Meeting Diabolos (the Diabolical)

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Prefatory Note to readers

This commentary has been in process for days. It hasn’t been posted here because I find it impossible to keep up with the news –anything I might say is already passé — or because sources like Heather Richardson’s daily Letters from an American do what I attempt to do better. But this period of social turmoil has led to me to see what should have been obvious. I write from a faith perspective that seeks to writeI from a faith perspective but not to a faith perspective. I write as a public theologian; write for anyone who cares to listen.

Encountering the Diabolical

You don’t have to believe in a Devil with horns and a pitchfork to recognize the diabolical. The Greek word in the New Testament is diabolos. The diabolical is “characteristic of the Devil, or so evil as to be suggestive of a Devil” (Oxford online dictionary). Synonyms include fiendish, heinous, hellish, vicious, vile, cruel, wicked (Thesaurus.com). Like the calls to action from Conservative Direct that confused me for a friend.

December 10, 8:42 A.M.
 
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 We will not bend.
 We will not break.
 We will not yield.
 We will never give in.
 We will never give up.
 We will never back down.
 We will NEVER, ever surrender!
 
We are Americans, and our hearts bleed RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.
 
The Left is trying to TAKE the White House from YOUR President, and, for the sake of our Country’s future, I need YOU to step up and help us SECURE THE SENATE!

 THE LEFT WILL TRY TO STEAL THE ELECTION!
 PRESIDENT TRUMP NEEDS YOU TO FIGHT BACK

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The gift of Mistaken Identity

I don’t know how Conservative Direct put me on its email list, but I’m glad they did. Now I know. The emails to Donald Trump’s “Friends” and “BEST Supporters” provide a look inside a narrative that helps explain how good people get caught swept up in what the Bible calls the demonic, the diabolical, the satanic twisting that turns goodness into evil.

I meet diabolos every day. in heinous tweets and news clips. The list of the diabolical speech and action is long and endless. (“It’s a hoax. The coronavirus is a Democrat hoax,” he says to the American public while telling Robert Woodward he knew but didn’t want the American people to panic. “I don’t know the woman. I’ve never met the woman. You’ll have to ask Michael.” “I don’t know anything about that. Ask Rudy.” “There’s no quid pro quo.” “I won the election! It was stolen.” Iconic Civil Rights leaders Elijah Cummings and John Lewis go unacknowledged while the First Lady drapes the medal over Rush Limbaugh to loud applause from the Right side and the silence of disbelief from the other. And that’s doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Echoes from Narcissus and Joe McCarthy

The Conservative Direct emails call conscientious patriots to fight against Leftists — people like me — while echoing the desperate cry of a thirsty Narcissus in the snarly tone of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn whose early ’50s campaign saw Communists like Pete Seeger hiding in the entertainment industry, the U.S. military, and government offices until Army defense counsel Joseph Welch stood up to McCarthy with the rebuke that rang out across the American public in Edward R. Murrow’s nightly news broadcast.

Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild … Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Joseph Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954.
McCarthy Hearing photo of Sen. Joseph McCarty (R) and exasperated Army Counsel Joseph Welsh (L)

Earlier that same day, Welch had challenged Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s staff attorney, to give the FBI and Department of Defense McCarthy’s list of 130 alleged subversives “before the sun goes down.” McCarthy fired back, claiming that Fred Fisher, a young member of Welch’s law firm, had Communist ties. Welch called out McCarthy in words that many American citizens wish we could say to the President and elected representatives of the GOP who fear being on Mr. Trump’s hit list:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. … I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”

Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy sullied the character of Fred Fisher.

Roy Cohn later tutored a young Donald Trump and signed on in the capacity later held by Michael Cohn. Like Michael, Roy was thrown under the bus when he was no longer useful.

Diabolos and Democracy

A week ago the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the frivolous lawsuit alleging fraud in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 2020 election. The Court’s unanimous decision without comment was a sharp rebuke by all nine Justices, included Mr. Trump’s three appointments to the Court. Yet the public relations legal charade did not end there. The narrative continued with the Texas Attorney General’s suit against the States of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Seventeen other GOP State attorneys general filed amicus briefs and 106 GOP Congressional Representatives put their names on the Trump support list knowing full well that no state has legal standing to challenge another state’s election process, let alone void other States elections.

