This week, we urge consideration of a timely and insightful commentary by historian Timothy Snyder, whose outstanding On Tyranny we featured in a previous post. Two salient excerpts below, with an image from Otto Dix.
The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”.
The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.
Naturally, the president denies responsibility when people take him at his word and draw instead from the conspiracy thinking he himself spreads. Trump blames the press for attempts to murder members of the press. He seizes the occasion, as always, to present himself as the true victim. The facts hurt his feelings.
Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out.
Leave a comment | tags: fascism, malignant normality, timothy snyder, trump | posted in bearings, DP
On a day when large numbers of people appear to celebrate, endorse and reward malignant narcissism, we turn to the laudably contrarian pages of Emergence Magazine, with excerpts from an essay by Kara Moses, written after an immersion in the last surviving forest wilderness in Europe, Białowieża.
Answers to what ails us cannot be found within the human community, and surely not among the delusions and deceptions of the anointed ruling elites; yet elsewhere, among the remnants of the wild, if we can find the courage to listen, observe and be still, we might find some other path through the infinite woundscape of the anthropogenic affliction.
Leave a comment | tags: Białowieża, deep ecology, kara moses, malignant normality | posted in bearings, DP
An article in The Intercept directed our attention to an extraordinary series of documentary photographs by artist-attorney Debi Cornwall, published in a book titled Welcome To Camp America. Among her images, we visit the “stage sets” of Guantanamo Bay within the vast security theatre of the surveillance state.
The images are freely viewable here, documenting a lounge chair in a room wired for visual media, rewards for compliant detainees; a prayer rug, with an arrow on the floor indicating the direction of Mecca; a sales display stocked with cigarettes, titled “Military Privileges (Kools)”; and a plastic toy floating in an empty swimming pool.
The projected play of normal life obfuscates the severely damaged or destroyed biographies at the heart of the state of exception, a fictionalized distortion that psychologist Robert Jay Lifton has characterized as “malignant normality”.
Towards the end of an interview published elsewhere, Ms. Cornwall poses the question:
For the six and one half years of DP, we have proposed the latter.
Elsewhere in the semiotic swamp of malignant normality, for those who have not yet viewed the bizarre “trailer” for the Trump/Kim “Summit Movie”, we urge consideration here:
Leave a comment | tags: debi cornwall, guantanamo bay as theater, malignant normality, state of exception | posted in bearings, buoys, DP
In an essay published in the Spring 2017 issue of Dissent, Robert Jay Lifton reminds us that the same ethical distortions that he discerned among physicians in Nazi Germany may occur among other groups of professionals at any time. Excerpts below, with a few malignantly normal charts from Stanley Milgram’s Obedience To Authority.
We are reminded also of a passage (slightly edited by DP for continuity) from a letter written in 1964 by Hannah Arendt to Gerhard Scholem:
You are quite right, I changed my mind and do no longer speak of “radical evil.” It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,” that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is “thought-defying,” as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its “banality.” Only the good has depth that can be radical.
Leave a comment | tags: malignant normality, nazi doctors, Obedience To Authority, professional ethics, robert jay lifton, state of exception | posted in bearings, buoys, DP
This morning, the entire editorial staff of DP spent a productive hour closely observing a quartet of male turkeys making their way through nearby meadows and woodlands: vigilant, alert, very much in touch with each other and with the landscape. We were unable to suppress the recognition that within a few weeks at least half if not all of these sentient and social toms will likely be “harvested” by humans to participate through their death in yet another one of our fantasy histories: Thanksgiving Day.
In the bigger picture, the human species continues its mad descent into the unfathomable depths of what Robert Jay Lifton calls “malignant normality”, a concept we will explore in detail in a future DP. For balance and sanity regarding the whole of life on earth, we have been re-reading Mark Bekoff’s indispensable The Animal Manifesto, with an opening passage excerpted below.
Images: a trio of watercolors from the studio of Rebecca Clark, whose art so gracefully and powerfully embodies reverence and awe for the natural world, a wisdom that we must all embrace if we are to have any chance of breaking the death spiral, of which the psychopathology of contemporary American politics is but one of many alarming symptoms.
Resonant with Bekoff’s manifesto, please also consider a keynote address from this year’s Animal Rights conference, as delivered by Lauren Gazzola:
And finally, a few more words from Thomas Berry, from his magnificent The Dream of the Earth:
“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.”
Leave a comment | tags: animal rights, lauren gazzola, malignant normality, mark bekoff, rebecca clark, reverence awe, thomas berry | posted in bearings, buoys, DP