April 6, 2016 by AK
An interesting story in The New York Times by Zeynep Tufekci, Adventures in the Trump Twittersphere.
It was actually the author’s name that caught my eye and made me start reading. The first name is a variation on the female Arabic name Zaynab. The last name (Tüfekçi) – even I could figure out – means “gun maker” or “gun seller.” The Russian word tyufyak used to mean, among other things, an old-fashioned cannon, like a primitive mortar.
And then there was this:
When I first came to this country from Turkey as a graduate student in the late 1990s, I was something of an anomaly: an adult foreigner with white skin who was fluent in English but not a native.
Unusual in the South, I would add: the author settled in the capital of Texas. They say that “Austin is not Texas” – as in “Moscow is not Russia” – but it’s still below the Mason-Dixon line. I was a graduate student in the South about the same time so I can relate to the author’s experience. I can ignore her unwarranted condescension to get through to the worthwhile observations:
For example, academic research shows that rather than deep cuts, Tea Party voters actually favor government programs, as long as they perceive a benefit for themselves.
Does it mean these people kept voting Republican for decades out of sheer spite, hoping the GOP would finally stop all government programs favoring various Others? That would be more Russian than American. In Russian culture, this behavioral pattern is called “I’ll freeze off my ears to spite Grandma.” It’s puzzling.
It’s fairly obvious that the current model of global trade provides a lot more benefits to corporations than to workers, and yet it took Mr. Trump’s rise to have this basic issue widely covered.
For the sake of clarity, let’s say the benefits accrue to shareholders and senior executives rather than lower-level employees. Talking of corporations in general is too vague.
I’m not arguing with the thesis – yes, the corporate elite is grotesquely overcompensated – but what took people so long to figure it out? And why had opposition to unrestricted free trade been kept on the margins of political discourse until Trump came along?
Edward Luttwak published The Endangered American Dream: How to Stop the United States from Becoming a Third World Country and Win the Geo-Economic Struggle for Industrial Supremacy in 1993. He misidentified America’s principal adversary as Japan; substitute China, and his arguments could be coming from the keyboards of the better educated Trump supporters.
In 1994, Luttwak also published an article in The London Review of Books, a high-quality left-leaning journal, under the title Why Fascism is the Way of the Future. He argued that the technological evolution of the late 1980s and early 1990s had led to poorer job security for the social groups below the upper middle class, and that service jobs replacing production-related ones were inherently less stable, in addition to paying no more than their predecessors. That, in Luttwak’s view, spawned demand for a fascist policy:
And that is the space that remains wide open for a product-improved Fascist party, dedicated to the enhancement of the personal economic security of the broad masses of (mainly) white-collar working people. Such a party could even be as free of racism as Mussolini’s original was until the alliance with Hitler, because its real stock in trade would be corporativist restraints on corporate Darwinism, and delaying if not blocking barriers against globalisation.
As I’ve said, Trump is not a fascist; in any case, I have warmed up to him since I stopped watching his campaign entirely through the eyes of the mainstream media. But if Trump’s electorate does not get at least a fraction of its wishes, a hyper-Trump will arise and won’t be amusing.
(To be continued)