The Devil is No Longer in Disguise

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

What to do. What to do. Consider our times. Do you feel, like I feel, massive confusion at what is happening out there. Even if I confine myself to considering perhaps the three largest current instances of mind madness, confusion abounds.

The three are the Orange Trumpist or fascist onslaught in the U.S. and elsewhere; the still raging and even spreading genocidal violence in the Mideast; and the steady ecological devolution of survival prospects worldwide.

I am sorry that all that horribleness is center staged in this essay, but at least the confusions addressed here are about potential corrections.

So what’s with the title, The Devil Is No Longer In Disguise.

Well, it is either clickbait and I got ya, or by undisguised devil I simply mean the evil of these three issues are not hidden. The rot is not even trying to hide. You can’t avoid the horrific details. The perpetrators brag more than they try to hide.

Okay, so for the first topic, I came across a description of Trump by a British writer Nate White, who I otherwise know absolutely zero about. It was in an online dialog like cyber platform program, put there by someone else. I hope Nate won’t mind my also quoting him at length. I usually hate over focusing on Trump, but this is to go to not share:

“Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?

“A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

“Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

“Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

“There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

“And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

“So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

“This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

“God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

“And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: ‘My God… what… have… I… created?’

It would seem the British writer, Nate White, whoever he is, can certainly turn a phrase. You might wonder, however, why there isn’t any reference to Trump’s actual views. But wonder not. I would guess Nate’s point is that beyond what is offered, Trump’s views don’t actually exist. They are mere noise, not his essence.

At any rate, I am here, in America. And I look around, mostly on Youtube, at interviews of Trumpers and at descriptions or quotes of his current utterances, and at his talks, and what all else, and I find myself confused about the same concern as this Britisher.

Why does a third of the U.S. population support Trump in any way at all, and why does some subset of that group support him to the point of what appears to be worship? Trump to my eyes is Oxycodone incarnate. An addiction which, once it’s got you ravages you or your brain, at any rate. But that isn’t much of an answer to why, so what is? And what can one do to reduce and reverse the support?

Before trying to answer, however, let’s name the second and third top stories that confuse me and confuse many others.

Israel goose steps bombs across Gaza to demolish hospitals, homes, and pretty much everything else. As if punctuating that, Israel starves people as overt policy, and acknowledges that death is the aim. So, as with Trump worship, I wonder, how can we understand such baffling as well as nauseating assessments of  Israel’s genocidal policies. How does one confront that?

And my third focus of confusion is the trajectory of the world that is currently right out in the open displayed for all to see in the world’s steadily worsening ecological dissolution, and, again, how do we explain people’s reactions to that?

So, our topics here, how is it possible for so many people to support Trump? And then, two, how is it possible for the vast bulk of otherwise sane Israeli souls to support Massacre and Mayhem that even calls itself, well, revenge unto death, and also, how is it possible for so many otherwise presumably caring sensible souls in the U.S. to also support genocide and be horrified by and even repressive toward growing support for Palestine? And finally, three, how is it possible for an incredibly large number of sentient humans to effectively ignore or tut-tut the suicidal trajectory of the planet they inhabit?

A hard rain is falling and yet so many ignore or even run from but don’t rise up against the already raging and everywhere impending floods?

In a nutshell, on these scores, what’s going on in peoples’ heads? It feels to me like one has to have a feel for that to impact where we are all headed.

In a book titled Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut has a passage where a character tries to address the same underlying question as is vexing me, though far more creatively than I can muster.

The character comments:

“I have never seen a more sublime demonstration of the totalitarian mind, a mind which might be linked unto a system of gears where teeth have been filed off at random. Such snaggle-toothed thought machine, driven by a standard or even by a substandard libido, whirls with the jerky, noisy, gaudy pointlessness of a cuckoo clock in Hell.

“The boss G-man concluded wrongly that there were no teeth on the gears in the mind of Jones. ‘You’re completely crazy,’ he said.

“Jones wasn’t completely crazy. The dismaying thing about classic totalitarian mind is that any given gear, thought mutilated, will have at its circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined.

“Hence the cuckoo clock in Hell – keeping perfect time for eight minutes and twenty-three seconds, jumping ahead fourteen minutes, keeping perfect time for six seconds, jumping ahead two seconds, keeping perfect time for two hours and one second, then jumping ahead a year.

“The missing teeth, of course, are simple, obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten-year-olds, in most cases.

