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Beneath the Fog of Ukraine: A Troubling Current Events Update on the US “Homeland”

Do Counterùnch, Abril 22, 2022
Por PAUL STREET


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

And the Nominees Were…

A month or so ago, I put up an informal online social media survey on what events could possibly knock the war carnage in Ukraine off the top of the cable news cycle. My own and others’ morbid leading nominees went something like this:

+ a US mass shooting of epic proportions.

+ a new covid surge.

+ an extreme weather event rooted in climate change.

+ the shooting of a US-American Black person, probably a young man, by a white police officer caught on video, leading to protests.

+ a terrorist attack on US soil, probably committed by white nationalists.

+ an economic collapse.

+ partisan and cultural (race and gender) conflict over Joe Biden’s nomination of a Black female to the US Supreme Court.

+ A Joe Biden stroke or heart attack, leading to the disastrous elevation of the politically inept and transparently neurotic Kamala Harris to the oval office, sparking a massive right-wing rebellion (my favorite).

+ Kamala Harris seeks behavioral therapy to stop her habit of inappropriate laughing.

+ A federal prosecution of Donald Trump on charges related to his attempted coup against bourgeois electoral and rule of law democracy in 2020.

Nobody guessed “Tom Brady un-retiring” or “an Oscar-winning actor slapping down and screaming at the host of the annual Academy Awards.”

How did we do?

One month later, I am told by regular watchers, Ukraine is still cable news top dog, especially at CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, though the last network has significantly upped the percentage of its broadcast time going to domestic politics.

Sleepytime Joe still says stupid stuff like “imagine had the tobacco industry been immune to prostitute…some on!” Still, looks chipper, boosted by the horrific performance of the Russian military in Ukraine. A presidential cardiac event could happen any day and Kamala Harris looks as shaky and weird as ever.

There’s talk of the “Biden inflation” sparking a recession, but there’s always talk of a recession and the ecocidal US economy is still chugging along with lots of Help Wanted signs in a not-so “post-Covid” recovery. The holy US stock market is boosted by arms orders and anticipated North American fossil fuel and agribusiness exports booms being generated by Putin’s invasion.

Climate Crisis

An epic US tornado, flood, or wildfire matched to the scale of the capitalogenic climate crisis can happen any day now (tornado season is underway.) But so far, the only big climate-related event to (barely) crack the headlines was a flood that killed 443 people in South Africa. That was not a major concern for US media, which – let’s be honest – values one dead white Ukrainian over an entire village of drowned Black Africans. (When do US-Americans ever hear about the epic daily horrors of life in the Congo, where small children toil in the miserable extraction of rare minerals used in the manufacture of the First World’s cherished “smart phones”?)

More climate ruin is coming. Biden has helped make sure of that by using the Ukraine War to open the nation’s emergency petroleum reserve and (as of last week) to break his campaign promise not to resume selling leases for private oil and gas drilling on public lands.

It’ll take a gargantuan US weather event to kick Ukraine off the top of the news, however.

The “So What Covid Wave”

Covid-19 appears to be having a bit of a comeback in the US. We learned last week that the U.S. is sliding yet again into what could become another surge, with cases rising nationally and in most states after a two-month decline.” We may be headed to what The Atlantic’s science writer Katherine Wu calls America’s “first so what [covid] wave” – one in which there is little public health response because:

‘As national concern for COVID withers, the country’s capacity to track the coronavirus is on a decided downswing. Community test sites are closing, and even the enthusiasm for at-home tests, whose results usually aren’t reported, seems to be on a serious wane… Testing and case reporting are now so “abysmal” that we’re losing sight of essential transmission trends…Testing is how individuals, communities, and experts stay on top of where the virus is and whom it’s affecting; it’s also one of the main bases of the CDC’s new guidance on when to mask up again. Without it, the nation’s ability to forecast whatever wave might come around next is bound to be clouded… We can’t react to a wave we don’t see coming… There is still no guarantee that the next wave is nigh—but if it is, the U.S. is poorly positioned to meet it. Americans’ motivational tanks are near empty; the country’s stance has, for months, been pretty much whatever. The next wave may be less a BA.2 wave, and more a so what? wave—one many Americans care little to see, because, after two years of crisis, they care so little to respond.’

