#TrumpDerangementSyndrome : Do you have it?

July 28, 2018

Political editor, Dr Martin Hirst, confesses to a slight obsession with “The Donald”, but, he argues, it is not what you think.

I AM MILDLY OBSESSED with following the news of President Donald Trump. There’s part of my brain that still has trouble processing the fact that this low-rent reality TV “star” actually won the 2016 U.S. election. I really don’t think he could have done it without Russian help.

My fascination with Trump is borne out of my long and deep interest in politics and world affairs. It is impossible for me – a child of the Cold War – to ignore the historic role of the U.S. President as so-called “leader of the free world”. I know that this is an ideological trope that hides a century of imperialist aggression and mass slaughter (by the “fine people” on all sides), but it holds a certain truth because it is a boast backed up by the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear (and conventional) weapons of mass destruction.

Trump’s instability and his fat, little fingers hovering over the launch button should be grabbing the attention of most half-woke people. We are literally one Twitter meltdown away from Armageddon. However, I do not believe my dedication of serious thinking time to the Tangerine Fascist in the White House is a case of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS).
What is TDS?

In mid-July the pro-Trump Fox News personality (I use that term loosely) “Judge” Jeanine Pirro was on Whoopi Goldberg’s TV chat show (Why, Whoopi, why?) and they got into a slanging match. In a widely-reported exchange, Pirro accused Goldberg of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.

What Pirro meant by this is that Goldberg’s criticism of Trump – which verges on visceral hatred like it does for many of us – is unwarranted and that inability to cope with the Trump presidency is a sign of mental illness.

This is the definition that you get from a quick check of the Urban Dictionary:

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their dislike of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reason.

Symptoms for this condition can be very diverse, ranging from hysterical outbursts to a complete mental break. TDS can also often result in the sufferer exhibiting violent, homicidal, or even genocidal desires.

Sufferers have also been known to wish direct self-harm on themselves (such as increased taxes, a desire for an economic recession and even nuclear war), provided that an action might in some way hurt Donald Trump.

That the entry was written by a Trump fan, most likely dressed head-to-toe in MAGA merch (which is mostly made in China and Bangladesh, BTW), is not surprising — the term did start with the pro-Trump lobby back before the election.

USA! USA! *Made in China (Image via Wikipedia)

A New York-based real estate attorney named Stephen Meister is credited with coining “Trump Derangement Syndrome” in a Washington Examiner op-ed on 1 October 2015.

The column, simply headlined Trump Derangement Syndrome begins:

Bitter hatred is a dangerous emotion: It destroys one’s objectivity and judgment. When journalists become true haters, the results can be cringe-worthy. Presently, there seems to be a hate-induced epidemic sweeping the nation’s journalists — call it “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Infected pundits have been spewing idiotic, unsupported and intemperate opinions, even vulgar outbursts, about Donald Trump. Ironically, this is only helping The Donald.

You get the point. Meister is sympathetic to “The Donald” and, who knows, maybe they’ve done business or hung out.

Oh, what’s this?

As you know, I like to be thorough, so I checked out Mr Meister.

Here’s a sample of his earlier work for the Washington Examiner:

As an attorney who’s worked for Trump (I have not represented him for the past year and a half) — and many years ago, against him — his success on the campaign trail comes as no surprise: Trump’s a man of exceptional tenacity and guts, insightful intuitions, clear purposes, an intelligence that’s expressed forcefully and directly, always without regard to political correctness and a world class negotiator. Trump intuitively understands what troubles Americans and boldly states their concerns; I guarantee he’ll never be an appeaser of foreign governments; there’ll be no Neville Chamberlains or hapless apprentices for domestic or foreign policy, in his administration — if you’re not doing your job, you’ll be fired.

This piece, from a week before the TDS article, is headlined A personal assessment of Donald Trump, and this how it ends:

‘In a match up against Sanders, Clinton or Biden, the GOP is better off with Trump, whose business experience, successes and star power can overpower an ageing socialist, a corrupt dynastic politician, or the vice president of the most pathetic administration in modern history.’

