CREATING CHAOS AS A STRATEGY (2024)

We are now far enough into the terrible era of Trump dominating American politics that we can begin to use the phrase “10 years ago we would never have believed…” about so much of what we are reading in the media every day. Nationally, we are now all accustomed to a Supreme Court comprised of “justices” who lied through their teeth for that lifetime appointment. From the first of the great lies- Clarence Thomas- denying Anita Hill’s compelling and deeply moving testimony, to the current crop of Trump appointees who must have been schooled by the Federalist Society to assure the Senators that, of course, precedent is important- they just had their fingers crossed behind their backs while the other hand was on the Bible. These people were hired as chaos agents: build distrust of the ultimate arbiter of justice in a huge, impersonal system. Job done.

The intentional ideological chaos of the MAGA statements and positions are very effective with Trump’s favorite voters: the poorly educated. When those of us who have devoted our lives to building a better, more just society identify as progressives, leftists, humanists, Marxists, Feminists, Anti-Racists or whatever moniker we choose, we know what we mean, and I believe most Americans understood what these labels meant until about a decade ago. Along comes Trump and his band of merry fascists, determined to create an atmosphere of confusion so they can basically reinvent themselves in any way they choose. In order to reinvent Donald Trump as a friend to Black Americans after a lifetime of horrible racist activity, it required insuring that the credibility of the media would be destroyed and then trampled. This has been happening constantly- in every rant, Trump cites the “lamestream media,” and in many cases has gotten his followers to believe some pretty amazing inventions- his self-made man fantasy, the great businessman, and so much more cult pablum.

Every outlet of the media that does not cater to the Trump cult is now suspect- there is not an investigation that is not subject to ridicule by the cult if it does not lead to worshiping of the dear leader. Fact checking organizations, which until the past decade were considered necessary and good checks on public lies and were also considered non-partisan are now the enemy. These organizations arose after Ronald Reagan eliminated the fairness doctrine for the airwaves. It is hard to believe, but there were some checks on making stuff up in the not too distant past. American fact-based media was in financial trouble before the assault from the Trump cult- the internet has undercut the ways in which traditional news sources supported their hard working reporters and editors. I have read about small newspapers trying to dig up the truth about those in power in their conservative communities being sued to shut them down. This is happening right now.

When an aspiring fascist political movement plans to take over a kind-of functioning society, it must create an atmosphere of chaos. It was easier for Adolf Hitler, as Germany was still in a major mess from the effects of the first world war. Thus we have the orange maniac constantly spewing his vile word salad about what a mess we are living in, at every hate rally, “you won’t have a country if I am not reelected,” and so many other threats of a national death spiral if dear leader is not put in power, legitimately or not. This kind of fear tactic is necessary to scare enough people into agreeing to support a morally bankrupt, obnoxious, selfish egomaniac. And the icing on the cake for the far right is the manner in which the most vulnerable have been persuaded that a man who would not even piss on them if they were on fire is working for them, is their personal savior, and for some is even the second coming.

For some reason, I had thought that because we have a relatively strong sense of community in the Brattleboro area, because it has been a bastion of live-and-let-live politically in the past many decades, that we might escape some of the national lunacy, but no such luck. I recently moved to a very small town- Guilford, Vermont, population about 2,100, from a different small town. I had been reading about trouble at the Selectboard meetings- from one man, who seems to be determined to drive every one of the progressive, hard working volunteers from their positions on the library board, the selectboard, and the other vital institutions of small town life. These people put in many unpaid hours, and have been facing accusations of corruption, of flaunting open meeting laws, and spurious accusations with no basis in fact. And the charges have been repeatedly thrown out of court. The selectboard meetings have devolved from productive to a constant battleground. The protagonist in this trouble is Jason Herron, the Vermont coordinator for a far, far right dream: the Convention of the States Action. This organization’s goal is to rewrite the constitution to weaken the federal government so that we don’t have pesky federal interference in enforcing the laws promoting civil rights, among other goals. The supporters on the web site include Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee.

So now Jason Herron is placing expensive paid advertisem*nts in our local media explaining why he is running for our state legislature, for an open seat, as a DEMOCRAT. The content of the ads is pretty amazing: an attractive white family with a cute small child, nothing to be alarmed about here. I am a pretty well educated person, but honestly, trying to read the abstract discussion of the laws of nature, of private property rights, the Man vs. the King is pretty incomprehensible. How do we understand this in the light of how a far right person running as a Democrat would attempt to fill his position in Montpelier? Likely, he would be the same chaos agent he has been in our small town, only the entire state would be held hostage to the lawsuits and hostility to the idea of working together as a community or as a state, and doing the best we can for all of us regardless of ideology, race, gender, place of origin, or sexual preference.

It is clear that none of our communities are safe from Trump’s chaos machine. The Q-anon disinformation cult has filtered through society. I find myself needing to check every piece of information twice before citing it. We are becoming used to the idea that a “news” organization like Fox will spew the most outrageous of lies and not walk them back. Yesterday, a screengrab from Newsmax, one of Trump’s favorite outlets, let him vent his created tale about election theft in 2020, while scrolling in large letters on screen the information that they fully support the fact that Biden won the 2020 election, in order to avoid yet another lawsuit. There is no movement towards stopping the lies, and in fact the prominence of totally unregulated AI (thank you, congress) is just beginning its reign of terror.

So what can we do? We all need to be truth tellers- calling out the liars, calling out the fakes. Make sure you know what is really going on, so you can’t be fooled by the lies on Fox or in the New York Post. Use every means at your disposal to spread facts: art, music, writing, preaching, marching in the streets, talking with your people, donating to those who are speaking truth. I have always hated being lied to- you should too.

CREATING CHAOS AS A STRATEGY (2024)
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