I can now answer that question.
All these horrors were created, as our world is deeply threatened, by a disbelief in objective truth, and in democracy itself.
We know a little about how things went two generations ago. The greed and corruption of democratic institutions, combined with the mass suffering of millions into a thick sludge through which it was easy to sell the idea that democracy was inherently corrupt, that free markets were never going to help people, that even objective truth didn’t exist.
Today that threat comes from Russia, a country whose economy is no bigger than Canada’s, but which has, since the end of the Cold War, gone through many of the paroxysms Germany went through back in the day.
What emerged from all that is Vladimir Putin. He knows his political, military, and economic hands are weak. He has nuclear weapons, but he can’t afford a conventional army big enough to roll through eastern Europe as the old Soviet Union did after World War II.
Thus, he engages in unconventional, asymmetric, even guerilla warfare, using everything at his disposal. Rules of war? There are no rules of war. Not in Syria, and not when it comes to the United States of America.
The most important weapon in Putin’s War is information, and the use of others’ suffering in putting forth the idea that the world is going to hell and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, except through the kind of scapegoating that led Hitler to his Final Solution. Putin is the patron for every ultra-nationalist, racist, and fascist across Europe, from Greece to Germany, from France to England.
He has been winning because we haven’t identified him as a threat, and stood against him. Just as was true with Hitler, we let him act with impunity.
Putin routinely engages in cyber warfare against the U.S., and gets away with it (again) only because he has a nuclear arsenal. He also engages in a propaganda war, built mainly around himself, and Forbes says this has made him the world’s most powerful man, more powerful than the President of the United States.
Which is a nonsense. Dangerous, yes. Powerful? Give me a break.
Still, Putin has found a willing puppet in Donald Trump. Trump is America’s LePen, its Golden Dawn. His platform is identical. Hate the other, kill them, protect the Motherland. Oh, and be very, very nice to Putin’s Russia.
Putin’s nukes limit our ability to confront him, but they shouldn’t. If the President told the country, forthrightly, that Vladimir Putin is dangerous and must be constrained, he might be laughed off the stage. Just as was true with FDR two generations ago.
Maybe that will take a stronger leader, like Hillary Clinton.
Only by focusing on the threat Putin represents can we come to grips with what he and his propagandists are doing. At every turn, they deny reality. There’s no difference between politicians. They’re all corrupt. Scientists lie. Reporters lie. Trust no one. Global warming is a hoax and the Federal Reserve only serves the 1%.
These are easy lies to sell among people who see the world passing them by. There is even an element of truth in some of them – the Federal Reserve is strictly a banking regulator. There are tens of millions of Americans, most white men aged 40-80 but surrounded by loved ones, who believe these lies. They were taught to believe them, largely, by a Republican Party that was desperate enough to retain power to tell them. Trump merely did a leveraged buy-out of a shell corporation, turning the GOP Stupid up to 11, thumbing his nose at the authority of truth, justice, and objective reality, then claiming that he would “make America great again,” as though it weren’t already.
As this was written, Trump had imploded during his first debate with Hillary Clinton, delivering long rambling monologues about Rosie O’Donnell, Sean Hannity and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, rather than addressing questions about his finances and the country’s future. It was the same sort of thing he did the last time he was riding high, after his convention, when he picked a fight with Khizr Khan, the grieving father of a U.S. Medal of Honor winner.
Imagine if Trump had the verbal discipline of, say, Vladimir Putin. Now imagine how Putin’s hackers might try, still, to deliver the Presidency to Donald Trump by manipulating our election results. We need to take him as seriously as a heart attack.
So it’s possible, just possible, that America is going to dodge this bullet aimed at the heart of our democracy. But we would be wise not to forget where it came from, and we must be prepared to win the asymmetrical information war that Putin has launched. Once he is discredited the world will be a much better place.
Let this election campaign be our Pearl Harbor.