WHITEWASHING HISTORY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP
HENRY A. GIROUX
A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair
Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural
Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship
at Ryerson University. He is the author of more than 50 books
including The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth
Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism.
Many of his essays, including The Spectacle of Illiteracy, appear
on his website at www.henryagiroux.com.
His interview with Bill
Moyers is must viewing. He was recently named one of
the century's 50 most significant contributors to the debate
COMMENTSMadeleine Albright, without irony, has written
a book on resisting fascism. She has also published an op-ed
in the New York Times pushing the same argument.
former secretary of state under Bill Clinton, is alarmed. She
wants to warn the public to stop the fascism emerging under
the Trump regime before it’s too late.
moralism on the part of the infamous and notorious is often
the enemy of both historical memory and the truth, in spite
of their newly discovered opposition to tyranny.
defies belief that a woman who defended the killing of 500,000
children as a result of the imposed U.S. sanctions on Iraq can
take up the cause of fighting fascism while positioning herself
as being on the forefront of resistance to American authoritarianism.
J. Halliday, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in
Iraq for part of the sanctions era, once said of those measures:
“We are in the process of destroying an entire society.
It is as simple and terrifying as that.”
any policy worth the death of 500,000 children?
however, is not alone.
Clinton, herself a former war-monger and an unabashed ally of
the financial elite, has also resurrected herself as a crusader
in fighting the creeping fascism that now marks the Trump regime.
recently at the PEN World Voices Festival, Clinton appeared
to have completely removed herself from her notorious past as
a supporter of the Iraq war and the military-industrial-financial
complex in order to sound the alarm “that freedom of speech
and expression is under attack here in our own country.”
She further called for action against America’s creeping
an odd flight from memory into the sphere of moral outrage given
her own role in supporting a number of domestic and foreign
policies both as a former first lady and as secretary of state.
was the refusal to punish CIA torturers, the drone killings,
the lavishing of funds to the military war machine, the shredding
of the federal safety net for poor people and the endorsement
of neoliberal policies that offered no hope or prosperity “for
neighbourhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization,
and the disappearance of work.”
critique of Trump’s fascism does more than alert the public
to the obvious about the current government, it also legitimatizes
a form of historical amnesia and a long and suppressed legacy
of cruelty and human misery. It gets worse.
Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief and CIA director under
George W. Bush, has joined the ranks of Albright and Clinton
in condemning Trump as a proto-fascist.
in the New York Times, Hayden, ironically, chastised Trump as
a serial liar and in doing so quoted the renowned historian
Timothy Snyder, who stated in reference to the Trump regime
that “Post-Truth is pre-fascism.”
irony here is hard to miss. Not only did Hayden head Bush’s
illegal National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program
while the head of the NSA, he also lied repeatedly about his
role in Bush’s sanction and implementation of state torture
in Afghanistan and Iraq.
yet he’s now being regarded as an honest, expert commentator
on intelligence and other issues.
United States and its Vichy Republican Party has drifted so
far to the fascist right that people like Albright, Clinton
and Hayden are serving as heroes in the political and ethical
resistance to fascism.
the call to resist fascism is to be welcomed, it has to be interrogated,
not aligned with individuals and ideological forces that helped
put in place the racist, economic, religious and educational
forces that produced it.
not simply condemning the hypocrisy of former politicians who
are now criticizing the emerging fascism in the United States.
Nor am I proposing that only selective condemnations should
I am suggesting is that the seductions of power in high places
often work to impose a silence upon people that allow them to
benefit from and become complicit with authoritarian tendencies
and anti-democratic policies and modes of governance. Once they’re
out of power, their own histories of complicity are too often
easily erased, especially by the mainstream media.
Their newly found stances against fascism do nothing to help
explain where we are and what we might do next to resist it
now that it’s engulfing American society and its economic,
cultural and political institutions.
is often unrecognized in the celebrated denunciations of fascism
by celebrity politicians is that neoliberalism is the new fascism.
what becomes invisible in the fog of such celebration is neoliberalism’s
legacy and its deadly mix of market fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism,
rabid individualism, unchecked selfishness, shredding of the
welfare state, privatization of the public sphere, white supremacy,
toxic masculinity and all-embracing quest for profit.
new and more racist, violent and brutal form of neoliberalism
under Trump has produced both a savage politics in the U.S.
and a corrupt financial elite that now controls all the commanding
institutions of U.S. society.
corruption, crassness, overt racism, a view of misfortune as
a weakness, unapologetic bigotry and a disdain of the public
and common good has been normalized under Trump, but it’s
been gaining strength for the last 50 years in U.S. politics.
Trump is merely the blunt instrument at the heart of a fascistic
need to be wary, to say the least, about those mainstream politicians
now denouncing Trump’s fascism who while in power submitted,
as noted U.S. sociologist Stanley Aronowitz puts it, “to
neoliberal degradations of health care, jobs, public housing,
is often ignored in the emerging critiques of fascism is neoliberalism’s
legacy coupled with the mainstream media’s attempts to
hold up many of its architects and supporters as celebrated
opponents of Trump’s fascist government.
Trump is the extreme point of a long series of attacks on democracy
—and former politicians like Albright and Clinton cannot
be removed from that history.
None of these politicians have denounced nationalism, the myth
of American exceptionalism and the forces that produce obscene
inequality in wealth and power in the U.S., or the oppressive
regime of law and order that has ruled the U.S. ruthlessly and
without apology since the 1980s.
and systemic power, a take-no-prisoners politics and an unapologetic
cruelty are the currency of fascism because they have long been
the wedge that makes fear visceral and violence more than an
lethal mix is also a pathological condition endemic to brutal
demagogues such as Trump. Trump and his ilk demand loyalty —not
to justice and democracy, but loyalty to themselves, one that
stands above the truth and rule of law.
calls to resist fascism are welcome, but they can’t be
separated from the acts of bad faith that helped produce it.
fight against fascism is part of a struggle over memory. We
must not engage in historical and social amnesia.
is also a fight to defend the public spheres and institutions
that make civic literacy, the public imagination and critical
consciousness possible. We must expose the forces that are and
have been complicit in the longstanding attack on democratic
institutions, values and social relations, especially those
that now hide their past and ideological convictions.
resistance to fascism has to be rooted in the call to make education
central to politics with a strong emphasis on the teaching of
historical consciousness and civic literacy as crucial weapons.
the same time, the fight must be unwavering in its refusal to
equate capitalism and democracy. We are at war over not just
the right of economic equality and social justice, but also
against the powerful and privileged positions of whiteness,
toxic masculinity and the elimination of solidarity and compassion.
is a war waged over the possibility of a radical democracy while
acknowledging that the rich and powerful will not give up their
power without a fight.
And so instead of listening to complicit politicians and others
deeply embedded in a system of exploitation, disposability,
austerity and a criminogenic culture, we need to listen to the
voices of the striking teachers, the Parkland students, the
women driving the #MeToo movement, the Black Lives Matter organizers
and others willing to make resistance visible, collective and
fight against American-style fascism cannot and will not be
lead by establishment politicians and pundits parading as the
new heroes of the resistance to Trump’s fascism.
will be led by we, the people.