Chris Trotter says the extraordinary images captured in and around the US Capitol Building mirror the worst images of America’s past

Chris Trotter says the extraordinary images captured in and around the US Capitol Building mirror the worst images of America’s past

By Chris Trotter*

There is a scene in the 1982 movie Missing which has remained with me for nearly 40 years. Directed by the Greek-French movie-maker, Costa-Gavras, Missing chronicles the efforts made to discover the fate of Charles Horman, a young American journalist caught up in the Chilean coup d’état of September 1973. The scene in question depicts the wild celebration of the coup’s success by a seething crowd of upper-class men and women in a down-town Santiago hotel. Raucously and raunchily the crowd are yelling along to Chuck Berry’s suggestive 1972 novelty hit “My Ding-a-Ling”.

What prompted my recall this scene was Julian Borger’s Guardian article “Insurrection Day: When White-Supremacist Terror Came To The US Capitol”. This is how he described Team Trumps’ reaction to the televised assault on the Capitol Building:

“A smartphone video of Donald Trump Jr filmed inside the marquee backstage showed him and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, giddy with excitement. Guilfoyle breaks into a hip-thrusting dance and then shouts into the camera: “Have the courage to do the right thing! Fight!”

It was Borger’s reference to Guilfoyle’s “hip-thrusting dance” that sealed the connection with Costa-Gavras. That almost obscene combination of raw sex and raw power which both the movie and the video evoke and capture. Sigmund Freud discoursed at length on the phenomenon: this palpable psychic link between Eros and Thanatos – Desire and Death. His disciple, Eric Fromm, in his grim study The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness extends the connection to the excesses of extremist politics: noting the ecstatic battle-cry of General Franco’s murderous fascist militiamen: “Long Live Death!”

It wasn’t just the associations evoked by the memory of Costa-Gavras’ scene from Missing, and Borger’s description of Team Trump’s right-wing raunchiness that had me reviewing – and then reviewing again – the extraordinary images captured by photo-journalists and videographers in and around the US Capitol Building on 6 January 2021. There was something about the way the protesters conducted themselves; something in the expressions on their faces; that rang a very distinct historical bell. I’d seen that look, that stance, somewhere before – but where?

And then, with a sickening jolt, it dawned on me. I was referencing the terrible photographs taken of crowds gathered to observe the all-too-frequent lynchings of African-Americans in the 1920s and 30s.

There are scores of these photographs because, as the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) points out on their website: “Photographs of the brutal lynching, featuring members of the crowd proudly posed beneath the hanging corpses, were widely shared, but local authorities claimed no one could be identified.” The brutal lynching referred to took place in Marion, Indiana, on 7 August 1930. A mob stormed the Grant County Jail and seized Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, two young African-Americans accused of raping a white woman and murdering a white man. In the words of the EJI:

“The brutalized bodies of Mr. Shipp and Mr. Smith were hung from trees in the courthouse yard and kept there for hours as a crowd of white men, women, and children grew by the thousands. Public spectacle lynchings, in which large crowds of white people, often numbering in the thousands, gathered to witness and participate in pre-planned heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment and/or burning of the victim, were common during this time. When the sheriff eventually cut the ropes off the corpses, the crowd rushed forward to take parts of the men’s bodies as souvenirs.”

It is this willingness to be photographed in circumstances of extreme violence and depraved criminality that links the lynching photographs with the images gathered during last week’s storming of the Capitol Building.

People around the world have shaken their heads in disbelief at the evident stupidity of the insurrectionists: “Why would they allow themselves to be photographed like that?”, they ask. Why, like the good ole boy from Arkansas who posed for the camera with his work boot firmly planted on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, would anyone engage in an act of such definitive self-incrimination?

The chilling answer? Because the insurrectionists, like the men and women snapped beneath the suspended bodies of Shipp and Smith in 1930, found it near-impossible to grasp that what they were doing was wrong. In their faces there is no shame, no pity, and certainly no fear of being held accountable. Rather, there is a disturbing combination of excitement and pride. Or, even more alarming, a complete absence of affect – a blankness. As though standing just inches away from two mutilated bodies was the most normal thing in the world.

It takes an enormous amount of ideological effort to produce this aura of invulnerability. The sense of entitlement: whether it be to take the lives of two 19-year-old boys; or to smash your way into the citadel of American democracy; has to be huge. Likewise, the certitude (so clearly evident in the faces of both historical groups) that, first, they are in the right; and second, that they are engaged in delivering a much-needed message about the power of white supremacy.

Crucial to the success of the latter was (and is) the belief that the official guardians of the law will not hinder the delivery of such “messages”. Shipp and Smith could be dragged from their jail cells and murdered in front of thousands of witnesses – many of whom, as we have seen, allowed themselves to be photographed – because it was simply understood that no one in authority would lift a finger to either stop or punish the perpetrators. (Significantly, in light of our earlier Freudian references, the vast majority of “message lynchings” were motivated by White Americans’ deep-seated neuroses about inter-racial sex.)

It is not difficult to understand how the tens-of-thousands of white supremacists who invaded the Capitol might have been gripped by a similar sense of invulnerability. They had, when all is said and done, been sent on their way with the blessings of the President of the United States! Their confidence could only have been boosted, however, by the absurdly lax security measures taken to protect the Capitol complex. If the federal authorities had wanted to stop them, then surely they would have deployed the same sort of massive force that the mere rumour of a Black Lives Matter assault was able to mobilise. How difficult it must have been for Trump’s stormtroopers to interpret the absence of such force as anything other than an open invitation for them to smash their way in – as well as a rock-solid guarantee that they would suffer no serious legal consequences for doing so.

