If I kill a man without justification, I have done something wrong. And I am guilty of the crime of murder. I do not get to be acquitted of that crime just because some other person applauds my action. I remain guilty of that crime even if twenty million people applaud my action.
A proposition does not become invalid merely because one person denies it or because twenty million people deny it. Put differently, popular support or endorsement of a proposition provides no warrant of its validity. It is in logic a simple non sequitur to suggest that popular support of a proposition implies or warrants any validity of that proposition.
The definitive instance of popular will is the Lynch mob or the Ku Klux Klan – people on the outside who demand what the law won’t allow to them. The principal exponents of popular will are shock jocks such as Alan Jones or Andrew Bolt. It is obviously bullshit to suggest that we should endorse a Lynch mob or Jones or Bolt just because some people believe in them.
For some years, Adolf Hitler may have been the most popular political leader in the history of the world. When Pilate handed over the rebel named Jesus to the mob, he was giving ultimate expression to popular justice. The trouble with popular justice is that it is a contradiction in terms. And it looks like we may now be facing the same problem with democracy.
It is therefore surprising that we are being told that we should respect the opinions of people like Trump or Hanson because many people share and endorse those opinions and for that reason are prepared to vote for those people. It would be absurd to suggest that we might have to regard a ratbag as respectable if we found out that many people look up to, or respect, that ratbag. It is therefore just bullshit to suggest that if someone can get enough people to vote for him, then we must respect that person or the views that he expresses. Respect for a person is not logically entailed by the fact that other people are prepared to give that respect. As my mother, Norma, used to say to me, you would not put your head in an oven just because someone said that it would be a good idea.
Here are four examples to illustrate this bullshit.
There is a killer in the Philippines called Duterte. He was elected President and he currently has about 90% approval in the polls. Do we have to respect this mass murderer?
Adolf Hitler never got to 50% of the vote in a straight election. But he got very close once or twice. Was he to be respected then?
Two great moral issues recently in Australia were the invasion of Iraq and the offshore detention of refugees. The nation was divided but our politicians were united on each issue. Does that mean that we have to respect those political decisions?
I regard Cory Bernardi as inane and nasty. I think that he is a blot on our public life. He gets enough votes to be a Senator. Does that mean that I have to respect him?
The only significance of people like Hanson being voted into office by people who others regard as stupid or mean, or both, is that the people then elected are better able to spread their poison. The upside is that we get to see the cancers in our national psyche exposed to the sunlight.
And it may be time to stop pussyfooting and to acknowledge that those who vote for inane ratbags like Trump or Hanson are likely to be stupid or mean or both, and that we are in deep trouble if we allow ourselves to be governed by those who have lost in the great race of life, or who were hiding behind the door when they were handing out taste and sense.
But, yes, I acknowledge that we don’t do that because it would be like serving blood to a tiger. And we would also upset the voices of reaction and be branded as snobbish or elitist by those who have a close acquaintance with each of those terms.
Reactionaries get themselves in knots in defending Hanson. In The Weekend Australian, Chris Kenny, who is authentically thick, has a piece about that awful maiden speech of Hanson. It is headed: ‘Hanson speech reaction reeks of witch trials.’ He even refers to the famous Arthur Miller play. The sub-heading is: ‘A new breed of denouncers is misusing pulpits.’ We get the usual melange of types, brands, abstractions, and labels. The theme seems to be that Hanson can detect and respond to parts of the popular will better than the ‘political media/class’ – presumably excluding Kenny and his mates. He quotes his colleague Greg Sheridan on ‘the new illiberalism as it pertained to the gay marriage debate’ – what we have apparently is an ‘authoritarian ideology of bureaucratic statist liberalism.’ This is an open challenge – find a purer form of bullshit than that. This is fiercely and proudly Himalayan bullshit.
If I may be allowed an ad hominem comment, it is that it is curious that these people who pussyfoot around about the radical reactionary Hanson were the loudest people in condemning Obama and Turnbull for not repudiating radical Islam, whatever that means. Why don’t we just say it as it is? Hanson is a cold hearted and dull witted bitch that no decent person would allow into their own home. Even by the standards of Australian politics, it was nauseating beyond endurance to watch elected galahs line up to embrace this callous bitch.
Trump embodies the vulgarity of new money. He is preposterous enough to have been created by F Scott Fitzgerald. Instead, this is how Lampedusa described the nouveau in The Leopard:
….free as he was from the shackles imposed on many other men by honesty, decency and plain good manners, he moved through the forest of life with the confidence of an elephant which advances in a straight line, rooting up trees and trampling down lairs, without even noticing scratches and thorns and moans from the crushed.
