BY PAUL STREET
What has been happening in Germany is a matter of the gravest portent for the whole civilized world…The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Even those of the intelligent who believe that they have a nostrum are too individualistic to combine with other intelligent people from whom they differ on minor points.
Bertrand Russell, “The Triumph of Stupidity,” 1933
To follow United States (US) politics and to engage in political discussion and struggle is to confront an endless jaw-dropping stream of lies, nonsense, gaslighting, sheer stupidity, and outrageous verbiage.
Dubya’s Criminal and Moronic “Mission Accomplished from God”
I will never forget George W “Is We Reading Yet?” Bush walking down the long red White House carpet and screwing up his idiot face to order the criminal, mass-murderous, and imperialist invasion of Iraq on the basis of the openly false and idiotic claims that Iraq (a) menaced the US and the world with weapons of mass destruction and (b) was allied with Al Qaeda. Bush Junior later had to change his “justification” for the Crime of the Millennium to the equally moronic claim that the US had invaded Iraq to spread freedom and democracy.
Prior to that shift, he told a delegation of Palestinians that God had told him to occupy Mesopotamia. “I’m driven with a mission from God,” Bush said with no apologies to John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. “God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”
Who can forget his early idiotic claim of “Mission Accomplished” as the invasion was turning into an ugly and prolonged occupation leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths?
“The Way Life Should Be”
Equally memorable was the abject stupidity of a statement by Dubya’s fellow Texas Republican, US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, in an October 2002 speech she gave to Congress on behalf of authorizing the dry drunk Bush to invade Iraq if he wanted to (he did). The United States, Hutchinson informed her fellow Senate was “the beacon to the world of the way life should be” – a remarkable statement from the most savagely unequal, plutocratic, and poverty-ridden state among the world’s rich nations, home to globally unmatched rates of mass incarceration and gun violence along with horrific measures on one key social indicator after another.
Clorox Covid Cures and Marxist Liz Cheney, etc.
I won’t remotely attempt here to capture any but a small droplet of the open idiocy that flowed from the mouth and twitter feed of the maniacal fascist president Donald Trump, the malevolent malignancy who told people to cure Covid 19 with Clorox and ultraviolet lights and who spent four years calling deeply conservative corporate Democrats “the radical Left.”
I recently heard the orange-hued former (and next?) president claim that the far-right Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) is a “RINO [Republican in Name Only] who has thrown in her lot with the radical Left.” Right. And US grade-school teachers are trying to turn children into communists with “Marxist Critical Race Theory.”
And massive carbon emissions are good for us and the planet. And AR-15s are fun and necessary tools to hunt prairie dogs, as Republifascist US Senator Thune (Rf-SD) said the other day, explaining why and his fellow right-wing legislators will shoot down efforts to roll back the insane level of gun carnage in the American Armed Madhouse.
Recently at a funeral I attended, an affluent white male corporate Republican explained rising price inflation to me: “Washington under the socialist Biden is giving everybody big checks not to work and has shut down all the oil pipelines.” This was a moronic narrative planted in my fellow mourner’s head by FOX News. Listening to this shameless twaddle, pronounced in cocksure tone, I was reminded of something the journalist and historian William Shirer wrote about his time in Nazi Germany: “Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was to even try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and form whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were” (Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany [New York: 1959]. p. 248).
See No Evil, Hear No Evil
Sometimes the stupidest thing you can say is nothing at all. Look in this video at the subpoena-dodging putschist Jim Jordan (Rf-TN) during an epic oratorical reaming he and his party get from his fellow House Judiciary Committee member Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA). Swalwell eloquently calls the reptile out as an NRA-sponsored child butcher. The demented House Rep.tile Jordan refuses to look at or listen to his accuser while carrying on a conversation with an aide as its delivered. That speaks volumes.
“100 to 0”
It isn’t just Republicans who say stupid and pathetic stuff, of course. Democrats are addicted to bullshit in their own typically more elegant and educated ways. Swalwell’s speech moronically deleted any call for restoration of the assault weapon ban and a buy-back program to take some of those actual weapons of mass destruction off the streets. A recent MSNBC documentary titled “Love and the Constitution” shows the former Harvard Law Review editor and constitutional law professor and current US House Representative and ongoing Constitution fetishist Jamie Raskin claiming to have believed that House testimony in Trump’s second impeachment trial was going to win a 100-0 Senate vote to convict Trump for January 6th. Seriously?
