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Nederlog

Sunday, Mar 19, 2017

Crisis+ME: On "Fascism", On Trump, On Bannon, Young Americans, ME/CFS and PACE


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Trump and Mussolini: 11 Key Lessons from Historical Fascism
2. Oops, He Did It Again: Donald Trump Just Can’t Stop Himself
     from Blurting Out State Secrets

3.
Bannon's Astonishing Rise to Power, from Small-Time
     Propagandist to White House Consigliere

4. Most Young Americans See Trump as 'Illegitimate President':
     Poll
5.
Getting It Wrong on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, March 19, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with five items and six dotted links: Item 1 is about "11 key lessons from fascism", by "a poet and fiction writer" that I found pretty ridiculous; item 2 is about Trump's gaffes, but is less serious; item 3 is about Steve Bannon, with an extra link to a video by Abby Martin, and this is a good item; item 4 is about young Americans, who have somewhat odd notions about what "illegitimate" means (but most are against Trump); and item 5 is about ME/CFS and a recent widely
signed letter on the PACE trial

Also, I am glad there is not much news to report, because I am again in a period of little sleep and considerable pain, though I slept a bit better last night (which is a relief).
March 19: As to the updating problem: The Danish site is again on time today; but the Dutch site is still stuck - for me - on last Sunday (March 12), a full week ago, as if I didn't publish anything since then.

Where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Trump and Mussolini: 11 Key Lessons from Historical Fascism

The first item today is by Anis Shivani on AlterNet and originally on Salon:

This starts as follows:

I’d like to draw some comparisons and contrasts between our present situation and that of fascist Italy between 1922 and 1945. I choose fascist Italy rather than Nazi Germany because it has always seemed to me a better comparison. Nazi Germany was the extreme militarist, racist and totalitarian variant of Italian fascism, which was more adaptable, pragmatic, rooted in reality and also more incompetent, ineffectual and half-hearted, all of which seem true to our condition today.
Hm. What is true is that German nazism was considerably more militaristic than Italian fascism. The rest seems somewhat doubtful, and the following is so utterly broad and undefined as to mean virtually nothing:
To see fascism as stemming ultimately from liberalism might sound surprising, but this is true of both socialism as well as fascism, because finally it is liberalism’s principle of human perfectibility from which these impulses derive. Fascism, we might say, is liberal romanticism gone haywire.
In case you don't see this, here is a restatement:
To see X as stemming ultimately from Y might sound surprising, but this is true of both Z as well as X, because finally it is Y’s principle of human perfectibility from which these impulses derive. X, we might say, is liberal romanticism gone haywire.
The problem is - of course - that "fascism" has many definitions; as does "liberalism", as does "socialism" but the author introduces them as if they are as self-evident as photographs of its main purveyors.

Also, Anis Shivani - about whom I know little - is "a fiction writer, a poet and a critic"
which means I do not know anything about his historical knowledge, political knowledge, philosophical knowledge, or indeed anything that might put him forward as a specialist on "fascism", however defined.

Here are some of his "key lessons", though I have to admit that I only give short statements from much longer ones, and I also have to admit that I learned absolutely nothing from this poet and fiction writer.

Here is lesson number one:

1. Fascism rechannels economic anxiety
(..)
The problem today is that socialism, unfortunately, became discredited in the eyes of liberals in the West because of the failed Soviet experiment. Socialism did not have to go the authoritarian route, but that is sadly how it turned out. So today we have a clear problem, i.e., burgeoning inequality on an almost unprecedented scale, and no ideological solution in sight, at least not one that majorities of liberals can agree on.

As I said, "socialism" has many definitions. I am one - of very many leftists - who always denied that the Soviet Union was socialist. Besides, the above sounds rather strange: It is as if written about definite persons, but in fact it is about very vague
very ill-defined abstractions.

2. Liberal institutions have already been fatally weakened
We are currently lamenting Trump’s evisceration of the media and other institutions of democracy, but he would not be having such success, at least with half of the population, if those institutions were not already seriously compromised.

But what are "liberal institutions"? What are the "institutions of democracy"? How did these become "compromised"? And by whom?

3. Internal strongmen tussles don’t mean anything
(..)
Fascism is greater than the individuals who make up its core at any given moment. Fascism requires the strongman at the center to make it move, yet if a given personality fails to do the job, another can be found as replacement. 

Really now? How amazing.

4. Fascism keeps mutating
(..)
Fascism was not particularly racist to begin with, as Mussolini, like most Italians, took exception to Nazi anti-Semitism; but as Italy threw in its lot with Germany in the late 1930s, “scientific” racism became a central fascist platform.