Just how unexpected was the Capitol Police’s valiant defence of House of Representatives and the Senate is readily apparent from the tone of shock and incredulity in the voice of a woman tear-gassed by the building’s defenders. “They maced me!”, she cries indignantly, “They maced me!” It was as if the lynch-mob that broke into the Grant County Jail had been cut down by a volley of deputy-sheriffs’ bullets.

Perhaps, if that had been the fate of those white supremacists on 7 August 1930, then the astonishing events of 6 January 2021 would never have taken place.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. He writes a weekly column for interest.co.nz. His work may also be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com.

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113 Comments

Trump's voter base is rapidly losing faith in him since he instantly threw them under the bus after they deludedly stormed the US Capitol Hill to feed his ego. Some still to think he's a billionaire when reality is, that he's just very much in debt. Even more so when he leaves office which is what he's so frightened of.

All the more reason why he should be impeached for a second time, so he can't collect his very generous pension which is in the region of around $219,200 per year ($300k NZD) + free medical, office and staff. He also won't able to run for President ever again (Hopefully they'll ban his family too)!

MSNBC Trump supporters are criticizing his handling of deadly Capitol Hill riots. https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/trump-supporters-are-criticizing-his-h...

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Yeah but Trump is a symptom more than a cause. If it wasn't him it'd be some other idiot.

LOL he certainly mad their "symptoms" a lot worse didn't he, quite literally by doing nothing over the pandemic 382,637 dead Americans and counting. Still as long as King Trump and his royal family are allowed the best medical care in the world then everything is fine isn't it.

I'm not sure, compared to the UK the US is about even when it comes to deaths (on a per capita basis) if the statistics being recorded are accurate. As are many other EU countries. Similarly the vaccination program in the US is faster than the EU typically. All will likely be too slow of course.

"deadly Capitol Hill riots.." blah, looks more like LARPING to me and taking selfies behind a desk. It's not like they were fighting in the streets, lighting buildings on fire, firing shots off, etc.

I understand that the police shot and killed someone? Typical for America.. and someone got squashed? People get squashed at concerts, we don't call concerts riots. Mainly LARPING with a few over enthusiastic idiots.

Anyone calling this an attempted coup should immediately be called out on that BS! If you believe this group of citizens could seriously take over the American government, you actually might be in need of psychiatric help.

The American political class don't seem to mind if ordinary citizens have their businesses destroyed/burnt but a little rough-and-tumble it their sphere and they melt like snowflakes - pathetic.

If ever a coup could sum up the Trump presidency. Got way further than they thought, then had no idea what to do when they got there.

Whether they could or they couldn't they were willing to try.

Five people dead including a police officer, though Trump can watch and party to loud music as he did to rally his base to march to the Capitol, that led to the riot. Most of those that have been caught in the riot have been appropriately charged with crimes and lost their job by posting their stupid acts on social media. Herald article: Trump's last days: Isolated and shunned, president plans next move https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/trumps-last-days-isolated-and-shunned-p...

1 Person dead is too many. I don't mean to condone their actions in any way. They just had an election and this wasn't acceptable behavior - certainly NOT helped by Trump! I certainly don't think all those people, rioters, whatever were the same though.

But it raises a thought, whos' government is it anyway.. if not the peoples? And even if they can't articulate that, I think that's were it was at for many of them.

Yes, it's the peoples' and the people voted for Biden.

lol, true that.

Wonder whether Trump or his cronies will have another rally before the Inauguration as is being suggested on the net.
His troops are supposed to be getting ready for creating trouble at different state capitols, and FBI seems to be getting antsy, along with officials of other agencies. This has not ended yet, it seems.

Lucky the protesters weren't following CDC guidelines and wearing masks or it'd be near impossible to identify them now.

Truthfully the US has always had these right wing citizen militia type movement but has failed to deal appropriately with the problem because they've been so closely affiliated with the Republican Party. There's a lot of truth when people contrast how militaristic and conservative political movements are treated in the US and how BLM or Environmental movements where treated by government agencies. It seems that the FBI think that blacks and hippies are softer targets than neo-Nazis or militia groups.

"People around the world have shaken their heads in disbelief at the evident stupidity of the insurrectionists: “Why would they allow themselves to be photographed like that?”, they ask."

Perhaps because they weren't insurrectionists? Plenty of video of the barriers/door being opened by security and protestors waltzing in - just like when protesters were let in to the Kavanaugh hearing.

"I spoke with Jake Angeli... He said police eventually gave up trying to stop him and other Trump supporters, and let them in. After a while, he said police politely asked him to leave and let him go without arrest."
Some insurrection.
https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/the-dominion-post/20210108/28219...

What a "Hardcore" insurrectionist Trump supporter gets up to in his spare time...
https://www.azcentral.com/picture-gallery/news/local/arizona-environment...

Someone who likes to be in the spot light as much as Jake Angeli, will no doubt take the opportunity to share his story and opinions, so we will all be subject to more of this idiot soon enough.