Barack Obama, “Taliban Grenades,” and “Crazy Stuff”
I’ll never forget then presidential candidate and former Harvard Law Review editor Back Obama telling a foreign policy think in 2006 that the US had invaded Iraq out of an excessive idealist commitment to the spread of democracy. How moronic a thing was that to claim to believe? Obama’s imperialist speech included the insane statement that “we have seen our sons and daughters killed in the streets of Fallujah” – an openly Orwellian reference to the great Iraq city that “our sons and daughters” in the US Marines levelled in one of an epic and one-sided imperial assault. The Obama administration would later absurdly blame the US airpower murder of dozens of Afghan children in the village of Bola Boluk on “Taliban grenades.”
Also memorable was ex-president Obama’s statement on why the Democrats in 2020 needed to nominate a corporate candidate and not one running in accord with majority progressive opinion on behalf of elementarily decent things like Single Payer national health insurance and a Green New Deal: “voters don’t want to see crazy stuff.” Right, “crazy stuff” like health care as a human right and putting people to work slowing the climate catastrophe.
Corn Pop: “Patience” with “the Envy of the World”
And don’t get me started on Joe “You Know the Thing” Biden, the self-described “gaffe machine” who once faced down “Corn Pop” with a “rusty pool chain” back in the day. Sleepytime Joe’s long resume of idiotic statements – examples include “You ain’t Black” and “look, fat”– are worth an entire short book modeled on the hilarious little green volume Quotations from Mayor Daley (1969).
My favorite idiotic statement from Biden came without any verbal stumbles or gaffes. It was uttered after his 2020 election, as the Trump campaign and White House gathered forces for a final fascist assault – physical as well as procedural – on the 2020 electoral count. “Democracy’s sometimes messy,” Biden said. “It sometimes requires a little patience as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.” It was a preposterous statement. As a vast swath of rigorous political and policy research has long shown, there is little real and functioning “democracy” in the 21st Century United States. The popular will is trumped again and again by the superior power of concentrated wealth and by a Minority Rule system that grotesquely overrepresents the nation’s most reactionary racist, sexist, white, and fascist people, regions, and states. The US “system of governance” was never supposed to be a democracy as far as the U.S. Founders were concerned “more than 240 years” ago. Popular self-governance, the rule of the people, was the last thing the new nation’s aristo-republican slave-owners, merchant capitalists, landed gentry, and publicist rulers wanted to see break out in their “infant republic.”
Patience? Imagine how the escaped slave and great abolitionist Frederick Douglass would have responded to Biden’s claim that Americans’ “patience” with their propertied masters’ “system of governance” has been “rewarded for 240 years.” Black chattel slavery lived on for nine decades after the American Revolution, which was driven in no small part by North American leaders’ desire to preserve and expand slavery. It wasn’t for nothing the Douglass’s fellow (if very different) antebellum abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was known to publicly burn the US Constitution, calling it a “covenant with death.” Slavery was protected in the Founders’ holy charter, the parchment behind Biden’s beloved and supposedly “patience”-worthy “system of governance,” which continues to cripple American “democracy” well into the 21st Century. Black slavery came back with another name after another contested election – 1876, which finalized the death of Reconstruction and signaled the nation’s final retreat from any commitment to freeing and empowering the Black masses of the South.
“The People” as “Voters”
Howard Dean’ recently donned a dunce cap on MSNBC by telling a talk show host that only “the people” and “not politicians” can solve the nation’s gun problem and then saying that only “voters” could fix things. Does Dr. Dean not know that voting is the strictly time-staggered ritual where the US-American people qua corporate-managed electorate choose politicians selected in advance for them by the ruling class?
Erasing Women and Girls With “Woke” Idiocy
And then there’s the hyper- and fake-“woke” identitarian idiocy that pervades and cripples US social movements on the ground. I will never forget the time (in the summer of 2014) I politely corrected a Black Lives speaker who said that the killing of a Black person by “could even happen here in Iowa City” by pointing out that Iowa City had been the site of an incident in which a white police officer had murdered a Black man – the killing of John Deng by a Johnson County Sheriff in July of 2009. A white female graduate student lectured me on how “white men have nothing to say at racial justice rallies.” Six years later on the South Side of Chicago, Black Lives activists would not listen to information I had on the potential to powerfully link up two separate racial justice marches (both protesting Kentucky’s decision not to prosecute the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor) because of my race and gender.
