Trump’s Attempt to Obscure the Reality of the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Getting Comical

It should never be forgotten how much of Donald Trump’s career has been based on his ability to obscure and defy reality. In the nineteen-eighties and early nineties, he built a gaming-and-real-estate empire on a mountain of debt, which eventually forced some of his businesses into bankruptcy. By persuading his bank creditors to let him retain some of his prized assets, rather than liquidate them, he converted disaster into opportunity. And, by booking a huge tax loss, which he carried over in subsequent years, he seems to have eliminated most, if not all, of his federal-tax obligations for at least a decade.

Despite scraping through his financial busts with some of his businesses intact, Trump would have all but disappeared from the national scene were it not for a starring role on reality television—a medium that has very little to do with actual reality. After “The Apprentice” became a hit, Trump erased the failures from his résumé and ran for President on the image of a successful businessman—even as it emerged that one of his surviving ventures, Trump University, was a scam.

In 2016, Trump defied yet another reality. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, defeated him in the popular vote by almost three million ballots. But the antiquated Electoral College ushered Trump into the White House, where he continued the assault on fact-based reality that he had launched during his election campaign, repeatedly labelling the media as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.” Three and a half years later, he is still at it.

It is a remarkable record of manipulation and effrontery, but the coronavirus doesn’t listen to Trump’s bluster or read his tweets. On June 3rd, according to a running tally maintained by the Times, the seven-day average for confirmed new cases of covid-19 was 21,958. On Monday, August 3rd, the seven-day average was 60,202. That’s an increase of about a hundred and seventy-five per cent in two months. Since early July, as the virus has spread across the country, the number of deaths from covid-19 has more than doubled. Even after a welcome decline during the past few days, the weekly average is still more than a thousand a day.

Confronted with these developments, Trump has become even more brazen in promoting an alternative reality. On Monday, he lashed out at Deborah Birx, the response coördinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, tweeting, “So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!”

The President was referring to an interview that Birx gave to CNN’s Dana Bash over the weekend, and if you watch it, you’ll see that she didn’t “hit” Trump or his Administration at all. To the contrary, Birx defended the White House task force, saying that it had shifted course more than a month ago: after it became clear that the pandemic had entered a new phase, the task force adopted a more granular approach, providing individual municipalities and counties with the support and guidance they needed to address the rising number of cases, she said. She also pointed out that, in some places where they have been introduced, mitigation efforts seem to be having a positive impact. In hard-hit Arizona, Florida, and Texas, and in a half-dozen other states, new-case numbers have declined somewhat in the past two weeks, the Times’ interactive guide shows. (Case numbers are still rising in fifteen states and Puerto Rico.)

What was Birx’s offense? She openly acknowledged that the virus is spreading, and she warned people in Trump-supporting areas of the dangers that this presents. “I want to be very clear,” she said. “What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as [well as] urban areas. And, to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.” Birx went on to say that people living in rural areas need to socially distance and wear masks—including at home, if they have potentially vulnerable family members. In other words, Birx used her media platform to try to save lives. Asked about his tweet attacking her, at a press conference on Monday afternoon, Trump said that Birx was “a person I have a lot of respect for.” But he refused to say whether he agreed with her characterization of the pandemic.

Could there be a clearer demonstration that Trump expects his health advisers to defer to his preferred version of reality, even if adopting such a strategy puts more American lives at risk? Having failed to adhere to this communications policy, Anthony Fauci, the best-known member of the White House task force, hasn’t been invited to appear alongside Trump for weeks. Birx is still more visible. But Trump, having restarted his regular coronavirus briefings, is again the Administration’s primary spokesperson on the pandemic. The consequences are, by turns, absurd and alarming.

Last week, when he granted a taped interview to Axios’s Jonathan Swan, he came prepared with charts, which, he claimed, showed that the United States was doing better than other countries “in numerous categories.” Swan, a plainspoken Australian, seemed puzzled. “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases,” he said after Trump handed him one of the charts. “I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, et cetera.” Trump seemed flummoxed. “You can’t do that,” he said. “Why can’t I do that?” Swan replied. “You have to go by the cases,” Trump said.

That was a comedy routine. After HBO aired the interview, on Monday night, it was compared online to “Spinal Tap” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The interview also contained darker moments, though, especially when Swan pressed Trump on why he kept insisting that the virus was under control, thereby giving a sense of false security to his supporters. “They don’t listen to me or the media or Fauci,” Swan said. “They think we’re fake news. They want to get their advice from you. And so, when they hear you say, ‘Everything’s under control. Don’t worry about wearing masks’—I mean, many of them are older people, Mr. President.”

Trump’s face was blank. “Under the circumstances, right now, I think it’s under control,” he said tightly. Swan repeated that every day a thousand people were dying. “They are dying, that’s true,” Trump went on. “And it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.”

Nobody could deny Trump his final point. But a battleground-state survey from CBS News, which was released over the weekend, showed that sixty per cent of North Carolinians think that the Trump Administration could be doing more to contain the pandemic, and that fifty-eight per cent think it is merely letting the virus run its course. In Georgia, another red state, the survey findings were practically identical. For decades, Trump has made his way by concealing the true nature of things. Some realities are too big and pressing for even him to obscure.

Jason Stanley, “How Fascism Works”

Jason Stanley discusses his book, “How Fascism Works”, at Politics and Prose on 9/25/18.

In this clear and direct primer, Stanley, the award-winning author of How Propaganda Works, draws on a wide range of history, philosophy, sociology, and critical race theory to define fascism, explain its mechanisms, and help people identify its red flags. At its most basic level, fascism is simply a movement that achieves power by dividing a population. A country can have fascist strains without actually being fascistic, Stanley says, and he identifies myriad seeds of authoritarianism in U.S. history, from the Confederacy and the Jim Crow South—which inspired Hitler—to the more recent birther movement and the rise of Trump. More generally he cites ten hallmarks of fascism, such as the mythic past, propaganda, anti-intellectualism, and unreality; on the rise today, these must be resisted if we are to stop fascism from gaining hold here.

https://www.politics-prose.com/book/9…

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Before coming to Yale in 2013, he was Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University. Stanley is the author of Know How; Languages in Context; Knowledge and Practical Interests, which won the American Philosophical Association book prize; and How Propaganda Works, which won the PROSE Award for Philosophy from the Association of American Publishers. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Review, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among other publications. Stanley lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his family.