There was a difference between the Italian fascists and the German nazis about the Jews. This is true. But the title is about fascism rather than racism.

5. Fascism is eternally recurring
(..)
Fascism was not an aberration for Italy, nor is this the case anywhere it occurs. It is inherent in the DNA of any given culture, an authoritarian side that goes along with, and is even a necessary prop for, democracy.

I say. And where is "the DNA of any given culture"? I have no idea.

6. Of course it’s a minority affair
(..)
Only a small minority need give overt consent. The rest can be quiet, or complacent, or complicit, unless they feel their personal security threatened, for example because of war that might spin out of control. That is all that’s needed for fascism to go on its merry way, so it’s quite beside the point to argue its minority status. Most bloody revolutions are minority affairs.

And all politics. And all religion. And anything else that is human.

7. There is an ideology behind the chaos of ideologies
(..)
Fascist ideology aims for nothing but to weaken and end democracy. It is democracy’s successes, whether in Weimar Germany, or in a strange way in Giolitti’s Italy, or in countercultural America of the 1960s, that breed the opposite tendency which wants to swallow it up.

So at long last we know - thanks to our poet and fiction writer - what the fascist ideology is: It "aims for nothing but to weaken and end democracy". I say.

8. Its cultural style makes no sense to elites
(..)
So-called conspiratorial thinking is a unifying strand — I already mentioned Alex Jones — which connects many of the strands of ultra-conservative ideology throughout the past century. The Reds become Jews and then Muslims; the substitutions are not that difficult to make. But although the elites will remain incredulous toward fascism’s cultural style, there seems to be enough of a momentum, with all the tendencies beginning to attain critical mass together.

I am sorry, but I do not know what to make of this.

9. Fascism leads inexorably to suicidal war
(..)
Fascism, like all forms of government not based on the consent of the majority, requires more and more energy to keep the population under control as time goes by. Once the fašade of virile domesticity starts getting exposed, war becomes the only option to keep the regime going.

I say. I might object that "all forms of government" until the 20th Century were "not based on the consent of the majority", but what is the point of objecting?

10. Racism is inherent to fascism
(..)
Just as war is inevitable, so is virulent racism. Both go together in fascism.

We were told in point 4 of these "11 key lessons about fascism" that Mussolini was not very racist, the first 10 to 15 years, but what is the point of mentioning inconsistencies?

11. No form of resistance works
(..)
Italians tried every form of resistance we can imagine, including getting themselves and their families killed or imprisoned, as countless lives were lost in the fascist tyranny. Nothing worked. Nothing ever works until fascism’s logic, the logic of empire, stands discredited to the point where no denial and no media coverup is possible anymore.

So you better give up resisting?

Some final thoughts
(..)
The inordinate amount of time Mussolini (and Trump) spent cultivating his image does not have anything to do with a personality disorder. It has to do with democracy’s failure to live up to its egalitarian ideals, so that the lie about equality becomes more important than actual equality. The liberal democratic and fascist authoritarian versions of this lie have much in common.

And here we are told that nothing "Mussolini (and Trump)" did has "anything to do with a personality disorder": Poets and fiction writers know these things infinitely better than psychologists, psychiatrists or politicians. Incidentally, I do not understand the rest.

In brief... this is how fascism is commented these days: Not by philosophers, political scientists, historians, or indeed people who can provide any evidence that they studied fascism, but by a poet and a fiction writer.

I am sorry, but I - a nearly 67 year old psychologist and philosopher, the son of two communists, the grandson of two anarchists and a communist, and with a father and a grandfather locked up as "political terrorists" in German concentration camps - did not learn anything whatsoever from these "key lessons" by "a poet and fiction writer" of half my age or so.

Perhaps editors should first decide whether those they pay to write about fascism know anything about it.

2. Oops, He Did It Again: Donald Trump Just Can’t Stop Himself from Blurting Out State Secrets

The second item is by Bob Cesca on AlterNet and originally on Salon:

This starts as follows:
Every day he’s president, it causes damage — damage to the traditions of the office, damage to the federal government he’s busily downsizing, damage to our reputation overseas and damage to American culture. What’s truly infuriating about Donald Trump’s presidency so far isn’t solely his remarkably unspooled blurtings or his executive orders. It’s his unforced errors. Apparently, Trump’s endless roster of gaffes include accidentally revealing national security secrets and classified information.
I say, which I do in part because I do not regard Trump's "unforced errors" as "truly infuriating", especially not as his deliberate politicies are quite horrific.

