Endorsing a giant meteor strike in 2020

It’s been a hell of a year so far, it isn’t even half over yet, and on top of all that, it is an election year, in which a delusional raging narcissist-in-chief[1] faces an ostensible challenge from the neoliberal (so-called “Democratic”) party, which demonstrates its own relative lack of interest in actually winning with an astonishingly weak presumptive nominee.[2] Against a pandemic, white supremacist protests against the lockdown meant to limit the contagion, a recession, and anti-racism protests, all crises which Donald Trump has at least exacerbated, and for which we ought therefore to have some considerable interest in removing him, the election does indeed seem minor.

It’s even more minor than it seems.

But to understand this, we need to understand the conflict from the perspective of, arguably, the worst actors on display, whose grievances predate Trump’s rise to the White House, whose grievances are in fact exacerbated by his handling of these crises, and how these actors in fact serve the interests of their ostensible opposition.

From my dissertation:

There is a confusion, and not just in the South, about the Civil War that denies that the South seceded to preserve the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery (Blight, April 8, 2013;[3] Coates, June 22, 2015;[4] Griffin, 2004;[5] LaFantasie, December 19, 2010;[6] O’Hehir, January 5, 2013;[7] Richter, October 7, 2013;[8] Terbush, September 22, 2012;[9] Thompson, 2013;[10] Willman, September 24, 2012[11]). For many, the Confederate battle flag instead represents an assertion of tradition, identity, and heritage that many authoritarian populists in particular seem to pit against, among other things, federal domination, education, and the intellect, all seen as arrogant and elitist. I would further suggest that the military defeat of the Confederacy seems to fit with the authoritarian populist and paleoconservative self-images of being under siege (Frank, 2005;[12] Griffin;[13] Kimmel, November 17, 2013;[14] Robertson, Davey, & Bosman, June 23, 2015;[15] Thompson[16]). The conflict that surrounds the Civil War and persists to this day invokes a ‘state’s rights’ argument that also rationalizes racism, slavery, Jim Crow, and efforts to roll back voting rights. I cannot help but suspect that this underlies attitudes toward undocumented migration as well. [footnotes added][17]

In essence, a bunch of issues get confounded, as is typical for authoritarian populism, into an incoherent ideological position. A secession to preserve slavery[18] combines with an assertion of states’ rights (originally to preserve slavery, then to protect segregation, bigotry, and discrimination) to support alleged individual rights to communicate the novel coronavirus[19] and to carry even weapons that are only useful against large groups of human beings[20] in a pattern that repeats with the anti-lockdown protests:

Altogether, protesters are more likely to target states with Democratic governors. Residents in states with more liberal ideologies are more likely to submit applications for guns and purchase ammunition during COVID-19. With anxieties being high, it is plausible to assume that people are purchasing guns to protect their families. While this may be occurring to a certain extent, the protests and the protesters themselves paint a very different picture. Anti-lockdown protesters are overwhelmingly conservative and white. Protests from Michigan to North Carolina are laced with right-wing and racist slogans and images such as dolls hanging from nooses, Nazi propaganda, and confederate flags. It seems anti-lockdown protests to express the 1st and 2nd amendments are masks for racism and the pursuit of an America that once was. This is a pattern we all should worry about.[21]

That said, as I retrieved some of the sources I cite here, I saw again the connection between authoritarian populism and economic immiseration drawn also with white supremacism (paleoconservatism):[22]

What is truly bizarre to me, however, is to see photographs of protesters against measures to protect human life.[23] In these protests, dangerous and delusional raging narcissistic bullshit[24] has become “truth,” dependence upon capitalism has become “independence,” and wage slavery has become “freedom.” Much of this doublethink[25] is, of course, precisely what capitalist libertarians and neoliberals want us to believe.[26] It props up that neoliberal house of cards built on low wages and debt slavery.[27] And I think most people buy into it to some degree with a self-hatred in

[a] core element of the American credo . . . that talent, skill, hard work, and achievement largely determine life chances. We believe that everyone has a fair shot at whatever is valued or prized and that no individual or group is unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged.[28]

But when this confusion means killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is.[29]

We needed to take care of people. Not only has the political elite not done this, they have refused to do so.[30]