21:00
so I you always hear to set it up you
always you I always hear people saying
well when when presidents a president
Trump take an example when his
supporters don’t realize they’re not
getting the material benefits they
expected they will throw you know he’ll
lose their support unfortunately that is
not how this kind of politics works it’s
not a politics of material benefit
it’s a politics of loyalty fascism is
about loyalty and power it replaces
material interests it replaces truth and
reality by loyalty and power ah as
Arendt says the fascists resemble Mafia
bosses they stock their administrations
with with family members and and and
people from their businesses because of
loyalty and that’s
Sisseton so I don’t look at people who
21:52
do that and say they’re being
21:52
inconsistent I say no good you’re being
21:54
consistent because loyalty is your thing
21:56
so uh so so what you what what in that
22:04
chapter I believe in him klemper is
22:06
talking about how much the psychological
22:09
wages of German as’ tied your tied
22:12
Germans to Hitler even well beyond the
22:16
point at which they should of April 1945
22:19
the Red Army is in the gates of Berlin
22:21
and clampers trudging through the woods
22:24
with a soldier missing an arm and he
22:27
says to the soldier I guess it’s time to
22:29
give up and the soldier says what do you
22:32
mean Hitler’s got them trapped and
22:35
klemper says what what the soldiers a
22:37
young man he’s lost his arm you know
22:39
what is he and Klemperer says uh and the
22:44
soldier says yeah it’s Hitler’s
22:45
birthday’s coming up and Hitler just
22:47
meant to suck the Red Army in and trap
22:50
them he’s never lied to us yet and
22:53
klemper says he’d been lying
22:55
consistently year after year after year
22:58
after year I mean literally people would
23:01
till the last moment I mean I’ve spent
23:03
years of my life in Germany and I’ve met
23:04
people who still believed in him so so
23:08
you know the bond of loyalty
23:11
what fascist politics tries to do is it
23:14
tries to break down your any of your
23:16
connection to your material interest and
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say well what you have is you have you
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national identity your ethnic identity
23:22
and your bond with the leader and that’s
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why and and that bond is so powerful and
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so meaningful to people that they will
23:30
you know they will just to see that they
23:33
will like it will last through great
23:36
trial and tribulation it will last you
23:39
certainly the loss of their material
23:41
interests and if you look at countries
23:42
that suffer from fascist politics I
23:45
would say Russia right now is one uh you
23:48
can see that the leader becomes very
23:50
popular even as people’s economic
23:53
situation becomes worse so you can’t
23:56
like wait around for oh you know when
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their health insurance gets taken away
24:00
though no it doesn’t work like that I
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mean
24:03
these are you know air Dewan in Turkey I
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mean these are leaders who win elections
24:08
and they win elections by a politics of
24:10
loyalty they win elections by lying so
24:14
so so I’ll talk for five more minutes
24:19
and then and then take questions so I’m
24:23
going through so what I do in my book is
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I give you a template I give you a
24:27
template of of sides I used to be I am
24:32
an analytic philosopher but I’m not just
24:34
one of the many things I am but I sort
24:38
of like militantly did not pay attention
24:40
to the world as my stepmother and my
24:44
father would always remind me and so
until birtherism so my first New York
Times piece in 2011 was about birtherism
because I had read enough Arendt to
realize that was weird that shouldn’t
happen in a democracy and I recognized
the trap the trap is something that’s
familiar from the protocols of the
Elders design and my family both my
parents are Holocaust survivors my
mother and father two of my three
parents are Holocaust survivors and and
so obviously protocols the other design
is something you talk about in when
you’re very young and some advantages so
so so this trap of you know Hitler said
the the lying press the press is owned
by the Jews and you can tell because
they never talk about the prosperous so
very familiar I recognized it
immediately I mean it was like maybe I
should write something not on the left
parenthesis so so so in 2011 I wrote my
25:53
first New York Times piece about that
the trap always works like this mr.
Trump President Trump when he came to
political consciousness he went on an
interview in Fox News and he said CNN is
controlled by the leftists and Obama you
can tell because they’re not talking
about birtherism that’s the same move
was made in the 30s the delusion plasa
the mainstream press you
they’re controlled by the Jews because
they don’t say they’re controlled by the
Jews law and justice party in uh in
Poland the hilariously miss named law
and justice party comes to power in 2015
in a country that had been whose
economic whose GDP had been going up
26:36
Civic Platform has done very well so it
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wasn’t economic anxiety it’s not
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economic anxiety in Bavaria either but
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they came they did this move to I’m
26:48
emphasizing this because comic pizza is
26:50
right here uh so I can’t not talk about
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the conspiracy theories as a sign so so
26:56
so what Piz did what law and justice did
27:00
is there was a Smolensk disaster when
27:03
which was admittedly horrific when a
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plane carrying all of Poland’s political
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leaders and business leaders and
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military leaders crashed and and and
27:15
everyone was killed and there were about
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between 20 and 25 conspiracy theories
27:22
about that crash it was pilot error
27:24
it was pilot error but admittedly it was
27:27
hard to believe it was pilot error so so
27:30
law and justice Road that to power you
27:34
know it was all about the conspiracy and
27:37
it was the Communists and it was
27:39
d’Arnaud communists in Poland but it was
27:41
the car just like there were no comic
27:42
very no communists very few communists
27:44
in the American South but the KKK still
27:46
acted like there were it was the
27:50
Communists it was the Russians
27:52
it was the Liberals who were who were
27:54
hiding out hiding the real facts of who
27:57
brought that plane down and you could
27:58
tell that the newspapers were owned by
28:00
the people who did it because they
28:02
didn’t report on it and when I saw
28:05
birtherism I was like oh yeah that’s
28:06
familiar and conspiracy theories work in
28:10
a weird way and I’ll end with us only in
deference to comet pizza conspiracy
theories function they functioned to
break down the epistemological spaces
they functioned to break down to their
their simple narratives that make sense
of of panic fear in Poland’s case
– and loss paranoia they’re not meant to
be taken at face value so Edgar Madison

