Anti-Trump rally. Union Square, Manhattan, New York. November 2016. Image credit: Kelly Kline
At last, I find myself agreeing with something written by PZ Myers – well, sort of. I agree with the main message in his article about the current US political mess – It is disturbing that the news is all Russia all the time – but it really does not go far enough. It doesn’t identify what actions should be pursued – nor does it identify the problems that have resulted in his main complaint.
Let’s get the fallacy in his first sentence out of the way. A fallacy which undermines the rest of his argument. Talking about the current political turmoil in the US he says: “I agree that the administration’s Russian connection ought to be pursued.” But he doesn’t say why.
The Russophobic diversion
The fact is Russia is a normal and natural country in the modern world. Its economy has strong international links and it is only natural that business and political personalities in the US will have, or will have had, links to Russian business, diplomats, and political personalities. Just as they have, and will have had, links to such entities from other countries, the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Poland – and even little old New Zealand.
And that goes for US business and political personalities of all different political persuasions. Are US officials really going to get distracted by pursuing all these links, or even all the links with Russian entities? What about the international business links, including with Russia, of Democrat politicians – including the Clintons? What about the contact between Democrat politicians and Russian diplomats? Hell, should officials really investigate, and cast aspersions, on the many meetings ex-President Obama’s White House administration had with the Russian ambassador?
These links and contacts are perfectly natural in our modern global society – and they are only a current issue in the US because of the wave of neo-McCarthyism stalking that country. Neo-McCarthyism, we should remember, launched by Hillary Clinton to divert attention away from the political corruption in the Democratic Party revealed by Wikileaks. Neo-McCarthyism now maintained by Democrat politicians and anti-Trump elements of the intelligence community and mainstream media as a tool to control or limit the powers of the new administration.
Neo-McCarthyism is terribly dishonest and pernicious. It relies on Russophobia (which I often see as a form of racism – the last respectable form see Western racism and the stereotyping of Russians) and, in the end, the fear of being outed as a traitor, to bring people’s thinking “into line.”
And PZ Myers has fallen completely into that trap with this acceptance of neo-McCarthyism in his first sentence.
The real problems – and they aren’t new
But Myers goes on:
“but I am not happy that that is being treated as the primary reason to delegitimize Donald Trump. The man is a destructive incompetent with a fist full of bad policies, and the most effective way to bring him down is to expose the fact that his campaign staff talked to the Russian ambassador? What? Have you looked at what he is doing to the country right now? Because there is a whole lot of crap going down while we’re busy looking for Russians under the bed.”
Myers should be unhappy that such neo-McCarthyist reasons are used at all – from the point of view of democratic and human rights. But, yes, he makes a valid point – the neo-McCarthysim is a diversion. People should be paying attention to the real problems the US election result has left them with – a President and, probably more importantly, a Congress where anti-science and anti-human rights elements have been strengthened.
PZ illustrates this by listing some of the proposed cuts to the EPA budget. Others will find similar regressive proposed action in other areas. But PZ Myers is all at sea when it comes to fighting these problems:
“There is no single reason to rise up and throw these assholes out — they’ve provided an embarrassment of causes that make them terrible leaders, which is part of the problem, that the reasons for taking action have been diffused so widely. It seems to me that our targeting is off when conversations with Russian diplomats become the strongest reason for investigating the president, rather than his habit of appointing incompetents and looters like DeVos and Pruitt to run major government agencies.”
It is politically immature to see the solution as “to rise up and throw these assholes out.” Come off it. The president was legally elected. It is childish for the defeated parties to see “rising up and throwing out” elected leaders as a solution. Such advice, while it may appeal to the more emotional and immature, is a recipe for continued defeat, not a solution.
The fight-back is not new either
These problems upsetting people did not suddenly appear with the election of a new president. They have been there for a long time – as has the struggle against them. The election results did not create the problems – it simply made them worse.
Democratic and humanitarian-minded people (and science-minded people) have been fighting these problems for years. The fight against racism, environmental pollution, climate change denial and limitations on the reproductive and other rights of women is not new.
The fight-back uses many methods – lobbying and representation to Congressional committees, publicity in the mass media and alternative media,. petitions, citizen’s meetings. participation in political parties, rallies, and demonstrations.
No, the current rallies and demonstrations are not new. But, I am amazed that some people who have joined these, donned knitted pink hats and vented their feelings at anti-Trump rallies think they have invented something new. Perhaps the only new thing in their political activity has been the lack of clearly defined purpose. (And perhaps it is this focus on Trump himself which has made them susceptible to the ne0-McCarthist argument – to the extent they will often use it in their slogans).
Where have these people been? And that is a valid question as there is a school of thought that some of the current protesters had, in the past, been lulled into inactivity, a false sense of contentment because they believed “their” democratic president was handling the situation. Solving all the problems. Stopping US interventions and war mongering overseas.
While it is true that Trump’s election may have encouraged some people to become active and to join the fight back, let’s not pretend the fight-back is at all new or that these newcomers have invented it. If anything, their lack of specific targets and resort to personal expression of their own anger is a bad sign, not a good one.
Because the fight back on all these important issues is not new and has developed its own maturity it will not disappear when the current highly motivated and emotional responses subside. Hopefully, many of the people who have joined the fight back because of their response to the presidential election result will stay and participate in the long-term struggles.
It would be nice to think that PZ Myers would get past his current emotional concept of the fight-back – “rising up and throwing out the assholes.” That he might actually participate in the day to day struggle of people fighting against the anti-democratic, anti-women, racist and anti-science policies.
Unfortunately, if his current habit of attacking people involved in these struggles because they do not measure up to his standards continue, this will not be the case.
See also: The Democratic Party seems to have no earthly idea why it is so damn unpopular.