross-fertilized each other. Last May, political scientists Steven V. Miller and Nicholas T. Davis released a working paper titled “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy.” Their study found a strong correlation between white Americans’ racial intolerance and support for authoritarian rule. “When racially intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people of color,” NBC News reported, citing the Miller and Davis paper, “they abandon their commitment to democracy.”
The Trump base’s bigotry and its leanings toward authoritarianism are not separate problems. They are inseparably linked. When Trump calls Mexicans murderers and rapists, when he rails about the need for building a wall, when he denounces the media as “fake news,” when he disses judges and the rule of law and juries, and when he praises authoritarian leaders, he is appealing to the same voters.
The most sophisticated and statistically astute analysis of the 2016 Trump electorate produced so far has been crafted by political sociologists David Norman Smith and Eric Hanley. In an article published in Critical Sociology last March, Smith and Hanley found the white Trump base was differentiated from white non-Trump voters not by class or other “demographic” factors (including income, age, gender and the alleged class identifier of education) but by eight key attitudes and values: identification as “conservative”; support for “domineering leaders”; Christian fundamentalism; prejudice against immigrants; prejudice against blacks; prejudice against Muslims; prejudice against women, and a sense of pessimism about the economy.
Strong Trump supporters scored particularly high on support for domineering leaders, fundamentalism, opposition to immigrants and economic pessimism. They were particularly prone to support authoritarian leaders who promised to respond punitively to minorities perceived as “line-cutters”—“undeserving” others who were allegedly getting ahead of traditional white Americans in the procurement of jobs and government benefits—and to the supposed liberal “rotten apples” who were purportedly allowing these “line-cutters” to advance ahead of traditional white American males.
Support for politically authoritarian leaders and a sense of intolerance regarding racial, ethnic and gender differences are two sides of the same Trumpian coin. The basic desire animating Trump’s base was “the defiant wish for a domineering and impolitic leader” linked to “the wish for a reversal of what his base perceives as an inverted moral and racial order.”
Who Creep Fascist?
Is Trump’s narcissism a problem for his backers? Not really. As psychologist Elizabeth Mika noted last year in an essay titled “Who Goes Trump? Tyranny as a Triumph of Narcissism”:
“The tyrant’s narcissism is the main attractor to his followers, who project their hopes and dreams. The more grandiose his own sense of self and his promises to his fans, the greater their attraction and the stronger their support. … Through the process of identification, the tyrant’s followers absorb his omnipotence and glory and imagine themselves winners in the game of life. This identification heals the followers’ narcissistic wounds, but also tends to shut down their reason and conscience.”
(Mika did not comment on whether she’d ever treated Kanye West).
If all this sounds anything like “creeping fascism,” that’s because it is. As the left political scientist Anthony DiMaggio recently observed on CounterPunch:
“There are too many red flags in public sentiment to ignore the threat of creeping fascism. Ominously, one of the strongest statistical predictors of support for Trump is the desire for a strong leader who will ‘crush evil’ and ‘get rid of the rotten apples’ who ‘disturb the status quo.’ Half of Republicans say they trust Donald Trump as a more reliable source of information than the news media—more reliable even than conservative media outlets. Nearly half of Republicans think media outlets should be ‘shut down’ if they are ‘broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate,’ raising ominous possibilities regarding precisely who will act on such allegations. … The cult of Trump is not an abstract phenomenon, but one that has real implications. … The danger of fascist creep is also seen in the support from most Republican Americans for shutting down the 2020 election, so long as Trump declares it necessary to combat fictitious voter fraud. Conservatives’ acceptance of this conspiracy theory continues, unfortunately, despite the president’s own ‘voter fraud commission’ being disbanded after failing to find any evidence of it.”
Is Trump’s hyper-masculinist “creeping fascism” a problem for his backers? Leaving aside the interesting debate among liberal and left commentators about whether Trump is a real or creeping fascist, it is unlikely that more than a small number of Americans could provide even the remotest outlines of a working definition of what classic European fascism was or what fascism more broadly defined is in the world today. It’s hard for people to reject something they know little or nothing about regarding its existence and nature (even as they are thinking and acting in accord with some of the phenomenon’s key characteristics).
As the dangerously declining superpower that is the United States moves at an accelerating pace, under Trump, into a period that deserves to be called at least pre-fascism, it is an even better time than usual to heed George Santyana’s warning: “Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
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1. My onetime ambition of writing a dystopian novel is on hold as I observe a U.S.-American dystopia unfold in real time and place. This is from my notes on plot ideas: “the 2024 Oprah Winfrey ‘Make America Good Again’ campaign is trounced in the wake of a fire in Congress that is blamed on Shiite Islamist Sandernistas linked to the Maduro regime, MS-13, Michael Avenatti, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Kanye West is be put in charge of a National State of Emergency Town Hall meeting broadcast live on Facebook and Twitter. Ex-citizens will be allowed to react with emoticons and by selecting from a narrow range of Google Images meant to capture how they feel about events.”