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General News    H3'ed 10/13/16

Tomgram: John Feffer, Slouching Toward the Apocalypse

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: On December 6th, in conjunction with Haymarket Books, Dispatch Books will be publishing its first novel, Splinterlands, by John Feffer, a riveting, dystopian view of our lives to come. Based on a vivid (and much read) piece Feffer wrote for us late last year, the novel just got a starred pre-publication review at Publisher's Weekly (a first for us): "In a chilling, thoughtful, and intuitive warning, foreign policy analyst Feffer takes today's woes of a politically fragmented, warming Earth and amplifies them into future catastrophe... This novel is not for the emotionally squeamish or optimistic; Feffer's confident recitation of world collapse is terrifyingly plausible, a short but encompassing look at world tragedy." Foreword Reviews , which highlights the best of the independent press, recently hailed it: "Feffer's book is a wild ride through a bleak future, casting a harsh, thought-provoking light on that future's modern-day roots."

Barbara Ehrenreich has written: " Splinterlands paints a startling portrait of a post-apocalyptic tomorrow that is fast becoming a reality today. Fast-paced, yet strangely haunting, Feffer's latest novel looks back from 2050 on the disintegration of world order told through the story of one broken family -- and offers a disturbing vision of what might await us all if we don't act quickly." And Mike Davis says: "John Feffer is our 21st-century Jack London, and, like the latter's Iron Heel , Splinterlands is a vivid, suspenseful warning about the ultimate incompatibility between capitalism and human survival."

In short, Splinterlands is a must-read. To make sure that you're the first on your block to get a copy (and remember: each copy you buy is also a way of supporting TomDispatch 's new publishing project), why not pre-order it now? Here's how to do it, and it'll be in the mail to you on December 6th (and you'll even get a significant discount): click on this link, which will take you to the Haymarket Books website. Then click on "add to cart," select the number of copies of Splinterlands you want, and then click on "checkout." After you've filled out your shipping and billing information, you will be asked to enter a coupon code. To purchase one book, enter SPLINTER40 and you will get 40% off the cover price; for five or more books, enter SPLINTER50 and you will get 50% off. It's the perfect Christmas gift in the grim year of 2016! Tom]

Recently, I posted a piece, "This Is Not About Donald Trump," in which I explored some of the ways in which The Donald was, in American terms, anything but a freak of nature. As I suggested, the two roles he's inhabited most fully in his life -- salesman and conman -- are so in the American grain that it's been apple pie all the way to the Republican nomination for president. Think, then, of today's post by TomDispatch regular John Feffer, author of the soon-to-be-published dystopian novel Splinterlands, as a kind of companion to that piece. It suggests far wilder ways in which Trump couldn't be more in that same grain, if what you have in mind is the Dr. Strangelovian current that runs through American life, involving evangelicals, apocalyptics, survivalists, and white racists; even his extremity, that is, couldn't be more us -- or, if you prefer, more U.S. Tom

Trump the Arsonist
Evangelicals, Survivalists, the Alt-Right, and Hurricane Donald
By John Feffer

The world according to Donald Trump is very dark indeed. The American economy has tanked. Mexico has sent a horde of criminals over the border to steal jobs and rape women. The Islamic State, cofounded by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is taking over the globe. "Our country's going to hell," he declared during the Republican primaries. It's "like medieval times," he suggested during the second presidential debate. "We haven't seen anything like this, the carnage all over the world."

For Trump, it's not morning in America, it's just a few seconds before midnight on the doomsday clock. Although his campaign doggedly continues to promise a new beginning for the country, the candidate and his advisers are sending out a very different message: the end is nigh. These Cassandras all agree that, although Obama's two terms were no walk in the park, the stakes in 2016 are world-destroyingly higher. If Clinton is elected, the future could be, as conservative political operatives Dick Morris and Eileen McGann titled their recent book, Armageddon.

Presidential challengers often paint a grim picture of the world of the incumbent, overstating the case for dramatic effect. Ever the showman, Trump has no compunction about repeatedly going way over the top, calling the U.S. military a "disaster" because it's supposedly underfunded and the United States a "third-world country" thanks to its precipitous economic decline. Trump talks as if he were the hybrid offspring of Karl Marx and Ann Coulter.

Trumpworld, however, is a photographic negative of statistical reality. The U.S. economy has been on an upswing for the last several years (though its benefits have been anything but evenly distributed). Nationally, violent crime is on the decline (though murder rates are soaring in some cities like Chicago). The Obama administration averted war with Iran and negotiated a de'tente with Cuba (though it continues to wage war in other parts of the world and has maintained sky-high Pentagon spending). If the Obama years are hardly beyond criticism, they are hardly beneath contempt either.

In dispensing with what one of his senior aides called the "reality-based community," George W. Bush's administration attempted to create an alternative, on-the-ground reality, particularly through the direct exercise of American military power -- and we know how well that turned out. Trump seems to have even less interest in the "reality-based community." He's evidently convinced that the sheer power of his own bluster, even without the firepower of that military, should be sufficient to alter our world. After all, didn't it win him a loyal following on TV and -- to the disbelief of politicians and media commentators everywhere -- the Republican presidential nomination?

The reality-based community -- which Trump labels the "elite" -- wants nothing to do with him. The discrepancy between his rhetoric and what other people call facts explains in part why even conservative elites -- prominent Republicans like Brent Scowcroft and John Warner, conservative columnists like George Will, and even neoconservatives like Bill Kristol, not to speak of right-leaning newspapers like The Arizona Republic and the Dallas Morning News -- have made historic decisions to abandon their party's presidential nominee.

But don't kid yourself. There is method to Trump's particular version of madness. He and his slyly smiling running mate Mike Pence are playing up their vision of scorched-earth America not just to win general political points but to appeal to a very specific set of voters by tapping into the apocalyptic strain in American politics. The evangelicals, anti-globalists, and white power constituencies that form the bedrock of his support hear in Trump's blasts more than just a set of fun-house facts. When the Donald says that Hillary is "the devil" and America's going to hell, this constituency -- steeped in Biblical prophecy, survivalist ideology, and racist conspiracies -- takes him literally. America is on the verge of (take your pick): the Rapture, an end-of-days contest between American patriots and U.N. invaders, or an all-out race war to the finish.

And here's what makes Trump's carnivalesque presidential campaign especially topsy-turvy. He's been slouching toward just about every kind of Armageddon imaginable, except the genuine planetary ones that are -- or should be -- almost unavoidable these days. He has, after all, dismissed climate change as a "hoax" and a Chinese scam. He is so blase' about nuclear weapons that he's been comfortable with the thought of American allies Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia developing their own. He has nothing whatsoever to say about potential global pandemics (but plenty to spout about the potentially malign effects of vaccinations).

To grasp the nature of such genuine dangers requires at least a minimal understanding of science. It also requires a genuine concern that the world as we know it could indeed end in our lifetimes or those of our children and grandchildren.

Of course, not everyone thinks the apocalypse is a bad thing.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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