Truly, we go to great writers for the truth.
I have referred to both Trump and Hitler. Hitler may be the ultimate example of the triumph of an abject failure (the kind of person that we are told supports Trump or Hanson). Erich Fromm analysed Hitler and said that he was a man bent on destruction.
Fromm made the following comments about his subject. When Hitler gave his orders for destruction, he was only aware of his ‘duty’ and of his noble intentions; he repressed the awareness of his craving for destruction. Hitler was the perfect example of self-love, or narcissism: he was interested only in himself, his desires, his thought, his wishes; he talked endlessly about his ideas, his past, his plans; the world is real only as far as it is the object of his schemes and desires; other people matter only as far as they serve him or can be used; he always knows everything better than anyone else. He would listen to recordings of himself and ‘throw himself in a big overstuffed chair and enjoy his voice in a trancelike state like the Greek youth who was tragically in love with himself and found his death in the water while admiring his own image on its smooth surface.’
A consequence of this narcissism was an utter lack of interest in anybody or anything except to the extent that was of service to him, and his cool remoteness from everybody. What people believed to be warmth was in fact excitation. Speer said of him: ‘Hitler lacked all the more gentle virtues of man: tenderness, love, poetry were alien to his nature. On the surface he showed courtesy, charm, tranquillity, correctness, amiability, self-control. This outer skin obviously had the function to cover up the really dominant traits with a complete although thin layer.’
Hitler treated his female companion with a complete lack of consideration – in her presence he would enlarge on his attitude towards women as though she were not present: ‘a highly intelligent man should take a primitive and stupid woman.’ Another part of his narcissism was the unshakeable certainty that he felt about his ideas. Hitler could talk glibly and with a claim to knowledge about almost everything under the sun. He was a crashing bore. His biographical memoire emerges as hardly the work of a man with any solid knowledge but as a cleverly – and dishonestly – constructed propaganda pamphlet.
Hitler was kind to his staff and his dog – Hitler could play the role of a friendly amiable and kind man well, not only because he was a good actor but because he liked the role. It was valuable for him to deceive those closest to him about the depth of his own character, and most of all to deceive himself.
In analysing Hitler, Fromm therefore found a number of severely pathological traits.
Which of those observations could not, with any necessary modification, be applied to Trump?
The list might overlook the three most important common denominators.
First, Hitler could be devastatingly wrong on the big picture; so can Trump.
Secondly, Hitler in the end viciously betrayed his own people, and the amoral self-loving Trump shows every symptom of having just that capacity.
Finally, Hitler did not attach and Trump has not attached any meaning much less value to the concept of truth. Hitler was committed, and Trump is now committed, to preside over an era of ‘post truth’. Both recall the outburst of Louis XVI: ‘It is lawful because I wish it!’ And then there was the proposition attributed to the Sun King, Louis XIV: ‘L’état, c’est moi.’ ‘I am the State.’
What are the differences? Hitler sought to murder a race. Trump wants to lock one out. Hitler was much smarter than Trump – at least on detail. Hitler was better at masking his dark side; Trump’s dullness and ego prevent him from doing the same. Hitler could remain very focussed while Trump has no powers of concentration at all. But the worst thing is that no one, including Trump, knows what he might do next – and if elected, Trump will have access to sources of destruction beyond the gaudiest dreams of the Fuhrer.
The most polite thing that could be said about Trump is that he is an idiot who was hopelessly spoiled as a child and who has never grown up to get any sense or manners. The most polite thing that you could say about those who believe in him is that they are delusional.
But as was the case with Hitler, so it is with Trump – no one – not one person – will be able to say that they have not been warned of the evil that this man might do if he is put in a position of power over others. It is just childish to suggest that Trump could be trusted in any such position, just as it is pure bullshit to suggest that this spoiled brat might pose as the champion of the downtrodden and oppressed. He will drop every one of them on the first call of his alpine ego. Loyalty is another word that has no meaning for this oaf.
Trump has been nominated for President of the U S for the Republican Party and he might be elected. Does that mean that we have to respect Trump? Those who vote for him have a legal right to do so, but must we then respect the way in which they exercise that right?
Poet of the month: Ibsen
Her griefs were the hours
When my struggle was sore,–
Her joys were the powers
That the climber upbore.
Her home is the boundless
Free ocean that seems
To rock, calm and soundless,
My galleon of dreams.
Half hers are the glancing
Creations that throng
With pageant and dancing
The ways of my song.
My fires when they dwindle
Are lit from her brand;
Men see them rekindle
Nor guess by whose hand.
Of thanks to requite her
No least thought is hers,–
And therefore I write her,
Once, thanks in a verse.