But let's see. This is about leaking and Michael Flynn (who was dismissed):

By clearly stating “the leaks are absolutely real,” Trump confirmed the authenticity of the information that was leaked to reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times. Who the hell knows how this connects logically to the news being “fake,” but that’s Trump. He’s mentally unstable, so defying logic is what he does.
I agree (as a psychologist) that Trump is "mentally unstable", but I do not take this particular error very seriously.

Then there is this:
So in his haste to pin the WikiLeaks dump of hundreds of highly classified CIA documents on his predecessor, Trump appeared to confirm for the first time that the CIA was, in fact hacked under the previous administration.
But Cesca provides no evidence that the CIA was hacked under Obama: All he offers is Trump's not very credible statement that it was.

This is the end of the article:
During the transition, and even prior to the election, many of us worried that Trump might blurt out national security secrets he learned during his daily briefings with intelligence officials. He’s either too addled and mentally inadequate to stop himself from doing it, or he just doesn’t care: Anything to pursue his agenda of grievances and retribution, anything to deflect from the investigation into his possible collusion with the Russian government. Trump is a existentially dangerous chief executive, and we have to seriously ask the question: Why is he still at large?
Trump is "still at large" because most Republicans still trust him, I'd say. And in any case, this was rather colored journalism.

3. Bannon's Astonishing Rise to Power, from Small-Time Propagandist to White House Consigliere

The third item is by Ben Norton on AlterNet

This starts as follows:
Steve Bannon is the brain behind President Donald Trump, and he is nothing short of a right-wing extremist.

In a new film for her TeleSUR program, The Empire Files, journalist Abby Martin exposes Trump's chief strategist and his history of fanaticism, bigotry and profiteering.

"Steve Bannon has been propelled over the last year from fringe media outlier to top propagandist of the U.S. empire as Trump's chief strategist," according to The Empire Files. "From his Wall Street roots and apocalyptic film career to his cultivation of alt-right bigots at Breitbart News, Abby Martin exposes Bannon's true character in this explosive documentary."
I like Abby Martin (as does Ben Norton, by the way) for she is smart, sensible and courageous. To start with, here is a link to Abby Martin's program:
Here is some more on Steve Bannon:
Bannon, who served as CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, honed his skills as the head of the far-right website Breitbart News. He proudly described the network as the "platform for the alt-right," the white supremacist movement led by neo-fascists like Richard Spencer.

The Empire Files details how Bannon cut his teeth making hard-right propaganda films. These works led Andrew Breitbart to describe him as the "Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement."
I did not see any of Bannon's films, but from the responses others give, I think it is safe to conclude that he might like to be described as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party, but he surely lacks Riefenstahl's talents.

Here is the last bit I'll quote from this article:
AlterNet has previously reported on Bannon's affinity for white supremacist thinkers, and his clash-of-civilizations worldview, which pits the white Christian West in an apocalyptic war against the forces of Islam, secularism, socialism, and multiculturalism.

Martin concludes the film with a rallying cry, observing, "The fact that someone like Steve Bannon could attain such a high seat of power shows how illegitimate the system really is."

I don't know whether I agree with Abby Martin on her "rallying cry", if only because I think Trump is a legal president and because Steve Bannon may be even more dangerous than he would otherwise be, when he is legitimate, as he seems to be.

But this is a recommended article and a recommended video.

4. Most Young Americans See Trump as 'Illegitimate President': Poll

The fourth item is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
    This starts as follows:

Most young Americans see President Donald Trump as illegitimate, according to a new poll out Friday.

The survey by GenForward, conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 57 percent of adults between 18-30 years old—including three-quarters of black Americans and a large portion of Latinos and Asians—see Trump's presidency as illegitimate.
I say. But what do these "young Americans" mean when they say that "Trump's presidency as illegitimate"? It seems to me they are mostly trying to give a somewhat more valid seeming expression than "I don't like him". (I don't either, but he was legally chosen, albeit by the electoral college and not by the majority of voters.)

Here is some more:

Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected.

One respondent said he keeps remembering Trump giving a speech in which he referred to Mexicans as criminals and rapists. "You can't be saying that [if] you're the president," said the respondent, 21-year-old Jermaine Anderson, a student from Florida.

I do not think these responses are very serious, though I like it that Trump is not supported by most young Americans (which seems true, also apart from this article).