Why? Because on a certain level, the unrest actually serves the purposes of a bipartisan racist and classist political hierarchy that is determined to preserve its own privileges and power over the rest of the population[31] and has mostly ignored protests against police and other systemic racism for over a century[32] just fine. We see gun-toting white supremacist protests against the lockdown from the far right,[33] which support a rush to reopen the economy and thus to offer human sacrifices to a capitalist god,[34] and we see protests against racism from the Left.[35]

The polarization divides us against ourselves even as some of our grievances commonly reduce to class.[36] Thus divided, we turn away from the crimes of the elite,[37] including that rush to reopen the economy,[38] even as these crimes reinforce the crisis of illegitimate authority that undermines a public health response to the pandemic.[39]

It’s hard to see here how elites are much interested in combatting racism or the coronavirus. On the other hand, they clearly profit from the normal operation of the economy, which they seek to restore as quickly as they think they can get away with.[40]

Meanwhile, we have an ostensible contest for the White House pitting a black hole incumbent who keeps getting worse and worse—there seems to be no bottom to him—and who seemingly thrives on authoritarian populist and white supremacist (paleoconservative) conflict with anyone not so far to the right against a party that seems content to blame him for the unrest.[41]

I hear these yard signs (figure 1) are more popular in other areas of the country than I’ve seen in Pittsburgh:
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Fig. 1. Yard sign available through Amazon, fair use.

It’s hard to see a sensible alternative.

