Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The US Election: A Choice Bettween Two Forms of Violence

There should be a plural term for violences. This would help us to talk about and choose between different forms of violence. Today, it would seem, with the US election, this would mean judging between different brands of violence, in the sense of product lines. Calculated, targeted and intimidating violence – the violence of drones for example, compared to inflammatory, provocative and intimidating violence – the violence of terrorism. Today the American people will have to choose between two forms of violence. The system, represented by Hillary Clinton and the anti-system conjured up by Donald Trump. In my blog post on the subject I have actively tried to avoid using broad terms like ‘fascism’ or ‘totalitarianism’. Such terms function to stop thought and end judgement by precluding discrimination. They are used to mobilise an attitude that pre-empts scrutiny, or even interest. If something is fascist or totalitarian we should be able to ask what kind it is and how bad it might be, but the history of fascism makes such questions taboo.
For the first Time I break this rule. Donald Trump is a fascist. Do not vote for him. He draws on all the violence of the extreme capitalist market place, combines it with the showmanship and cartoonish flamboyancy of the games show. And applies it to mobilising violence against minorities, supposedly in the name of ‘making America great again’. It is not merely Trumps own personality that has caused this, however narcissistic or bigoted it may be. Trump is able to fund his own campaign, hardly any strings attached, and the voters who see trump as an alternative to the rotten political system they are living under love him for it. This is more than about personality politics. This is also a weakness however. Trump is on his own. There are no Trump Stormtroopers. He has not created an organised movement. He is the personification of the late capitalist spectacle. He draws a crowd, creates an audience, goads them into exuberance and, as a master of the political branch of the entertainment industry, gets votes. Trump draws his support from the energy and thrill of violation. The American media and marketplace is constantly stimulating people and putting them on edge, yet it is remarkably dull and bland. It makes the violation of norms seem ‘authentic’ and ‘real’. By violating people and processes, speaking the unspeakable, and breaking the will of the conventional Trump creates a reality. This is a politics of turnout, not organising or creating a political machine ready to change America. It is for this reason that if elected, Trump will find himself having his strings pulled by establishment republicans, like his vice chancellor, Mike Pence. However, I also think that if Trump wins it leads to war or dictatorship because these are the only ways to control the expectations and forces such a call unleashes. America won’t tolerate dictatorship so it leads to war, external against whoever gets on the wrong side of America, and internal against minorities.
However, violence of a different kind has already been taking place against Americans of colour and those who are poor. Over 50 million who are eligible are not registered to vote, and over the last decade more than ten million, in homes and households where people are registered, have lost jobs in manufacturing. In Brexit Britain we are told that many voted to leave the EU because the health service is under pressure, because housing is costly when it exists and because incomes have flatlined.   However, in the US is there is no NHS or social security net. It is a brutal country. Its wealth makes this worse. While Trump supporters are not exclusively poor, many have experience hardships that Trumps rhetoric appeals to pose an alternative to. Hilary Clinton personifies the system violence of the past thirty tears that has created this situation. From the industrial incarceration of black people, the job losses of globalisation without counter measures to the Iraq war. Now Hillary agrees that invading Iraq was a mistake, but she remains an interventionist and cold warrior, fully engaged with the traditional projection of American power, and of course Wall Street. Those who simply want to remove this reality are worse than na├»ve.
Of course, many of the people who are voting for Hillary or Trump have their reasons for doing so, and I am not going to tell you how to vote. However, we will inevitably see a continuation of traditional American violence. When Barack Obama still appeared as an outsider candidate in 2008, he described his foreign policy as ‘don’t do stupid shit’. Today its miserable imperative is an essential instruction as to how Americans should vote: Don’t do stupid shit!

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