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On "Adolescent Emotionalism"

Figuring out when and how to draw lines in the sand, and when and how to bend with the breeze, is going to be an incredible challenge in the next four years.

My feeling is that we should not assume that this is just any normal presidency, because of the range of overtly fascist statements made by the soon-to-be-president as he ran for office. The New York Review of Books had a pretty thoughtful piece on the challenges of living in such a time. It's important to draw lines in the sand because the things on the table are not normal, and should not be normalized. The slow movement of abhorrent things into the mainstream happens through this process.

People didn't think Trump could win (and by the popular vote, he didn't). So even people who very much liked what Trump had to say felt social pressure to distance themselves from him. And yet, each time Trump triumphed, those people moved a little closer. People online are expecting Paul Ryan to somehow speak up and stop the worst of the Trump administration, for instance. That's not going to happen. Paul Ryan was unsure if he wanted to take a stand when it looked like Trump was tearing the party apart. Now that Trump is president-elect (barring some sudden pang of conscience by the Electoral College in December), he's going to fall in line. So we need to get used to the disorientation of that.
But it's important to sway in the wind because the vast, vast majority of the people who voted for Trump did so while hating all of the things we hate about him (I think Michael Moore has made the strongest statements on this so far). This is both hopeful and dangerous, because autocratic regimes rely much more on the power of support they get from ordinary people voting on bread-basket issues (e.g., trade) than they do colorful, rabid support from the base of their fascist movement. A regime which promises the torture of family members of suspected terrorists (a war crime) or to ban religious groups, or to ethnically-cleanse (the term for mass, forced mobilization) millions of people can sometimes count on the population both not being particularly rabid about these things, but also not especially concerned enough to pick up and resist.

I love many people in my life who I know don't have a racist bone in their bodies, who held their nose and voted for Trump because to them, that seemed like a rational response to the perceived (and often real) corruption of Hillary Clinton. The left (and truly, even the democratic right, that still believes in liberal democracy) must speak to these people, listen, and not insult their valid concerns. They are not bad people. They're attracted to the feeling of hope and pride that Trump's angry message fills them with, a message not entirely different than other fascists in the past. 




But then their are those who intentionally mislead everyone around them, who lie, who demagogue, and whose purpose is merely to create hate. And this is where drawing the line becomes a vital exercise. 

One of the way that fascism creates power for itself is by nurturing the sense of alienation that people have that no one hears them, and by creating a sense of victimhood. Justin Katz's latest tweets and articles have focused heavily on this tendency (though it is a longterm trend in his writing as well). Declaring that "the left must reject fascism in its midst" would be incredibly tone deaf in the present climate if it weren't part of a strategy to dehumanize people in civil society who oppose Donald Trump, a man whose every fiber of being is dedicated to fascist causes. But it's not a mistake when Justin Katz writes things like that. His purpose is to mislead, sit back, and wait for the ugly results.

I feel a special responsibility to speak out on what Katz's site is, because I have been published there several times. I chose to harness the anti-government energy of the Ocean State Current to try bolstering the boulevard cause. The first article I wrote there, I recall, was right above an anti-immigration article. I remember feeling compromised by that, but I also thought that some of the stuff the Current had to say about immigration was so off the wall that it would never come to power. It has. And so now I wonder what it is I've done to legitimize this source.

I commented to this online, providing an image of an article from May when Justin Katz fumes that he's close to overthrowing the government with violence because of the requirement that lobbying groups register so that the public can identify the source of attack ads. His statement says:
With regard to Mr. Quindazzi’s question about calling for the violent overthrow of the United States government, I’d suggest that, yes, that is protected speech.  In fact, I’m getting ever closer to endorsing the suggestion, myself. (my italics)
Katz wrote a full article about my supposed "adolescent emotionalism" because I tweeted that journalists have a responsibility in the next four years to redisplay that statement every time Justin Katz tries to fume and manipulate about "left violence" (the tweet series has a small typo: I meant to say "I think I made serious mistake, to which owe RI an apology: I took seriously the idea that [you] might be honestly mistaken." 

Then I blocked Katz, because my purpose in tweeting was not to get into a conversation with him, but to make sure I'd said what I need to say on the matter to Rhode Island. Katz's is so insidiously good at spinning straw men, that I knew he would tweet some completely dishonest thing back that I would then feel obliged to clarify, turning the whole thing into an hour-long affair. And lo and behold, he did it again! Katz's new article has alleged that I said that the press should sideline him from view, which is part of his paranoid and/or intentionally dishonest narrative that the left is full of actual fascists who are trying to take the rights away of good, honest, white nationalists like Katz. I think the media should give all the access in the world to Katz's rantings. But whenever he makes a statement about the violence of the left, I think newspapers should print his call to arms next to it. 

By the way, since we're on the subject of "adolescent emotionalism":

We have to remember: many people read the Ocean State Current because they're tired of corruption within the Democratic Party. I worked closely with one of Katz's colleagues, Lawrence Gillheeney to fight the 6/10 Connector rebuild, which is exactly the sort of government-taking-care-of-its-friends project that infuriates the Trump base. No one should tell Trump voters not to be angry. What we have to do is create our own narrative about what there is to be angry about, and try to pry them away from people like Justin Katz.

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1 comment:

  1. Always funny to see how thin skinned Justin is. He's all for open debate so long as you agree with his own, narrrow views on any subject. Disagree and out come the personal attacks. Been doxxed on his blog more than once (in the name of enaging in honest exchange of ideas we can assume).

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