Welch when he walked in so this is a
point that my colleague at UConn Michael
Lynch had made which I think is very
powerful he pointed out that when Edgar
Madison Welch walked in and and fired
three shots in that restaurant um three
or four shots I’m not exactly sure how
many uh I he was acting rationally right
if you thought that the Democratic Party
was running a child sex ring in the
basement of commet pizza by all means go
and free the child the children but he
was immediately denounced by Alex Jones
and everybody else as a spy for the
Democratic Party
so Michael Lynch makes this point to
point out conspiracy theories you’re
doing the wrong thing if you believe
them
they’re just supposed to make you you
know hate the target more they’re just
supposed to make you hate the target
more they’re not supposed to be believed
like that so what I do in my book is I
give you ten properties of fascist
politics the book is not about fascist
government I’m not saying you know you
could it’s about fascist and key and and
the difference being fascist government
fascist politics is tricky anyway
29:50
because fascism is our power so fascism
29:52
is a method to come to power people are
29:54
always like well do you really believe
29:56
that that does do do such and such
29:59
people like President Trump do do they
30:02
really believe you really believe he
30:04
believes the things that other fascist
30:06
movements uh believe uh and my response
30:10
is it doesn’t matter because fascism
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isn’t about belief it’s about power so
30:15
it doesn’t matter like its first hit me
30:20
when I was reading Richard Grune burgers
30:21
1975 work on fat banks thanks to my
30:25
father’s library I have a rich
30:26
collection of history sociology
30:28
philosophy and psychology of the Nazis
30:30
so much else but uh but he says many
people think of the Nazis as morally
pure anti-semites they were devoted you
know devoted to killing Jews and
definitely
believed in it and got up and were very
neat and but actually a lot of them were
just thugs
they were just mafia gangsters and they
didn’t care about killing Jews they
cared about money they cared about
Jewish art and property but they were
doing the devoted anti-semitism thing
they didn’t care about it what they
cared about was the profits they got
from it and that’s I think what we need
to focus on when we think about fascism
it’s a tactic it’s a way to delude us to
seize power and retain power and and and
it has it like the history in our own
31:23
country thank you right he did he
31:33
started his campaign in the in that in
31:38
that county for the missus what was it
31:41
Philadelphia Mississippi right then I
31:44
forgot the name of the County Fair um
31:45
but but we’re good we’re good men and
31:49
Chaney were near we’re on a journey and
31:52
certainly we have the welfare clean
31:54
trope that you know the racial coding
31:58
now I think that one thing you get so
32:02
you have these really tripling down on
32:07
on America’s racial history on America
32:12
ground American racism in that camp in
32:14
those campaigns you have militarism and
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you have and you have the and you have
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the aspect and you have something that
32:24
is last chapter of my book social
32:27
Darwinism which is connected in certain
32:30
ways to economic libertarianism although
32:33
it’s inconsistent in various ways but
32:34
the idea is I talk about Hitler’s speech
the industrialists you know fascists
talk about winners and losers makers and
takers it’s all about you know who wins
has value who loses has no value so that
whole way of going on the other hand
Reagan does not explicitly you know
fascists are harshly on to
anti-democratic you don’t
32:58
the enemy of the state you you have you
33:01
okay to go on the Reagan I mean look
33:03
there’s gonna be a lot of overlaps
33:05
between social conservatives between
33:07
various forms of conservativism and
33:09
fascist politics but we can’t condemn
33:12
everybody we can’t say it’s a spectrum
33:15
fascist politics is a spectrum and and
33:18
our familiar conservatives are gonna be
33:21
on that spectrum just like just like
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Bernie Sanders is gonna be on the
33:25
spectrum to something much more extreme
33:27
I mean he’s on the spectrum to Denmark
33:29
but yeah there are certain things he
33:31
says that are too bad leftist
33:33
authoritarianism so there is this
33:35
spectrum and and I don’t mean to and we
33:39
have in a liberal democracy we have to
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have social conservatives we have to
33:44
have libertarians we have to have we
33:47
have to have progressives and socialists
33:49
we have to have this spectrum we’re
33:51
gonna have this spectrum but what
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happens when you get something really
33:54
worrisome which I don’t think you quite
33:56
had you didn’t have with Reagan is when
34:00
you have these different things I mean
34:01
look at Reagan on immigration for
34:03
instance I mean he isn’t demagoguing on
34:05
immigration
34:06
he isn’t when you have these overlaps
34:09
when you have you know social
34:11
conservatives business and corporate
34:13
elites libertarians all coming together
34:17
and nationalists coming together and
34:19
saying let’s have a group you know a
34:22
constellation and we might disagree on
34:25
certain things but let’s unify and then
34:28
you can get fascist constellations there
34:30
but I I think you know I think Reagan
34:34
had elements that are there like but
34:38
also we have to remember that lots of
34:40
Canuck just like you know you wouldn’t
34:42
want to say that oh very socially
34:46
progressive policies just because they
34:47
do that in communist countries that’s
34:49
communist
34:50
so I wouldn’t want to paint Reagan as
34:53
engaging in fascist politics he’s not
34:55
harshly anti-democratic in the way that
34:58
you you find with just respond really
35:02
quickly I guess my my thing was the
35:04
militarism and really the dangerous
35:06
militarism during his empire is yeah
35:09
but really the building of the empire
35:11
and like the really the strong anti on
35:14
this strong racist tone of things is
35:16
really right and the and though and and
35:18
those are overlaps and and i think a dis
35:21
analogy now is you don’t find President
35:23
Trump actually being as Empire oriented
35:28
I mean it’s tricky there people will say
35:30
I think now people use fascist politics
35:32
they used to use it in in the 30s it was
35:35
used to mobilize people for war
35:38
now it’s used to demobilize people so
35:41
it’s a tech it’s a set of techniques and
35:43
you know and it overlaps with techniques
35:45
and and and you know and people use some
35:48
of them you know there’s a spectrum
35:53
there’s a spectrum and and yeah I want
35:58
to thank you I think this is a very
35:59
important discussion and I’m from the
36:01
Caribbean grew up in the Netherlands and
36:04
it’s been a quite a significant amount
36:06
of time they’re in a different type of
36:08
Netherlands then it has become sadly
36:10
enough right when I was the Netherlands
36:11
if you had told him that characters I
36:15
mean these guys would be twenty to
36:17
thirty percent of the population
36:18
literally people would lock you up and
36:19
put you in a psychiatric institution say
36:21
thinking too much you literally are you
36:22
kind of lost it you know this is not
36:24
what the Netherlands about we are you
36:25
know civilized decent people although
36:27
you know they have a very we have a very
36:30
horrific history of colonialism which is
36:34
not talked about at home but the issue
36:36
is a few questions and these questions I
36:39
think are provoked by some of the things
36:43
you said I think you wanted something
36:45
quite profound when you said that what
36:47
we are dealing with now is a demobilized
36:50
depoliticize and the ideologized pop
36:54
population populations not only in
36:56
America see if this was only happening
36:58
in the United States okay okay but I’m
37:02
so called fringe Dutch I mean between
37:03
brackets right I’m from the Caribbean
37:05
but so-called French Dutch um this
37:09
France right the last elections right
37:11
people were panicked that marine lepen
37:13
walks into the White House right and we
37:15
know if she walks there what is going to
37:17
happen she’s not made she made it very
37:19
clear from well you know one of the big
37:21
problems I see is that in you
potentially the Muslims become the new
Jews absolutely you know the Muslims we
come to new Jews right
but the issue it at that I want to deal
37:30
with here is a more profound issue that
37:33
this type of fascism is indeed to
37:34
mobilize the demobilize in essence what
37:37
you have a mass talks about legitimize
37:39
the crisis of the West right and the big
37:40
problem is when you have a legitimate
37:41
Christ is not taking place on one level
37:43
alone right economic social political
37:45
legal right moral ethical domestic
37:48
international on all different levels
37:50
the white West and not is facing crisis
37:53
on crisis and crisis that are feeding
37:55
back in and creating problems another
37:57
problem that you have in a Western I
37:59
think this is a major problem me and I
38:01
didn’t think you touch on it is that if
38:03
you look at the populations here right
38:04
populations that are so-called
38:05
Democratic you know I mean I’m glad you
38:09
began claiming that the democracy always
38:11
never much of anything at all it was
38:13
much more a job to fool people and then
38:15
in democracy the issue is that in these
38:18
populations a long time twenty to thirty
38:20
percent of the population remain quite
38:22
fanatically right even look what
38:25
happened to Communist Party in France
38:26
right the communists moved move over to
38:28
the fascists they didn’t tell you how
38:35
how strong the Communist identity of
38:39
brotherhood and sisterhood of rattle and
38:41
stuff like that so I mean how do you see
38:44
and the big problem of your face is that
38:46
often these fascistic parties tend to be
38:49
the most mobilized part of the
38:50
population right right
38:51
why well well well the majority of the
38:54
party although somewhat against I mean
38:55
Hitler never got a majority he always
38:57
got forty percent but but they are
38:59
highly mobilized and you only need forty
39:01
in a small
39:03
organized minority to create have
39:05
everyone is scared I mean everybody’s
39:07
killed so how do you see and do you see
39:10
anywhere in the West at this point in
39:12
time really
39:13
they since the average trade unions are
39:16
gone the socialist and communist party
39:17
out are we and very few intellectuals in
39:20
academics are really really speaking out
39:22
as a really standing up here and say
39:24
wait a minute here guys right you people
39:26
in the Western or not you white people
39:27
in a western or not right now I’m saying
39:29
that’s kind of provocative because my
39:31
part you know your apps a most European
39:33
a most of the European descent but the
39:36
issue is you
39:37
white people in to not be very careful
what you’re doing right because you are
facing a massive influx of black and
brown people here because of global
warming what do you do when you across
that when you look at the Mediterranean
50 60 million Africans are about to come
genocide you fall back the default
position of genocide let me hear what
you guys said yeah let me just say one
39:57
quick thing I’m gonna get another
39:58
question there was a great series of
points that you raise the climate change
