Donald Trump certainly isn't the only overlord who "loves the poorly educated," and who has a vested interest in keeping the population dumbed down and perpetually ignorant and apathetic, and even beginning to die off at an alarming new rate.
Indeed, you have to search very hard to find the New York Times article on this important legal challenge to our two-tiered, class and race-based education system. The legal relief sought by the plaintiffs is simply acknowledgment that a liberal education is a basic human right. It is probably no accident that the story is buried under the usual avalanche of All Trump Scandals, All the Time, alongside the usual near-hysterical demands for social media censorship of freelance political discourse, and the drumbeats for war on Russia and China.
As a matter of fact, one of the plaintiffs in the Rhode Island lawsuit complains that of the two "social studies" courses she did take during high school, the only things she remembers learning about were America's relentless wars. She didn't learn about the three branches of government, or about how to judge political candidates. She simply wants to "know what I don't know."
The case is riding a wave of bipartisan anxiety about a national lack of civic engagement and knowledge, from voter participation rates that are among the lowest in the developed world to pervasive disinformation on social media.Fewer than half the states hold schools accountable for teaching civics, according to a review in 2016 by the Education Commission of the States. Only 23 percent of American eighth graders were proficient in civics on the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test that included questions on the Constitution and the roles of the various branches of government.Rhode Island does not require schools to offer courses in government or civics, does not require standardized tests in those subjects or in history, and does not provide training for teachers in civics, the lawsuit says.When our "bipartisan" politicians can't even agree to pass gun control legislation to keep weapons out of schools, can we really expect these oligarchy-beholden lawmakers to mandate the teaching of civics and critical thinking skills in the nation's public school classrooms? Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for one, would rather arm teachers with guns than arm them with the resources and training to turn America's youth into thinking adults with the basic skills to detect political fraudulence and double-talk whenever they hear it.
The Rhode Island lawsuit faces a tough road, especially if the case ends up in the arch-conservative Supreme Court. Ironically, as the Times reports, it was an opinion written by Justice Lewis Powell, of infamous "corporate memo" fame, that may provide the opening for a positive decision. He sided with the dissenting Justice Thurgood Marshall in writing that "educational inequality might rise to the level of a constitutional violation if it prevented students from exercising their right to speak and to vote.'"
Ironically (or not) the Times and the consolidated corporate media at large themselves make it hard, if not impossible, for the educated and non-educated alike to exercise their rights to stay informed and educated. Even if poor students are gifted with free copies of the Paper of Record as part of a new civics lexicon, their learning will be largely be limited to what Trump is tweeting about today, or what new scandal has embroiled him and his gene pool.
There is a method to the madness of the Trump era.
In the latest psychotic episode, students of all ages and backgrounds learned that Trump's lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a caper involving a new Trump luxury tower in Moscow, a doomed real estate/attempted bribery deal that was in the works at the same time that Trump was an active presidential candidate.
We learned that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is nevertheless persisting in his own real estate negotiations with Trump for a big beautiful bipartisan wall to keep immigrants out.
Just because Trump is a dangerous xenophobe doesn't mean that xenophobia doesn't still deserve its proper place in the cruel Neoliberal World Order. Hillary Clinton delivered her own psychotic civics lecture to Europe recently, warning them to keep out the refugees from the wars that she herself had voted for or even directly instigated -- lest more Trump-like demagogues rear their ugly racist heads in response to those utterly deplorable racist populations.
Trump, meanwhile, is calling the Mueller investigation a "fake witch hunt."
This is an example of the chronic double-think strategy beloved of authoritarian leaders. If he really thought the probe was unfair, he would not have inserted the word "fake" before witch hunt. Taken literally, the phrase would mean that it is not a true witch hunt at all, but a legitimate investigation. Trump's own definition of witch hunt is any normal criminal investigation against him, his family and associates. It lays bare his belief that criminal investigations of criminals are bogus on their face and that habitual criminals like him should be immune from the penal code. He thinks that double negatives are a net positive for him.
Besides, "fake" is one of the most overused words in his limited vocabulary. All news which paints him in a bad light - and that is at least 99% of all news about Donald Trump - is fake by definition. But, using classic double-think strategy, he isn't complaining too much. He still craves the media and makes himself regularly and enthusiastically available for interviews and press conferences.
Of course, this does not mean that all bad news about Trump is itself honest and fact-based. The recent Guardian piece, for example, claiming that convicted fraudster and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met secretly in broad daylight with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange on several occasions is already falling apart at its anonymously-sourced seams. Therefore a former CIA operative who now writes satirical fiction published a bizarre piece in Politico defending the Guardian journalists who wrote the story. These reporters are such great professionals, the former CIA spook writes, that they were obviously just the latest hapless victims of Russian disinformation fraud.
So you can see that the current epidemic of Doublethink is not just limited to Trump. The message of the Politico article is similarly self-contradictory. The reporters are both smart and incredibly stupid at the exact same time. How were they to know that Trump himself could very well be the planter of the hit piece, or at least the co-planter, along with Putin?
And it's a fake-real war. It allows Donald Trump to control every news cycle, and it allows lazy corporate journalists to grandstand and showboat as martyrs and resistance fighters.
