Since Trump’s inauguration, we have been at war. We may not want the war, but Trump does. The battlefields are the media of communication. At stake is control of the American Government in an epochal contest for the future of civilization. The daily assault on our credulity and attention is a calculated tactic in the war.
I am not reading tea leaves, not guessing by piecing together bits of evidence. Theorists in the Trump Administration publicly espouse total communications warfare. According to statements by thinkers like Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, the 2016 Presidential campaign waged by Trump was to be the first in a perpetual series of belligerent acts, his Presidency, if won, to be an extension of that horrible campaign, the most vicious in modern American history. In better times, a Presidential election provided citizens with relief from the rhetoric. As far as Trump is concerned, the war has just begun.
I encourage readers to access a memo written by a senior member of The National Security Council, Rich Higgins, before he was fired by General H. R. McMaster in May. The memo was reproduced in full by the highly-respected Foreign Policy blog,
It is a remarkable document. It articulates the alt-right ideology completely and comprehensively. Higgins is correct in so many ways. He accurately exposes the various channels of communication used in political warfare. In one sense, the document is rational and astute – even brilliant. But it is an evil manifesto because its author believes that people have a malleable moral center that can be influenced by controlling the daily news cycle. He (and presumably Bannon, Miller and Trump) does not acknowledge an absolute distinction between political right and wrong, between good and evil.
Rich Higgins, Alt-Right Theorist
Higgins unabashedly espouses the legitimacy of racism, xenophobia, sexism, nativism, militarism, etc.. According to him, people (like me) who consider such attitudes morally repugnant are duped victims of “cultural Marxism”. They are convinced that people who speak of Trump as illegitimate, corrupt and dishonest do so because they are misguided, because they have been persuaded by “pseudo-publicity” (fake news). They give no credence to the notion that people have deep-seated values that are impervious to the news cycle.
Higgins provides a list of entities that collaborate and inter-operate against the Trump regime. This is sickeningly reminiscent of Hitler’s worldview expressed in Mein Kampf. The list includes governments participating in international trade groups like the EU, their citizenries, Academe, news organizations, urban real estate owners, the “deep state”, Islamists (non-Christians), traditional Republicans, Democrats, and others. These powerful groups are THE ENEMY. Higgins does not agree to disagree with us according to the norms of a democracy. Rather, he justifies a crusade and invokes the norms of total war, a moral climate in which countless harmful and evil actions are justifiable in order to win an ultimate victory. To an amoral theorist like Higgins, polarization (our enemies vs. us) is a good thing and democracy be damned. This is war!
The Foreign Policy article explains that there is a power struggle within the White House. Higgins’ firing reflects the National Security Council (NSC) Chief H. R. McMaster’s more traditional worldview – fewer enemies, diplomatic tactics, decorum. McMaster fired Steve Bannon’s man Higgins when he read the memo and wants to fire the people to whom the memo was circulated. Trump and Bannon have said no to further dismissals. Bannon, who McMaster recently ousted from the NSC, is conducting a propaganda campaign on the alt-right internet hoping to incite anti-McMaster sentiment.
That’s interesting, inside-baseball stuff. But Trump is Commander in Chief in this 21st Century war, and his daily tweets and on-camera statements are clear evidence that he fully embraces the wartime tactics and strategies espoused by Higgins, Bannon, Trump Junior, and Stephen Miller. I suspect that General McMaster himself has not been fired because the Department of Defense and the United States Senate still hold considerable power in Washington. Firing McMaster would be seen as an attempted coup d’état by the two institutions who remain capable of thwarting some of Trump’s agenda.
Higgins believes that controlling the daily news cycle in a perpetual campaign is the primary function of Trump’s Presidency, an overriding objective that supersedes any other. We can expect daily outrages for the foreseeable future. (Aargh!) Ideological Trumpists consider the distinctions between campaigning and governing to be inconsequential and counter- productive. They do not care whether their governing decisions are harmful so long as those decisions can be represented as consistent with the racist, chauvinistic, sexist, militaristic, etc. memes to which their voting base adheres.
The anxiety and tension we suffer these days is a form of battle fatigue. Be prepared for much more of the same.