Orwell on Totalitarianism – Chomsky on Trump




Noam Chomsky [in the recent interview with Truthout’s C.J. Polychroniou – July 1 2019

These objectives fall within a broader strategy of forming a global reactionary alliance under the U.S. aegis, including the “illiberal democracies” of Eastern Europe (Hungary’s Orbán, etc.) and Brazil’s grotesque Jair Bolsonaro…”


Richard W. Symonds:

Parallels with “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ – ‘the book within the book’ – are beyond disturbing. 

Orwell’s Last Statement in June 1949:

I think that…something like NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR could happen. This is the direction in which the world is going at the present time, and the trend lies deep in the political, social and economic foundations of the contemporary world situation .

Specifically, the danger lies in the structure imposed…the danger lies also in the acceptance of a totalitarian outlook by intellectuals of all colours. 

The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: “Don’t let it happen. It depends on you”.


Noam Chomsky [“America’s Orwell”]


And we saw another chapter in Washington two days ago, what the Financial Times called “Red Square on the Potomac,” organized by the maestro who tweeted that it will be run by “Your favorite President, Me.”

Tragedy or farce?  Hard to say.  I suppose both.

“Donald Trump creates ‘Red Square on the Potomac'” – Financial Times – July 5 2019

Fourth of July event was long on military hardware and short on unity

Photo: Bloomberg – President Donald Trump applauds during the 4th of July event in Washington DC, which seemed more a celebration of him than the nation

America’s war of independence might have gone badly wrong had George Washington’s armies not “manned the air” and secured the airports. Or so US President Donald Trump seems to think.

As his speeches go, his July 4 address was a model of self-restraint. Mr Trump rarely seemed to deviate from his autocue. There were no chants of “Lock her up!”, or “Build that wall!”. The crowd was not in that kind of mood.

An afternoon of near-monsoon downpours had damped the atmosphere. For Mr Trump, speaking from behind rain-splattered bulletproof glass, it was a chance to show off the kind of airborne hardware — a B2 bomber, two F-22 Raptors and six F/A 18 Super Hornet fighters — that America’s revolutionary army famously unleashed on the redcoats. Or so that joke might go.

In fact, Mr Trump’s gaffe highlighted two differing reactions to his militarised celebration of America’s independence.

The first was amusement. The US president’s almost childlike pleasure in the flyovers was matched only by his critics’ schadenfreude as he mangled basic facts of American history. Mr Trump’s expression was enraptured by the vista of expensive hardware in the skies above. The other was worry. No previous president has focused the July 4 celebrations on themselves — or as Mr Trump put it, “your favourite President, me!” Nor have any turned Independence Day into a glorification of America’s military.

The holiday commemorates the distinctly civilian declaration of independence when Thomas Jefferson announced the right of all Americans to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It is about the birth of an idea, not a military battle.

Yet Mr Trump was determined to put on his show. The seed was planted two years ago when he attended France’s Bastille Day parade as a guest of Emmanuel Macron. Something about the tanks, flyovers, missiles and serried uniforms tickled Mr Trump’s idea about what power should look like. As one observer put it, “it was like watching a child with a new Lego set”. Thursday night’s rain-sodden speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial was its fruit.

Photo: Donald Trump – Independence Day: Trump hails military — and makes historical gaffe

But Mr Trump’s production drew objections from several quarters. Some critics said he was hijacking one of America’s most revered national holidays for political ends. Many of the invited VIPs who sat around him had received tickets from the Republican National Committee and Mr Trump’s re-election campaign and they mostly appeared to be Republicans.

This goes against the grain of a day traditionally set aside for non-political events meant to unite Americans. Jefferson’s independence declaration talks of a “decent respect for the opinions of mankind”. Mr Trump appeared to disregard the opinions of much of America. As Kamala Harris, one of the Democratic presidential candidates put it: “The president needs to realise it’s America’s birthday, not his birthday.”

The event also stood out for its martial character. Mr Trump’s speech was split into five military silos — the navy, the marines, the coast guard, the army and the air force. After Mr Trump gave a potted history of their most famous battles, military bands played each branch’s official song.

July 4 is normally about hot dogs, small town parades, fireworks, Budweiser and bunting. But there was something rather Soviet about Mr Trump’s “Salute to America”. It was closer to Red Square on the Potomac. At one point, Mr Trump called up Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, to join him on the podium.

The celebrants included 5,000 soldiers. Some had been handed instructions on what to say (“I am proud to serve this nation”, “I am proud of my job and my tank”). Perhaps they were there to avoid a repeat of Mr Trump’s inauguration ceremony, at which the aerial shots depicted very thin crowds.

The larger question is what Mr Trump hoped to gain from it all. The answer may be simple. Such displays excite his imagination. America’s 45th president has made clear that his idea of power derives from autocrats rather than democratically elected leaders.

He openly shows delight in his “great friendship” with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whom he met for the third time last week, and his admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin. That contrasts starkly with thinly-disguised boredom for his western counterparts. Mr Macron used to be the exception. But their “bromance” has curdled.

Mr Trump’s envy of authoritarian leaders extends to their style of governing. At the G20 summit in Japan last week, Ivanka Trump, America’s self-styled “First Daughter”, was feted by strongmen such as Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, but treated awkwardly by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and Britain’s Theresa May. Like the House of Saud, Mr Trump prefers to keep things within the family.

All of this is a far cry from the spirit of July 4. Jefferson’s declaration condemns the tyranny of George III for imposing standing armies on the 13 colonies, saying “he has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power”. Back then, even before the age of flying, worship of the military was considered a bad thing. Mr Trump has a very different take on history.

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