Certainly there is no shortage of general anarchy and anti-establishmentism on QAnon. Being a climate change activist and conspiratard overlap all the time. Half the anti-vaxxers I have spoken to are also rabid about climate change, but very selective about their own actions in terms of ameliorating climate change. Often they are massive hypocrites.l

I don't know why people find it so hard to believe that being at a climate change rally negates Trumpism.

There were plenty of insurrectionists among them, don't delude yourself.

A police officer was beaten to death.

Not quite. A CP officer received injuries and subsequently died. There's a difference

Yes, striking someone with a fire extinguisher might result in injuries or death. US Attorney's office plan to open a federal murder investigation into the Sicknick's death. There's a sickening video of the event doing the rounds. Regardless, a far cry from being invited in.

Didn't see that vid. Anyone using a fire extinguisher as a blunt force weapon is up for Manslaughter - minimum. Imo smacking someone with an FE is murder if they die. There is going to be a lot of CP Officers asking themselves why they didn't just open fire - sure as tooting I would've. Not STK but at least a round in the leg or hip - hip's better - less chance of missing and minimum chance of a fatality

Inexplicable righteous violence has long been a feature of the US pysche.

Perusal of Martin Luther King, Jr's 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech highlights the more repugnant aspects.

Audaxes, inexplicable righteous violence has been a feature of the human psyche since humans formed competing tribes and marauding bands. It's as old as history itself. Anything that happened in the US has got nothing on the Crusades, Genghis Khan, Mao Tse Dong, Stalin, Hitler, Mugabe, Phol Pot etc etc etc

Lest we forget: New Kosovo Indictment Is a Reminder of Bill Clinton’s Serbian War Atrocities

In 1999, the Clinton administration launched a 78-day bombing campaign that killed up to fifteen hundred civilians in Serbia and Kosovo in what the American media proudly portrayed as a crusade against ethnic bias. That war, like most of the pretenses of US foreign policy, was always a sham.

NATO attack on Serbian state TV wiped from record

Hook...yeah but Mugabe, Pol Pot and almost certainly almost all of your etc etc etc etc over the last 50 years were actively supported in their aggression by the USA. At a tremendous cost of human life they have supported the wrong side in almost every serious conflict in the last 50 years.

maate!! what are you smoking?? I don't disagree with the statement that the US backs the wrong pony repeatedly but last time I looked they didn't back any of the despots I listed. If I'd added Netanyahu you'd have a fair point but he's not quite in the same league

Given one year to the day before his death.

A "revolution of values" - it could not have been more simply and more poignantly stated. If there is an ultimate good force, or 'being' in the spiritual sense, then, if that force sent a man to us as a messenger during my lifetime, it was in the form of Dr. King. And to me it seems that as the story of Jesus is told, I believe MLK also knew his ultimate fate and he willingly offered up his life for the opportunity to spread his message.

Brilliant link, Audaxus - he was a philosopher king that walked among and with us.

Good God Almighty!! Are you seriously saying MLK was some sort of reincarnation of Jesus??!! That is an all time record for you Kate!

Nah, I'm not actually religious, rather I'm an agnostic - in other words, I humbly admit I don't know.

But, when I read such prescient and poignant words on a page, written by a human being who was a firm believer in Christianity (and there being a higher force for good), then I have to consider I could be wrong.

That doesn't really address my point Kate (unsurprisingly). You called him a "prophet king".. not far from a 'messiah" last time I looked
BTW agnostic is refusal to believe in a religious mantra, not the indecision of which one to follow

No, I said philosopher king. Big difference. It's a term used in theory relating to civil society (more specifically, conflict resolution within civil society).

Bollocks.. you said "prophet king" hence my reaction. You've edited your post now, but you can BS some people most of the time, but you can't BS everyone all the time
If you're calling MLK a "philosopher" you'd be the first one to do that in 70yrs. A prophet he most definitely wasn't. At best he was an eloquent speaker who was driven by the desire to rectify a dysfunctional society - something he unfortunately failed to do

Hook, I did not edit that - the reference to "philosopher king" is part of a lecture I give titled, 'Social Choice Mechanisms' and the reference source is:

Dryzak, J. (1987). Rational Ecology: Environment & Political Economy. New York: Basil Blackwell.

I wouldn't have got that wrong - you must have misread it.

Dryzak defines social choice mechanisms as the means by which society determines collective outcomes, and describes 7 mechanisms:

Markets
Public administration
Democratic politics
Law
Moral persuasion
Armed force
Negotiation & collaborative problem-solving

It is under the mechanism of moral persuasion that reference is made to both philosopher kings (e.g., Ghandi, MLK, Mandella) and propagandists (e.g., Hitler, Mao, Trump).

I interpret atheism as 'I don't believe' (in a supreme being) and agnostic as 'I don't know' whether there is or isn't a supreme being.

I consulted a dictionary, and I'm on track;

https://www.dictionary.com/e/atheism-agnosticism/#:~:text=There%20is%20a....

Atheism is at least taking a position (rejecting a so called higher being)... agnosticism is sitting on the fence not sure (or willing) to make the call - which are you??

Agnostics are those who are prepared to admit they don't know, as for the rest of us, we don't know either, but make a call for what we think we know.

Yes, that's an interesting insight. I'm that, Hook.

By definition, the ignorant don't know, and many are unaware they don't know, and the wise know that they don't know everything.

So I'm not sure Agnostics are any more or less knowledgeable than the other two groups (but there are not just two groups is there). Maybe they are just less decisive or have less confidence.