As you might have guessed, the Washington Examiner is a very conservative and pro-Trump publication.

So, TDS has become a signal catch-cry for the Trumpsters and it allows them to vent and troll those of us who don’t swallow the party line parroted by Trump supporters.

It has also made its way to Australia thanks to the imitative behaviour of certain Newscorpse agitprop recyclers who ran out of original insults several election-cycles ago.

Luckily our good friend @thekennydevine was on hand to document it for those of us who are blocked by the best and brightest of the Murdoch hacks.

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TDS has become a meme-worthy go-to deflection tactic for Trump supporters who hate the fact that some of us are willing to call out the President’s erratic behaviour. Behaviour that I have previously argued verges on potential mental illness or brain injury. It’s fair to say I believe that the Donald himself is possibly suffering from undiagnosed Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Reclaiming TDS for the sensible side of this debate

You know it’s time to address an issue when Trump tweets about it.

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This tweet kick-started a wave of explainers in the news media that attempted to define and contextualise Trump’s tweet. The Daily Dot piece sets out the history of the “syndrome” in a calm fashion and points out that it has become weaponised by both Trump supporters and critics.

CNN got in on the act and re-upped an interesting piece from 2016 by Trump booster Justin Raimondo, which is still relevant, but not for the reasons Raimondo espoused two years ago.

In the first stage of the disease, victims lose all sense of proportion. The president-elect’s every tweet provokes a firestorm, as if 140 characters were all it took to change the world.

The mid-level stages of TDS have a profound effect on the victim’s vocabulary: Sufferers speak a distinctive language consisting solely of hyperbole.

As TDS progresses, the afflicted lose the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

FYI, Justin Raimondo runs a website called AntiWar.com, but it is a gaslighting operation that simply regurgitates pro-Trump and pro-Russia nonsense, such as this recent piece which attempts to equate Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager, Carter Page, with Julian Assange and to argue that they are ‘martyrs to the cause’. The “cause” is taking the plunge into the rabbit hole of “deep state” conspiracy theories.

Just take a second to reflect on Raimondo’s definition of TDS symptoms.

If you look at these three “symptoms” with a cool head, you can’t help but reach the (quite valid) conclusion that they more accurately describe Trump supporters who cling to the President like demented barnacles.

In other words, it is TDS that makes hardcore Trump supporters what they are.

Trump’s “deplorables” are willing to believe Trump’s obvious lies and to be willingly gaslighted and led by the nose and Trump himself is pouring fuel on this already raging dumpster fire.

Just this week, Trump’s ongoing campaign to confuse and corral his base moved to a new level. The President of the United States told his supporters not to believe anything they see or what they read in the news.

In other words, Trump told his supporters that they should only believe him and what he says. That he alone is capable of defining truth. This is a descent into Orwellian doublethink and echoes down through history as the favoured tactic of dictators who want to goad the faithful into mass hysteria and unquestioning loyalty to “the leader”.

This is also the point of Trump’s incessant tweeting about “witch hunts” and conspiracies to undermine his legitimacy.

It is unlikely that Trump himself believes that there is a conspiracy and he almost certainly knows (because he’s implicated) that the Mueller probe is a real threat to his continued occupancy of the White House. However, by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation and constantly muddying the waters with chump bait, Trump hopes to deflect attention away from his own crimes and to mobilise the deplorables to defend him.

Beyond that, the desired effect is to make it so difficult for interested observers to get to the truth that they give up and stop looking. If the allegations of collusion and Russian interference can be reduced to a “he said, she said” back and forth, the truth and import gets lost and people switch off.

The other form of TDS is the one on display at Justin Raimondo’s AntiWar.com website. It is a delusion shared and fostered by some on the “libertarian”, “progressive” side that somehow, Hillary Clinton would have been (and still is) somehow worse than Trump.

