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Cult-Like Ignorance is Death: Trump and the Coronavirus

Trump’s lies, his disparagement of science and scientists, his claim that non-political civil servants are part of the deep state, his lack of credibility, his penchant for political opportunism over the needs of the nation, his pathological embrace of hyperbole, his delight in creating confusion, and his mistaking loyalty for public service puts the nation in grave danger in light of the growing pandemic. He has gutted the health services, slashed much needed revenue for public goods through tax giveaways to the ultra-rich, ousted, Tim Ziemer, one of the most trusted leaders in public health, and appointed a religious fanatic Mike Pence, to head the attack on the corona virus crisis. This is a politician who defunded Planned Parenthood, and once claimed that smoking does not kill people. Pence is not merely incompetent, given the policies he sanctioned during the opioid and HIV crisis while he was governor, he is also a walking testimony to the rise of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism and its move from the margins to the centers of power.

Trump has played down the urgency of the pandemic, blamed the media for distorting its seriousness, and believes that brown people are more of a threat to national security than real threats such as a pandemic and climate change. As a neoliberal on steroids, he is more concerned about the stock market than human lives. He trades in conspiracy theories, is addicted to brain dead propaganda outlets such as Fox News, and rewards full blown racist such as Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom, which in this case should be renamed the Medal of Stupidity. After all, Limbaugh did claim that the news about the virus is false and is being spread by the alleged deep state in order to sabotage Trump’s re-election. Evidence for such a charge was based on the claim that Dr Nancy Messonnier, who has worked for the CDC for 25 years, is the sister of former attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Someone should revoke Limbaugh’s high school diploma.  Trump and his ultra-nationalist, racist loyalists cannot fathom that transnational problems demand transnational solutions as is made clear in his flat earth denial of global warming.

This criminogenic administration poses a serious threat to the nation and the globe. If there is anything to learn from an earlier time about governments wedded to ignorance, racism, anti-intellectualism, racial cleansing, and the glorification of ultra-nationalism, it is now. Trump and his merry band of incompetent lackeys are symbols of a necropolitics that is wedded to destruction, violence, greed, falsehoods, and the needs of capital. Terminal idiocy, cult like absolutism, bottomless ignorance, and unbridled arrogance and narcissism have given rise to a form of neoliberal fascism and a culture of cruelty unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. This is what neo fascism looks like when it ignores social needs for the demands of cravenly loyalty and the accumulation of power and profits. Trump is a menace and danger to the world not just the United States. Obsessed with loyalty, he hates competing centers of power,  ravages public health services in favor of his free market, privatization, and deregulation while putting unqualified political hacks such as White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow in important positions of leadership. Ludlow recently claimed that the spread of the virus was almost airtight contained in spite of growing evidence to the contrary.

Nazi Germany once showed us what the end of humanity looked like. Trump and his followers have revived that threat. Trading on a culture of fear, lies, false promises, massive anxiety, and the demand for unconditioned loyalty, Trump thus far has managed to keep his neoliberal fascist administration, afloat, in spite of his repeated acts of domestic terrorism—violence waged against the populations he is supposed to represent. The coming crisis may prove his undoing. Let’s hope one byproduct of this crisis is what Walter Benjamin once called “profane illumination” leading to massive collective resistance. One place to begin might be to take seriously Bertolt Brecht’s argument that it is impossible to condemn fascism without condemning capitalism. According to Brecht, “But how can anyone tell the truth about Fascism, unless he is willing to speak out against capitalism, which brings it forth?” In the shadow of this pandemic virus, we are witnessing the slow violence of capitalism and its resort to the defunding of the welfare state, government services, the regulatory state, and the public good. Under such circumstances, fascism sets the stage for increasing acts of barbarism that develop and accumulate into forms of political corruption, endless crisis, and the production of an eco-system of ignorance that is death dealing.

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Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014), The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism (Routledge, 2018), and the American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights, 2018). His website is www. henryagiroux.com.

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