Pipe Bombs Sent to Trump Critics, Right Wing Nationalist Terror Stalks the Nation
It is not just the pipe bombs that are grabbing headlines, it is the right wing forces seizing power under cover of the Constitution that we need to pay attention to says Henry Giroux
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner.
Former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, philanthropist George Soros, actor Robert DeNiro. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former CIA chief John Brennan, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman, and the news agency CNN at times have all been virulent critics of Trump; have been vilified and verbally attacked by Trump. And now all of them have been sent pipe bombs through the mail. Can we lay this all at Trump’s doorstep. Here is his tweet in response.
He tweeted: “A very big part of the anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of mainstream media that I refer to as fake news. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream media must clean up its act fast,” says Trump.
The divide is deep in this country, exacerbated by the violent calls of Donald Trump, who has galvanized racist, right-wing nationalist forces, exhorting them to violence with calls to the audience to hit back, to fight even if he doesn’t, to knock the crap out of them, attacking journalists and praising politicians who body slammed reporters. We’ll look at some clips here of Trump pushing people to violence.
DONALD TRUMP: But Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand that? Never. Any guy that could do a body slam, he’s my kind of … He’s my guy.
And we endorsed Greg very early, but I had heard that he body slammed a reporter. And he was way up, and he was way up. And I said, oh- this was like, the day of the election, or just before. And I said, oh, this is terrible. He’s going to lose the election. Then I said, well, wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well. I think it might help him. And it did.
We’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.
Guards are very gentle with him. He’s walking out, like, big high fives. Smiling, laughing. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.
Knock the crap out of her, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.
MARC STEINER: He doesn’t publicly see the connection. Does that make a difference? Because there may be something much larger and deeper afoot here. Some see a Constitution-defined right-wing coup taking place under the law. And it is clear that the right wing and their allies are heavily armed. And now this; pipe bombs sent through the mail to the very people that Donald Trump has called out as enemies, or belittled, or called purveyors of untruths and fake news. What does all this mean, and what should be a response?
We start that conversation today with Henry Giroux, who’s professor of scholarship in the public interest at McMaster University, and author of many books, his latest being American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. And Henry, welcome. It’s good to have you back with us here at The Real News.
HENRY GIROUX: Hi, Marc; it’s always a pleasure to be back.
MARC STEINER: So I do want to start with this, not just for the bombs that were sent out and what Trump has been saying. But what we’re witnessing here, it seems to me in many ways, is much deeper than that. There is something that has been growing in this country for decades. It reached the pinnacle under Barack Obama for many reasons, and has exploded with a Trump candidacy and Trump as president. And these bombs being sent through the mail are just kind of the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of what we can expect and what we’re dealing with here, that we’re we’re almost afraid to confront by its name.
HENRY GIROUX: I think that what we need to be aware of is that violence runs through the United States like an electric current, and that this is really symptomatic of a whole range of forces that have been at work, particularly since the Reagan administration, it seems to me. It was violence becomes part of the aesthetic of entertainment; violence becomes part of the mass media; violence all of a sudden becomes a model that creeps into a variety of institutions, such as the schools, social welfare, health agencies. We have the ongoing criminalization of young people in the schools. We have the mass violence- of course, gun violence.
We have the rhetoric of violence. We have a rhetoric that’s been going on for forty years, increasingly accumulating, in which we are constantly demonizing and criminalizing what I would call a whole range of people who fit into what I call the logic of disposability, who no longer matter anymore. They’re not white, they’re not Christian, they’re not part of a capitalist system that basically is more than willing to sacrifice all the values that matter to our culture of consumption and immediacy. And then we have state violence. We have a country that has the social state, basically, is eliminated. You have the rise of the punishing state. The ongoing militarization of everything, from the police, to the schools, you name it.
So it seems to me that we have to be careful here. We have to be careful in focusing on this violence in a way that loses sight of the more comprehensive and broader context in which violence is taking place in the United States. At another level, we have to be very considerate and concerned about what lessons we can learn from history about this kind of violence. I mean, here’s a president who doesn’t just enable violence. He legitimates it. And he legitimates it in ways that it seems to me works through the language of brutality, the language of cruelty, the language of fear, the language of war, anti-intellectualism. And now with his claim that he’s a nationalist, the language of white supremacy.