5. Getting It Wrong on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The fifth and last item today is by Julie Rehmeyer and David Tuller on The New Tork Times:
This starts as follows - and I like to say first that one of the authors, David Tuller,
did quite a lot of things, as a journalist, for people with ME/CFS, and that most things I read from him (I am a psychologist and a philosopher who has ME/CFS now for 38 years) were quite sensible (which I can't say of many patients, unfortunately).

Anyway - what follows is included in the present crisis item because I am ill with ME/CFS since 38 years (also according to three medical doctors). This item does not itself have anything to do with the crisis.

This is about the PACE trial, that has been criticized by patients and by others for something like six years now:

What are some of the treatment regimens that sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome should follow? Many major medical organizations cite two: psychotherapy and a steady increase in exercise. There’s just one problem. The main study that has been cited as proof that patients can recover with those treatments overstated some of its results. In reality, the claim that patients can recover from these treatments is not justified by the data.

That’s the finding of a peer-reviewed preliminary re-analysis of previously unpublished data from the clinical trial, the largest ever for chronic fatigue syndrome. Nicknamed the PACE trial, the core findings of the British study appeared in The Lancet in 2011 and Psychological Medicine in 2013.
Note the "peer-reviewed". Here is what the - invalid, it seems fraudulent - PACE trial did do wrong (among other things):

But this approach can be harmful. According to a 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine, now the National Academy of Medicine, even minimal activity can cause patients prolonged exhaustion, muscle pain, cognitive problems and more. In severe cases, a short conversation or a trip to the bathroom can deplete patients for hours, days or more. In surveys, patients routinely report deterioration after a program of graded exercise. The psychotherapeutic intervention also encourages patients to increase their activity levels.

Many patients (including one of us) have remained ill for years or decades with chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS. It can be triggered by a viral infection, resulting in continuing or recurring immunological and neurological dysfunction. The Institute of Medicine dismissed any notion that it is a psychiatric illness.

I agree with "The Institute of Medicine" since a mere 38 years, and dismissed all exercising in 2010, repeatedly, when I also first heard about it.

But I know now that unless you are a medical person, nothing you say makes any difference to medical persons - which is one important reason why I stopped trusting medical persons. Another reason is that I (and my ex, another psychologist who is ill for a mere 38 years with ME/CFS) know a lot more about psychology than medical people, except that the latter refuse to admit it. A third reason is that nearly all medical people I have seen did medicine for money for themselves, and not for their patients. A fourth reason is that I am quite sick of the utterly pseudoscientific frauds who are psychiatrists: I dislike being called insane by one (or many) of these sickening frauds.

I also guess that the biochemical roots of my disease - at long last, in considerable part because all genuine medical research into ME/CFS was objected to by nearly all psychiatrists and most medical doctors - have been uncovered in part, meanwhile. (See here if you want to know more.)

Here is the - out and out sadistic - "justification" for the sick ideas of psychiatrists and other medical frauds:

Proponents of these therapies argue that these very sick patients harbored “unhelpful beliefs” that they had an organic illness that limited their capacity to exert themselves. According to this theory, patients are deconditioned from too much rest and can recover if they overcome their fear of activity and get back into shape.

But as the new re-analysis by an academic researcher and three patients showed, the promise of recovery using the two treatments appeared to be an illusion. When the study’s findings were first published, patients and some scientists noted a stunning problem: The investigators had weakened their outcome measures from their trial protocol so much that participants could actually deteriorate on physical function and still qualify as “recovered.”
As the second paragraph shows, the sadists even insisted that - in their supposedly "scientific" pseudo-experiment - people got "cured" in spite of the fact that their health was destroyed.

And here is an open letter, posted on professor Racaniello's Virology Blog (and Racaniello also is someone who did a lot for people with ME/CFS):
Last week, Virology Blog posted an open letter to Psychological Medicine, which one of us helped draft and which was signed by more than 100 clinicians, scientists, experts and patient groups, requesting the retraction of the PACE recovery study results to “protect patients from ineffective and possibly harmful treatments.” The journal has said it has no plans to retract the study but is open to publishing a re-analysis of data in any papers it has published.
In case you are interested, the letter is well worth reading, and does have many of the persons who did something for people with ME/CFS, indeed including psychologists and some psychiatrists, as signatories.

Here is the end of this article:

Doctors and medical organizations must stop recommending these two therapies for ME/CFS as treatment options. Next, the disputed findings must be retracted. Finally, health agencies must ramp up funding for medical research to develop accurate diagnostic tests and pharmacological treatments.

I agree.

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