Linguist Ruth Wodak, who has written extensively about the rhetoric of ultra-right authoritarianism in Europe, exposes the traditional collusion between outright fascism and its collaborator, neoliberalism, which Bertram Gross has called "friendly fascism" - or corporatism attempting to disguise itself with a democratic mask.
Trump and the media are fake enemies who feed off one another and become richer through the construction of their never-ending political soap opera. Each dances to the same tune. Trump is alternately predator and victim, and the corporate media, themselves sponsored by the predatory lords of unfettered capitalism and unlimited war, can posture as victims while the Oligarchy as a whole gets a free pass. The new role of the media is not afflicting the comfortable, but afflicting Trump.
It allows them to spread his toxic message of xenophobia while pretending to wash their hands of their own complicity and collusion. It allows right-wing liberals like Hillary Clinton to sell xenophobia within a kinder, gentler "friendly fascism" discourse and cast blame upon both the refugees of her wars and the ordinary people who have been taught to be frightened of the "Other" who subsequently flee those wars. Trump allows people like her to appear calm and reasonable as they spread much the same kind of propaganda.
Whether it's the latest in a long series of personal scandals or crimes, or whether it's just the latest ignorant, racist tweet, there is a method to the Trump-Media madness and collusion.
Ruth Wodak described how this formula operates within Austria's right-wing Freedom Party, originally made up of both former Nazis and liberals and formed with the direct help of occupying American forces after World War II as a counterweight against - you guessed it - Russia.
The dynamic consists of several stages: the scandal is first denied; then, once some evidence is produced, the scandal is redefined and equated with entirely different phenomena. Predictably, the provocateurs then claim the right to freedom of speech for themselves, as a justificatory strategy. Such utterances immediately trigger another debate - unrelated to the original scandal - about freedom of speech and political correctness. Simultaneously, victimhood is claimed by the original provocateur and the event is dramatized and exaggerated. This leads to the construction of a conspiracy - somebody must be 'pulling the strings' against the original producer of the scandal and scapegoats... are quickly discovered." Eventually and possibly a 'quasi-apology' might follow to straighten out the 'misunderstanding'... and the entire process starts all over again."We can cite example after example of how Trump faithfully follows the fascistic playbook.
Perhaps most memorable is the scandal of Trump pronouncing that "there are good people on both sides" after the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. When an uproar ensued, he offered a canned quasi-apology condemning ultra-right violence. He quickly followed that up with his own outrage when people began calling for the removal of Confederate statues, leading to further inflammatory rhetoric by Trump against "socialist Democrats."
Just like the abusive husband who tells his wife that she "made him do it, " Trump is a master of reversing the dichotomy between victim and perpetrator. He has made turning the tables on his accusers something of an art form. Confronted about white nationalism by a Black reporter, Yamiche Alcindor, at a recent news conference, he attacked her personally and called her question "racist."
From the transcript:
Alcindor: “On the campaign trail, you called yourself a ‘nationalist.’ Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. Now people are also saying…”
Trump: “I don’t know why you say that, that is such a racist question.”
Alcindor: “There are some people who are saying that the Republican Party is now supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric.”
Trump: “Oh, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe that. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African-Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African-Americans? That’s such a racist question.”
[Alcindor tries to speak.]
Trump: “Honestly, I know you have it written down and everything. Let me tell you, that is a racist question.”
This is the classic ultra-right technique of transforming those who have traditionally been targets of oppression into oppressors themselves. His behavior at the press conference was a not-so-subtle dog-whistle to his base of supporters, who have been programmed into diverting their own very real anxieties and victimization at the hands of neoliberalism onto their own fellow human beings.
His skilled victim-perpetrator reversal technique extends to what J.E. Richardson calls "calculated ambivalence." His fans receive the message that violence against the Other is O.K. and he is still able to wash his hands of culpability when someone takes matters into his own hands, and shoots Black people in a grocery store or slaughters Jews as they worship in their synagogue. He rails against "Mexican rapists," firing up the crowd at one of his campaign rallies and in the same breath "assumes that some of them are very good people." This strategy of self-contradiction is nothing new under the ultra-right rhetorical sun.
It works both for him and for the #Resistance, Inc. Duopolists who jointly serve the oligarchs. The constant lathering, rinsing and repeating of Trumpian scandals and utterances leaves the media with no time and little space to cover issues of immediate concern to ordinary people and increasing popular demands for policies like debt-free college and universal single payer health care coverage. It allows a lawsuit by students demanding a basic education to fall through the cracks.
The inspiring story of one group of students and teachers fighting back against the ignorance imposed upon regular people by the ruling class is all too easily ignored. The fewer people who are able to read about it and hear about it, the less is the likelihood that they will ever be inspired by it and urged to emulate it with their own lawsuits and protests and sit-down strikes and boycotts.
We have met the enemy, and it is them... the oligarchy and its political and media lackeys. The common wisdom that most people are willfully and deplorably ignorant is itself fake news. Being scared stupid is not the same thing as being stupid.
Meanwhile, for your civic educational pleasure, here's a detailed analysis of Trumpian language courtesy of Ruth Wodak.