Sometimes, it’s only when you’re on the outside looking in that you can perceive the real truth of a situation.
This appears to be the case for Max Boot, a conservative pundit who has become disillusioned with the right wing and the Republican Party since the rise of President Donald Trump. Boot has already publicly announced that he was wrong for supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and he left the GOP in disgust at its current state. And in a new column for the Washington Post this week, he expressed more regret about his past in the conservative movement — in particular, his engagement in the anti-intellectual rhetoric common on the right.
“I used to think right-wing anti-elitism against the intellectuals — in contrast to the left-wing anti-elitism against the rich — was innocuous and even well-warranted,” he wrote. “While warning of the dangers of populism, I sometimes indulged in this kind of posturing myself. Like a lot of conservative eggheads, I imagined that, even though I lived among the coastal elite, I was expressing the wisdom of the heartland.”
He added: “I now realize that these stereotypes are lazy, stupid and dangerous.”
It’s dangerous, of course, because anti-intellectual rhetoric is a common tool of authoritarians seeking to undermine anyone who could challenge them. Boot noted that Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong all demonized and went after intellectuals they feared. These actions mirror Trump’s attacks on experts and the media, whom Trump calls “the enemy of the people,” echoing Stalin himself.
Of course, intellectuals and commentators aren’t without their faults. Boot himself, as a backer of the Iraq War, would be a prime example of their failings. But anti-intellectualism — denunciations of the “chattering class” — was itself a disturbing trait of the second Bush administration as it devised to bring the country to war, with horrifying consequences. Public intellectuals aren’t above criticism, but a political ideology that denounces them as illegitimate should be feared.
When someone like Trump wields anti-intellectualism and hostility to public figures who can challenge him, it’s a clear sign we’re on a perilous path.
“In the United States, to be sure, it will not lead to Stalinist show trials, a Cultural Revolution or the ‘killing fields,’ but it could conceivably lead to the kind of soft authoritarianism that Viktor Orban has imposed in Hungary,” wrote Boot. “President Trump shows his eagerness to imitate the dictators by calling the news media ‘the enemy of the people’ and denouncing his critics as traitors. The president’s hateful rhetoric encouraged one supporter to mail pipe bombs to prominent liberals and journalists, and could yet spark greater violence.”
He also speculated that Trump’s anger toward the media and others comes not just from cynical political motives but arises from his fragile ego.
“More than a political threat, the chattering classes are a psychological threat: They feed Trump’s insecurities because he knows they view him as a buffoonish ignoramus, not as the ‘‘extremely stable genius’ that he so desperately wants to be,” said Boot.
Donald Trump is making a mockery of Marco Rubio — and the Florida senator is letting him
Sen. Marco Rubio was once one of Donald Trump’s most formidable opponents; now, the Florida senator bends over backward to excuse the president’s corruption.
In 2016, Rubio and Trump sparred frequently on the Republican primary debate stage. Trump picked the uninspired nickname “Little Marco” for the senator, which didn’t seem to do much damage on its own, but Rubio never gained the momentum or strength that his backers hoped would prove to be strong enough to take down the reality TV candidate. As Rubio grew desperate, he launched one of his most memorable and pitiful attacks by stooping to his opponent’s level, implying that Trump had a small penis. It was more of an embarrassing moment for Rubio than anyone else, though Trump helped himself with a crude rejoinder.
The faith of Fox News: How the network’s propaganda warps viewers’ sense of reality
A longtime sticking point among Fox News employees is their insistent differentiation between its news division, where employees practice actual journalism, and its opinion division, where employees practice actual nativism, spew misinformation, and have been actively campaigning for Donald Trump’s re-election since 2016. Inside the organization, they claim to believe that the news side is separate from the opinion side, and insist that the audience can tell the difference.
News anchor Shepard Smith once characterized comparing the two as “apples and teaspoons.”
Maddow warns Russia is interfering in the 2020 election in ‘exactly the same way’ as they did in 2016
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday warned that Russia and the Republicans are running the "exact same play" against Democrats in 2020 -- and this time will be aided by the United States Justice Department.
"And they are playing it again already for the next election. And some of it is happening just like it did in 2016. And some of it is worse and I think it’s going to be more powerful than it was in 2016. In part because this is a second draft for these guys, right? They ran this play in 2016. They worked out some of the kinks," she explained. "Now they’ll do it again with the benefit of knowing what worked for them and what didn’t work the first time around. It’s a second draft. It’s going to be better and more polished."