point Timothy Snyder talks about that at
the end of black earth he warns that
that’s our big and I talked about that
in my book as well picking up on Tim’s
on Snyder’s points that you know climate
change is gonna lead to immigration
crises that you know crises immigrant to
massive immigration that we’re gonna
have to deal with but let me say
something about the point of oh you know
40:27
the majority minority point that oh soon
40:29
the countries give me a
40:30
majority-minority president Trump and
40:32
his campaign always emphasized that you
40:36
know uh my colleague Jen Richardson the
40:39
great social psychologist she she has
40:42
done this experiment she’s on a number
40:44
of experiments on the on this she showed
40:46
she when you get she presents white
40:48
Americans with three three questions
40:52
three different groups of white
40:53
Americans the first she says in 2042 the
40:56
Netherlands will become majority
40:58
minority the second group she says in
41:00
2042 the United States will become
41:03
majority senior citizen and the third
41:06
group she says in 2042 the United States
41:09
will become majority minority and then
41:13
she asked him a series of political
41:15
questions the first two groups don’t
41:17
change their MA they did they their
41:19
politics doesn’t change that she gets a
41:21
test of them before what their political
41:23
leanings are the third group of white
41:25
Americans that’s presented with the
41:27
information in the United States is
41:28
gonna become majority minority becomes
41:30
more becomes again more against the firm
41:33
ative action more against the air for
41:35
immigration and interestingly because
41:38
Jen Richardson is a genius she added
41:40
this they become much more in favor of
41:43
increased defense spending so so that oh
41:47
we’re going to become majority minority
41:50
it it enables right-wing politics or a
41:55
certain kind of politics maybe not right
41:57
wing but that could you talk a little
41:59
bit more about what appears to be
42:02
increased white anxiety and white
42:05
feelings of white victimization and how
42:08
does how to talk a little bit about
42:10
Trump’s role is he a symptom of
42:15
something that’s going to continue after
42:17
him or what happens to fascist movements
42:20
when leaders disappear ah
42:22
you know that’s that’s that’s re they
42:25
always have succession crises but I but
42:27
I’d you know we have more Trump’s so
42:30
there so but he is an expert a real
skilled expert at milking white anxiety
there was that quote that he that he and
and the psychological wages of whiteness
point like remember that thing he said I
remember I don’t remember when he said
42:46
it but you know he said something about
42:48
poor white trash and someone someone
42:49
said what is that he said like me except
poor so that connect he’s I have great
respect for his rhetorical political
abilities
we’re always it we always have this
43:01
nascent the dominant group
I mean think of the men’s rights
movement I mean is there any more
aggrieved group on earth than men when
their representation in the Senate goes
from 98 to like 83 or whatever 75 you
know you know just look at how men act
and you know and you know and that’s
what’s going on and that’s what happens
it’s all look at France the example of
France there’s a good example you know
43:30
the the aggrieved the you know we’re
43:34
losing our culture we’re losing our so
that’s a big one chapter in my book is
called victimhood and it’s all about
this it’s a whole chapter just about
this could you wouldn’t would you agree
that an important benchmark for
43:49
authoritarian is in this country might
43:52
have its roots in Eisenhower’s farewell
43:55
address in 1960 I guess in which the
44:00
leading General in the world
44:01
representing the strongest country in
44:03
the world
44:03
I spoke about this fear and then
44:06
subsequent to that you had three of our
44:09
foremost civil rights leaders slain
44:11
under dubious circumstances the official
44:13
narrative which only thirty and thirty
44:15
percent of Americans believe and then
44:17
you had this Vietnam War and there were
44:20
protests all over the country or there
44:22
were cities burning there were people
44:24
killed at Kent State and now we have
44:29
multiple Wars and nobody says a word so
44:33
what’s your take on this so I have a lot
44:35
in my book on Nixon
44:36
so I’m when I talk give talks on that
44:39
people because Nixon is a model for
44:41
Trump President Trump of course I mean
44:44
law and order politics you know Nixon
misses miss rep you know there’s a whole
protest misrepresented as riots think of
Baltimore 2015 so I talk in my book
about how Fox News described uses the
word riot use the word riot seven out of
every 1000 words
in describing Baltimore what happened in
Baltimore and protests only two words
out of 1000 CNN used them roughly
equally around three and a half words
per 1000 riot and protest and MSNBC used
riot two words out of 1,000 and protests
almost four words out of 1000 to
describe Baltimore to this radical
partisan difference in descriptions of
political protests the sixties you
really saw that you know so much so that
someone of my age I’ve been 36 for 12
years ah is I can’t even say Detroit
protests cuz it doesn’t come out of my
mouth because I was raised in schools
that just taught me Detroit riots you
know but then you you have Kathryn
Bigelow’s movie then you realize an
actual history they were protests and
you know you just focused on like one
you know a few people doing bad things
and you paint them a certain way so the
sixties Nixon’s campaign you know again
my books not about fascist government is
about fascist politics I think you see
with Nixon a lot of use of fascist
politics and I’m sure you couldn’t go
back because as I’ve been saying this is
us it’s not them do
you think the history of the the take on
Lyndon Johnson Lyndon Johnson might get
a more critical view because he kind of
laid the groundwork for Nixon and and
his involvement in the war his refusal
46:29
to get out of it the pressures that kept
46:32
in a minute so so in in in in a week in
46:35
October 12th at Harvard bookstore I’ll
46:37
be in discussion with Elizabeth Hinton
46:38
who’s who has written the greatest book
46:41
about the domestic policies of job
46:44
Johnson and and Nixon from the war on
46:48
poverty the war on crime the making a
46:50
mass incarceration in America and that’s
46:52
about the domestic policies so it’s a
46:54
different point you’re asking about the
46:55
foreign policy but I think on domestic
46:57
policy you know there are some issues
47:00
with Johnson that lead to Nixon as well
47:04
I mean John a lot of Johnson’s projects
47:07
in the in in cities were with minority
47:13
populations we’re sort of like here’s
47:15
how to learn to pull off here’s how to
47:17
act like someone with a job or something
47:19
like that rather than providing people
47:21
jobs you know which is like you know
47:24
trumpet was smart and you know could you
47:26
imagine Trump going to like rural
47:27
Michigan and being like I’m going to
47:29
teach you how to act like bankers no he
47:32
wasn’t doing that
47:34
so so right so so I Nixon I talk and so
47:38
those are interesting questions in the
47:39
Hinton book I think talks about the
47:42
hints of Nixon and Johnson while giving
47:45
him credit for certain things so first I
47:49
just want to say thank you for coming to
47:50
talk tonight who’s really interesting
47:52
and so my question is or first I’ll just
47:56
say on you mentioned that a key tactic
47:59
of fascists is to caricature the
48:01
center-left has been communists but I
48:05
feel like it seemed to me that you made
48:08
that same mistake when you talked about
48:10
how when you talked about opposition to
48:14
unions because that seems like a pretty
48:17
mainstream right dumb view to be opposed
48:20
to unions right I didn’t mean to I I
48:22
don’t mean to say that each so there’s
48:25
ten different aspects to fascism each
48:27
one of those aspects is going to be
48:29
familiar
48:30
from ordinary conservative father’s okay
48:31
it’s the combination but it just didn’t
48:35
occur to me that opposition to labor
48:37
unions is a uniform feature of all
48:40
fascism I learned that in doing the
48:42
research for my book so no you can have
48:45
good sound economic reasons you know
48:47
there are good for each of these things
48:49
you know for each of these properties
48:51
for you can be I mean some of the
48:55
hierarchy some of the chapters about
48:57
racial hierarchies okay that’s pretty
48:59
fascist but but you know as I say in my
49:02
book economic libertarianism overlaps
with fascism on social Darwinism like
winners have value losers don’t but
they’re different in other ways like
consistent libertarian will never
generalize to groups and say you know
white people have more value than
non-whites because they work harder and
win more you know so so there are these
overlaps and you know I just think it so
screams out from you from the literature
it’s just universal that’s you know you
go to Portugal and you go to their
49:33
Museum and Lisbon and they talk about
49:35
the attack and labor unions and you know
49:38
it’s so universal and you has to be
49:40
mentioned but of course you can
49:42
criticize labor unions and not be a
49:43
factor yeah thank you and for each of
49:45
these thank you we are your parents uh
49:50
well my stepmother is here and she
49:55
helped a lot with the book she gave me
49:59
she gave me and my brother-in-law’s is
50:01
there where you are profound and you are
50:04
brilliant and I think your parents your
50:07
family should and friend should be very
50:08
very proud of you
50:10
now I’m well read on reconstruction but
50:14
the issue that you spoke about with
50:16
respect to anti unions and wealthy
50:21
whites in the north coming down that I
50:25
have not read about and do not know
50:27
about I knew you know certainly with
50:29
Rutherford putting the nail in the
50:30
casket and you know wanting to a peace
50:34
to south and pulling the troops all
50:35
right so that he could win the election
50:37
I want you to talk a little bit more
50:39
about the north in
50:42
you know coming against the the labor
50:45
unions and I wanted to get your take on
50:49
what happened in Charleston with the
50:52
massacre at you know mother Emanuel
50:57
Church as well as what happened in
50:59
Charlottesville
51:00
because after listening to you you do
51:03
see a theme and when you know Trump come
51:06
you could say the most horrible thing
51:08
about McCain
51:09
I prefer winners in people who don’t get
51:12
duh you know yeah so so I’ve been
51:19
spending more time lately for my sins
51:22
with former members of Nazi parties and
51:26
I mean I was a so a friend of mine is
51:29
Tony Mack Lear the director of like
51:31
executive director of life after hate he
51:33
spent 20 or so years as a Nazi and
remarkable man and he’s very clear that
the law I mean I think we all know this
from David Duke the long-term goal of
the American Nazi Party was to to be
respectable and for that they had to
have people who were not respectable
so Tony Mack Lear said at one talk I won
symposium we’re out together he said the
first time I was on Montel Williams I
was a skinhead with combat boots and
tattoos the second time I wore a suit
and he explains that you need the
killers the radicals out there to say
that’s not us you’re seeing this all
over you’re up now you know the Austrian
Kurt Sebastian Kurtz all what happens is
that the right wing parties are like
we’re not not white supremacists the
white supremacists are the ones actually
killing people the ones marching on the
streets were respectable we’re in
government were in and but they need
each other so the in order for the for
