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“I Have the Most Loyal People” Trump and Those Who Believe Anything

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The late and great American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote:

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” 

Hatred is an amazing emotion to which demagogues seem most adept at tapping into and harnessing.  Such leaders and propagandists channel the anger and hatred of their followers by identifying enemies and then with every statement, speech, or tweet reinforcing those beliefs, even if their claims are devoid of logic or substance.

Over the past week the language of NRA leaders Wayne Lapierre and Dana Loesch does much to incite anger and potential violence against their mostly imagined political and ideological enemies. The unmitigated volcanic reaction of Lapierre and Loesch, as well as others who share their views about socialists attempting to destroy the Second Amendment in order to overthrow the Constitution and destroy “freedom” were turned with a vengeance against anyone proposing any kind of restriction on weapons which are based on well proven military rifles of the M-16 family. In response, President Trump reaffirmed his support and admiration for Lapierre and the NRA agenda.

The invective of the NRA was profoundly disturbing especially when Right Wing bloggers, meme generators, “news” sites, and politicians attacked the students that spoke out after the Parkland attacks, calling them “crisis actors” and labeling the massacre as a “false flag” attack engineered by the “deep state” in order to take do away with the Second Amendment and take people’s guns away. This is nothing new, the NRA and its allies have done so after every mass killing. The young people who spoke out and continue to do so, as well as their families, and law enforcement are the “the devil.” 

Truth does not matter to the people who need scapegoats, or who need a “devil” in order to have meaning for themselves and the movements that they find their salvation in.  Hoffer was quite correct in his words that “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” The really successful leaders of such movements in history understood this, as do Lapierre and President Trump. The President does this by labeling his opponents “enemies” as he does with the free press, and his political opponents outside and inside the Republican Party, but he is not the first to do so.

For Hitler it was the Jews and other untermenschen. For American Southerners of the Lost Cause following the Civil War and Reconstruction it was the Blacks and their white supporters. For the “Know Nothings” of the 1840s and 1850s it was immigrants, especially Irish and Germans who were Roman Catholic. For the leaders of the Islamic State and others like them, it is Jews, Shi’ite Moslems, less than “faithful” Sunnis, Christians and well for that matter anyone who does not line up one hundred percent with them on every issue. For Stalin it was anyone who opposed his Sovietization of life and society. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and they are not limited to the past, they are happening today in Poland, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, and gaining traction in other western European countries; including Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and yes, the United States where President Trump is leading the parade, or possibly is being led by the people at Fox News.

President Trump has managed to demonize and dehumanize more people and groups than I had thought possible for an American political leader of any party or persuasion. I honestly believe that we have reached a tipping point where any severe crisis, one Reichstag Fire moment, one major terrorist attack, or war from pogroms, ethnic or religious cleansing, mass imprisonments, or even genocide. The words and actions of many of his followers and allies, including Lapierre, Loesch, and so many others reinforces that belief on a daily basis. They are taking advantage of political and social tumult to increase the fear and anxiety of all of us, their supporters and opponents alike.

 

I think a lot of this situation is because humanity is not nearly as advanced as most of us would like to presume. In times of crisis human beings are particularly susceptible to believing the unbelievable. The perpetual unsettledness that people like Trump, Lapierre, Loesch, Sean Hannity, and the people at Fox and Friends thrive on concocting helps prepare people for believing the unbelievable and for later doing what would have been unimaginable to them at one time. Hannah Arendt noted in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism:

“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” 

No wonder then candidate Trump observed:

“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.” 

He understands his followers and since his election they have proven to be quite loyal even when his policies and programs work to their detriment.

Those that follow my writings on this site know how much I love the various Star Trek television series and movies. There is an episode (The Siege of AR-558) of Star Trek Deep Space Nine where the Ferengi bartender Quark, makes a truly astute observation about humanity during a battle for survival at an isolated outpost:

“Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.”

Quark’s words remind me of those of Dr. Timothy Snyder who noted:

“The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”

I don’t think that we are too far from some tipping point where the Trinity of Evil, the politicians, pundits and preachers, especially of the political right and the media whores at Fox News who are more concerned about market share than truth, decide that their “devils” must be exterminated. Of course when they will do they will claim a higher moral, religious, or racial, purpose for their actions. The President’s CPAC speech, which I just re-read was full of such references.

Sadly in past few years, and especially since President Trump took office, many of those ruthless and often racist ideologies have seen a resurgence in many parts of the world, including in Europe and the United States. While these movements have existed  underground for years they have seen a dramatic resurgence following the election of President Trump, for whom many of their leaders credit with their rise; regardless of whether the President actually holds those views or not. The scary thing is that such groups count him as being an inspiration to them.

