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.
UK’s Johnson admits needing EU support in event of no-deal Brexit
Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, has acknowledged that London would need cooperation from the European Union to cushion potential shocks in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson has repeatedly insisted Britain should leave the bloc on the current deadline of October 31, even if it means walking away with no deal.
But avoiding disruption to borders and business would require the EU's support.
"It's not just up to us, it's up to the other side as well. There's an element of course, a very important element, of mutuality and cooperation in this," he told the BBC in an interview aired on Monday.
Trump to meet Xi, Putin at G20 in Japan
President Donald Trump will meet an array of world leaders on the sidelines of this week's G20 summit in Japan, including China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin, a US official said Monday.
Also on the list are Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Trump will also sit down with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for talks that are especially timely given the soaring tensions between the United States and Iran.
Iran says new ‘mentally retarded’ Trump sanctions mean ‘permanent closure’ of diplomacy
Iran said Tuesday that new US sanctions targeting its supreme leader meant a “permanent closure” of diplomacy, while the country’s president labelled the White House “mentally retarded” as tensions between Tehran and Washington escalated.
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing the sanctions against Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday, taking a dramatic and unprecedented step to increase pressure on Iran after Tehran’s downing of an American drone last week.