The man we call Jesus Christ was no more than a political agitator in his time. He was executed as such by the Romans.

It was ironic that he was preaching non-violence, although is recorded as having the ability to lose his temper too.

Agreed Murray.. in today's world he'd be labelled an "insurrectionist". Given his actions at the time probably a fair label

And seeing it from that perspective gives one some insight into the origins of the Christian church and the fraud that is.

1844 Mr Smith and his brother founding Mormons, were taken and lynched by a mob in Illinois. 1891 Italian migrants mob murdered in New Orleans. And plenty of other examples equal to the horror of that selected by Mr Trotter. Unfortunately mob violence has always been there in USA society, from the Salem trials if you like. Powder keg looking for a fuse and a president who likes to play with matches. There it is and there it is too in many other countries right down through their history. Brutality of humans is far too easily released.

What is really yanking my chain atm, people referring to the rioters as "Conservatives".

Conservatives represent tradition and provide ballast and restraint against radical or rapid change. People who form revolutionary mobs are not, by their very acts, conservatives. Trump is *NOT* a conservative. These rioters are *NOT* conservatives.

Two of the main strains of politics, since as far back as Ancient Greece have been Progressives/Change proponents vs Traditionalists/Conservatives. And over the millennia, culture has generally been the most successful and stable when there has been a healthy friction and balance between these two. Not because we don't need to challenge tradition and implement change or progress, but because rapid change can be disruptive, or worse, disastrous. Conservatives have tended to moderate the excesses of Progressives and pose important critiques and reflections.

Trump Cult is revolutionary. It's about disruption. He has hijacked very superficial ideas of traditionalism and conservatism like "MAGA" but is not in the least conservative.

well they are certainly not liberals

I agree Audaxes and have said so many times. There has been significant change at both ends of the political spectrum.

AndrewJ it really depends on use of language. Can we not acknowledge that the right vs left spectrum is a little more complex than progressive vs conservatism? I think, conservatism exists more around the right of center and the values of the rioters (from what I have heard them or read them to claim) are either far right of center or far left of center. Either way, they are not remotely moderate or conservative and the terms are being used incorrectly. In this instance, I don't think that's helpful.

Both Right & Left now have agreements with the global corporate view and funding with little difference on governance (ref NZ).
Conservative (social) has been eliminated in NZ.
Conservative (Economic) no longer supports small business, small farming, entrepreneurship. It simply enables large corporates to run the agenda.
So this is why some alternative appears - or tries to.

This is how I understand it; there was a freak confluence of events post WW2 that led to a period of sustained life and wealth improvements in the west, this included increased equality.

But this was very unusual in human history, almost all of human history shows very concentrated wealth/power despite all the various revolutions in technology and science that have come and gone.

However because the freak post WW2 era was quite recent, we have come to expect that we would continue to see life and wealth improvements. But in the post-industrial, post "development" era, once a country has achieved a certain level of wealth for its citizens, they slowly become less competitive, the birth rates goes down, and the resources that had previously been used to boost industrialisation and "development" start dwindling. Often the post-"development" country also experienced peak health and from that point, their populations health starts deteriorating again.

Look at China. It took America many decades for its obesity epidemic to peak. But it has now peaked and the rate of increasing obesity has somewhat levelled off. But China? China are getting fatter more quickly than any country yet recorded. Just as they have become wealthy quicker than any country on record in the modern era.

But how is all this experienced by the average Joe? The average Joe just feels on some level, that shit is not as good as it was, as he/she expected it to be. There isn't the same sense of optimism, because there genuinely isn't cause to expect the kind of relative life style improvement that his Grandfather would have expected as he hit the workforce, during the post-WW2 era. So everywhere, tension is building. Wealth is becoming more concentrated because those with capital can just use their wealth to accrue more wealth in international markets, but what about people who need to earn money via their labour? Their labour is no longer as valuable because it can be outsourced by hungrier, healthier, less demanding workforces. So the working and middle classes are becoming poorer, less healthy and more disempowered.

But of course, when people have that gnawing sense of dissatisfaction in life, and vague fears about the future, those feelings are easily harnessed and manipulated. The extremism and irrationality of the left and right is a symptom of this, IMO. We have yet to find a constructive, practical way to voice our needs. Everyone is too easily seduced by big, silly dramatic ideas and big, silly dramatic people. And we aren't honest about the problem.

Here's the thing, war is a great leveler and people quickly find out the guy next to him is no better than him or the next one. That lasted for quite a while, genuine camaraderie and concern for others, shame we can't keep that up, isn't it?

The Black Death also saw a subsequent improvement in equality.

And it is a shame that we can't keep it up. For me, the shame is that we don't learn. Why aren't we more curious about why we keep repeating the same behaviours? We always like to blame it on specific individuals, events or movements. My opinion is that the individuals, events and movements are always symptomatic, rather than causal.

The same crimes, inequalitities and cruelties are inflicted on every type of person. Every skin colour, religion, sport team, gender etc. We have to start understanding that the issue isn't Nazi's, KKK's, Mao's or Hutu's. These incidents of hate and violence happen over and over across all time, in all places. The issue is within human nature. Evolutionary psychology and neurology is uncovering the biological roots and instincts for tribalism, sexism, racism etc. Maybe if we can understand our evolved instincts and emotions, we would be better able to address the worst aspects of our species? I don't know. All i can say with any certainty is that peace and equality are very hard won and even harder maintained.