I find this form of TDS intriguing because it is combined with a form of politics (Libertarianism) that objectively helps Trump, while subjectively claiming to be independent and challenging the left-right dichotomy.

The founders of Antiwar.com were active in the Libertarian Party during the 1970s; in 1983, we founded the Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee to work as a libertarian caucus within the GOP. Today, we are seeking to challenge the traditional politics of “Left” and “Right”.

The totalitarian liberals and social democrats of the West have unilaterally and arrogantly abolished national sovereignty and openly seek to overthrow all who would oppose their bid for global hegemony. They have made enemies of the patriots of all countries and it is time for those enemies to unite — or perish alone.

These two statements, in consecutive paragraphs on the AntiWar.com ‘About us’ page, are totally incompatible and simply highlight that conservative (anti-Left) nature of the site’s intent.

The ideology behind this politics – and made explicit at AntiWar.com – is disorienting to newcomers and ultimately politically sterile as a form of intervention.

In the end, it is just another form of Trump Derangement Syndrome and, like the hardcore of deplorables, those most infected are in denial about their condition. Perhaps TDS is related to Dunning-Kruger Effect too; certainly, it is one psychological diagnosis of Trump that appears to have some credibility.

In the past week, the mainstream media has made the reasonable link between Trump’s gaslighting operation and George Orwell’s 1984 in which the propaganda of Big Brother could be adjusted to ensure that the Inner Party was always in control of the narrative.

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Ensuring that his supporters – the real victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome – keep drinking the Kool-aid is a key strategic aim of the pro-Trump media and his top officials.

Everything else – inconvenient facts, actual truth, or contradictory narratives – is just shovelled into the memory hole to be burnt and erased from history.

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Class war? Yes please!

July 18, 2018

According to senior Press Gallery journalists, Bill Shorten is guilty of class war for exposing Malcolm Turnbull’s unearned wealth. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst disagrees and argues public figures are legitimate targets when they duck for cover.

First published on Independent Australia.

HOW SEPARATE are the public and private actions of politicians and their high-profile staffers? Is it “class war” when the Left exposes the hypocrisy of the conservatives, but not when the Right wants to attack workers and welfare recipients?

We have cause to consider these questions this week, because several examples are presented to us from the White House and from our own domestic politics.

Let’s take the American cases first. They involve high profile staff in the Trump White House — staff who are controversial and who were in the spotlight this week for having aspects of their private lives exposed.

First, consider Stephen Miller, a speech writer and confidant of the President, who was profiled recently in The Atlantic as “Trump’s Right-Hand Troll”. The kindest thing one might say about Miller is that he’s a very well-dressed White Nationalist. He’s widely known as the architect of Trump’s infamous “Muslim ban” and the policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Miller was apparently trying to keep a low profile this week, but to no avail. First he was heckled in a Washington DC restaurant – a Mexican restaurant, would you believe – and then protestors started texting him after his mobile phone number was published on news website Splinter.

Following the publication of Miller’s phone number in a number of places a reporter for The Nation, David Klion posted it to Twitter. Twitter’s response was to suspend the journalist for a violation of the rule prohibiting the posting of private information.

Klion defended his actions in an interview with The Wrap; it’s worth considering his justification.

“This is war,” said Klion. “I think that what is happening right now at the border is child abuse. It is systematic child abuse. It is racist child abuse. It is being carried out for cynical political purposes.”

Klion also said that Miller’s status as a high public official made him fair game in a way which was different from the many right-wing doxxing campaigns against journalists.“Power differentials matter here and Stephen Miller is one of the most powerful people in the country. He is the architect of these inhumane policies. There is a power imbalance,” said Klion. “Anything that allows us to speak directly to the most powerful people behind this is something I would support. Doxxing a random person or a journalist is not something I would support.”

I must admit I have some sympathy for this position. Miller’s role in the White House must mean that his actions should be open to public scrutiny, but they are too often shrouded in secrecy. Pulling back that veil is sometimes necessary in order to make a point.