Covid-19 cracked the headlines a bit last Tuesday thanks to a horrific decision by Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a badly unqualified 35-year-old federal judge eight years out of law school who was appointed by the pandemo-fascist Trump because of her militantly right-wing credentials (including membership in the white nationalist Federalist Society and a clerkship with the fascistic Supreme Court clown Clarence Thomas). The absurd ruling, which obliterated federal masking mandates in airplanes and other public transportation, subverted both common sense and the rule of law by falsely claiming that the CDC lacks constitutional authority to order masks to prevent the spread of a deadly pandemic in public transportation (why does the CDC exist if it can’t do that?). The 30-something’s diktat was a big “F off and die” to the immunologically challenged and senior citizens. A number of people who flew on the day of the surprise ruling with the understanding that their fellow passengers and airline staff would be masked had to endure mid-fight celebrations and fellow flyers gleefully whipping off their face coverings after Mizelle made her idiotic and reckless judgement. No doubt many immuno-suppressed folks and parents of unvaccinated kids were caught by surprise and frightened by these mid-air displays. No one really knows the risks for masked passengers because there’s no data on the matter, which would require random before-and-after testing.

But…”so what”? Who cares? This is the USA, monument to rugged individualism and pathological indifference to the common good, animated by a firm belief in the survival of the fittest. This is sociopathic capitalism, where the rich fly in private jets and the vulnerable can suck it.

How much play Mizelle’s hack ruling got on cable I can’t say. (I’ve been away from cable television for a month.) My guess is that it was a fairly big cable news deal for a day or so. It’ll take the resumption of mass hospitalizations and deaths for covid to break through Ukraine on the national news Brain. Exquisitely timed with a new covid uptick, the ruling help bring that catastrophe about.

A Public Defender on the Court

The hearings over Biden’s appointment of a Black woman to the nation’s highest court made some brief but serious cable news media noise I’m sure, with MSNBC no doubt mocking asinine Republifascist Senators who tried to link Katanji Brown Jackson to global pedophile rings and other Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracies funded by George Soros. Liberals high-fived over the ascendency of a Black female face to a high place even though (a) the Trump-made/Handmaid Court retains its absurd 6-3 right-wing woman- and minority-hating super-majority and (b) meaningful anti-racism and anti-sexism is about challenging and dismantling racist and sexist institutions and structures, not merely changing the color and gender of folks atop such institutions. I bet there was only minor attention given to a part of Jackson’s resume that lacks Culture War sex appeal of race and gender identity: she’s the first former public defender on the Supreme Court.

Garland Remains Inert

President Sleepytime’s ridiculous Attorney General, properly sur-named after a lifeless ornamental object (Merrick Garland) shows no signs of wanting to put the lethal fascist monster Trump behind bars for trying to overthrow the US-American republic – something that is no doubt causing some consternation among some MSNBC talking heads (as well it should). Beneath some standard, highly caffeinated liberal bitching from the likes of Ukraine war cheerleader Joy Reid and the intelligent Chris Hayes, the fact that January 6th is going into the books like Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch – a massive, technically treasonous and fascist coup attempt receiving only minor punishment with the top fascist perpetrator and his inner circle free to commit new crimes against the bourgeois state – is another nonstory lost in the fog of war and appeasement. Meanwhile, a recent New Republic poll shows that 58% of Republicans think Trump’s attempted fascist cancellation of the 2020 election was a “patriotic” act.