If I look around the world, education seems to have a strong bearing in how people behave, and that is not just education to be able to hold a job, education of the whole person. Strikes we don't have enough philosophy anymore

Education can be an extremely subjective subject.

What if we just admit that humans are the most cancerous, vindictive, self promoting and self destructive species on the planet and thus quit trying to protect ourselves from ourselves. Maybe it's time evolution was allowed to rule - the weak die out and the strong survive. How those two groups are defined would be interesting but world defining. Bring on the Great Levelling!!

Don’t know PA. When I was young I was shocked to hear an ex Nth Atlantic merchant seaman WW2, recount how their life boat provisions had been ransacked by the Liverpool wharfies.

It's a different world on the front line, in the firing line, kill or be killed, than it is on a dock, loading and unloading a ship. It is on the front line that people found what I was talking about.

What is social conservatism, because most of what I have seen of it involves telling people who they can or can't marry and whether women should have control of their reproductive lives and religion should have more influence/power in our lives. If that is what you mean, then good riddance social conservatism.

I think what you are referring to is religious fundamentalism and the influence of modern evangelical Christianity on American politics. There are plenty of other countries with Conservative/traditionalists in power (Angela Merkel for instance) who are fully supportive of equal rights.

Conservatism is about upholding traditions and preventing rapid change. Without people who lean to conservatism, then every fad or cultural trend might have much more influence than they otherwise might. Many fads and cultural trends have been disastrous. Not all new ideas are better than old ones. And often, as we throw out old traditions, much is lost, and we later look back on and regret some of that.

So for instance, are you familiar with Pedophile exchange network in the UK? Back in the 70s they managed to trick their way into the progressive political scene by claiming they were just another oppressed minority who wanted rights (they wanted the age of consent changed to 12 and to end the stigma against sex and romance between adults and children). They managed to get superficial support from some individuals that later became Cabinet members of the British New Labour cabinet. Obviously, these politicians distanced themselves from it all later and proclaimed to be horrified by their prior association, but nonetheless, in their young, enthusiastic and more idealistic days, they had inadvertently supported pedophile rights believing that to be progressive.

The Pedophile exchange (PIE) actually also used the network as a pedophile grooming ring too and were causing great harm but my point is that "progressive" ideas also need scrutiny. I believe the tension that exists between progressives and conservatives is healthy, in the sense that they question and moderate each others excesses. Sometimes that is difficult.

and the influence of modern evangelical Christianity on American politics.

Netflix has a good doco on this called, The Family.

Trump did exactly what he was supposed to do in office fulfilled all the wishes of his zionist handlers bar one going to war with Iran. See he has just pardoned Charles kushner his son in laws father now go have a look at that guy's past, bad dude !!

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This is garbage, you really think those protestors were same as at a lynching in 1920, the USA has changed so much since then, it's much more multicultural, theres still red neck parts but isolated and insignificant and often considered a joke.

My daughter had a friend who flew to be at the march, she's Venezuelan where does she fit into this prejudiced view of middle America ( this daughter votes Green). The problem with writers like Chris Trotter is they won't go down deep to look at the real problems because they show the folly of their own ideologies, they shatter their beliefs, they show the failure of big government, the failure of big spending Democrat cities, where the rich city employees live in luxury with gold plated pensions, while tent cities spring up all over town, and business cannot wait to leave. The nirvana promised is mighty uneven, more like Stalinist Russia.

Wow Andrew, that's pretty steamed up for you! You're usually very calm and considered. CT was comparing the sense of entitlement and "correctness" displayed by both groups - at least that's the way I read it. That idiot "shaman" and his mate "Bigo" certainly seemed to fit the bill, they had no conception their actions were fundamentally wrong. As far as they were concerned they were doing "Gods work" and no doubt consider themselves patriots. The irony is (imv) that many of the issues they rail against were, at least in part, aided and abetted by Republicans - chief amongst them the hollowing out of American manufacturing and the importation of cheap labour.

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Heartland USA has been stripped of it's wealth, the Meth epidemic was not from California or the Eastern States it came from the 'Blue Collar Midwest', Where big business stripped the manufacturing hubs on their way out the door to China and vast profits on the back of slave wages, slave wages encouraged by the CCP. That was under Clinton, 6-8 million manufacturing jobs gone in a decade. The move to the service sector and low wages for millions.

Most of my friends in the Mid West are deeply cynical of the Government in Washington, seeing them as self serving, thats both parties. It's not left or right or Democrat/ Republican , it's across both divides, the lobby industry in Washington is all powerful. Veterans on the streets, there is no support for the wars of the last 20 years, the damage is huge, there an awareness of elites ripping the system, like the 100 corporate demi-millionaires who stripped Boeing to line their own pockets.

All the Military Generals who slip seamlessly into the private industrial military machine on retirement, along with numerous senior Gov't employees who end up in the banking or hedge fund industries.

The USA is a mess, many saw Trump as their last chance for change.

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I agree with every word in this comment AndrewJ. I just don't think Trump is the solution. The American empire is dying, for all the reasons you cite, but many more besides.

When we look back at the death throes of the British Empire, or any other preceding empire, there are certainly points where a strong leader, stroke of luck, or some other factor, renewed the Empires vigor, but Trump is not that leader. He has merely hastened America's demise.

Surely America is growing in a sense rather than dying. Becoming more conscious and empathetic. Are these 'death throes" or 'growing pains'?

