“I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.”
Try not to think too much about the story that led to this comment from the President-Elect of the United States. It’s not easy, I know. We’re only human, after all, and that story is so ... so out there. It’s hard to turn away.
Hi. I am Art Caplan from the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University Langone School of Medicine in Manhattan.
We have a newly elected president, Donald J. Trump. He will be making many changes to the policies of the Obama years. What will his election mean for healthcare? What will it mean for ethical issues that come up in the context of healthcare?
“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie …
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. Power is not a means; it is an end … The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”~ George Orwell
“Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?” ~ James Russell Lowell
For the past few weeks, I have been reviewing articles about the trend toward authoritarianism in the USA. Unfortunately, articles appear faster than I can read and review them, so I’ll have to stop and move on soon. With this in mind, I list a few of the pieces I won’t get to, followed by excerpts from some other good ones.
We’ll likely never touch the man, sit in the same room, or establish rapport with him. But he has nonetheless infected all of us quite intimately — some of us willingly, and some less so. That’s because he is less invasive as a person than he is as a virus. Yes, Donald Trump is a media virus, in the truest sense of the term.
“Orwell, Huxley and America’s Plunge into Authoritarianism,” Counterpunch, June 19, 2015, by Henry Giroux, the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University.
I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
In the era of information wars knowledge of the past is perhaps the only way we can remain anchored to reality. Such collective memory shouldn’t only consist of an accurate record of the facts, but would also include a sense of the history of knowledge and inforwar itself.
Our two previous posts showed how prospect theory in behavioral economics explains why so many gambled on Trump, and why the artificial intelligence and decision theory expert Eliezer Yudkowsky thinks that this was a mistake. In a post written the day before the election, Yudkowsky expanded on both themes, providing a simple explanation of how many of the gamblers reasoned:
In our previous post we examined how prospect theory helps explain why so many American voters were willing to risk voting for such a manifestly unqualified candidate for President as Donald Trump. Of course what citizens who are willing to take these risks fail to understand, as the artificial intelligence and decision theory expert Eliezer Yudkowsky writes on his Facebook page, is “how there’s a level of politics that’s theater and a level of politics that’s deadly serious.” For example, it’s deadly serious when a President talks about scrapping the NATO alliance or using nuclear weapons. In such cases you would hope that competent and conscientious people exercise power in the international relations realm.
There is plenty of analysis on why Trump narrowly won the crucial states that gave him an electoral college victory—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan—even though Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes. But what was particularly striking was how, even if we control for race and income, educational levels best predict how people voted in the election. Of course this was expected, but I was shocked by how much a difference education made in terms of voter preference.
It will be a long time into the future before we will know just what this election ultimately meant. What is perhaps more clear, even if we avoid donning the rose colored glasses of hindsight, is that the seeds that sprouted in 2016 were a long time- a- growing. They might even have been anticipated as far back as the culture wars that exploded onto the scene in the late 1960’s. More on that in a moment.
Like most of my readers, I am devastated by the 2016 American Presidential election results (and by the Congressional election results as well.) I have waited a few weeks to write about it so as not to be reacting too emotionally to the results. Since that time my usual focus on philosophy has faded into the background as the country in which I was born and lived all of my life finds itself in perhaps its greatest existential crisis.
For the first time in a quarter-century, we’re about to see a vacuum of political and intellectual leadership in the Democratic Party. An entire generation of leaders — including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill and Hillary Clinton — will be leaving the political stage. With them will go an entire infrastructure of policy advisers, political strategists, associates, friends, and hangers-on.
So, literally overnight, we entered the stage of the great normalization. We’ve gone from the almost universal belief among the elites, media and a large number of the American public that electing Trump would be a disaster for the country, the economy, our liberty to an apparent shrug of the shoulders and sycophantic search for advantage in the new order.
As Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency, Americans must learn to distinguish the ways he is uniquely terrible from the ways in which he is not so terribly unique — except as a matter of degree. His extreme behavior shouldn’t be “normalized,” to use the year’s newest word. But neither should the lies and deceptions of his more “respectable” colleagues.