Read the rest of this entry »


Full Nuremburg: Trump versus the Press

June 24, 2018

This week, after a quick stopover in Singapore, Donald Trump was keen to return to his favourite topic (beside his own greatness): his feud with the American news media. Political editor, Dr Martin Hirst, argues that journalists need to continue pushing back, or risk being swamped by Trump’s aggression.

[First published on Independent Australia]

ANYONE WHO’S HALF-AWAKE would know that Donald J. Trump has a very conflicted relationship with the American news media.

He loves Fox & Friends and is more than willing to sit down to be interviewed by his good friends on the Murdoch-owned network.

On his way back from the “tremendous” tete-a-tete with mass murderer Kim Jong-un, Trump did a one-on-one with Fox News. He hasn’t done a sit down interview with any other media outlet for over a year.

Despite the very controlled access, many U.S. (and Australian) news outlets were initially quite excited by the Trump-Kim PDA in Singapore. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the lipstick to wear off and the true piggishness of Trump to re-emerge.

Within 24 hours of touching down in the ever-deepening Washington swamp, Trump was up to his old trick of lambasting serious and critical journalism as “fake news”. Luckily, we have former journalist and current conscience-pricker Dan Gillmor to remind the shell-shocked American news media of their true purpose.

In fact, I was so drawn to this Trump tweet, I actually also retweeted it myself, with the appropriate commentary.

Yes, we’re all used to the Tangerine Fascist’s unhinged tweeting but, as I argued in July last year, we need to take Trump’s tweets seriously.

Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Supporters of the “ignore the tweeting” camp say that Trump is deliberately pumping out the outrage and confected offence in order to keep the media occupied and away from the more serious and nefarious plans he has to turn the United States of America into the Principality of Trumpistan.

On the other hand, there’s an argument that Trump’s tweets represent the “thoughts” of the United States President and should be taken seriously. His own staff are now also running with this line, arguing that President Trump is taking his message straight to the American people and needs to do this because the news media distorts his words and does not report the great things he’s doing to “Make America Great Again”.

As Trump himself wrote, nearly a year ago, his tweeting is “modern day presidential”.

Convinced yet?

Just take a look again at the last sentence in this week’s “fake news” broadside:

‘Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!’

Does this remind you of anything?

It is a not-so-subtle reference to a rallying call of his neo-Nazi supporters, who have adopted Trump as their Great White Hope.

This is very inflammatory language from the President, but it is also very deliberate. Trump is on record as saying he uses Twitter to make an end-run around a hostile media and to speak directly to his base in language that they will easily understand.

This is also clearly the reasoning behind his almost-daily tweeting about the Russia investigation being a “witch hunt”.

Nobody outside of his inner circle and his welded-on supporters actually believe any of this. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to just ignore Trumpers — they are heavily-armed, overwhelming angry white, and disenfranchised, and still capable of electing more Trump-like politicians to Congress and the Senate.

Trump’s base is increasingly limited to the hardcore – and quite ignorant – racist and conservative rump of the Republican Party, and a few Republican members of Congress, who are rightfully scared of decimation in the upcoming “mid-term” elections.

Trump needs the woke Nazis and the small but tight coterie of ordinary Americans who think that Mexicans are stealing their jobs, and that the European Union is most likely a George Soros-funded conspiracy to weaken America before it can become “great again”.

The Nazis are just cynical thugs with vague hopes that Trump would deliver them a racially pure homeland.

Trump has a history of appeasing them. Remember his disgusting support for the white supremacist cause following the Charlottesville murder of civil rights activist Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi fringe-dweller, who weaponised his American-made car in August last year.

Fake News is the new “Lügenpresse”

Trump supporters began calling the critical mainstream news media “lügenpresse” during the 2016 election campaign. It became a feature of his campaign rallies to direct the anger of his supporters towards journalists in the venue, leading to exchanges like this from October 2016.

Rosie Gray is a White House correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, which will certainly be a target of the Trumper’s hatred — it carries some good journalism and has taken a consistently anti-Trump line editorially.