I am referring to empire. Wealth, influence, power I guess. American culture can mature, evolve, become more empathetic, sure. But whether that stems the wealth and influence decline, is another matter. The working and middle classes of America have been decimated. They are indebted, they are increasingly unhealthy. I think history suggests that is not what an empire about to boom looks like.

I worried that trend is coming here. The Empire perhaps like all empires, has coming self serving to the elites that run it.

I think, where any structure allows for a certain level of concentrated wealth and power, corruption and self-serving elites is the predictable outcome.

So many countries have anti-monopoly laws and yet Google, Facebook, Apple etc have been allowed to become wealthy and powerful to an almost unfathomable level. Even little old NZ has done nothing to stop monopoly (Fonterra, Fletchers etc). Everywhere, banks, corporations have been allowed to become "too big to fail" so that capitalism can no longer deliver creative destruction or any kind of level playing field.

Yep.

He has merely hastened America's demise

Or perhaps awakened a complicit (and up until now, largely silent) majority?

That's not a vote by me in favour of the despicable character that Trump is, but an acknowledgment by me that change is essential. Not just a change that is "faked" through various mechanisms of placation, but real change that is actioned by those with power.

Perhaps the crowd needs to be looked at as the meek crying out for social justice, not in relation to an election result, but in relation to the injustice they see everywhere. Perhaps Trump was a false messiah, but the social injustice that drew half the nation into supporting him still exists. To me, the majority of the tens of thousands that turned out want the same things as BLM protestors, and the same things as those that marched on Washington in the 1960s wanted - peace, equality and justice for the all.

Presently, implementing these founding values are the exclusive purview of the bureaucratic and corporate elite in the US - and they aren't seen as doing the job.

Oh yes, for me, Trump is a false messiah, he was not addressing wealth inequality or addressing the corruption of the elite/corporations. Trump *is* a corrupt elite. He is successful opportunist narcissist, pointing and blaming easy targets and uniting/exciting people who are desperate for change, but IMO not in any kind of real, constructive way. However, the need he was fulfilling is real and remains unfulfilled. Is building a wall to keep out immigrants going to help them? As you say, one of the major issues is the power of corporations or mega wealthy individuals, who can lobby and rig the game in their favour, while sucking the life blood from the American people. Many politicians have been complicit in this Dems and Republican.

I think here we should cap politician's wages at double the average wage, ( they get lots of perks anyway). Already it worries me that people are going into politics for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, this is what I don't understand about the likes of Andrewj (with apologies for getting personal, I enjoy his non-Trump posts).
They have an accurate description of some problems, like the rule of monied elites, Washington corruption, and the offshoring of industrial capacity in favour of financialisation of the American economy.
Then the solution is Trump, because...??? Because he has *said* he will fix these problems? He is a liar who will say what he thinks people want to hear. He never had a coherent plan for any of these things, and he could not have failed more dramatically at his *own* *stated* *goals*. The gap between Wall St and the real economy is bigger than ever. The US trade deficit with China is bigger than ever. He has utterly failed to protect the population when faced with a real-life threat. He has filled Cabinet posts in the most painfully cronyistic and corrupt ways imaginable (oil people running the national parks, owners of private schools running education, oh, or his own children alternatively).
And at this point, the Trump fans will say "Look over there, it's Hillary!" as if the ongoing corruption of American politics excused any degree of vulgarity or malice. It doesn't matter what he does, it will never be as bad as Hillary (who was President for, um...?) and it will always be the fault of the media for daring to point out that what he says rarely corresponds with reality.

Im not pro Trump, just really anti the other guys. The guy's who start wars and decimate economies for their own gain. The ugly Americans who hide in the shadows.

I think Trump has been very disappointing, he had an opportunity to make great changes, admittedly the system was against him, but he could have done better.

I just think people who take the other side, sometimes lack objectivity, the system is deeply flawed, Biden will struggle. The reason think the Democrats are in the gun is because of my belief the economy is in trouble. I'll take my hat off if Biden can stop the USA sliding into a huge recession.

Trump was very positive, I called him a 'positivista', he was good at always putting a positive slant on everything he did good or bad. My friends in California got a %14 tax cut thanks to Trump will Democrats wind those tax cuts back?

The USA has major structural problems, I don't believe Biden and the Dems 'borrow whatever it takes', will stop the rot.

I've always felt the only one with enough nous to start to effect the right type of change needed was Elizabeth Warren - the thorn in Wall Street's side. It will be very interesting to see whether her Accountable Capitalism Act gets any traction under the new administration;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accountable_Capitalism_Act

I think Warren missed the boat, someone did a hit job on her, lets see what Tulsi Gabbard gets up to. Perhaps a woman will be our saviour, someone outside the old boy's club.

Yes, the hit job came largely from Trump in the form of the Native American heritage issue, and her own party establishment were delighted.

His Deputy Chief of Staff is one of our own;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Liddell

I got the impression that he wanted to be surrounded by private sector business people, not lifetime bureaucrats - and yeah, he saw his own kids to be as 'brilliant' as he saw himself in that regard. I recall very early on he tried to tackle big pharma, but it seems to me he gave up and relented to Wall Street's firm hold. He was never accepted by the Davos crowd - never seen to be within those ranks - so he went for a stock market bouyed by government largesse, as a means to achieve the illusion of progress/prosperity.