Tonight the Supreme Court put an end to it. The U.S. Supreme Court — six Justices appointed by Republican presidents and three by Democratic presidents — did its job. They exercised their oath to maintain the rule of law in faithfulness under the U.S. Constitution.

The president refuses to acknowledge his defeat. He is delusional. So is his party. Every member of the U.S. Congress — every Senator and Representative — owes it to the American people to fulfill their oaths to uphold the Constitution — not to seditious Commander-in-Chief or his party. To stay silent while the president eviscerates the institutions on which democracy depends, firing competent public servants and replacing them with incompetent sycophants loyal to him is to be guilty of aiding and abetting treason.

A Leech and a Wrecking Ball

Every day that passes is another day we hear the clanging of the wrecking ball. Every day we wonder whether you, the members of Congress, hear it too. We hope against hope that you stand up for us, for democracy, and for yourselves, that you have the courage to remove Diabolos, the leech that is sucking America dry. That you will do what the president has failed or refused to do: “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic.” You will be on the list, but you will stand tall as a patriot. No foreign country has the power to incite violence on American soil or to invoke Marshall Law to restore law and order to void an election. Only a domestic enemy can do that.

It’s not over til it’s over

The Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Wolverine Watchman, Aryan Brotherhood, other well-armed white supremacist, and, God forbid it should become so, Blackwater Xi, the private for-hire mercenary “security” operation whose employees former U.S. special forces personnel — click here for Views from the Edge’s previous Minnpost commentary on Blackwater Xi — are staying back and standing down, waiting for the whistle to take the streets.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, author of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (Wipf and Stock, 2017) and host of Views from the Edge.

ADDENDUM: PRIORITY ACCESS TO MILANIA TRUMP’S 2020 CALENDAR

Dec. 10 9:00 P.M. SPECIAL INVITATION

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Criticism and Dissent: Why don’t you just leave?

It’s almost always wise to take a deep breath. Step back as though you’re looking in from the outside, rather ‘objectively’ you might say, in order to see more clearly what’s happening.

“Why don’t you just leave/ go back where you came from?” has a certain logic and a history. Click HERE for the entire Wikipedia article on propaganda.

Ergo decedo (traitorous critic fallacy)

Ergo decedoLatin for “therefore leave” or “then go off”, a truncation of argumentum ergo decedo, and colloquially denominated the traitorous critic fallacy,[1] denotes responding to the criticism of a critic by implying that the critic is motivated by undisclosed favorability or affiliation to an out-group, rather than responding to the criticism itself. The fallacy implicitly alleges that the critic does not appreciate the values and customs of the criticized group or is traitorous, and thus suggests that the critic should avoid the question or topic entirely, typically by leaving the criticized group.[2]

Argumentum ergo decedo is generally categorized as a species of informal fallacy and more specifically as a species of the subclass of ad hominem informal fallacies.

In politics

Argumentum ergo decedo is directly related to the tu quoque fallacy when responding to political criticism. As whataboutism is used against external criticism,  is used against internal criticism.

Examples

Critic: “I think we need to work on improving Nauru‘s taxation system. The current system suffers from multiple issues that have been resolved in other places such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.

Respondent: Well, if you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave and go somewhere you think is better?”

Critic: “Our office’s atmosphere is unsuitable for starting constructive conversations about reforms for the future of the company. A number of improvements are needed.

Respondent: “Well, if you don’t like the corporate system, then why are you here? You should just leave!”

A Personal Reflection

A Personal Reflection

Last night’s campaign rally in North Carolina sent chills up my spine. “Send her back! Send her back!” has a history. It paints criticism of the nation’s policies and behavior as unpatriotic. But patriotism (love on one’s country) is not nationalism. Patriotism is love of country. Nationalism makes the nation god.

We’ve heard these words before. I heard them used during the reign of terror fired up by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. II heard them in response to Ruby Bridges in Little Rock. I heard them from George Wallace and sheriffs, Selma, and Chicago. I heard them again when criticizing our policy in Vietnam War. Back then it was “America: Love it or leave it!” Now, as then, the cry to go home is not a criticism; it’s ergo deceto –a bullying response to criticism. Constitutional democratic republics assume a baseline of respect between and among people who disagree. No scapegoating. No name calling. No dismissal of each other as enemies, and a full, thoughtful discussion of policy and criticism. Wherever criticism is met with the traitorous critic fallacy, constitutional democratic republics are put to the brink of fascism.