MARC STEINER: So you know, I said earlier about laying all thisat Trump’s doorstep. But you know, Trump is- literally I don’t think Trump is saying, calling people and saying send pipe bombs through the mail. But what’s happening here, it seems, what’s being unleashed is something very powerful in our country, which is a right-wing, racist mentality that a lot of people have in America. Clearly not a majority, but a sizable number of people. And for me, the pinnacle was when Obama was president, having a black man in the White House, whether you agreed or disagreed with his policy, there was a black family in the White House, which was anathema to many people. And something’s exploded around Trump’s candidacy and now his presidency that has unleashed this kind of, for want of a better term, fascistic violence and potential violence.
HENRY GIROUX: Absolutely. I mean, I think there are two things going on here, right. I mean, at one level, remember, the question of racism and white supremacy were coded during the the Obama administration. I mean, people actually said that with Obama we had the age of colorblindness, which is- I mean, beyond being ludicrous. But what of course, what happens in the transition to Trump is that all of that changes. All of a sudden you have this emergence of an unapologetic racism, an unapologetic support for white supremacy, and unapologetic sort of indulgence in a culture of cruelty that emerges out of what I call neoliberal fascism. You know, a kind of project in which we celebrate a survival of the fittest ethos. We celebrate a war of all against all. We say there’s only one person left on the island.
And I think when you translate that white supremacy, the racism, into an economic form of more- what I would call a politics of colonization, what you end up doing is you end up eliminating any kind of politics that has a sense of empathy, compassion in some way. He’s [concerned] about civic values, civic institutions. And what’s left is an enormous amount of precarity, an enormous amount of anger, an enormous amount of frustration. And all it takes is for somebody to come along and to mobilize that through a language that basically normalizes violence. I mean, violence has become the organizing principle under Trump of American society. It’s there to solve all problems, as we well know. And it’s done with the divisiveness and a sense of humiliation, and an ongoing, it would seem to be, disparagement of an endless number of groups that provides the basis for a number of extremist groups to believe that they are no longer on the fringes of society. They’re now at the center of power, and they can do what they want.
And what they want to do, basically, is they said, you know, we want to get rid of Jews. We want to get rid of blacks. We want to create a white Christian nation. This is a very dangerous moment. The pipe bomb stuff is important because it symbolizes that we’re moving from an abstract notion of violence to a very concrete, visceral notion of violence in which the body is under attack; in which bodies are being punished.
But remember, bodies are being punished at the border. We have a carceral state with millions of people of color in prison. I mean, we have young people who are being killed in schools. The real issue here is to connect the dots. And if you connect the dots, you have to, I think, in some way come to the conclusion that we don’t live in a democracy anymore. We have tipped over. We are now operating under a fascist politics that’s on the verge of becoming a fascist society. This isn’t just about Donald Trump. This is about whether you want to live in a democracy, or you want to live in an authoritarian society. That’s the divide we’re in. That’s what this violence suggests.
MARC STEINER: Well, let’s talk about this for a moment a couple of ways before we go. First let’s talk about what you just said in the context of what’s happening in the United States right now, and see what you think of this.
So what we’re watching here, this is- even the people who disagreed with Donald Trump during the last election cycle, Republicans and conservatives, real right wingers who disagreed with Trump, didn’t like what he stood for, thought he was the wrong person. But what’s happened now is these forces have kind of united and coalesced in many ways around this presidency. And what is happening here is frightening in that this is being done legally, legislatively, and constitutionally. Packing the courts, and if they control both houses of Congress, passing laws. Doing everything from pulling money out of Medicare, putting more money into the military, taking all the social underpinnings away that people fought for since the 1930s in this country and before.
And so, I mean, that, to me, maybe is one of the greatest dangers this represents, is how this can be done in a way that makes it all fine. Just taking America back in a great democratic way.
HENRY GIROUX: I mean, almost all forms of fascism, with the exception of some of the things you’re seeing happening in Latin America, emerge out of the crisis of democracy. And I think what that means is that we don’t have people marching in the streets so that, you know, just simply taking over buildings. We have a very slow kind of process has been going on for a while in which the basic institutions that make democracy possible are being undermined and are in crisis.
