Dare to Say

I am completely half afraid to think.

– Flann O’Brien

Right now, walking about, conversing in your everyday life as an “Everyday American” you feel a hesitancy in which you dare to speak, dare to opinionate. There is a danger. Not the danger faced if you put flowers on Navalny’s memorial in St. Petersburg but rather the danger of losing your sense of community and your place in it, of being labeled and rejected. You are not free to say what you think. You no longer know what country you are in. Stung by an angry defiance, you fire your own cannon on battle media.

Our speech is Constitutionally protected, which right now I can compare to your right to walk in a minefield. You think your words are innocent conveyers of meaning but they are actually explosive, heating things up without any time out for meaning. We are at war with other humans and with the planet Earth itself because our “worlding” efforts are at cross purposes, divided against ourselves, as the “worlding” of a few, obviously not Beatitude or Buddhist-driven, draw us into pathological, megalomaniacal phenomenal realities.

Only such pathology could lead us into a world where meaning has been politically weaponized, that common understanding based on validated meaning is mocked, that even the most absurd conspiracy cannot be refuted, that obvious, observable disintegration can be branded as its opposite, that a call to make America great again is grounded in two of Hobbes’s worldviews, namely, the nasty and brutish. You are called upon to hate, and, to insanely accept lying as an epistemology. “The compulsion to lie when literally everyone knows you are lying is the defining political pathology of our time.” (Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, “Roaming Charges, Feb. 23, 2024).

The mogul of tech and finance dares to say anything; the autocrat in the office of president dares his constituency to say anything he might not like. The young myrmidons of Trump – Gaetz, Greene, Stefanik, the Millers, Ramaswarmy — dare to speak as Trump directs them in a world turned upside down by his whim. This is not a Putin fear world where Putin makes it clear that daring to speak your mind may be fatal to you. There is fear in the “worlding” Trump has taken us to, a world where the MAGA mission is not to rebuild but to destabilize, tear down, uproot a long residing electoral democracy so you do not dare to say anything. This New Normal is unmarked, or each day waiting to be marked by the capriciousness of a megalomaniac.

The Liberal side is not innocent of generating a nervousness over what we dare to say.

A political psychology has emerged divorcing you from your own feelings and thoughts. You cannot be sure of what subliminal wellsprings are behind your words and actions.  Racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, superannuated, xenophobic feelings lurk beyond your reach. You do not dare to say anything. When and where you should fear daring to say is clearly marked, as in North Korea, is not what is going on in the U.S., where our roads have unmarked IEDs we trigger accidentally. The message being sent here is that we do not know we are part of a White Racist club until we are called out on it.

Fear of what you might say or do in this or that situation, among these people and not those people, is a nervous making fear. But first is the anger produced. A proud sense of individual autonomy so questioned provokes you to dare to say whatever your gut tells you to say. You speak from the gut. You know from the gut. “I am not a textbook player. I’m a gut player,” the 43rd President of the U.S. tells us. It is a sacred source of knowledge and yet this “gut” is the wellspring of the battlefield of noise we create on our “social” media. Defensive anger is posted, “full of passionate intensity” provoked by an attack on your sacred “gut” response,

Those who will not dare to say, nervous and fearful.

What Nietzsche describes as ressentiment is at work here, a loss of daring in the face of affront that festers into revenge. Not being able to release oneself, not daring to do so, the hope then is for a strong man who will ride rough shod over “Liberal Distress” and so release them to do the same. Trump dares to say and do, and in doing so releases them from the prison house of “Liberal Restraint.” This is not the daring of Caesar crossing the Rubicon; this is the daring of a petulant child who will throw his dish at you if you don’t give him his Fruit Loopies.

Restrictions on your personal freedom has, since the world began, been seen as a Liberal campaign. Republicans are laissez-faire, libertarian at heart; they will not take your guns away, or your money with taxes. A Liberal DEI politics, Beatitude in tone, is seen as foreign and exclusionary from a red state perspective. Here DEI politics is invader action, like gentrification and illegal border crossing. Ressentiment is directed here and not at the destructive forces of the finance/tech control of “free enterprise” whose intricate and subtle ways make our day and plan our future. We are free to choose within the walls of Wall Street.

We will be “free to choose” within the world AI arranges; and America will be made great again in all the way the financial sector decides to invest. Auto/petrol has already done irredeemable damage to the planet and whether humans become extinct before we leave the fossils in the ground is a long shot bet. The private health care industry/Big Pharma makes it expensive to have a body but the AI on the doorstep promises to generously and humanely vacate your mind while Wall Street financial sector scraps bodies and minds as junk in the privileged world of investing.

