“The experience of all ages has proved that the people constantly give away their liberties.”
– John Adams
“Man’s dishonesty with himself is his greatest enemy. When he makes a mistake, his memory admits, ‘I have done this,’ but his pride opposes by saying, ‘I cannot have done this,’ and pride wins out over memory.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbor’s shoulder or fly at his throat.”
– Eric Hoffer
“We have developed not only a welfare state with all of its bureaucracy for the poor, but a welfare state for corporations and business interests as well.”
– Henry Steele Commager, Commager on Tocqueville
“Because the American federal government uses mercenaries in warfare and American state governments pay corporations to run prisons, the use of violence in the United States is already highly privatized.”
– Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny
“Rust Belt communities such as the one (Oklahoma City bomber) Timothy McVeigh called home—Lockport, NY— lost manufacturing jobs that never returned, as have blue-collar towns in places far outside the Northeast like Butte, MT…Like the European working class, blue-collar Americans wonder what the promise of global trade has really brought them and when the strength and stability that they remember as children of unionized factory workers will return to their nation’s and their personal lives.”
– Catherine McNicol Stock, Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain
Since the Bolshevik Revolution of 100 years ago, authoritarian governments in the Soviet Union and Russia have depended upon “useful idiots,” (in Lenin’s phrase) in the West to disguise their true motives of tyrannical domination over their neighbors and their fellow citizens.
In Lenin’s and Stalin’s time useful idiots could generally be found on what we all too loosely define as the “left,” among those engaged in a love/hate relationship with capitalism; content to help the Soviets undermine the thing rather than fix it.
Those interested in fixing capitalism (making it work better for more people), whether they called themselves Liberals, Socialists, or even Conservatives, were the targets of Communists within or without the Soviet Empire.
Useful idiots in the media back then were exemplified by the New York Times’ Walter Duranty, who explained away Stalin’s mass murders by gun and starvation as “simply breaking eggs in order to make an omelet.”
Active in labor unions, parts of Hollywood, but in far fewer government positions than Senator Joe McCarthy (R- WI) could fathom, Communists could be found on the fringes of the Democratic Party, especially in the Henry Wallace wing.
In a true spirit of McCarthyism, columnists like Mona Charen and Thomas Sowell, in the name of Conservatism, still point to the left as a place to find useful idiots, but they are “looking for hate in all the wrong places.”
In Putin’s time, useful idiots who are willing to blind themselves to the anti-democratic traditions of the Russian government, are to be found on what we all too loosely define as the “right,” — among those engaged in a love/hate relationship with the U.S. government in general, as well as among extremely wealthy capitalists who consider themselves superior to government of any kind.
Those interested in fixing government (making it work better for more people), whether they call themselves Conservatives, Liberals, or even Socialists, are the targets of these Right Wingers: who may call themselves a Freedom Caucus, a Tea Party, Alt Right or White Nationalist. But these are just euphemisms for what is, essentially, a form of American Fascism with an Anarchist touch, that is a much larger phenomenon than either President Donald Trump’s hands, or his nonsense.
Useful idiots in the media on the right, whether they are aided by Russian sponsored Facebook ads or anti-Obama Birther fantasies, have undermined objective facts, a sense of fairness, even decency, and rule of law, for years on FOX TV, right wing radio, and Steve Bannon’s rantings in all venues possible.
These right wingers are not on the fringes of a Political Party, however. These right wing, useful idiots occupy the heights and the critical core of today’s Republican Party in Congress and the Presidency. Whatever number of them may serve time for legal crimes against constitutional government and rule of law, their central ethical “crime” has been to persuade a critical number of Americans to take leave of their common sense, their moral compass, and their instincts for self preservation.
Some of the worst useful idiots in the service of destroying democracy and the rule of law can be found in the leadership of the NRA (National Rifle Association). The blood of innocents shed at so many churches and schools nowadays, is on their heads as much as on the amateur and professional hate mongers who demagogue the demented into spewing real bullets from automatic weapons to match rhetorical bullets spewing from their speeches, Emails and Facebook platforms. However, there is one who is worse than the moral morons of the NRA, and he occupies the office of Commander in Chief of the United States.
But this is the 2017 United States, not the one of 100 years ago, which took up the mantle of a World Power, laid it down in 1920, and then picked it up for keeps in 1941. This is also not the Russia of 1917, a third rate European power with first rate potential, that is now a major nuclear power to be reckoned with, despite its contempt for democratic norms and procedures, currently shared by the failed billionaire in the White House.
Just how “useful” the “Useful Idiot in Chief” (President Donald Trump) is for Vladimir Putin’s “new” Russian Empire remains to be seen. From Putin’s point of view the results have to be mixed. On the one hand, Donald Trump has done a wonderful job (from a pro-despotic point of few) of f*cking up those aspects of government which enhance middle class democracy, without really helping all but the greediest among capitalists, large or small, who might benefit from such an irrational diminution in government regulation.
On the other hand, Trump hasn’t delivered on the cessation of the Magnitsky Act and other sanctions by Congress which drive Putin crazy, according to experts on the subject left over from the Clinton, Obama, and two Bush administrations, who can no longer find work in President Trump’s “New World (Dis) Order.”
“Pussy Riot,” and their admiration for American anti-establishment movements of the 1960s, is bad enough, but Trump’s all-out rhetorical war on Islam inflames Muslims all around the southern rim of Russia. And Trump’s “Little Rocket Man” in North Korea has some seriously “big” nuclear shit that is much closer to Russian than American territory.
Maybe the real “useful idiot” here was Putin, not the con man who bluffed his way into the Presidency, selling the same baloney to the Russian oligarchs that he sold to the American people. If the former KGB operative ever gets that idea, he will have motive to bring Trump down.
Putin’s opportunities, as Russian intervention in the U.S. 2016 election clearly shows, are many. In that case, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, or his successor, may soon be interviewing some “useful idiots” who speak Russian as their native tongue.