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.
Top South Dakota Republicans face investigation for appearing to be drunk during crucial coronavirus session
Lawmakers in South Dakota are investigating whether or not Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer (R) was drunk during a meeting earlier this week -- a meeting that dealt with new legislation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the Rapid City Journal reports.
Another South Dakota Republican, Brock Greenfield, is also under investigation for his conduct during the meeting.
"Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak," the Journal reports. "As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee."
‘Modern piracy’: Germany accuses Trump of stealing N95 masks it ordered from factory in China
The German government is accusing the U.S. government of stealing N95 masks that it had ordered from a factory based in China that's run by American company 3M.
The Guardian reports that the German government claims that "200,000 N95 masks made by the manufacturer 3M were diverted to the U.S. as they were being transferred between planes in Thailand."
Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin state, said that the American seizure of masks that were set to go to Germany was "an act of modern piracy" and warned that continuing to take such actions could create chaos across the globe.
New Mavis Staples song to help Chicago seniors hit by virus
Soul legend Mavis Staples on Friday released a new charity song, "All In It Together", to raise funds to help elderly people in Chicago through the coronavirus.
Produced by Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco fame, 80-year-old Staples said the song "speaks to what we're going through now".
"Everyone is in this together, whether you like it or not," said the veteran civil rights campaigner, who first shot to fame with The Staples Singers.
"It doesn't matter how much money you have, what race or sex you are... it can still touch you. It's hit so many people in our country and around the world in such a horrible way and I just hope this song can bring a little light to the darkness."