Gray interviewed Trump supporter and avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer following the incident she tweeted out from the Cleveland rally and he gleefully told her that lügenpresse had become a buzz word among the so-called “Alt-Right”.

The term has a long history in Germany, where it emerged in a government propaganda booklet during the dying days of World War One. The Nazis appropriated it after their ascension to power in the mid-1930s. It was a powerful weapon used to mobilise the Nazi party supporters behind anti-Jewish pogroms.

It is regarded as a taboo word in Germany today, but it is still used there by the hard-right nationalist parties. Trump has cleverly adapted it by using the term “fake news”.

He thinks this gives him plausible separation from the neo-Nazis, while dog-whistling them and gaslighting the more gullible members of his base.

He’s fooling nobody. The links between Trump’s use of “fake news” and the neo-Nazi chants of lügenpresse are blindingly obvious. Or at least they should be.

However, it seems that, to some extent, Trump’s constant attacks on the news media are working for him.

The strategy is designed to raise doubts in the public mind about the credibility of the news media. Trump knows that most of the critical reporting about him is based on extensive research and – often – interviews with some of his closest advisors. He is also a proven leaker in his own right, often creating the narrative thread that he then denounces as fake.

But Trump doesn’t have to disprove the facts; by simply throwing chump bait into the water, the feeding frenzy takes over, amplified by Trump-friendly outlets like Fox and the other conservative outlets, who either support him or see value in exploiting his presidency for their own white nationalist ends — think Breitbart and so forth.

These are indeed difficult times for the news media trying to cover Trump. However, there are lessons to be learned and past mistakes not to be repeated.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the news media needs to be aggressive in its coverage of the Trump White House and the many Trump surrogates – such as Rudy Giuliani – who do the rounds of the talk shows blowing smoke and covering for their master’s gaffes.

If journalists try to treat the Trump presidency as anything but abnormal, they risk giving him the control he craves. We saw the normalising of Trump begin to take hold during and just after the Singapore summit.

Headline-hungry reporters were offering their praise and hot-takes about peace on the Korean Peninsula; I was one of the few who held out against this by carefully parsing his media conference and pointing out the obvious anomalies.

The 60 per cent of Americans who instinctively know that Trump is a monster and underserving of his elevated position need to know they can rely on journalists to continue to pursue the stories of corruption, nepotism, cronyism and sheer idiocy that emanate from the Washington swamp under Trump’s watch.

The Mandarin Maniac is yet to go “full Nuremberg” (though we have seen the tiki torch rallies), but we might see something of it when he makes the inevitable rhetoric-heavy speech during the planned $30 million military parade that is being prepared for him on Veterans’ Day in November.

If “chaos is the new normal” then the news media has to cut through, stand tough, take Trump’s hits and keep asking the difficult questions.

Fortunately, there are a handful of brave journalists and correspondents who are willing to stand up for what’s right and show no fear.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.


Chaos is the new normal: Trump and Kim PDA in Singapore

June 14, 2018

The mainstream media will now try to normalise Trump’s abnormal behaviour by focusing only on the “optics” of this week’s “historic” Singapore meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un, writes political editor Dr Martin Hirst.

TUESDAY 12 JUNE 2018, will go down in history as the day that a U.S. President sat down with a North Korean dictator to attempt a settlement of a 70-year-old conflict that has bedevilled the world.

It is impossible to say, just 48 hours later, if there will be success, or if there will be nuclear annihilation when the peace efforts crash and burn. But what is clear so far is that the Tangerine Fascist met his “Mini-Me” in the North Korean Supreme Leader.

Chaos is the new normal. Both Donald J Trump and Kim Jong-un are highly unpredictable, we cannot know what either of them will do next. Both of them thrive on chaos and a dangerous delusion of authoritarian narcissism.

However, this might not be immediately obvious. That’s because this simple truth has been forgotten in the rush to celebrate, deify and mythologise the few hours that Trump and Kim spent together this week in Singapore.

