Tag: Donald Trump

How fascism works

This article was originally published at Vox.com

“Fascism” is a word that gets tossed around pretty loosely these days, usually as an epithet to discredit someone else’s politics.

One consequence is that no one really knows what the term means anymore. Liberals see fascism as the culmination of conservative thinking: an authoritarian, nationalist, and racist system of government organized around corporate power. For conservatives, fascism is totalitarianism masquerading as the nanny state.

A new book by Yale philosopher Jason Stanley is the latest attempt to clarify what fascism is and how it functions in the modern world. Stanley focuses on propaganda and rhetoric, so his book is largely about the tropes and narratives that drive fascist politics.

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Manafort has flipped. 8 legal experts on what it means for Trump.

This article was originally published at Vox.com

Paul Manafort has finally flipped.

The president’s former campaign manager pleaded guilty in court on Friday to two felonies: conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Part of Manafort’s plea deal includes an agreement to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe — including offering interviews and briefings to the special counsel’s office, handing over documents, and testifying in other court proceedings.

It’s not clear why Manafort agreed to flip after a year of refusing to do so. Nor do we know the extent of Manafort’s cooperation, or what he actually knows about Trump and any possible collusion with Russia. But Manafort’s cooperation is still a big deal, since he was one of the first people Mueller targeted.

So how worried should Trump be? And how does Manafort’s cooperation impact the Mueller probe? To find out, I reached out to eight legal experts.

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Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades

Aritcle originally published at Vox.com

On November 9, 2016, just a few minutes after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a man named Vyacheslav Nikonov approached a microphone in the Russian State Duma (their equivalent of the US House of Representatives) and made a very unusual statement.

“Dear friends, respected colleagues!” Nikonov said. “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton admitted her defeat in US presidential elections, and a second ago Trump started his speech as an elected president of the United States of America, and I congratulate you on this.”

Nikonov is a leader in the pro-Putin United Russia Party and, incidentally, the grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov — after whom the “Molotov cocktail” was named. His announcement that day was a clear signal that Trump’s victory was, in fact, a victory for Putin’s Russia.

Longtime journalist Craig Unger opens his new book, House of Trump, House of Putin, with this anecdote. The book is an impressive attempt to gather up all the evidence we have of Trump’s numerous connections to the Russian mafia and government and lay it all out in a clear, comprehensive narrative.

The book claims to unpack an “untold story,” but it’s not entirely clear how much of it is new. One of the hardest things to accept about the Trump-Russia saga is how transparent it is. So much of the evidence is hiding in plain sight, and somehow that has made it harder to accept.

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Walter Lippmann’s critique of democracy revisited

Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion, published in 1922, is the most persuasive critique of democracy I’ve ever read. Shortly after it was published, John Dewey, the great defender of democracy and the most important American philosopher of the era, called Lippmann’s book “the most effective indictment of democracy as currently conceived.”

Lippmann poses a straightforward question: can citizens achieve a basic knowledge of public affairs and then make reasonable choices about what to do? His answer is no, and the whole point of the book is to expose the gap between what we say democracy is and what we know about how human beings actually behave.

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A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they’re so pissed off

Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, spent eight years interviewing Americans in small towns across the country. He had one goal: to understand why rural America is so angry with Washington.

Wuthnow’s work resulted in a new book, The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America. He argues that rural Americans are less concerned about economic issues and more concerned about Washington threatening the social fabric of small towns and causing a “moral decline” in the country as a whole. The problem, though, is that it’s never quite clear what that means or how Washington is responsible for it.

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Cambridge Analytica’s strange, shady role in the 2016 election

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested that a data analytics company called Cambridge Analytica turn over internal documents as part of its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Cambridge Analytica specializes in what’s called “psychographic” profiling, meaning they use data collected online to create personality profiles for voters. They then take that information and target individuals with specifically tailored content (more on this below).

So far there’s been a lot of speculation about the potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and most of the stories have orbited around the financial dealings of the Trump family and people like Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. But this story is specifically about how team Trump, with the help of this data company, might have facilitated Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election.

So here’s what we know about Cambridge Analytica, its connections to the Trump campaign, and what sorts of things Mueller is likely looking into.
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Richard Rorty’s prescient warnings for the American left

A prescient passage from a forgotten book made the rounds after Donald Trump’s election. It was plucked from a 1998 book titled Achieving our Country. The author is Richard Rorty, a liberal philosopher who died in 2007. The book consists of a series of lectures Rorty gave in 1997 about the history of leftist thought in 20th-century America.

To read the viral passage is to recognize immediately why it caught fire after Trump’s election:

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