the people in power who are pushing
white supremacy to plausibly deny that
they’re white supremacists they need
Charlotte’s VLEs because they need to
say no no those are
supremacists and Tony McLaren explain
that this is long been the strategy I
know of of the American Nazi Party and
it’s and and David black the former the
the son of the storm front founder is
also very clear about this he’s like he
says what we hear from our leadership is
the kind of things that we always he
said our target audience was always the
person who said I’m not a racist but dot
dot dot so you need you need the
charlottesville and the horror of
Charleston which is unspeakable horror
of Charleston because those provide
plausible deniability to white supremacy
and power and and we know those of us
who study history and and who are a
woman of color as I am and a descendent
of people who were enslaved both or
53:50
maternal returns so we always knew in
53:52
the communities and certainly in the
53:53
South when people when the KKK took off
53:56
those hoods they were your local doctor
53:58
you’ll put your Sheriff your policemen
54:01
your store owners you know not all of
54:04
them but these were the respectable
54:07
people and it was the hood that allowed
54:10
them to to you know to really crucify
54:14
and you know and hang people and uh so
54:17
we I mean the wisdom of the black
54:19
American tradition guides me in my book
54:21
I mean I to be wells oh absolutely
54:25
that’s Du Bois obviously I probably owe
54:30
boys today but it’s he earned yes so so
54:38
because that those it’s that literature
54:43
that you get the insight into the form
54:46
fascism takes here and so someone from
54:49
like me who’s from Europe the certain
54:52
sort of particular masks fascism wears
54:57
here that’s something you really need
54:59
the black American literature to
55:01
understand but thank you for your work
55:03
and thank your parents
55:07
and my brother finds out it earlier this
55:16
year I read another book by a
55:17
psychologist named Steven Pinker called
55:20
enlightenment now staring me in the face
55:22
right over there and in the book he
55:26
argues that the world is getting better
55:30
and better and this is the best time to
55:33
be alive the best time to be born and he
55:36
extolled the virtues of of the future
55:38
and so I want to you know ask you what
55:43
what you feel about that how what’s your
55:45
response to that and are you optimistic
55:48
about the future I mean you’re talking
55:49
about possible fascism in this country
55:52
so let me quote my my father’s book the
55:54
technological conscience where he says
55:58
pessimism is very much the humanistic
56:01
view he says I am a pessimist pessimism
56:04
is very much the humanistic view so so
56:09
that’s just to say that I think that I
56:12
think Pinker I mean we could go on about
56:14
Pinker I’m not going to I think that
56:16
when you count you know says err already
56:19
does a takedown of Pinker a long time in
56:23
in famiiy this is that what’s this is
56:29
our book I’m just blanking
56:31
well discourse on Colonials do you thank
56:34
you so uh so and discourse and
56:36
colonialism where he’s like you know you
56:37
count you tell us about the diseases
56:41
you’ve cured you tell us about the you
56:44
know the new food that we access from
56:46
Europe and yet what about the religion
56:49
you destroyed what about you know the
56:51
traditions you eliminated what about the
56:54
ways of life you laid waste to can you
56:57
count those you know so Pinker it’s just
57:01
like no it only matters if you can count
57:02
it dignity doesn’t count you can’t count
57:04
dignity so you’ll also find me
57:07
criticizing Pinker in recent years
57:09
Pinker is very as a Pinker has not all
57:12
to write himself but Pinker does have a
57:15
lot of all right fans if you look at
57:17
Pinker’s views about the IQ debate their
57:19
problem i mean
57:20
as you’ll find some stuff on Pinker
57:22
there um you know this idea of we have
57:26
to face you know we have to face the
57:28
facts of difference nature I mean I
57:31
think he’s right that you know I’m not
57:33
for banning discussions but the
57:35
fascination that he has with the IQ
57:37
debate is something that I think is kind
57:39
of worrisome so and I’m worried about
57:42
the sort of technocratic way of
57:44
measuring human value that said in any
57:47
country that had the civil rights
57:49
movement and I mean if I did had to do
57:52
the civil rights movement I definitely
57:53
would have done it in Vermont but they
57:55
chose like Alabama and Mississippi so
57:57
given that I feel quite safe in the
58:00
United States ultimately I feel
58:02
optimistic because this is a country
58:04
that did that so the labor movement you
58:09
know Jane Addams I just wanted to make
58:14
two brief comments one about giving
58:18
value to things and if we really just
58:21
take a quick scan of history going back
58:25
to as far as we can go back it seems
58:28
like human life does not have a lot of
58:30
value it in just that’s just a general
58:36
comment and if we look at capitalism and
58:42
the globalization of everything and all
58:46
these wars and like you said there’s two
58:49
wars going on Noma and I’ve said this to
58:51
myself why is no one talking about our
58:54
troops that we still have in Afghanistan
58:56
and Iraq and in these places then
58:59
they’re still getting blown to pieces
59:00
and I know because my first job out of
59:04
college I worked at the VA hospital in
59:06
the 70s when the guys were first coming
59:08
back from Vietnam so that’s just what I
59:13
want to say about the value of human
59:15
life now on a lighter side I would like
59:19
to say which you which you said about
59:23
Dubois and then you said about the new
59:27
push for Black Studies in colleges and
59:31
that it was going to replace Shakespeare
59:34
yeah yeah I know it’s just it’s just a
59:37
joke but I just wanted to play on that
59:40
because it from my experience and having
59:45
done like studies and everything else
59:50
there’s a lot of credit and study given
59:55
to Shakespeare people who write Ln Locke
59:59
Dubois a little bit too much yeah and
60:03
also I wanted to say that most of our
60:07
most appreciated african-american actors
60:12
studied Shakespeare to the hilt
60:16
you know the most excellent Shakespeare
60:21
no I mean I mean that God is ultimately
60:23
you know I mean the great Jeffrey
60:25
Stewart Alain Locke biography talks
60:28
about I mean Locke won the sort of
60:30
literary prize at Harvard for for
60:32
something on its hat on Irish Irish
60:35
poetry and he gave a talk in a black
60:37
church in Cambridge saying look the
60:40
Irish created the greatest were were
60:42
colonized and oppressed and their
60:44
revenge was to create the greatest
60:46
English language literature and poetry
60:48
and he’s obviously encouraging taking
60:51
that as a speaking Paul Dunlop I think
60:54
it was also electrode and Dunlop right
60:56
absolutely so right and of course Dubois
60:59
sort of takes that to extreme the
61:00
extreme with the talented tenth so I I
61:03
don’t mean to by the way Pinker is a
61:05
liberal Pinker and I have family
61:07
disputes ultimately he’s a technocratic
61:09
liberal of a certain kind I have family
61:11
disputes with him but he’s obviously
61:14
gent in some general sense on my side
61:18
what he’s all right he’s all tracked
61:23
know the alt are certain aspects of
61:25
Pinker that the alt-right pick up on
61:29
that you know the the stuff which is a
61:32
danger of the messaging so I’m not he’s
61:35
definitely not all right he’s it’s that
61:37
you got to be careful I mean one should
61:41
be sensitive to the messages that like
61:45
Pinker said recently
61:47
I think it was in Davos and a panel
61:50
where he said you know the alt-right are
61:52
really bright tech-savvy people who come
61:55
to college and realize there are certain
61:57
topics that you’re not allowed to talk
61:59
about and then they feel shocked and
62:02
then they become all trite that’s the
62:05
kind of I think that was an
62:06
irresponsible comment of course he’s on
62:08
my side but I just think that’s an
62:10
irresponsible comment of course that’s a
62:11
comment that makes some people you know
62:14
that he does not agree with it puts them
62:17
in so that’s that’s that’s that’s all
62:20
I’m saying ultimately we can’t have
62:22
these family disputes between different
62:24
stripes of liberals and so I don’t want
62:27
to do that though I do want to say I
62:29
don’t think that’s why people become
62:30
alright we are unfortunately out of time
62:36
for questions although if you want to
62:38
make a brief question make it really
62:40
quick them we can fit it in the question
62:46
is for you to elaborate maybe we don’t
62:48
have time for any more elaboration on
62:51
anti-intellectualism which was one of
62:53
the 10 I guess that you have and you
62:55
didn’t really say much about it and it’s
62:57
a case that I see certain parallels with
63:00
the sort of the were the Left
63:05
philosophies of I don’t know class
63:08
warfare and I mean I think it seems like
63:11
now was an anti-intellectual yeah many
63:14
respects yeah I mean I think I think
63:17
that I what you get in fascist ideology
63:23
is is like the straightforward fascist
63:28
ideology is about appealing to emotion
63:34
not that there’s some emotions can be
63:37
perfectly rational as Martha respond
63:38
others as many philosophers would tell
63:40
you but the idea is to cut off reasoning
63:44
by you know fear panic and and and just
63:47
and then just replace and show you and
63:50
then present yourself as like the
63:51
solution you got this very explicitly
63:54
discussing you know in in meine Kampf
63:56
Hitler talks about you know propaganda
63:58
should appeal to you know the least
64:00
educated
64:01
so you know the idea that it’s the least
64:03
educated your who’s your who your
64:06
audience or no talk you know essentially
64:08
that’s what you want to appeal to Bannen
64:10
said you know we want unlock her up
64:13
build a wall you know we won on that but
64:16
there’s a kind what why I talk about me
64:19
anti-intellectual chapter is this all
64:22
across the world right now we’re seeing
64:24
in these condo countries I discuss
64:26
attacks on universities for being
64:28
bastions of liberalism feminism European
64:33
University of st. Petersburg was closed
64:35
down because of gender studies Central
64:38
European University was was attacked
64:42
because they’re spreading liberalism so
64:45
this kind of thing when you find
64:46
universities harshly targeted as
64:48
bastions of leftism and you know now of
64:52
course sometimes they are not Yale but
64:55
the the yell is a great place it’s not
64:59
that but you know when you find this
65:03
hysteria about this area about communism
65:05
being being directed at universities and
65:10
the media you know and fanned now it
65:13
takes the form of Gender Studies panic
65:15
about Gender Studies because that’s just
65:18
like Masha Gessen is clear about that in
65:20
her 2017 book that Gender Studies just
65:24
seems to be and and you know Pat McCrory
65:26
in North Carolina did that he said we’re
65:29
not gonna have this tax governor in
65:30
North Carolina said they were not gonna
65:31
be taxpayers paying for gender studies
65:34
or Swahili so so the idea is is you know
65:41
so you target universities in your
65:43
politics now all authoritarians target
as you say target universities in our
politics because universities are places
where young people protest against older
people and so that’s gonna be something
65:56
that that as I get older I recognize the
65:59
wisdom of seeing that as a problem but
66:03
yeah thank you
66:05
[Applause]
66:20
you