Flash back: March 9, 1954: Dissent and Loyalty

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. . . . (McCarthy’s actions) “have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Good night and good luck.

Edward R. Murrow, March 9, 1954, CBS; Commentary credited with stopping McCarthyism.
  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 18, 2019.

Whistleblowers, traitors, or patriots?

Watching and listening to Rep. Trey Gowdy during last week’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSC Director Mike Rogers was  deja vu for those of us old enough to remember Joseph McCarthy’s use of the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917.

Trey-Gowdy-1200x6301With stern face and the determined voice of a righteous prosecutor Gowdy shifted the focus of the hearing away from the question of outside foreign interference in the election process to the leaks coming from inside the intelligence community itself, and the need to find and prosecute the leakers under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. A breach of secrecy of classified material is punishable by as much as 10 year prison sentence.

A google search led to an article by a whistleblower published by The Guardian criticizing the Obama Administration with prosecuting whistleblowers while turning a blind eye to leaks of classified material by members of the Administration itself. Click “Obama’s abuse of the Espionage Act is modern-day McCarthyism” for The Guardian story from 2013 that moves the conversation beyond partisanship to the issue of the national security state and the new McCarthyism.

mccarthy1McCarthyism began with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s conviction that the communists had infiltrated the federal government as well as the left-leaning entertainment industry and the media. He was looking for spies and traitors, American citizens whose nefarious purposes posed the greatest threat to the United States of America.

Twenty years later, Daniel Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 and charges of conspiracy and theft for “leaking” to the New York Times what became known as the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, a crime with a total maximum sentence of 115 years. On May 11, 1973, the judge in the case dismissed all charges on the grounds of  government misconduct and illegal evidence gathering.

What we had then, and what have now, is an ethical issue of the first order.

Edward_Snowden-2Are there times when a government employee’s loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and and the duty of conscience supersedes the vow of secrecy under which she works? Are whistleblowers traitors? Patriots? Or something in between?

“Sometimes the scandal is not what law was broken, but what the law allows.” – Edward Snowden [quoted from Brainyquotes.com]

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 25, 2017.

 

Ted Cruz and demagogic innuendo

Notice how it works in this speech attacking President Barack Obama. The President stood, said Ted Cruz, on the EAST side (i.e. the former Communist side) of the Brandenburg Gate. Ted Cruze’s Subtext: “Obama is a Communist.” That’s the 21st Century voice of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

ObamaCare

They want you to believe that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a sinister plot. They do not call the Act by its name. They call it “ObamaCare” after the man they love to hate, President they paint as either a secret Muslim or Socialist or Communist. We’ve seen this kind of demagoguery before. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

This 1954 video of Joseph Welch brought the tsunami of demagoguery, led by WI Senator Joseph McCarthy, to a screeching halt. An exasperated Welsh, Chief Counsel for the Army in the Army-Senate Hearings, finally put the question directly to McCarthy: “Have you no decency, Sir?” The same question pertains to the Right Wing ad scaring the public about a lecherous Uncle Sam (government). Views from the Edge posted that video an hour ago.

FOX and the Scapegoat Mechanism

Today’s post on FOX News is inspired by Rene Girard’s “Mimetic” theory and an Aesop’s fable. First the fable.

THE FOX AND THE CROW

A Fox (read FOX) saw a Crow (the American people) fly off with a piece of cheese (real information) in its beak and settle on a branch in a tree.

“That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.

“Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds (parties, races, countries), just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of all Birds.”

The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth, the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.

“That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese, I will give you a piece of advice for the future: ‘Do not trust flatterers.'”

THE SCAPEGOAT MECHANISM AND SOCIAL CONTROL

Rene Girard’s theory of “mimetic” desire, mimetic rivalry, and the scapegoat mechanism explains the secret of the appeal and success of FOX News. The Fox takes the cheese it extols by flattering its viewers as the true patriots, the lovers of goodness and truth.

FOX News is the 21st Century voice of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). Joe McCarthy and what came to be known as “McCarthyism” scared the American public in a search for neighbors who might be closeted communists or communist sympathizers until news anchor Edward R. Murrow ended McCarthy’s witch-hunt with a single newscast.