Grand Rapids Fascism

Speaking of fascism, last week saw the heinous and unnecessary traffic stop shooting of the 26-year-old Black man Patrick Lyoya by a white male cop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There were local protests but nothing on a national scale and cable did not pay big attention I am told. Also speaking of fascism, Michigan, and Grand Rapids, a jury in a federal Grand Rapids courthouse recently four white Michigan Militia freaks walk for being caught in an FBI sting operation plotting to kidnap the liberal Democratic and female governor of that state – Gretchen Whitmer – as punishment for her enactment and enforcement of minimal public health measures to protect her state’s citizens from Covid 19 in the spring and summer of 2020. The fascists’ lawyer swayed the jury with the argument that the FBI manipulating people into committing crimes is “unacceptable in America… That’s not how it works. We don’t make terrorists so we can arrest them,” the lawyer said. Actually, though, “we” do in fact do that. As Buzzfeed’s Ken Bensinger noted, “[the fascists’ lawyer] was mistaken. Using swarms of informants to push suspected radicals toward violence is in fact exactly how it works: The FBI has been doing it for at least half a century, from the Black Panthers in the 1970s to Muslim groups in the wake of 9/11. But because the targets in this case were conservative white men, those tactics touched a nerve with a swath of the population that had never seriously considered the issue before.”

Yes, but the wannabe Whitmer kidnappers are not “conservatives.” They are radical white nationalists: fascists. Perhaps they will soon join Kyle Rittenhouse in a FOX News special on exonerated “patriots” and a luncheon with the big orange dog himself in Mar-a-Lago.

I have no idea how far the verdict on the Michigan kidnap plotters went on cable news. My guess would be that MSDNC’s Joy Reid and Chris Hayes dedicated a segment or two to criticizing the outcome and that Tucker Carlson and other revanchists applauded it on Fatherland News. And then everyone shifted back to Ukraine.

So What Mass Shootings

There’s been no white nationalist terror attacks yet this year, no Timothy McVeighs or Dylann Roofs to shock the nation, but don’t hold your breath. Mass murderous white nationalist Incels and conspiratorial paranoids are certainly hatching in the nation’s deep psychotic interstices, waiting for their five minutes of blood-soaked infamy. They only need a signal or two from Herr Trump or the RepubliNazi propaganda chief and open Putinist Carlson and/or a neo-Nazi lizard like Mark Levin or Charlie Kirk. A Joe Biden cardiac arrest that elevated the supposed “communist” (according to Trump) Kamala “Laughing Gas” Harris to the presidency could press some white male identity buttons and do the trick.

Mass shootings? There’s been nothing on the Las Vegas, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook or Parkside scale, but the problem, rooted in the deadly US combination of widespread arming and massive social inequality and alienation, marches on. The Gun Violence Archive reported 81 mass shootings leading to 81 deaths and 376 injuries in the US between February 24th (the day psycho-killer Putin invaded Ukraine) and April 17th of this year. The gun-saturated “beacon to the world of the way life should be” (then US Senator Kay Baily Hutchinson’s description of the USA in an October 2002 speech supporting George W. Bush’s right to mass murderously invade Iraq if he wanted to [he did]) celebrated Easter weekend with at least two mass shootings, one of which killed two youths. A small number of the bloodlettings briefly cracked the national news, but they were no match for Ukraine given (a) the absence of truly mass fatalities and horror on the Las Vegas/Virginia Tech/Sandy Hook/Parkside scale and (b) the fact that gun violence is now routinized/normalized/banalized in Armed Madhouse Amerika. Let’s be honest: mass shootings have fallen into the category of “so what” in this lethal asylum, this loathsome business platform masquerading as a society.

What Will Be Omitted From the Dobbs v. Jackson Coverage

Back to Amerikaner fascism…Here’s a story that can be expected to compete with Ukraine for a bit: the US Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson, coldly defying the rule of law [1] by undoing women’s half-century constitutional right to control their own reproductive lives and thereby re-imposing the de facto female enslavement of forced motherhood. The decision could come any day but expect the high Trump/Handmaid court to wait for schools to let out. The woman-hating thugs atop the Simon Says Supremes will prefer to secrete their sickening decision after graduation scatters young women from college campuses. A large number of the nation’s many “red” (patriarchal-Republifascist) states will have their existing “medieval” measures validated and will pass revolting new “Christian”-femicidal legislation meant to put women “back in their place.”

FOX News will crow about the decision and MSNBC will denounce it. What won’t be considered newsworthy on either network or at CNN is how the establishment liberal-Dem “pro-choice organizations chose not to mobilize million of people to try to prevent the reversal of Roe out of (a) a fear of “the mob,” that is, of masses of angry and informed citizens in the streets and public squares and (b) the cynical electoral calculation that the likely coming Handmaid decision will work to the dismal Dems’ advantage in the November 2022 mid-term Congressional elections.