Niall Ferguson, “The Square and the Tower”

20:32
it reveals apart from anything else one
of the fundamental problems with network
structures they are bad at self defense
one reason we inclined towards
hierarchical structure through most of
history is that they are quite good at
defense it’s not the first time the
Russians hacked a network I tell the
story of how the most exclusive
intellectual network of all time the
Cambridge apostles the most lofty
high-minded intellectually extraordinary
network got hacked by the KGB this is a
wonderful example of how networks can
attack other networks three of the
Cambridge spies three of the famous five
were members of that society to which
John Maynard Keynes had belonged in the
1920s and Lytton Strachey but the 1930s
the KGB had penetrated it one of the
most successful intelligence operations
of all time much more successful than
what they did in twenty sixteen which by
the way backfired in their faces
completely and it takes a network in
this kind of a world to defeat a network
I’m quoting Stan McChrystal who learnt
that lesson the hard way in his battle
against al-qaeda in Iraq that it’s a
wonderful story that he tells in his own
autobiography it took that very
hierarchical institution the US Army a
long time to realize that it could not
beat its adversary in Iraq other than by
in some ways imitating its network
structure

25:45
but if you are interested in him there’s
a whole section on why it was that
network’s decided 2016 election and one
of my concluding thoughts is the real
lesson of 2016 is no Facebook no
he-who-must-not-be-named
without the network platforms not just
Twitter but especially Facebook the
outcome of that election which has
changed all our lives would have been
different you’re gonna have amassed the
great German philosopher said that
changes in the structure of the public
sphere were often the most decisive
things in history
and I agree with you
organ harbor Mass and this book is
really about changes in the structure of
the public sphere ladies and gentlemen
we are living through one of the
greatest changes in the public sphere
ever to happen
it is as profound in its
way as the change wrought by the
printing press
the printing press was supposed to
create a priesthood of all believers the
internet a global community if history
has anything to teach us
it is the sobering thought that we may
be just at the beginning of a period of
network disruption polarization crazy
stuff going viral and widening
inequality and if that makes you feel
nervous