I mean, think about the notion of literacy. You can’t have a democracy without informed citizens. So what happened to the school? They got defunded. They got turned into workstations of idiocy for testing. And that’s for both parties. What’s happened with the question of inequality? It’s now so massive and overwhelming that we’re not talking about the one percent, we’re talking about one tenth of one percent. And what does that mean? That means that economics drives politics.
So I think that what we’re talking about is we’re talking about a fusion of money, politics, and power that in many ways is undermining the very institutions of destroying the very institutions that make a democracy possible. And that’s the real crisis.
MARC STEINER: And if you look at- we were talking before we went on the air together here a bit about history. And I just want to posit this with you, that another thing that I’ve been thinking a great deal about are two different points in history, and what we can learn from them, and what they say about where we are in 2018. One is 1877; 1877, when they killed Reconstruction. The liberal Republicans and redemptionist Democrats came in, put Hayes in the office with a minority of the votes, and started a 90-year reign of terror against black people in the South. After this democracy experiment that they want to kill, which they did kill, called Reconstruction.
Then you can look at 1942 Germany, where the left and liberals, progressives, could never get themselves together to unite in any way, allowing a minority under Adolf Hitler to seize power, start a fascist state, and do what they did. What do we learn from those points in history about where we are today, from your perspective?
HENRY GIROUX: I think we’ve learned two things, that you really put in a relatively eloquent way. And I think that one is that we actually, through legal channels, undermine basic elements of democracy. I mean, what I call legal illegalities take place. All the sudden the law works against democracy. The law is used to justify [inaudible] in power.
Secondly, it seems to me that there’s a lesson here the left of the left has to learn. And that is you can’t exist in siloes, and you can’t mount a third party or you can’t mount a massive social movement unless in some fundamental way you talk about uniting and creating new kinds of political formations not wracked by division, but wracked by unity. This is not to say that differences don’t matter, but we have to understand what it means to bring them together so we can understand their limits in terms of what it would mean to create a larger social movement, so they can get beyond those differences while affirming them at the same time.
MARC STEINER: One of the things you just touched on is something I was going to go to next as we close out, which is just what a response can be. And you know, in the 1930s there was a thing called the United Front, where the people disagreed wth that, or agreed with it, whatever it was. And yes, it was pushed by the Communist Party in America and all the rest. But the idea is in a larger sense that if people don’t see their self-interest in stopping this particular onslaught, we could be in real trouble in America. The question is, how do you get to the place where there’s a unity that actually can confront this and say we’re not going to allow it to happen, we’re not to let them take our country?
HENRY GIROUX: Marc, that implies a very different kind of point that is central to the conversation we’ve just had. And that is education is central to politics. If you can’t change consciousness, if you don’t have a language in which people can invest and suddenly understand the nature of the problems in which they find themselves, if they can’t make a connection from the failure of public schools and the defunding of the socialist state, we’re all in trouble. I mean, we’re in trouble. And until education becomes central to politics and we fight to change consciousness in a way that matters under the banner of what I would call a mobilization for socialist democracy, it’s not going to work.
I mean, until we can do that, until we believe that domination is not always on the side of simply structures, but is on the side of persuasion, on the side of pedagogy, on the side of public education. Then we have to go out and talk to people. You have to work, and you have to imagine a new vision. And the vision that we have to begin with is that capitalism and democracy are not the same. And that secondly, we’re on the verge of a fascist social order.
MARC STEINER: We have to kind of maybe change one of the old slogans and say don’t cringe, organize.
HENRY GIROUX: Absolutely.
MARC STEINER: Henry Giroux, this is just the beginning of our conversation. I look forward to many more with you on this, and others, as well. Always great to talk to you and hear your thoughts. Henry has written a book, his latest: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. And it’s great to have you with us here. Thank you so much for joining us on The Real News.
HENRY GIROUX: Thanks for the great questions, Marc.
MARC STEINER: And I’m here for The Real News Network. Thank you for joining us. We’re going to continue on this, because we need to. I’m Marc Steiner. Take care.