Republifascist Congress

Which reminds me of the likely biggest news story of late 2022: the Republifascist takeover of the US Congress (a decision reversing Roe will NOT in fact let the Dems keep Congress), setting the stage for accelerated national dysfunction and right-wing consolidation atop all three branches of the thoroughly corrupted US national government in 2025. I have no idea where the Ukraine War will be by next November, but, barring a major conflagration beyond Ukraine (which could happen), this will hold the news cycle for quite some time. (Liberals might want to study some of these Ukrainian resistance Molotov Cocktail videos they were applauding a few weeks ago. We look forward to the Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer militia movement headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut and San Francisco’s Presidio Heights.)

Trump’s Anti-“Marxist” Hate Rally Tour

And that in turn reminds me of the biggest media non-story of the year: Donald Trump’s persistent knuckle-dragging presence on the hate rally tour circuit, where the tangerine-tinted tyrant feeds his ravenous white nationalist base with his usual nuggets of steaming Hitlerian falsehood, including these:


+ He won the 2020 election.

+ Biden “abolished the southern border.”

+ Foreign countries are flooding the US with criminals via rampant “open border” immigration.

+ The climate catastrophe is fake news.

+ The Democrats are “radical socialists” who “hate America.”

+ “We allow Marxists and communists and socialists to teach our children to hate America.”

Someone should do a combined Google and LexisNexis search to try to determine how many times Trump has said and attacked “Marxists” and “Marxism” (along with “radical Left” and “socialists” and “communists”) since at least 2015. Hateful obsession with Marxism and Marxists and the creepy habit of calling one’s liberal and centrist enemies “Marxists” (and related terms mentioned above) are classic fascist calling cards. They were written all over Trump role model Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, consistent with Hitler’s statement during his largely successful self-defense in the Beer Hall Putsch trial: “My aim from the first was a thousand times higher than becoming a minister: I wanted to be the destroyer of Marxism.” The destroyer of Marxism and what Hitler called “Judeo Bolshevism.” Hitler’s anti-Marxism was intimately linked to his venomous anti-Semitic and anti-“Slav” racism [2]and the related conspiratorial anti-globalist German white nationalism of the time. He would have been quite at home in today’s Trumpified Republican Party. (One irony here is that there really was a big and significant Marxist Left for fascists to crush in post-WWI Germany and there is no such Left in the US today [3].)

The “Marxist” (“lol”) Democratic Party and its media wings, which semi-secretly welcome the coming reversal of Roe (for electoral purposes), treat the continuing Trump menace as a minor story at best, thereby diminishing their own responsibility for his survival and calculating perhaps that his nauseating endurance is their best bet for keeping the White House in 2024-25. I near conclusion with an instructive quote from Salon’s Chauncy de Vega, who has been working for seven years to get Democrats and others to wake up and smell the fascist essence of Trump and Trumpism:


‘The Democratic Party has shown itself to be largely ineffective, powerless and incompetent in their response to the neofascist attacks on democracy. This is part of a much larger pattern: For more than 50 years the Republican Party and the “conservative” movement have won and kept power by leveraging the politics of white racial resentment and grievance-mongering, even though their policies are extremely unpopular with most of the public. In many ways, Trumpism, neofascism and straightforward white identity politics are the next step in that political strategy…Republicans (and the Trump movement specifically) view liberals, progressives, Black and brown people, the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups as enemies and an existential threat to their right-wing nightmare version of America. That animus is not about “mere” disagreements about public policy or just a matter of “polarization,” partisanship or hyperbolic language. It is a direct threat of violence, with the goal of eliminating the “enemy” in order to “purify” America…In even more plain speech: if you are not white (and a man), a heterosexual, and a so-called “Christian,” today’s Republican Party, the “conservative” movement, and the larger white right do not like you. They want you to suffer. Republicans are masters at the personalization of grievance, and will lie and distort reality and the facts to frighten their voters in order to win, maintain and expand their political power and societal control.