“The wilful filling off a gear teeth, the wilful doing without certain obvious pieces of information – That was how a household as contradictory as one composed of Jones, Father Keeley, Vice-Bundesfuehrer Krapptauer, and the Black Fuehrer could exist in relative harmony –

“That was how my father-in-law could contain in one mind an indifference toward slave women and love fora a blue vase.

“That was how Rudolf Hess, Commandant of Auschwitz, could alternate over the loudspeakers of Auschwitz great music and calls for corpse-carriers –

“That was how Nazi Germany sense no important difference between civilization and hydrophobia.

“That is the closest I can come to explaining the legions, the nations of lunatics I’ve seen in my time.”

So that is Vonnegut’s attempt. But what does that moving dismissal say one should do when a great many one hears of, works with, or even lives with seem to have in their heads one or another cuckoo clock in Hell—or when one fears there may be willfully missing truths in one’s own head as well.

My answer is, I can only guess. I am not sure. I am confused. But I think how we answer matters for a host of reasons.

First, to prevent fascism, curb wars, and preserve planetary habitability is going to require that many who currently favor or ignore insanity, injustice, and or social suicide change views. Second, whatever allows people to take otherwise absurd, self-denying, other-denying, reason-ignoring, and even suicidal stances in these three cases that I have mentioned occurs in countless other domains as well, albeit perhaps less screamingly visibly. Here are some: guns, immigration, AI, vaccines, health generally, abortion, salaries, incentives, book banning, and all kinds of fundamentalism including sectarianism, and sexism, racism, and classism in all their forms.

So back to our topics, first, why do folks like or even purport to love Trump?

I think we can confidently answer only for a very few. For example, the rich and powerful who support him typically expect largesse in return. No confusion about that. And I suppose a connected or ancillary explanation is that those who anticipate him re-occupying the Oval Office comes the election don’t want to be on his enemies list. This is also not confusing, albeit grossly cowardly.

A second oft-touted explanation is that a subset of Trump’s supporters are literally, even genetically, little Trumps who he has released from hiding their vile side by his parading his violent side. This explanation says Trump’s vulgar racist and sexist outbreaks, wherein the Devil struts about in all his grotesque perversion, has freed others from making believe they aren’t racist and sexist to now let go and openly strut like their pied piper. Then the question of course arises, why do however many of these folks exist have these inclinations in the first place, but it is in any case a plausible explanation for some of Trump’s support.

So one group supports him as a lackey to serve their interests or so he won’t punish them. A second group supports him as a pied piper who legitimates their preferred inclinations.

Next there are what folks looking on who say his followers are ignorant and deceived. So, they explain, some Trump supporters actually believe Biden stole the election and believe Trump cares about them. Some supporters, that is, have fallen down the rabbit hole of Fox reporting, and once down there they protect themselves from others who lie about their buddy.

Finally, we also have two more groups or perhaps it is two components of one group. This whole constituency can see that Trump is a horrible person. For one part of them, however, he is also a wrench in society’s works. He is not same-old same-old but is instead so wildly berserk that he just might upset existing norms and habits enough for things to get better. So these folks support Trump literally because he is off the rails. And they hope for good to come from the messes that he creates. The other half of those who can see he is a horrible person, ironically, support him as the lesser evil. That is, these folks quite reasonably trust very little that comes out of any politician’s mouth. They rightly know they are hurting. They feel it. feel that the country is going to hell in a hand cart. They don’t really know what another Trump regime will mean but they do feel that they know what another Biden regime will mean. It will mean more of what they have suffered. So, for them Biden is just business as usual, and they tend to think that nothing replacing business as usual could be worse than business as usual. So for them the Orange man is the lesser evil. Imagine that. And since politics is sleight of hand anyhow, why not at least beat the system.

We could stop there, and most who think about Trump’s support do, I think, but why even guess at what yields support for Trump, for for fascism? It ought to be to ask, how can we constructively address Trump supporters?

So, okay, how about talking to the rich who want to get richer? We know that will go nowhere. Power alone will affect them. We get that. We have to pressure them. Raise costs for them until they relent. And finally, remove them. It is lesson one of activism.

How about the previously closeted or out in the open but significantly restrained racists and sexists who now happily follow Trump’s bombastic lead? Can we address them with evidence, reason, and even empathy? Maybe, sometimes, that might work. For us to say no, don’t bother—is that wisdom or is it evidence of a clock in our heads with a very nasty flaw?