That being said the President routinely talks about crushing, eliminating, or destroying his political opponents as well as the racial, ethnic, and religious groups that he uses as straw men and declares to be enemies; enemies who must be sought out.

In a Star Trek the Next Generation episode, one called The Drumhead Captain Picard has to warn his security officer, Lt Worf about the dangers of rampant paranoia. Worf starts: “Sir, the Federation does have enemies. We must seek them out.”

Picard pauses and then notes:

“Oh, yes. That’s how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mister Worf. I don’t like what we have become.”

To claim Picard’s words for myself I have to admit that I don’t like what we have become either, and that thought frightens me; especially when the the followers of the President behave exactly how he said that they would.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, faith, film, Gettysburg, History, LGBT issues, Political Commentary

Hank Williams Junior’s Free Speech Violated? Give me a Break… it was Business doing what is best for Business

 

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.” Hank Williams Jr. announcement Thursday after ESPN announced that he would no longer be featured as the intro to Monday Night Football

Back when I was in college I did something incredibly stupid simply because I thought that I was being funny.  I had a part time job as a Peer Counselor with the Educational Opportunity Program.  The program was to help kids from poor families with not so great educations get a chance at college. Some kids did well and others didn’t.  My wife Judy was a student in the University’s program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students.  The office that ran the deaf program was called Support Services for Deaf Students or simply SSDS.

Judy had a roommate named Kendra and the three of us came up with some pretty sick jokes. In fact I learned sign language more to tell jokes with Kendra more than any other reason. Since Judy was “just hard of hearing” I used some sign with her but mostly to help her understand in difficult situations as for the most part she functioned as a hearing person despite having a 77% hearing loss.   Judy is also an artist and a cartoonist. One day we came up with a fake flyer for a parody of SSDS.  We called it Support Services to Dead Students.  Judy did the drawing and all would have been well had I not gotten the less than brilliant idea to “spam” the flyer out. Now this was way before e-mail and Facebook or any other social media.  So I went to a copy store and made about 50 copies and took them to work. I put them in messenger envelopes and sent them to most school departments through the internal school mail system.  I thought that it was hysterical and I must have let slip to someone that I had pulled this off this prank. Anyway a couple of days later I was called into my boss’s office and was told by him that he knew that I did it. He felt that it was deeply offensive and that I could resign or be fired.  I ended up resigning and my boss was grateful.  To be truthful it had nothing to do with the EOP students we were poking fun at the deaf students. Yes it was still crass and insensitive but I didn’t think that I would lose my job over it. I thought that it was a funny parody. My employer didn’t.

I learned a hard lesson. No matter how funny I thought that my parody was that it didn’t mean that my employer had to keep me on. What I did embarrassed my department and paid the price for it. Was anyone harmed? No. Was it malicious? No.  Could it be interpreted in ways that I didn’t intend it to be? Yes. Did it reflect on my lack of judgment? Yes.  Did my boss have a right to terminate me? Yes.  Did I learn? Most of the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eF6vCv13bw

Now of course Hank Williams Jr. made a complete ass of himself on Fox and Friends Monday morning.  Not only did he compare President Obama with Hitler but he went into a rant that just made him look like an angry idiot.  He called Obama “the enemy” and in making the Hitler comparison really made light of the Holocaust.  There is little that any American politician on the right or the left can do to be compared with Hitler.  Even his Fox friends who are not known for their love of Obama looked really uncomfortable as Hank ranted on.

Now to get things right I will defend people’s free speech rights and I don’t have to agree with them. If one decides to compare any American President with Adolf Hitler Joe Stalin, Pol Pot or the Ayatollah Khomeini he or she can say it without fear of being prosecuted by the State for doing so and if he is I will defend his right to that speech, even if I think it is hateful.  It may be hateful and ignorant to do what Hank did but there is no law against it and if he was prosecuted for it by the government I would defend his Free Speech rights.

That being said if one is the face of Monday Night Football as Hank was ESPN then there are risks to acting like an idiot. The producer of that show and the NFL had a right to end his relationship with the show.  It is about business, other companies with that advertise on Monday Night Football don’t want to be linked to the “H” word.  If they had not ended the relationship it would have been bad for business.

Let’s face it using the Hitler analogy tends to get people fired and it is not about free speech it is about business.  There are probably hundreds if not thousands of “conservative” commentators, bloggers and journalists who have made the Hitler analogy frequently on the internet and in print. It is protected Free Speech.  In fact when George W. Bush was President left wing bloggers and columnists frequently played the Hitler card against him. .  However none of them were the face of Monday Night Football and generally they work for employers that make money by criticizing Obama and the Democrats or Bush and the Republicans so they keep their jobs.  Remember each business determines what is good for their business.   Monday Night Football decided that Hank was now bad for business.