  1. [1]Narcissistic rage is described in George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counselling Resource, July 24, 2017, https://counsellingresource.com/features/2017/07/24/understanding-narcissistic-rage/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “Joe Biden and justice delayed,” Not Housebroken, March 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/03/joe-biden-and-justice-delayed/
  3. [3]David W. Blight, “The Civil War Isn’t Over,” Atlantic, April 8, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-civil-war-isnt-over/389847/
  4. [4]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “What This Cruel War Was Over,” Atlantic, June 22, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/
  5. [5]Larry T. Griffin, “Whiteness and Southern Identity in the Mountain and Lowland South,” Journal of Appalachian Studies 10, no. 1/2 (2004): 7-37.
  6. [6]Glenn W. LaFantasie, “How the South rationalizes secession,” Salon, December 19, 2010, https://www.salon.com/test/2010/12/19/lafantasie_south_secession/
  7. [7]Andrew O’Hehir, “Welcome to the new Civil War,” Salon, January 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/01/05/welcome_to_the_new_civil_war/
  8. [8]Stephan Richter, “Shutdown shows the Civil War never ended,” Salon, October 8, 2013, https://www.salon.com/2013/10/07/shutdown_shows_the_civil_war_never_ended_partner/
  9. [9]Jonathan Terbush, “Lynyrd Skynyrd calls Confederate Flag racist, prompts fan revolt,” Raw Story, September 22, 2012, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/09/22/lynyrd-skynyrd-calls-confederate-flag-racist-prompts-fan-revolt/
  10. [10]Tracy Thompson, “The South still lies about the Civil War,” Salon, March 16, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/03/16/the_south_still_lies_about_the_civil_war/
  11. [11]Chris Willman, “Lynyrd Skynyrd Backtracks On Comments, Proudly Lets Confederate Flag Fly,” Yahoo!, September 24, 2012, http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/stop-the-presses/lynyrd-skynyrd-backtracks-comments-proudly-lets-confederate-flag-003332446.html
  12. [12]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005)
  13. [13]Larry T. Griffin, “Whiteness and Southern Identity in the Mountain and Lowland South,” Journal of Appalachian Studies 10, no. 1/2 (2004): 7-37.
  14. [14]Michael Kimmel, “America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy,” Salon, November 17, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/11/17/americas_angriest_white_men_up_close_with_racism_rage_and_southern_supremacy/
  15. [15]Campbell Robertson, Monica Davey, and Julie Bosman, “Calls to Drop Confederate Emblems Spread Nationwide,” New York Times, June 23, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/us/south-carolina-nikki-haley-confederate-flag.html
  16. [16]Tracy Thompson, “The South still lies about the Civil War,” Salon, March 16, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/03/16/the_south_still_lies_about_the_civil_war/
  17. [17]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  18. [18]David Benfell, “How many times must it be explained that the Civil War was about the preservation of slavery?” Not Housebroken, June 12, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/12/how-many-times-must-it-be-explained-that-the-civil-war-was-about-the-preservation-of-slavery/
  19. [19]David Benfell, “Nonhuman animal flesh, race, capitalism, and the novel coronavirus,” Not Housebroken, May 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/26/nonhuman-animal-flesh-capitalism-and-the-novel-coronavirus/
  20. [20]David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/
  21. [21]Rashawn Ray and Rebecca Shankman, “How COVID-19 is changing the gun debate,” Brookings, June 17, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2020/06/17/how-covid-19-is-changing-the-gun-debate/
  22. [22]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126); Michael Kimmel, “America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy,” Salon, November 17, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/11/17/americas_angriest_white_men_up_close_with_racism_rage_and_southern_supremacy/; Stephan Richter, “Shutdown shows the Civil War never ended,” Salon, October 8, 2013, https://www.salon.com/2013/10/07/shutdown_shows_the_civil_war_never_ended_partner/
  23. [23]Ryan Deto, “Photos: About 120 protest in Downtown Pittsburgh, calling for Pennsylvania to reopen during coronavirus pandemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 20, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/photos-about-120-protest-in-downtown-pittsburgh-calling-for-pennsylvania-to-reopen-during-coronavirus-pandemic/Content?oid=17167012; Jamie Martines And Tom Davidson, “Protesters in Pittsburgh demand Gov. Wolf to reopen businesses amid coronavirus pandemic,” Tribune-Review, April 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/protesters-gather-in-pittsburgh-demanding-gov-wolf-reopen-businesses-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/
  24. [24]Marilynn Marchione, “Heart woes spur partial stop of malaria drug study for virus,” Washington Post, April 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/heart-woes-spur-partial-stop-of-malaria-drug-study-for-virus/2020/04/13/c6460050-7db6-11ea-84c2-0792d8591911_story.html; Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump wants to lift lockdowns. Other countries’ attempts show why the U.S. isn’t ready,” Washington Post, April 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/04/21/trump-wants-lift-lockdowns-other-countries-attempts-show-why-us-isnt-ready/; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/
  25. [25]George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Signet, 1977).
  26. [26]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  27. [27]David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/
  28. [28]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 3.
  29. [29]David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/
  30. [30]David Benfell, “As we cower in our apartments,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/06/as-we-cower-in-our-apartments/; David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/
  31. [31]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/
  32. [32]David Benfell, “Pieties in defense of the status quo,” Not Housebroken, June 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/03/pieties-in-defense-of-the-status-quo/; David Benfell, “What are ‘proper directions’ for protest when peaceful protest is for naught?” Not Housebroken, June 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/29/what-are-proper-directions-for-protest-when-peaceful-protest-is-for-naught/; David Benfell, “The reason the status quo is not the answer is that the status quo cannot be the answer,” Not Housebroken, June 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/01/the-reason-the-status-quo-is-not-the-answer-is-that-the-status-quo-cannot-be-the-answer/
  33. [33]David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/
  34. [34]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/
  35. [35]David Benfell, “Pieties in defense of the status quo,” Not Housebroken, June 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/03/pieties-in-defense-of-the-status-quo/; David Benfell, “What are ‘proper directions’ for protest when peaceful protest is for naught?” Not Housebroken, June 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/29/what-are-proper-directions-for-protest-when-peaceful-protest-is-for-naught/; David Benfell, “The reason the status quo is not the answer is that the status quo cannot be the answer,” Not Housebroken, June 4, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/06/01/the-reason-the-status-quo-is-not-the-answer-is-that-the-status-quo-cannot-be-the-answer/
  36. [36]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works,’” Not Housebroken, March 19, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2012/03/19/we-need-to-know-how-it-works/
  37. [37]Herbert Gans, The War Against the Poor (New York: Basic, 1995); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Pearson, 2004).
  38. [38]David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/
  39. [39]David Benfell, “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority,” Not Housebroken, May 14, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/12/the-pandemic-and-a-crisis-of-illegitimate-authority/
  40. [40]David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/
  41. [41]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “Joe Biden and justice delayed,” Not Housebroken, March 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/03/joe-biden-and-justice-delayed/

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