I spent a few hours watching coverage of the “historic summit” on Fox News.

There was wall-to-wall gloating and waves of “I told you so” and “fake news media were wrong about him” smarm as the Fox presenters lined up to kick the non-reverential American news media and bow down before Trump.

It was sickening. But, to be fair, the coverage was not much better on the ABC.

What Fox and the ABC shared was an overwhelming desire to normalise Trump’s self-aggrandising and far from normal behaviour.

The “optics” and the “atmospherics” of Singapore were endlessly replayed because there was very little else to actually report right up until Trump’s extraordinary news conference at the end of the day.

It was extraordinary, but unless you watched it, you are unlikely to get the full weirdness of it. It lasted for just over an hour and Trump’s impatience to talk about himself meant that most reporters didn’t even get to finish their questions before Trump talked all over the top of them.

And it was all about Trump.

He lambasted all the previous U.S. administrations who had not been able to handle the North Korea situation. It didn’t matter that Trump’s historical knowledge is negligible, he just kept on repeating the few simple lines he’d managed to practice with his advisors/enablers.

On the whole “peace regime” thing, (former President) Obama couldn’t do it, but Trump could because he’s such a good deal maker. “That’s what I do”, he reminded the assembled journalists — and by extension the entire planet!

Read the rest of this piece at Independent Australia.


The News Establishment is broken and Michelle Wolf exposes its flaws

May 4, 2018

A comedian made fun of Donald Trump and his inner circle and sections of the liberal U.S. news media wet themselves with anxiety. As political editor Dr Martin Hirst explains, it means the news establishment is losing its grip on reality.

First published on Independent Australia.

YEP. The doyens of the liberal media were upset that a comedian’s monologue might have put Trump’s nose out of joint, or poked fun at his lackeys and enablers.

But, you know, I love it when the backlash suffers a backlash.

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner this year, a comedian – Michelle Wolf – did the usual and customary monologue, in which the incumbent President, those close to him and some of the news media’s high profile “stars” are given a traditional roasting.

The jokes are sometimes a little “off colour”, sometimes not really very funny and nearly always right on target. Occasionally, the comedian oversteps some imaginary line in the sand and ruffles the feathers of America’s media elite.

This year, some members of that exclusive club got their Dolce & Gabbana nickers in one almighty twist.

You see, Michelle Wolf told a couple of fairly lame jokes about Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

This so upset some members of the Fourth Estate that they immediately took to social media to condemn Ms Wolf’s apparent poor taste.

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Among the first to complain on Twitter was the New York Times’ Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman:

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Another prominent female journalist, Mika Brzezinski, weighed in with a tough defence of Huckabee Sanders:

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However, I am not alone in finding it a bit strange that Haberman and Brzezinski – themselves targets of Trump’s insults and personal jibes – rushed to defend the White House in general, and Huckabee Sanders in particular. Trump accused Haberman of being a “third-rate reporter” in the way he’s also attacked many other reporters by name. Even worse, his insults of Brzezinski included dreadful comments about her “bleeding from the face” following a facelift.

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Bombing Syria – to restore “democracy”

April 14, 2018

The bombing campaign and missile attacks on Syria began a few hours ago. Supposedly targeting military sites, there is no word yet on civilian casualties, but its certain there will be plenty. Assad, like most dictators, likes to keep his military bases close to civilian centres and no matter how “smart” Trump’s missiles are, a few will surely miss their targets.

I wrote this before the bombing began, but it is still relevant.

First published on Independent Australia

Neither Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus — long live the Syrian Revolution

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed the world to the edge of a new conflict by threatening a missile attack on Syria. Russia has responded with threats of its own, foreshadowing a new Cold War. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst examines the potential fall-out from the escalating rhetorical duel between rival superpowers.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result (Image by Alisdare Hickson via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0])

THIS WEEK, I was reminded of the life and work of one of my Marxist heroes, Tony Cliff. Cliff was a founding member and leading theorist of the International Socialist Tendency and famously coined the term “state capitalism” to characterise the degraded socialism and despotic regime in the Soviet Union. The politics of Russia have changed, it is now a rampant capitalist oligarchy, but “state capitalism” remains the economic policy of the Putin regime.

Thinking about Tony Cliff also prompted me to note that he would have taken a very firm position on the conflict in Syria and he would have been vehemently opposed to the Trump regime’s threats to rain down ‘nice and new and “smart”‘ missiles on Damascus.

However, Cliff’s opposition to a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime – supposedly in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians in the rebel-held enclave of Houda – would not be based on misguided love for the criminal Assad. Nor would it be based on the mistaken view that Russia is somehow “better” than the United States in terms of the Syria conflict.

(In case you’ve not been paying attention, Russia is committed to propping up the Assad Government while ostensibly fighting Islamic terrorism. In retaliation for Trump’s provocation, Russia threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria.)

Tony Cliff was an International Socialist and, therefore, would not be advocating for taking the side of either of the imperialist powers in their proxy war being fought in Syrian airspace. Understanding Cliff’s background is important here.

Cliff was born Yigael Gluckstein, a stateless Jew from what was then Palestine. He was born in 1917 – coincidentally the first year of the Russian revolution. In his youth, Cliff was a member of the Revolutionary Communist League in Palestine and left for Britain in 1947, effectively exiled for his anti-Zionist political activity.

At the height of the Cold War, when it seemed that the Soviet Union and the United States might actually launch an all-out nuclear strike on each other, the International Socialist Tendency adopted the slogan, ‘Neither Washington, nor Moscow, but international socialism’.

(Image via National Museum of Australia / nma.gov.au)

Today, Tony Cliff would be urging all progressive people to unite behind a similar slogan when it comes to the conflict in Syria. To round out the political message, he would perhaps suggest the following edit:

“Neither, Washington, Moscow, nor Damascus.”

To explain this clearly, a little bit of history is necessary.

The conflict in Syria began with an uprising against Bashar Al-Assad during the ill-fated Arab Spring of 2011. At the heart of the Syrian resistance was a largely secular working class movement which drew strength and inspiration from events in Egypt and elsewhere.

The Syrian revolution grew quickly, and Assad’s response was swift and brutal. He reasoned – as most desperate despots do – that it would be better to destroy large swathes of the nation than see Syria fall into the hands of the rebels.

Assad’s brutality extended to indiscriminate mass murder of civilians through air strikes on some of Syria’s largest cities; the imprisonment and torture (often to death) of his opponents and the deliberate targeting of foreign journalists bravely covering the conflict from behind rebel lines.

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Is Reuters right: Covering Trump is like covering Third World dictators

February 9, 2017

The Reuters news agency says covering Washington DC is now on a par with reporting from dictatorships. Is this the right thing for journalists? Doc Martin reviews the advice being given to reporters facing Donald Trump’s shock doctrine tactics.

IT DIDN’T take long. About ten days. But now it is very clear that the White House is at war with large sections of the American – and, indeed, the global – news media.

Trump incessantly tweets about the “failing” New York Times, this week suggesting it should be sold and its print edition shut down. The White House is also refusing to send Trump “surrogates” to CNN talk shows as a way of bullying the organisation. This tactic seems to be working, CNN has dropped its initial decision not to broadcast Sean Spicer’s press briefings live.

This is a war the news media knew was coming. It’s not like Trump kept his hatred of the New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN secret. He’s been tweeting his bile and outright lies about the media for months now.

Trump’s cultivated hostility to certain sections of the news media – he is very benevolent towards the pro-Trump media – is causing conniptions among executives and editors. It is prompting deep soul-searching and even causing some outlets to reconsider their whole Washington DC news coverage.

Globally-respected journalism academic, Jay Rosen, has told IA that the White House approach to controlling press briefings is

“… as bad as I thought it would be, with ‘the media’ getting blamed for what the White House or Trump screwed up.”

 

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