(Idiotic standpoint identititarianism is deeply embedded in the American psyche. Recently I participated with some other white folks in the stoppage of traffic on a major thoroughfare and on behalf of women’s abortions rights in Chicago. Two Black men got out of their cars and attacked us claiming that we would not be stopping traffic for Black people. I informed these gentlemen that we had all been in the streets for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Justin Blake and, before that, for Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Chicago’s own Laquan McDonald. After hearing this, one of the two assailants asked me, “so are you saying that you have experienced all the same micro-aggressions and prejudice that I have and go through every day of my life”? I said, “no I don’t think that. I’m not an idiot and I’d have to be an idiot to think that.” He went back to his car before I could tell him that the repeal of abortion rights will inflict special and disproportionate harm on the Black community and Black women.)
I have recently been confronted by destructive uber-“woke” folly in the form of the loony yet cocksure charge that it is “trans-exclusive” and transphobic to specify females as the target of the war on abortion rights. As a friend writes me, some transgender activists “really believe it’s exclusionary and reactionary to dare to talk about ‘forced motherhood’ and ‘women’s oppression.’ Such madness actually happens.”
This is sheer village idiocy. The Christian fascist war on abortion rights is quintessentially about the patriarchal control and oppression of women and girls. The Republifascist enemy is not remotely thinking about transgender folks when it goes after abortion. Calling activists “trans-phobic” and anti-trans for defending “women’s abortion rights” is reactionary madness. The demand that activist language be changed to “people’s abortion rights” is to erase women in the name of “inclusion.” This is like calling for Black Lives Matter to be changed to “All Lives Matter.”
Such hyper-identitarian irrationality has worked its way all the way up to Planned Parenthood (PP). Eager to mess with radical abortions rights activism in accord with its shameful advance surrender to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, PP is down with the preposterous claim that the call for women’s right to an abortion is repressively “gendered” language that oppresses trans people. See this shamelessly stupid PP post on how activists should replace “women” with “people” abortion rights discourse.
In a shameless and transparent hit-job on the radical anti-fascist feminist group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights’ (RU4AR) recent successful actions at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, Dodgers’ Stadium in Los Angeles, and Joel Osteen’s right-wing megachurch in Houston, the liberal zine Jezebel displays extreme identitarian wokeness to rationalize its advance capitulation to the Supreme Court assault on Roe. Jezebel’s Emily Leibert childishly claims that RU4AR’s use of the phrase “female enslavement” is “inappropriate given that the leaders of this group are not Black” (has Emily Leibert ever heard of the great abolitionist leader John Brown?). Leibert says that RU4AR’s “repeated usage of gendered terms …excludes trans and nonbinary pregnant people who need abortion access and care.”
And what are those “gendered” terms, specifically? Answer: “women” and “girls,” half of humanity (!), and “patriarchy,” a supremely significant (to say the least) and longstanding oppression system defense and advance of which is at the very heart of the war on abortion rights.
Some anarchists fall for this women-erasing tripe. See this depressing It’s Going Down post, which glories in the replacement of the RU4AR slogan “Not the Church, Not the State, Women Must Decide Our Fate” with “Fuck the Church, Fuck the State, Only We Decide Our Fate.” Reflecting on this article, whose anarchist author digs how his/her/their allies chided a “Maoist” for using the bourgeois word “women,” Chris C of the Communist Workers Group (CWG) writes the following: “I don’t know how any ‘Leftist’ can write an article on abortion and reproductive rights and only mention ‘women’ once. Kind of difficult to organize and mobilize for women’s liberation if one cannot even use the term.”
Last word to Chris C of the CWG:
‘The attack on abortion rights is fundamentally an attack on women’s rights. It is about the patriarchy and women’s oppression under capitalist society. This is not fundamentally social reaction against trans men, but against biological women. The question of women’s oppression is a key question for social progress and any attempt to create a just and equitable society. It is a strategic question for the working class and the fight for socialism given the role of women in capitalist society, the bourgeois institution of the family and the numerical weight and position of women in the working class…Yes, the democratic rights of LGBTQ people are and will be effected by what happens in regards to abortion rights and they do have an objective interest in defending reproductive rights and fighting for women’s liberation. But let’s not sweep aside and bury women’s oppression in some amorphous “peoples” oppression.’
The “woke” idiocy that Chris C properly denounces is part of the broader triumph of stupidity that is helping sleepwalk us to a late-fascist nightmare.