An occasional series on the new nationalists – dingoes and drongos like Trump, Farage, and Bernardi – and other Oz twerps.
The Nuremberg Offence in Washington
During the War Crimes trials at Nuremberg, some accused Germans pleaded as a defence to the crimes alleged against them that they were acting under orders. The court found against what has come to be called the Nuremberg Defence. You can’t justify a criminal offence by saying that you were merely carrying out orders. The law prevails over orders, and thank God that is so.
Now Donald Trump has created the Nuremberg Offence. He believes his orders prevail over the law. So, when his acting Attorney General expressed a legal view that he did not like, and refused to implement an order she believed to be unlawful, he fired her. Trump puts his orders above the law. The last people to do this in England were the Stuart kings. Trump’s actions have a fascist air about them. When his first Law Officer did what she saw was her duty to the law, Trump accused her of betrayal. This is as terrifying as it is nauseating.
Are we too quick to use the terms ‘fascism’ with Trump? In another time, I sought to explain fascism as follows.
What do I mean by ‘fascism’? I mean a commitment to the strongest kind of government of a people along overtly militarist and nationalist lines; a government that puts itself above the interests of any or indeed all of its members; a commitment that is driven by faith rather than logic; with an aversion to or hatred of equality, minorities, strangers, women and other deviants; a contempt for liberalism or even mercy; and a government that is prone to symbolism in weapons, uniforms, or its own charms or runes, and to a belief in a charismatic leader.
The word came originally from the Latin word fasces, the bundle of rods and axe carried before Roman consuls as emblems of authority, and was first applied to the followers of the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, Il Duce, and then to the followers of Il Caudillo, Generalissimo Franco, and the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. Fascists are thick-skinned, thick-headed, and brutal. They despise intellectuals – who are after all deviants – but they may have an untutored and irrational rat cunning.
As Professor Simon Blackburn of Cambridge University tersely remarks: ‘The whole cocktail is animated by a belief in regeneration through energy and struggle’ (kampf). To an outsider, it looks like pure moonshine that is the first refuge of a ratbag and a bully, a brilliant and seductive toy for the intellectually and morally deprived, and an eternal warning of the danger of patriotism to people of good sense and good will. But while that ‘cocktail’ may look a bit much for Plato, it looks fair for Sparta.
It also looks to me to be fair enough for Trump – and certainly so for the vile Stephen Bannon. We know from history that people like Trump and Bannon almost unforeseeably squeak into power in the vacuum of a loss of faith that follows a breakdown in world order, and that the times were ripe for the raw nationalism of those two – and of Farage, Gove, and Johnson – all five of them ratbags of the first degree.
In the meantime, Sean Spicer, a punching bag for a punch drunk bully, continues his assault on language and truth. Not only is the Executive Order not a Muslim ban, which Trump promised he would give – it is not ban at all. The Compact OED says a ‘ban’ is ‘an official prohibition’. Well, that’s what this is – otherwise Uncle Sam will be paying out damages forever. Unless of course he can persuade the courts that he really is above the law. But the Press Secretary waffles on. He says it is ‘extreme vetting’ and not a ‘ban’.
Poor Theresa May is now at the cross-roads of two nationalisms. The nationalism that drove England out of Europe leads her to lean more heavily on the U S which is now in the hands of this nationalist ogre. And I see in the press that the signs are that Trump will invoke the bullshit of ‘extreme vetting’ to welch on that dirty deal with us. You would naturally not want to use either the word ‘poetic’ or the word ‘justice’ with Trump, but we shall see.
Meanwhile, the editor of The Australian doesn’t think that Trump issued a ‘Muslim ban’, and three of the most repellent people in Australia – Rowan Dean, Ross Cameron, and Mark Latham – think Trump is wonderful. The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of what passes for conservatism in this duckpond is as frightening as it is staggering.