Hank is now saying that he decided to leave Monday Night Football “with his rowdy friends.” He said that what happened to him was a violation of his free speech rights. Now it seems like most people with the exception of Hank and Sean Hannity think that ESPN was within its rights to end their relationship with Hank.  If I recall one of the key conservative tenants is that employers are the ones that set the conditions for employing people.  The right to hire and fire at will is something that conservatives and Libertarians love.  Firing and shunning celebrities for doing stupid, ignorant or hateful things or even for benign associations is a sport in this country if a business deems the celebrity’s actions bad for business.

Let’s just go back 50-60 years, the McCarthy hearings and the Hollywood “blacklist” which tarred and feathered many actors, directors and others involved in the film industry being associated with the Communists or other unpopular causes at some point in their life, even if they had renounced that association.  Those people were not allowed to work, many for years simply because their loyalty to the country which had nothing to do with their acting abilities was questioned and producers fearing audience backlash simply blacklisted them.  Some of the many people blacklisted included Orson Welles, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Arnold and Edward G. Robinson.

Then there was an actress named Hanoi Jane Fonda, daughter of Hollywood icon Henry Fonda who had the dumb ass idea to go to North Vietnam, make anti-American and anti-war statements and be photographed on an anti-aircraft gun within a mile or so of the Hanoi Hilton POW camp.  She couldn’t get work for several years and when she did start working again, many people, me included boycotted her films and I still won’t watch them.  She was able to say what she wanted but she suffered the consequences and is still one of the most hated Hollywood celebrities in conservative circles.

There are so many other examples where celebrities have been fired or shunned because of their actions. Here are a few:

Gilbert Gottfried: Tsunami jokes got him fired as the voice of the Aflack Duck.

Megan Fox: Canned from Transformers due to Hitler remarks.

Madonna: Fired from her Pepsi sponsorship when the American Family Association boycotted Pepsi after Madonna released her controversial “Like a Prayer” music video.

Michael Phelps: After getting caught smoking dope was dropped by Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.


Mel Gibson: He was shunned after making anti-Semitic comments during a DUI arrest. His career has not been the same since.

Whoopi Goldberg: The Sister Act star got canned from her Slim Fast spokesperson job when she made double entendres about President George Bush at a John Kerry fund raiser.  She was also shunned by Kerry after it.

Sharon Stone: Dropped by Christian Dior inChina for suggesting that Chinese earthquakes were caused byChina’s treatment of Tibet.

The Smothers Brothers: Their hit comedy was cancelled by CBS for their controversial statements about racism,Vietnam and politics.

The Dixie Chicks: While touring “Old Europe” the country singers lashed out at President Bush and the Iraq War.  They were not fired but lost a huge number of fans in the process. The fans shunned them. They lost money and have not regained their former popularity.

The list can go on but I think I make my point. If people want to claim that business are free to do as they please and hire and fire people for whatever reason they deem fit on one hand, then they shouldn’t  that their Free Speech rights are being violated.  It is a two way street.  Think about it. If you are a business owner or in management and one of your employees does something that you think reflects badly on your business and may hurt your business would you fire them? You bet your ass you would and it doesn’t matter for what reason politics, religion or even your sense of humor.

What old Hank did was so stupid it defies imagination but he could say it. Fox didn’t cut away as he shot off his mouth, he wasn’t censored.  While his words and tenor were unbelievably stupid they were not illegal.  However I don’t blame ESPN for firing his sorry ass.  Hank is no victim of political correctness he shot his own balls off and I don’t care if he works ever again or he overcomes this and his career recovers.  However, he can say what he wants and believe what he wants and if he was prosecuted by the government for voicing those beliefs I would defend his Free Speech rights.  But that is not the case here.

Now I do have a lot of strong feelings about the often capricious ways that businesses use their liberty to mistreat or silence workers for speaking their political and religious beliefs in the workplace.  However if one wants to say that businesses should be free to do what they want to increase profits and market share without government interference then one has to expect that businesses will do best for business. Profit and not Free Speech is their number one concern.  Many celebrities and ordinary citizens have found this out before Hank; he can just join the club.  Heck, I’m no celebrity but it happened to me too… boo hoo Hank. Boo hoo. I’ll cry in my beer with you.  Wow that rhymed.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under celebrities, football, laws and legislation, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary