Tonight I find myself thinking: at what point can we talk about the descent of America to a fascistic state and it not be hyperbolic? We’ve reached a tipping point.
President Trump and Vice President Pence are celebrating the fact that they have pressured the NFL into fining players for taking a knee during the pre-match rendition of the national anthem from now on. Not satisfied with this dampening of dissent, Trump said that players should not even be allowed to stay in the dressing room. In his words a few hours ago in an interview to Fox and Friends: “you have to stand proudly or you shouldn’t be playing – you shouldn’t be there – maybe you shouldn’t even be in the country.”
Backing their man, one host of the show queried why the NFL still allowed for the possibility that he might wonder “if there are four players from the Jets or the 49-ers missing [from the national anthem rendition] – why are they mad at the country?”.
The curtailment of freedom of speech is one thing – and so galling from these self-proclaimed lovers of liberty and the Constitution that excoriate Europe for her supposed lack of freedom – but it is the compulsion of displays of acts of jingoism that run counter to one’s conscience that chills to the bone.
A large part of why the Trump campaign was able to carry the evangelical vote, despite its figurehead’s manifest unsuitability, was its explicit defence of “religious liberty”. In his time as Governor of Indiana, Vice-President Pence signed a law giving protection for businesses to deny services they might otherwise be expected to provide, or follow certain employment laws, on the basis of their religious beliefs before having to revise it. An early draft of President Trump’s “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” Executive Order included similar provisions. Why then is the freedom of conscience of Trump’s evangelical base so revered, but that of African-American athletes forsaken?
It is totally appropriate at this stage to discuss the term totalitarianism when the sanctity of freedom of conscience is dismissed so lightly from the Bully Pulpit. It is only that the compulsion of law is absent that is stopping this from being literal fascism.
The most disquieting aspect of this situation, however, is… well, who cares?
Not when we have spent this week being bombarded by confected news about how Donald Trump supposedly likened all Latino immigrants to “animals”. He didn’t – he was discussing a particular gang. It was painfully obvious and the footage is readily accessible.
Even the commentary that admitted this context still portrayed Donald Trump as having made an unpardonable moral error – so-called “dehumanisation”. Oh, the humanity of comparing the likely lads of MS13, they who live by the decidedly un-Musketeer-like motto of “rape, control, kill” , to animals. Soon we will be propping up the corpse of George Orwell at the Hague as he is tried for crimes against humanity.
There is so much to attack him on – stating that he might not recognise the results of the election if he lost; advocating for the death penalty of the Central Park Five (not Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Joey) after their innocence was established; presiding over a 200% increase in the number of civilian fatalities caused by US-led coalition actions in Syria and Iraq in his first year in office after saying on the campaign trail that the families of suspected terrorists should be murdered.
Why then does the mainstream news media so frantically chase these phantoms of its own making and exhaust its credibility?