30:18
story he said the real problem is that
because of the way that Facebook works
and also Google because of the way that
the algorithm is sending you stuff that
is designed to get you engaged on an
individualized basis according to your
data
we each inhabit our own private sphere
and the disaggregation that you describe
is further advanced than we know what
made the advertising so potent in 2016
not only by the way in the United States
it happened in the UK too in the Briggs
that referendum was the ability that the
brexit campaign had and the Trump
campaign had to target advertising very
very specifically
and then tweak the advertising and on
the basis of its effectiveness this is a
completely changed public sphere
political advertisements are no longer
things we all see and can discuss at the
watercooler

each of us begins to inhabit his or her
own reality with our own customized
newsfeed this is a deeply dangerous
development because it means the public
sphere as such ceases to exist or
retreats into the domain of traditional
media traditional media of course slowly
being destroyed because they lose with
every passing month their share of
advertising revenue to the network
platforms so I sense a more profound
crisis of democracy than we get
appreciate because we are focused on
what I think are relatively small issues
the Russian intervention the Russian
intervention wasn’t decisive the number
of advertisements and the number of
people who saw them were release really
small percentages of all the content
that was being produced indigenously by
Americans on Facebook not least the
people that you alluded to so I think
this is a deeply troubling development
and it’s where the book ends book ends
by saying if we allow this networked
world to advance it will transpire that
the real enemy of democracy is the
Russians the real enemy is actually the
way the network our platform algorithms
sub dividers dice and slice us and give
each of us our own version of reality
so
thanks for the great question yes sir
I’m going to ask quick question since
the you had me the power of networks
it’s one step to presume that there is
possibility of large-scale conspiracies
do you believe that large-scale
conspiracies capable to change the
history can happen or happened before oh
I’m so glad you asked I’m so glad you
asked that question because part of the
reason for
writing this book is precisely that
conspiracy theorists have dominated the
literature on social networks for such a
long time I was really struck when I was
researching this bias statistic that I’m
going to get right in 2011 just over
half of Americans agreed with the
statement that quote much of what
happens in the world today is decided by
a small and secretive group of
individuals and I belong to it I do I
must do because I go not this year
because I’m busy selling books to the
World Economic Forum in Davos it’s worse
than that I go to the Bilderberg meeting
it’s quite likely that having written a
book about the Rothschilds and Henry
Kissinger and knowing George Soros that
I am a member of the Illuminati who are
of course controlled by space aliens
wait stop you lost me at space aliens so
here’s the extraordinary thing most of
the work that you can find out there on
the internet on any of the things I just
talked about from the Rothschilds to the
Illuminati is by crazy people and the
conspiracy theory landscape is kind of
fun to wander through but it is entirely
divorced from scholarship in conspiracy
theory land you just make stuff up
which is I mean I guess it’s
entertaining but it isn’t history part
of the problem there is that real
historians who are more nervous and and
risk-averse temperamentally than this
historian shy away therefore from
writing about any of these things so you
don’t actually get many books about the
role of the Freemasons in the American
Revolution that are non crazy there are
relatively few rigorous studies of the
Illuminati and so forth so one reason I
wanted to write this book was that so
much that there is about social networks
s the conspiracy theory industry when
you actually do serious historical
research which you can do on say the
Illuminati you discover that they were
a small South German secret society set
up in the 1770s with the goal of
secretly infiltrating the Masonic lodges
of Europe and spreading thereby the most
radical doctrines of the Enlightenment
including atheism so the Illuminati did
exist but they’re only ever about 2,000
members they spent a lot of time doing
really strange rituals inspired by
Freemasonry and giving one another
strange code names and they were
completely shut down by the Bavarian
authorities in the 1780s making it
highly unlikely that they caused the
French Revolution as was subsequently
alleged so part of the point of this
book is to show that we can write the
history of those secret societies but we
must not exaggerate their power but that
isn’t really a conspiracy to rule the
world run out of Davos I know I’ve been
I mean and frankly if that’s what they
call ruling the world I mean they should

James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false

According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan “teetered toward disaster” — until “I pulled the tool from my bag: ‘We are not investigating you, sir.’ That seemed to quiet him,” Comey writes.

Trump did not stay quiet for long. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the prostitutes portion of the infamous dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI head.

.. Trump offered varying explanations to convince Comey it was not true. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told him in a follow-up call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to Comey’s account. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.” Later, the president asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.

.. In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

.. Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob.