As in that sordid history of the Salem Witch Trials in which the Puritans were summoned by their magistrates and clergy to rid themselves of evil (see Kai Erickson’s The Wayward Puritans: a Study in the Sociology of Deviance), McCarthy’s hunt was a convention of social control to maintain the old fraying religious, political, cultural consensus. FOX resurrects those shameful chapters of the American experience.

There is no quicker way to rally people than to create a scapegoat (a shared enemy, the embodiment of evil). All it takes is a FOX to flatter the “Queen of all Birds” into dropping the Cheese.

Rep. Allen West: Joseph McCarthy Reincarnated?

Do you believe in reincarnation?

Rep. Allen West

I didn’t until I read this story of FL Rep. Allen West (22nd District, FL), pictured here, acting like Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose search for closet Communists dominated the era of American politics now remembered for “McCarthyism”.  Click Rep. Allen West says 81 House Members are Communists” – ABC News to read  the story and see the video.

Rep. Keith EllisonClick Rep. Keith Ellison (5th District, MN) for information on the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I know Keith, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. When Keith left the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, I succeeded him as its Executive Director. Keith is always breaking new ground, but becoming the first Muslim member of Congress who is also a hidden member of the Communist Party isn’t part of his ground-breaking. It’s a lie. He is profoundly religious. If being one’s brother’s or sister’s keeper, caring for the poor, makes him a Communist, as Senator Joe McCarthy, once thought…well..McCarthy’s and West’s claims say more about them than about those they fear and love to hate.

U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy

Rep. West’s allegation that 81 members of the U.S. Congress are Communists, leads me to re-post this social commentary previously published by Minnesota Public Radio in September ’09, a year after the crash on Wall Street.

SORROW FLOATS

 Gordon C. Stewart, 9.10 09

“Sorrow floats.”  Perhaps the line from a John Irving novel in which “Sorrow,” the stuffed family dog preserved by a taxidermist, floats to the surface of the lake after a plane crash, helps explain what is happening in America.

Erin McClam’s “5 weeks on the brink: Reliving meltdown of ’08,” (September 5, 2009) recounts the series of chilling events that almost led to a national crash just one year ago.

Something dear to the American family died last year.  Most of us lived in the illusion of economic and financial health until the day it was rushed to the emergency room for a government rescue.

Since then our memories of the pre-September ‘08 world have taken the turn that families often take at funerals where the eulogies bear little resemblance to the reality of the deceased. We’re quarreling over what was real and what is mythical re-construction.

Following the plane wreck that takes the lives of the Berry family parents in The Hotel New Hampshire, the stuffed family pet bobs to the surface of the lake, floating among the wreckage.  Sorrow floats.  So does the thing we lost in September-October 2008.

What died was the assumption that an unregulated free market system was the best way to organize an economy, the natural partner of democracy.  The market almost crashed.  It didn’t because the government intervened before a reoccurrence of the crash of 1929.  Sometime between mid-September and October 7, when Congress passed its bill to stabilize the financial markets, the myth of the virtue of deregulated capitalism died.  It was stuffed by the taxidermy of government intervention, but it still floats.

When a conviction or a myth dies, it doesn’t go away.  It continues to bob to the surface.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Berry family, Sorrow is much easier to love after it is dead.  Sorrow – obese, lethargic, and persistently flatulent in its old age – no longer waddles through the dining room to foul the air.  The real life Sorrow gives way to the stuffed Sorrow, a thing of nostalgia that lives on…even after it’s dead, and long after the plane has crashed.

Sorrow floats every time fear sounds the alarm of “socialism.”  Sorrow floats every time we shout each other down in town hall meetings.  Sorrow floats every time nostalgia forgets that it was only by government intervention that Sorrow is still around.  The stuffed Sorrow floats every time we forget the greedy obesity that led to the deaths of Lehmann Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns, not to mention insurance giant AIG and all the banks that had taken the plunge into a market of deregulated derivatives and mortgages that led to the epidemic of home foreclosures, bankruptcies, pension fund disappearances, and job losses.  Sorrow floats a year after the crash when the mind forgets and nostalgically remembers a system we thought was working in our interest.

Old convictions die hard. The economic forces that grew fat over the years when government was viewed as the people’s enemy will stoke the fires of anxiety and anger, taking advantage of the Sorrow that still floats to remind us of something that we love more in retrospect than we did when the day it died of its own obesity.