He wasn't up to the job that 'only he' thought (and told the people) he could do.

However, the need he was fulfilling is real and remains unfulfilled. Is building a wall to keep out immigrants going to help them?

I recall returning to the US post-Reagan. I left when Jimmy Carter was President. Wow, what a social change/transformation of values/attitudes had occurred in just the few years I had been away. Generally, Americans were welcoming migrants from the south - hiring them for cash to do the gardening; etc and thinking they were somehow 'helping the poor'. My mother was volunteering to read to children in a school for the children of immigrant fruit pickers - and I asked her why these temporary migrant workers had/were allowed to bring their children with them? And whether these were state schools or not (and they weren't - which is why they needed volunteers to 'teach'.

I could see what was coming (i.e., the demise of labour laws and the subsequent competition for jobs) but prosperous Americans couldn't see past their own prosperity. The 'open door' to immigrants was still a solid part of their national psyche as per the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty (which we all had to memorize as children).

Will the wall help Americans? No, but yes, unless someday, Americans/the world take action such that all people are able to live happy, safe and fulfilling lives in their countries of origin.

Another great insight.

I totally agree with you Andrew. I lived and worked in the Mid West for several years and totally understand why the majority voted for change.

Deserves more than just a thumbs up.

Agree Aj, especially 'the look in their eyes' bit.

Chris has obviously never seen what happy people look like, irrespective of the reason.

Closer to home and a more immediate political memory is that smile on every politician's face when they have just won an election, and especially the one on Phil Twyfords face when he announces Kiwibuild for he too, 'found it near-impossible to grasp that what he was doing was wrong. In his face, there is no shame, no pity, and certainly no fear of being held accountable.'

The whole article is using the classic cheap shot method of referencing several unrelated things and then pushing them together. Like Joe Stalin and Josef Goebbels were really bad people. Then along comes Joe Biden.

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I think the BLM protests throughout 2020 set the precedent for no consequence robust action. Also the endorsement of very robust protest in Hong Kong by the media and Western governments. Also to some extent the yellow vest movement in France.

Chris Trotter appears to have a very broad definition of white supremacism. Basically just being white and supporting law and order is enough. Or perhaps just being a hard worker or an investor in property and shares. Anything associated with capitalism or the present system. I could be wrong but the last couple of articles have been quite extreme.

Wrong as per. These guys storming the capital were emboldened by the storming of the Michigan capital. That was the template. After that authorities should have been prepared, at least as prepared as they were when Trump did his upside down bible photo op outside that church.

I guess it all adds up. I agree that the authorities should have been better prepared if they were really interested in people's safety.

I agree Zachary. The article is a mishmash...Trotter gropes wildly for any old historical occasion to add to the patchwork-quilt that is his article. One searches in vain for any logical argument.

The BLM & antifa protests & marches were far more violent & destructive - with positive media coverage.
The Capitol breaking etc were really just a mixture of zealots, infiltrated troublemakers, & a bunch of otherwise peaceful protestors with no violence in mind. But the media hype & bias is pretty obvious.

BLM -- millions of people marching in hundreds of cities. A few of the protests become riots with serious property damage.
Trumpists -- a few thousand people marching in one city. It becomes a riot, police and protesters alike die, and armed men stalk a government building with the stated goal of hanging legislators.
Yet it's the Trumpists who were overwhelmingly good, with just a few bad apples and infiltrators?
You're not very good at maths.

Thats not true, many of the blm protest turned violent. Especially at night. Shops were burnt (people of all races) were attacked. Suburbs, shops, driving, walking were intimitated and assaulted. Then we have the likes of the BLM supporter kneeling on the neck of a 2 year old white child and Cannon Hinnant was shot in the head, the list goes on and on. Places like the CHOP were set up where several were murdered. One was a black teen where the mob wouldnt let the police through to assist.
Police stations were attacked meaning police couldn't do their job. All of the marching around in a pandemic (spreading the virus on both sides) was incredibly stupid. It wasn't more of a righteous cause, just lawlessness and hypocrisy. I've experienced the mob for real, there is no postive outcome.

No such thing, the protestors and the rioters and especially the looters were not necessarily the same people, looters especially are well known to take advantage of these occasions. There were agent provocateurs, there is film of a few of them, and there is film of police knocking an old, peaceful man protesting for BLM to the ground where he hit his head from which he was bleeding badly and the police did NOTHING, just walked around him. Now look at how they stood back and allowed those rioters into the capitol.

One group were protesting, rightfully, about the atrocious historical and current treatment of black people by US law enforcement.

One group were protesting, without a shred of evidence, a failed election steal by their moronic and vile leader.

The fact that you can't see the difference between these two groups says a hell of a lot about you as a person.

This is a thoughtful piece of a kind rare in NZ media.
Unfortunately it seems like most readers will switch off once they read the words "white supremacism" and ignore the fundamental points of the article. It's a shame. (It's also apparent that BLM riots have provided moral justification for any amount of right-wing violence, and that Antifa window-breaking is morally equivalent to an attempted coup, in the eyes of many. Also a shame.)

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There is a long human history of civil disobedience provoked by famine, economic hardship and pandemics. There are a lot of factors culminating here. It's not just Trump. He is part symptom and part amplifier of the problem. But it's also mass media/internet, it's the dying American Empire, it's the post GFC financial climate, it's globalisation, it's the pandemic, it's the "decadence of Rome".

Well put.