What about the group who thinks Trump will do less harm—in that case, evidence and reason should matter. Such Trump supporters dislike things worth disliking. They just think that with Trump there is more chance those ills will be muted or stopped. They don’t know the error that involves, and so to make a case that reveals that error seems worth undertaking. Indeed, it seems essential.

I know that lots of people think that supporting Trump, and especially that workers supporting Trump is the really inexplicable mindset of our times. They chalk it up to untouchable broken gears. I am not one who thinks that. I agree there is some ignorance and myth involved, but whose fault is that? The stacked system is at fault, of course, but, beyond that, aren’t activists like me and you who have known otherwise but who in fifty years haven’t communicated sufficiently well with working people for them to even be immunized against supporting a billionaire buffoon, also at fault.

And before throwing rocks at Trump’s working class male, female, white, and black supporters, consider the upside down views of the non-Trump millions who think that attacking our government is vile. Who think hating politicians is vile. Who think rage at doctors who push drugs, at lawyers who plea bargain lives into prisons, and at teachers who purport to know more but actually know less and teach inanities, are vile.

So yes, of course, there are Trumpers who are now out of their minds, who were drawn slowly into a cult-like defense of their prior support for Orange man, and who now manifest grotesquely deep racism and sexism, but I actually think most of the support for Trump is no more peculiar, given the facts, than actual positive support felt by many for Genocide Joe.

I certainly want Biden to win, absolutely, because Trump is an outright megalomaniacal egomaniacal fascist lunatic and as horrible as new liberalism is, fascism is a helluva lot worse—really, it is—but to feel literally positively for a guy who has armed, rationalized, and even cheered on Israel’s brazenly open extermination policies? Does that evidence a clock in good order?

And that brings us to our second example.

How do we explain much less relate to support for such visibly, undeniably, genocidal policies as perpetrated in Gaza? Consider a subset of the Jewish community in the U.S.

They video-saw Hamas horribly kill Israelis. They assessed and presumably decided right off, or later, that decades of open air imprisonment, random deaths, colonial occupation, denial and indignity, and being deemed vermin, didn’t justify that. It was Terror.

But then those same people who have themselves also suffered through history Hitler imposed denigration, death, more death, unto genocide—decided to unleash their own American emblazoned military might in unyielding assault. They do unto others what had been done unto them. They announce it, they prepare it, they do it, they celebrate it, they sing praises to it, they admire their intentionally aimed bombs blasting everything—homes, hospitals, limbs, and souls—until there is nowhere for Palestinians to run that isn’t bursting with death and destruction because Hamas’s actions justify it. In that case, what do Israel’s actions justify?

Well, some in my country think Israel’s actions warrant praise. Some think they warrant support. Some think that to oppose Israel’s genocidal, planned, praised actions and U.S. support for them is anti-Semitic and such protesters should be silenced. And those people don’t bow and pray to Trump but, well, what would Vonnegut who described Nazi cuckoo clock mind’s say about this horrible reversal?

So, two down, and what have I offered. Maybe just a little clarity along with a whole lot of confusion. My apologies that I don’t have better for you. And so we come to our third focus.

Outside your window, every window. The world faces fire, faces ice, faces flooding, faces starving. High water rising.

On the one hand, mired in the rat race, fancy captains of industry clutch at profit to enrich themselves and, one would think, their off-spring, even while they simultaneously pursue the oil-drenched death of everything that breathes, including their off-spring. Is that Cuckoo clock brains at work, or it just just profit-seeking identities wedged into perpetual self aggrandizement, even unto death?

And on the other hand, so many other heads just look away. Don’t look. See only what you want to see. Is that fear? Is it ignorance? Is it surrender? Is it being too busy? Are we going over the edge because, well, that’s where the mob is going? What do you say to that if you would like to try to help save everything?

Dylan in a different time but distraught at what he saw It’s Alright Ma. When I heard that, I turned left. Hard Left. Dylan didn’t. A pity that. But maybe give it a listen.

Dylan’s a poet but It’s Alright Ma isn’t meant to be read, but I present it as text anyhow. The whole thing. So sue me, and see in it whatever you want, which is, I hope less like what Dylan saw, and more like, dare I suggest it, what I saw.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying
Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying
So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing
As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked
An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it
Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you
You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to
Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in
While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him
While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in
But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him
Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony
While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely
My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
what else can you show me?
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only

What can I say? Fuck the Devil in disguise and also the one who parades unbidden. And keep kicking ass.

This first appeared on Znet.

Michael Albert is the co-founder of ZNet and Z Magazine.