…Democrats [need] to tell the truth about the human misery that Republicans and “conservatives” have caused for decades — and the much worse misery they will cause in the future…Yet out of gross denial, or perhaps naive investment in a “normal” political order that is dying and cannot be resurrected, the Democrats have not done that and likely never will. This is not even defeat. It’s surrender, and a pitiable sight at a moment when courage is required to save American democracy and society from the neofascist assault’ (emphasis added).

That’s very well said though I think the dismal demobilizing dollar Dems’ crime is worse than surrender: it is complicity.

NOW is the Time

Those who reject the surrender, and the tyranny of “normal” politics and cynical electoral calculation should consider coming out into streets with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, which is urgently organizing mass emergency protests to send the message that reversing Roe means mass disruption of business as usual. In the meantime, sign RU4AR’s petition, which ends with this call to action:


“If you care about the half of humanity that is born female… if you remember the dark days of back-alley deaths and foreclosed lives… if you are among the 1 in 4 women whose hopes and dreams — or even survival — has hinged on access to abortion… if you refuse to inherit, or pass on, a world that is hurtling backwards…NOW is the time to hold nothing back. NOW is the time to rouse thousands and soon millions in struggle so that we can look every woman and girl in the eye with the promise in word and deed that they will have a future as full human beings. NOW is the time to stand up, together, as if our lives depend upon it—for, in fact, they do.”

The other night I dreamt that this statement was read aloud by female valedictorians at spring 2022 college, university, and high school commencements across the US. Thousands of graduating students waved and wore the green bandanas that have become the symbol of powerful Latin American abortion rights movements. They turned graduation into a radical and feminist political moment not soon to be forgotten.

Endnotes

+1. Today as when the Roe v. Wade decision came down, a super-majority-plus of Americans support women’s right to an abortion. There has been absolutely no fundamental change in societal attitudes or conventions that can justify the high court repudiating stare decisis, the legal doctrine that obligates courts to follow historical cases when making a ruling on a similar case.

+2. In 2018-2020 I heard from left-identified know-it-all Know Nothings that Trump had nothing to do with fascism because (i) fascism was about a specific kind of political economy and required the state/dictator being in command of the economy and (ii) Trump remained subordinate to capital as president. It was astonishing to see the extent to which these critics missed fascism’s central racial dimension. Gosh, was Adolf Hitler a fascist? It appears that he was! And Hitler wrote this in sick, sprawling manifesto Mein Kampf: “The state has nothing at all to do with any definite economic conception of development…The state is a racial organism and not an economic organization.” Throughout Mein Kamp, the complete and total asshole Hitler “refrains,” in William Shirer’s words, “from any expression on the economic foundation of the Third Reich.” Mein Kampf is among other things a long attack on Marxism, Jews, “Slavs,” and other supposed inferior, sub-Aryan races. It’s all about race and the author’s sick interwar German version of white nationalism, wherein virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Slavism is linked to anti-Marxism and hatred of the Soviet Union via the concept of Judeo-Bolshevism. It’s all tied in with open hatted of democracy for purportedly empowering “inferior” polyglot mongrel races and being subject to nefarious manipulation by Semitic elites who supposedly stabbed a great Aryan nation (Germany) in the back. The revolting volume is also infected by a big strain of arch-patriarchal sexism, of course. The rapist, racist Trump and many his fellow Republifascists would have felt quite at home in the Nazi “Make Germany Great Again” (MGGA) Party, which was all about the virulent eliminationist white nationalism of its time and place.

+3. Which some left-identified know-it-all Know Nothings have taken to mean that fascism can’t be a real thing in the US today. For criticism of this also idiotic argument, see Paul Street, This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022), 176 (see pp. 173-181 for a broader critique of 18 related narratives of Trumpism-fascism denial advanced by left-identified commenters, almost always frustrated and older white males shielded by color and gender from the worst effects of US neofascism.) On how the fascist (“late” fascist) menace – framed largely around race – is very much alive and well in the absence of a revolutionary socialist and proletarian Left in Europe and the Americas, see Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective’s astonishingly brilliant book White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism (London: Verso, 2021).


Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).

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