What hasn't been clear, is the way forward. And maybe there isn't any 'one', but a plethora of local ones.

Multinational corporations will fight tooth and nail against that. IMHO it is them with the worst of the power

Agree, but if you say 'local' too loudly or often, you will be seen as a Nationalist, and you know what that means......

No, it is localist, right down to supporting the local woman with the small business making deodorant (or something similar) and packaging without plastic, that is how grass roots this needs to be and where you will find it.

And, a bit like 'sustainable development', the word localism has been adopted/captured by the ptb;

https://www.lgnz.co.nz/our-work/our-policy-priorities/local-democracy-lo...

Yes, exactly, and even if LGNZ were to use the right definition, I'm not sure I would leave it up to them to administer.

As Steger suggests - the new political centre is globalism and he classifies 'new localisms' as a challenger of globalism on the Right - along with national populisms and religious fundamentalisms. Whereas challengers to globalism on the Left include global feminism, international populism and global social justice movements.

And that is only the start of it, it a real mess of what is and what is, or is not Globalism, or Localism.

The Wiki take on it in terms of politics/political ideology;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Localism_(politics)

I believe EECA in its earlier days had considered modeling what an energy self-sufficient community might look like (a future casting exercise with some practical implementation) and if I recall right, Taihape, was proposed as the community for such a modeling exercise. From what I recall the project was not initiated. Shame, as it would have been very interesting.

Yes as I said that definition is a bit vague.

For example, what does localism mean to an Inuit when being Vegan and not eating Whales is seen as the 'way' to save the planet.

I think you missed my point, in that it has also been defined as being Xenophobic of things not local.

I too was struck by the woman complaining about being maced, and (apparently) giving her name and address to boot. It was like she (as she said) was participating in a revolution but couldn't comprehend that revolutions lead to people being hurt. She must have believed unswervingly that she was doing right if she expected to be hurt.

The message was clear throughout 2020 that robust protest was effective. It's as simple as that really. I think it's possible to understand that protesting involves risk but to also complain bitterly if you get hurt. Why not? It's a bad look for police to be seen hurting vulnerable people like women and the elderly so might as well milk it. This is not an English gentleman's boxing match playing by Queensberry rules.

She was clear that she was participating in a revolution, not a protest. I agree you might as well milk it, as long as you are prepared to look like a muppet for doing so.

I don't get Chris Trotter's comparisons at all. He gets all excited about the drama visuals.
But his link ups between them are just crap. Not a useful article. Doesn't inform all all, whatever side you are on.

It is really quite simple. We usually call it mass hysteria. The events CT uses to compare have a little blood lust mixed in too. And most of the commenters above home in on various aspects of it, but at the end of the day it all comes down to an extreme version of tribalism.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this as the apparent majority of those so called "Patriots" were doing something that went extremely against one of the very things they believe makes America great - democracy. And they do not understand this. They do believe the election was rigged, without any evidence, but don't realise that if this election was rigged, then likely so was every one that preceded it. They don't seem to get that Trump's opinion is that any vote that wasn't for him was then by that virtue, a fraudulent vote. While their distrust of the political establishment is probably justified, their actions are entirely un-American, and gave that political establishment more ammunition to use to remove more rights, and become more dictatorial. This in some respects is a sort of prequel to a scenario like the Hunger Games.

Trump as a person is abhorrent but it doesn't explain the large numbers who are unhappy - we saw the rump in the capitol but theres a problem.
USA Industry left the USA - not the Chinese taking it but the USA corporations who being good capitalists welcomed the opening of new labour with the fall of Communism. The profits are back to the owners and shareholders - the wages got paid to the Chinese not in the USA. You can't blame the Chinese for wanting to get ahead from a very low base.
This is capitalism and the American way - drive down costs and increase productivity. Its not new when you look at past titans of USA industry -Rockerfeller et el - they were ruthless in closing and breaking industries, and people, to line their pockets - not a care about the Masses - they were broken up in the end.
Today its connectivity re cheap and fast freight, flying or Tech - it allows everything to move quickly and cheaply around the world.
Tech and AI are here and growing and we need to be honest with people that the old ways are gone - things which seemed here forever will be gone one day or are gone now. The problem today is the new Tech requires high levels of academic rigour and knowledge - we aren't all cut out to do this.
Putting aside Trump people are hurting and see others profiting with no path for them to get a small part of it - everyone needs a dream they believe they can achieve no matter how small or big. The only time you had some semblance of equality (for some) in the US was after the war and tax rates were very high. Cutting taxes may seem the way forward but if you look at the history of the USA when you have low taxes only 1 group ends up winning. You also now have racial equality were everyone expects the same treatment, rightly so. No easy answer here and something we are all going to face with this surge of cheap money favouring those that own assets now plus the pace of change is going to ramp up even faster.

Tech does not require academic rigour... that is the whole point of technology is to replace labour and make it easier for business to operate.
Globalisation is the cause but the events recently mark the rising risk and tensions to bring about regionalisation and most probably war.
Problem being we forgot the essence of being human is to belong and to have a purpose in life.... not just a market drone simpleton!

To create the tech and control it does and this is where the real money is going. Yes easier to operate but you need less people and can pay them less as its easy to run. I agree with the last sentence completely but we also need to realise what is important and in todays consumerism world if you haven't got the toys you are deemed to have failed which is so wrong.

"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good"- Solzhenitsyn