We do not dare to say because both finance and tech have gone way beyond our comprehension. Few are clear as to what the financial sector did in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08. And even fewer know how ChatGPT can so easily replace everything about you. Or whether what I am writing now is an uncanny capture of the way I think and write, my voice, in short, or whether I am hanging on as an old school anachronistic body and mind, is a brand-new concern in human history.

The thing about our “worlding” is that we construct the rationales of progress or the reviews of failure from within these constructions. There is no external point of reference to which we measure the truth of what we say. Our daring to say is an act of bravery. That saying anything at all is now demeaned and affronted in the alternate reality of cyberspace, a specious cloning of humans and our worlding.

Those who dare to say, angry and combative.

This is a “worlding” promising violence that may be on the planning stage, like the War Between the States, until the plan was executed. However, neither undisciplined rioting by rioters led by riot and discord personified by Trump will lead to a successful storming of the Bastille. Trump at the Court House is not Lenin at the Finland Station, nor will Matt Gaetz lead the fight like Trotsky. What does seem clear is that Donald J. Trump is an accelerant, which ironically may fizzle out if he wins a second term as president, for reasons of igniting, out of total ignorance of anything beyond his person, existential global crises.

To an unwholesome extent Trump is being fueled by the Democratic Party itself, one faction mouthing a provoking socialism, the mere mention of the word provokes the Everyday American, and the other faction promising to lock up your guns and your mouth. Whether Democrats do a better job in fueling Right-wing anger and resentment, than Trump and his MAGA cohort do in fueling Liberal fear and disgust is a moot matter. What is not moot is the transparency of positions here. One faction is daring to say anything under First Amendment protection in an effort to undermine Constitutional order. And its antagonist equally daring in restricting such free speech rights in order to uphold the Constitution.

An MIT study concluded that “falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than truth in all categories of information.” The Washington Post reported that in the four years of Trump’s presidency he dared to post 30,573 false or misleading statements. In J.S. Mill’s view, all these lies should have led us to “where truth lies.” But in the world we are in what all Trump’s tactics of bullshit have done is bring him close to winning a second presidential term. A two-pronged tactical approach of drumming up hate as well as promising a return to a Golden Age in America has been a winning approach that has not led to any effective presence yelling “I call bullshit on that!”

If you consider that what Trump dares to say had shaped a public discourse that is degenerate and incapable of adequate dialogue, then his daring confines our own daring within that reduction and retrogression. In other words, it may be beneficial, as Mill attests, in regard to the disclosure of truth not to silence opposing views. However, we are in a fractured, confusing online “worlding” in which lies have more appeal and travel more widely than facts and evidence. This weird condition only leads to increasing decline, absurdity, and ruination. We are dealing with existential threats and not merely words.

Trump is exploring protective harbors within our Constitutional order and began doing that as president. He has made it clear that he will advance from the need of such protection to dismantling the elements of that order standing in the way of his will, not a Nietzschean daring will to power but a crude narcissist’s will.

Those daring others to stand against the hope of achieving social justice, equality, and efforts to dismantle systemic discrimination.

The dare has been taken up.

Social justice, as here demanded, is tied not to capitalist perversions of social justice, which is what competition in the free market achieves, as we are told in grade school. It is tied to socialist “propaganda,” which in the U.S. mind goes straight to Marx and then to Stalin or Mao’s Communism. And then to its failure in the “Cold War” battle with capitalism.

Equality arrives on the U.S. stage with the Fourteenth Amendment 1868 ensuring equal protection under the law and legal due process. None of this gives anyone protection against the actions of private enterprise which plays a zero-sum game. The incentive to win, which government “handouts” injures, cannot in capitalism collapse into “everyone is a winner.” You only hear that on a middle school soccer field.

Equity pleas fare no better, being something only private enterprise can give. Economic equity is a disguised underplaying of wealth redistribution. But not disguised enough and so seen as a daring attack on, once again, capitalist competitiveness. Discriminating between winners and losers, success and failure is a sine qua non of our economic system fast approaching its own destruction, but not for reasons Marx cited.

The Democratic Party has not dared to challenge capitalism which went wild west since Reagan’s revolution. Reagan’s remarkable success, impressed by the wisdom of the Chicago School, in replacing Keynesian economics with voodoo supply side, put the Democratic Party on the run. A substitute politics refreshes itself with this or that sociocultural issue, none of which lay a glove on Market Rule. But they do antagonize and provoke enough people prepared to welcome a good flimflam man, a carnival pitchman who says what they want to hear. And it’s become clear that they don’t want to hear about “The Other,” those alien to what and who they know and what they themselves do.