  • The silent circle of assent.
  • The boss in complete control.
  • The loyalty oaths.
  • The us-versus-them worldview.
  • The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

.. The result, in Comey’s telling, is “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”

.. “You can’t be kicked out of the room so he can talk to me alone,” Comey told Sessions, according to the book. “You have to be between me and the president.”

.. “Sessions just cast his eyes down at the table, and they darted quickly back and forth, side to side. He said nothing. I read in his posture and face a message that he would not be able to help me.”

.. Comey delivers an indirect but unmistakable rebuke of the GOP’s congressional leaders as well: “It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check.”

.. “I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” he writes.

.. “They lose the ability to distinguish between what’s true and what’s not,” Comey writes. “They surround themselves with other liars . . . Perks and access are given to those willing to lie and tolerate lies. This creates a culture, which becomes an entire way of life.”

.. Comey also writes that in a post-election briefing for senators, then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) confronted him about “what you did to Hillary Clinton.” Comey responded, “I did my best with the facts before me.” A teary-eyed Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) grabbed him by the hand afterward and said, “I know you. You were in an impossible position,” Comey writes.

.. Comey is critical of then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, saying she had a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the Clinton investigation and that he considered calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

.. “As he extended his hand,” Comey adds, “I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”

.. Comey recalls being struck that neither Trump nor his advisers asked about the future Russian threat, nor how the United States might prepare to meet it. Rather, he writes, they focused on “how they could spin what we’d just told them.”

.. “I decided not to tell him that the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants,” Comey writes. “In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”

.. Comey writes that he believed Trump was trying “to establish a patronage relationship,” and that he said: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

.. Trump broke the standoff by turning to other topics, Comey writes, speaking in torrents, “like an oral jigsaw puzzle,” about the size of his inauguration crowd, his free media coverage and the viciousness of the campaign. He talked about the Clinton email investigation as in three phases, as if it were a television series: “Comey One,” “Comey Two” and “Comey Three.” Trump also tried to convince Comey that he had not mocked disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski at a campaign rally, and then turned to the detailed allegations of sexual assault against him.

“There was no way he groped that lady sitting next to him on the airplane, he insisted,” Comey writes. “And the idea that he grabbed a porn star and offered her money to come to his room was preposterous.”

.. And then Trump brought up “the golden showers thing,” Comey writes. The president told him that “it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true.” Comey writes that Trump told him to consider having the FBI investigate the prostitutes allegation to “prove it was a lie.”

.. As the dinner concluded, Trump returned to the issue of loyalty.

“I need loyalty,” Trump tells Comey, according to the book.

“You will always get honesty from me,” Comey replies.

“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said, reaching what Comey writes was “some sort of ‘deal’ in which we were both winners.”

.. The president, Comey recalls, “launched into one of his rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness monologues” — this time about a recent Super Bowl interview with then-Fox News Channel personality Bill O’Reilly in which Trump complimented Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.
.. “But he’s a killer,” O’Reilly told Trump.The president’s reply: “There are a ton of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?

Trump fumed to Comey about the media criticism he received.

I gave a good answer,” Trump said, according to Comey. “Really, it was a great answer. I gave a really great answer.

Trump sought validation: “You think it was a great answer, right?”

Comey replied, “We aren’t the kind of killers that Putin is.”

Trump apparently did not take the correction well. Comey writes that the president’s eyes changed and his jaw tightened, and Priebus escorted him out.

.. Comey describes soon receiving an “emotional call” from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.

“He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest,” Comey writes. “He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”

Kelly did not resign. Two and a half months later, he was named White House chief of staff.

George W. Bush is not the resistance. He’s part of what brought us Trump.

Don’t let one speech fool you into revisionist history.

But a more careful look at Trump and Bush’s records shouldn’t elevate Bush; it should remind us that the two presidents have more in common than they care publicly to admit.

For starters, just think about tax cuts for the extremely wealthysuppressing the black vote and Bush’s penchant for denigrating facts and expertise. Our country’s historical amnesia be damned; the roots of Trump’s reactionary agenda were planted in W.’s West Wing.

.. “Because of my position and my affection for the president and my belief and trust in he and his advisers, I gave them the benefit of the doubt,” McClellan said. “And looking back on it and reflecting on it now, I don’t think I should have.” McClellan faulted the Bush administration for never having shifted from campaign mode to governing mode, a failure that “almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option [in Iraq].

No One Cares About Russia in the World Breitbart Made

Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative. On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: “This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.”

Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier, but rather an example of how over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News. The Breitbart mind-set — pugnacious, besieged, paranoid and determined to impose its own framework on current events regardless of facts — has moved from the right-wing fringe to the center of Republican politics.

.. “They’ve become extraordinarily influential. Radio talk-show hosts are reading Breitbart every day. You can feel it when they interview you.”

.. “The relationship has always been largely transactional,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Conant told RealClearPolitics this month. “Republicans in Congress can pass laws, and Trump can sign them. Therefore, it’s mutually beneficial.”

.. Another argument holds that Mr. Trump’s efforts to discredit mainstream outlets, echoed by the right-wing media, have stripped his followers of their ability to distinguish what’s real from what isn’t.

.. Culture has always been a driving obsession of the conservative underworld of Breitbart and its ilk. “Andrew was always more interested in changing the culture than he was in changing what was going on in Washington,” Steve Bannon,

.. a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now believes that colleges and universities — the flash point of our current culture wars — have a negative effect on the country. This number is up sharply from the 45 percent who agreed with this same statement last year.

.. If you’re not a Republican, watching Republicans react to the news can feel a bit like witnessing a mass hallucination.

.. There’s no guarantee that this will endure. Even on Fox News, there are scattered signs that the latest Russia developments may finally be breaking through — at least to a few folks. “This was a bungled collusion,” the Fox pundit Charles Krauthammer said the other night, noting that he had previously been sympathetic to the White House line. “It undoes the White House story completely.”

Making Ignorance Great Again

Donald Trump just took us out of the Paris climate accord for no good reason. I don’t mean that his decision was wrong. I mean, literally, that he didn’t offer any substantive justification for that decision. Oh, he threw around a few numbers about supposed job losses, but nobody believes that he knows or cares where those numbers came from. It was just what he felt like doing.

.. today’s G.O.P. doesn’t do substance; it doesn’t assemble evidence, or do analysis to formulate or even to justify its policy positions. Facts and hard thinking aren’t wanted, and anyone who tries to bring such things into the discussion is the enemy.

.. So how did the administration respond? By trying to shoot the messenger. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, attacked the C.B.O.

.. He also accused the office — headed by a former Bush administration economist chosen by Republicans — of political bias, and smeared its top health expert in particular.

.. Mulvaney and his party don’t study issues, they just decide, and attack the motives of anyone who questions their decisions.

.. they insist that the private sector is infinitely flexible and innovative; the magic of the marketplace can solve all problems. But then they claim that these magical markets would roll over and die if we put a modest price on carbon emissions

.. Can you think of any major policy area where the G.O.P. hasn’t gone post-truth?

.. bear in mind that so far Trump hasn’t faced a single crisis not of his own making. As George Orwell noted many years ago in his essay “In Front of Your Nose,” people can indeed talk nonsense for a very long time, without paying an obvious price. But “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”