October 16, 2016
“In the Grip of the Most Fervent Radicals”

Zoe Williams is talking about British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, BoJo as he’s derisively called by those who think him a clown, “who tries on opinions like clothes, discarding them as the mood and weather takes him.” In the process she makes some cogent observations that might actually find some application here in the States, noting for example that “…we‘re forced to think deeply about the actions of a politician who wouldn‘t himself entertain such an activity for longer than five minutes.”


Only now does the picture solidify: we are in the grip of the most fervent radicals, people willing to sacrifice everything — grants, investment, trade, security, standing, solidarity, legal apparatus built up by decades of painstaking cooperation — at the altar of a concept (sovereignty) that nobody really understands, and a principle (taking back control) that is abstract to the point of meaninglessness.

On this side of the pond, at least, the principle is more readily operationalized. The importance to the Trump campaign of the alt-right and its white nationalists is well understood and agreed to by all sides, though they may differ on the meaning of this collaboration. The concept is thus discerned to be the maintenance of the American tradition that white folks, especially males, stand the top of society’s heap. Of course that’s still the case for professionals, as anyone who’s not a white male can attest. But time was when non-college-educated white males, particularly those in rural areas, the type I grew up around and who constitute Trump’s most reliable demographic group, could in the face of life’s disappointments and humiliations console themselves with the knowledge that at least they were white and thus by definition not at the back of the line. Many of these folks, who in earlier years at least were often poor and thus truly did not feel privileged, now regret the loss of social status they feel as people from other societies and religions are gradually but increasingly accepted as equal Americans.

Many of these people are indeed willing to sacrifice long-standing American traditions — the integrity of the electoral process, the assumption of basic civility among seekers of high office, the condemnation rather than encouragement of violence at political rallies — because they’re just sufficiently pissed off. Having felt anger toward the federal government myself at earlier points in my life I can somewhat relate, but my anger was over Vietnam. Then again, there’s a reasonable chance many of Trump’s supporters are still mad about that one too.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at October 16, 2016 04:26 PM
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"Taking back control" is, indeed, a shibboleth of great emptiness.

But when Ms. Williams alleges that no one understands sovereignty, this is at once a euphemism and a red flag.

Sovereignty is a concept with a precise meaning and a history of intense scrutiny, both theoretical and practical. Perhaps that has all been forgotten; if so, that by itself is a grave problem, if only because it predicts that a tremendous number of other things have been forgotten along with it.

In this context, however, "sovereignty" is merely a solipsistic synonym for "taking back control", i.e. "No one's giving ME any fkkking orders!".

By which we see that the ubiquitous revolt that here goes by the name of Trumpism (and in other places by other names) is really a revolt against accountability, in any amount, of any kind, to any authority. It is infantile and as such deserves no quarter.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on October 16, 2016 8:18 PM
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