Maybe Trump was our destiny, given the fraudulence of our “exceptionalism,” but we cannot escape the conclusion that in not taking the dare obscene Market Rule has thrown down over and over, the Democratic Party has allowed the plutarchy we have now segued naturally into autocracy, into the autocratic rule of a carny pitchman. It also seems clear that the Left, in not daring to detach itself from the Democratic Party, especially after Bernie Sanders was torpedoed by his own party, has led Americans to think there is no challenge to Trump. He would never have materialized if during 16 years of Democrat presidencies, Clinton and Obama, the Left had been carrying on the work of FDR’s “Bill of Economic Rights” instead of “leaning” into a rising plutocratic order.

Whether the Woke are another Great Awakening in America or not, they stand in violation of an established tradition regarding the breadth of what we dare to say. J.S. Mill asserted in On Liberty (1859) that the clash of opposing views, regardless of how unpopular one or the other may be in the court of popular opinion, is absolutely essential in paving a path to truth. Truth lying only on one side is celestial stuff, not human. Clash brings out what cannot be washed away; clash reveals more clearly than monologue what and where truth lies. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s in Abrams v. United States’ (1919) brought Mill’s view into First Amendment jurisprudence by affirming that deviating opinions and ideas, no matter how objectionable they are believed to be, deserve protection because of the role of such speech in the pursuit of truth.

However, the arena of contesting views in the analog past is now on a fast track to extinction. Clashing arguments regarding the acceptance of the Constitution, for instance, were not jousting on social media but represented in Federalist and Anti-Federalist publications. There was no online public space with greater reach than analog media to capture attention. You could dare to express your views, but you had to find an outlet beyond your local bar, family and friends. Not the case at the moment as every citizen can post views without any need to validate or evidence competency in their chosen subject. It is naïve to think this steady and instantaneous blab has limited effect or no effect compared to the productions of journalists, academics, public intellectuals, and published writers. Truth may lie in the melee of random voices online, but finding it is a snowflake in a storm matter. That everyone is finding his or her own truth and is content with that has had the tragic consequences we are now facing in the coming U.S. presidential election.

The willingness to accept opposing views is challenged by a “cancel,” trigger warning, “woke,” and political correctness culture that pretends to know among a bitterly fractured diverse population what’s best said to relieve distress. In the larger arena of this feuding population, this challenge is a Liberal/Leftwing one. It is a free speech challenge that fuels MAGA anger along with the anger of Everyday Americans, Deplorables and your non-coastal Quotidien Citizen. This is all seen as an affront to every American’s right to dare to say whatever the hell they want to say. If preemptively shutting people up is indeed a daring tactic of Liberals, it is the wrong dare and it’s a stupid one.

Whatever the hell you want to say, however, swings back on the MAGA madness where we at once enter The New Normal of Trump’s rally cry of “fake news,” Kelly Anne Conway’s post-Enlightenment declaration of “alternative facts” and the World’s Mayor Giuliani’s brilliant statement: “Truth isn’t truth.”

The way in which political discourse has been overwhelmed with untruths defended by still more untruths, plus the way Liberals have confounded and threatened the Quotidien Citizen’s “gut” ties to everything makes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness laughable. What does it matter if you have a Constitutional right to speak if no one listens, or worse, passions replace reason and so agreement as to what anything means and a common understanding that would result vaporize on the battlefield of passions.

In the contest between Liberals/Leftwing and Trump as to who more effectively damages our dare to say, our First Amendment rights, Trump wins easily because woke and cancel have gone down in flames and “fake news” is alive and working. Cancel/woke can be accused of confining an American cultural ferment within a fictive distress free zone, but Trump has let loose a tsunami of untruths, out of his own mouth, which have rocked the foundations of discovering and establishing what might be true.

It is risky in this climate to dare to say what Trump says is always a lie, that what he attacks is where you should look for the truth. He has been unbelievably successful in introducing us to a “worlding” not celestial or enlightened but churned within his own will full pathology. And still, if J.S. Mill is right, such a strong attack, such a fevered daring to say, may inspire a counter that dares to stand. And from that we may find where truth lies.

Joseph Phillip Natoli’s The New Utrecht Avenue novel trilogy is on sale at Amazon. Time is the Fire ended what began with Get Ready to Run and Between Dog & Wolf. Humour noire with counterpunches. .