Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ought Americans to have a representative government?

The extraordinary international exposure afforded this weekend in Canada, of undeniable incompetence in the American President - both intellectually, as many have pointed out, and emotionally - has coincided with heightened worldwide interest in the apparently ungovernable and indisputably cynical power of social media enterprises. The American President's demagogic genius has emerged as implicit in, not merely reliant upon the exploitation of this callously amoral nexus of glamorous toys and their besotted societies, throughout the developed world. 

His great achievement, miming Hitler's demonstration that there is no power greater than an alluring delusion, has incalculably entrenched the already acute concentration of wealth and impregnability in what used to be called an information industry, whose natural object is the dismissal of all other vessels of information. Unsurprisingly, the most cogent essay of the season has correlated these trends as embodying the science fiction imagined by the late Ray Bradbury, in Fahrenheit 451.

The natural tendency, to appraise what the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has finally described as ignorant and insane aspects of the American President, as unrepresentative of the American people, is tempered by abundant manifestations of his popularity among the necessary masses, in whom his project naturally is to inculcate these very qualities. If he isn't representative and yet still governs, it is not merely because the structure of the American democracy was never mended by Reconstruction or matured by expanding the franchise; it is now materially because that structure is being shredded by industrialized confusion, and the wholesale piratical theft of the human personality, one synaptic gesture at a time. And because that amoral nexus, immune as it may be from any regulatory reach of the American people, is demonstrably vulnerable to crass seduction, covert invasion, even solicited manipulation by hostile powers, not merely nation states. We spawn a new epidemiology, on the perpetration of viral insanity by weapons of mass intellectual destruction.

The question, then, is whether any civilized perspective could lend itself to recommending a representative government for the United States. This is not being asked, except by who can say how many, willing to glance at these times with any perspective at all. The President and the social media industry do all they can to frustrate the emergence of any such intention. They do guide us to forget, lustily to deny the destructiveness of our diurnal dose of alluring delusion. Here, look: you can have your stimulus, your reward, on a glossier, now curvaceous screen. And upon this debilitating, destabilizing and demoralizing, dehumanizing platform, lies the casualty of its business plan, Free Speech.

It follows, the very definition of representative government is so fraught with compromising institutional, social, cultural, and political contradiction, as to hound the phrase off the stage for the next few acts. No responsible playwright would venture to design one for Americans at present. Better a U.N. Protectorate, or a Parliament of Parkland High School students, until the dust of extirpating the New American Government has melted the last cube of ice in Mitch McConnell's julep.

                               In times of change and danger when there is a quicksand
                               of fear under men's reasoning, a sense of continuity with
                               generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline . . .

With Dos Passos, I keep resorting to an expression that can't mean much anymore: Do the reading. A wrecking, idiotic misanthrope for a Head of State has been seen before, even by contemporaries of George III, whether honestly portrayed or not. Now, the prestige of elevating such a beast, above (as he says) the law if not the profits, has fallen to ourselves. Rapidly, the monster remakes this society in his image, and/or atomizes the normal, the stable, the informed. Hitler was elected; Hitler was popular. Putin was elected; Putin is popular. It is easier than ever here, because it was never believed possible. America does have a representative government, no more and no less than these deluded states. Ought Americans to have such a government? Then the fault is not in our stars.

Fritz Stern
Dreams and Delusions
  National Socialism in the
  Drama of the German Past
Alfred A. Knopf, 1987©

John Dos Passos
The Ground We Stand On
  The Use of the Past
Cited in Stern, supra


  1. YOURS is the only thing I specifically look for every day, and read immediately as it comes off the press. ...So sooooooooo refreshing as Trump keeps coloring outside the lines. Thanks, all.

    1. On the theme of "coloring outside the lines," we have Peter King, a senior Republican Congressman from New York, to Maggie Haberman in The New York Times on the President's cynical paranoid projection known as "Spygate," in which King marvels that he has "changed the debate" (i.e., perverted the investigation) "by using hyperbole to get a point across." This is a popularly elected member of the United States House of Representatives: a deformity, by exultant self-definition, of "representative government." (May 28, "With Spygate, Trump Shows How He Uses Conspiracy Theories to Erode Trust").