38 Comments
Jan 3, 2023Liked by John Ganz

Andrew Tate is a sinister figure, but he's also amazingly buffoonish. He's like if Brad Pitt's character from Fight Club were played by Brad Pitt's character from Burn After Reading.

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yeah i think the combination of buffoonish and menace is a big feature of all these kinds of people

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Jan 8, 2023Liked by John Ganz

…and I think it might have been you who first alerted me to earlier work on the buffoonish as a standard mode in fascist communication, fascism being simultaneously right-wing and eager to express utter contempt for all extant limits.

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And if you are the woman being beaten and raped, the buffoonish part is not as salient.

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Absolutely... but I think the buffoonish antics are how the trap is set... it's part of the seduction, dilutes all the red flags, disarms criticism, makes them seem harmless... until it's too late. Before the trap is sprung, the buffoonishness means they can retreat into the "can't you take a joke darling?" line if someone gets too close to the truth...

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Yeah, I think people need to learn that "can't you take a joke, darling?" is itself a giant red flag.

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…up there with 'Youʼre too sensitive!'—it _is_ possible to be too sensitive, but I've yet to meet or hear of a bully who didn't have that claim ready in his back-pocket.

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Love that image

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by John Ganz

But during his race for the house Santos would have appeared to voters in his district to just be a respectable bourgeoisie type. Now that he’s been unmasked, he has become celebrated by the deepest and ugliest corners of the online right but it seems unlikely that he could have won election while maintaining this persona. It just suggests that while the right has embraced a sort of mob politics, the electoral appeal of those politics is still extremely suspect.

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by John Ganz

the mob, in both senses, was an important coalition partner in third world anticommunist regimes and played a major role in carrying out the mass killings of the cold war era (eg indonesia '65-66)

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I've read—at second-hand—that the literal Mafia helped get Sicily invaded successfully by the Allies because Mussolini was relatively successful at suppressing them…though they were happy to continue his programme of killing Communists and 'communists'.

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Jan 4, 2023Liked by John Ganz

Although only fully developed in a Cold War context and with the most powerful CP in Europe knocking at the door, post-WWII Italian political culture - culminating with Berlusconi in the 90s - seems the most evolved outcome in market economies of the kind of right-wing confluence you’re describing - state capture by criminal or semi-criminal enterprises, systematic delegitimation of all pubic authorities, adulation of gangsterism in popular culture, and - from, the late-60s to the 80s - “occult” conservative support for right-wing violence to destabilize society, frighten the population, and usher in a fortified security state (the famous “strategia della tensione”, so far not fully developed in the US).

Not sure exactly how all this relates to the US context, but one common thread seems to be: “If we can’t have permanent power, we will seek, by whatever means, to delegitimize the very concept of rational authority tout court.” Not authority as a pure expression of power, just rational forms of authority expressed through the ebb and flow of informed debate, public policy formation, distributist regulatory institutions, and a judicial system guided by concerns for ameliorative justice. Putin’s Russia is perhaps the purest current form of this type of power, with the crucial caveat that it has evolved in the absence of the kind of domestic threat - whether real or perceived - that has defined the evolution of right-wing ideology and practice in the US and Italy.

Anyway, an entertaining portrait of some of these more recondite points is the Michele Placido movie “Romanzo Criminale”, developed from a novel (2002) by ex-judge Giancarlo De Cataldo. It’s about the Roman criminal gang the “Banda della Magliana”, which was also mixed up in right-wing politics, including fascist terror (laundering money and providing weapons to fascist cells, including possibly explosives for the 1980 massacre in Bologna. One conflicted member of the gang offers the jarring line, “non mi sta bene, quello che è successo a Bologna” [“What happened in Bologna, I’m not ok with that”]).

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I guess in the Russian case the experience of national humiliation was enough, they didn't need a left threat

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yeah, and the Russian state also seems pretty skilled at transforming external "threats" of their own manufacture (Afghanistan, Chechnya and now Ukraine) into existential domestic threats.

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…up to and including _actual_ false-flag bombings when support for war against the Chechens was ebbing.

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I started this show and will give it another shot, sounds very interesting!

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Jan 4, 2023Liked by John Ganz

There's a tv series from the same novel, but the Placido movie is much better, I think, if you can find it.

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Jan 8, 2023Liked by John Ganz

'I have watched your career with fascination, Sejanus. It's been a revelation it's been to me! I've never fully realised before how a small mind, allied to unlimited ambition and without scruple, can destroy a country full of clever men. I've seen how frail is the structure of a civilisation before the onslaught of a gust of really bad breath! Yes... But I suppose you are not really the destroyer. No, we must look elsewhere for that. You are merely the putrefaction that spreads after death—the outward and visible sign of its presence! You're a lesson in history to me, Sejanus, proving that, above all, Mankind needs its sense of smell.'—from the BBC' s "I, Claudius"

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by John Ganz

Interesting article! Andrew tate converted to Muslim, which suprised me after his arrest I read some Muslim support. He made videos criticizing christians. Watching some of his video he was trying to show his knowledge to get more attention. But it was clear as you said Mob like strong men. He reminds me italian personality Corona. He ended in jail.

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There is a strain in 'Western' masculine panic that looks to a notional war-like, polygamous 'Muslim' for the acme of masculinity, as opposed to (as some will actually quote, but all imply) 'the pale Galilean'. I first became aware of this when the mad, sometimes brilliant, Dave Sim who created (and admirably kept full control of) his comic "Cerebus the Aardvark" began using it as a soapbox for his opinions on men, women, and the relations proper to them (after his difficult divorce). He groped toward some new faith for himself, and at one point claimed to be some sort of Reformed Muslim Jew, never very clear on anything except that Christianity was too feminising and feminised for his tastes.

(I should say that I think any religion—including Goddess-worship—capable of being used to promote or impede equality between the sexes, to damn misogyny or to justify it….)

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A nice though minor example of the phenomenon you’re talking about is Tucker Carlson’s interview of Anthony Pellicano in 2021 (easily found online so no link), a couple of years after the latter finished a 15-year stretch in federal prison for wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy, and wire fraud. There Pellicano is not so much an intruder in public life as he is a man welcomed and celebrated by Carlson as part of the latter’s ongoing effort to groom the American public to accept the necessity for and efficacy of righteous violence directed against groups of people Carlson doesn’t like.

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Your remarks on the "mob" as fun-house mirror inversion of the respectable bourgeoisie put me less in mind of Arendt than of Brecht. Again and again, Brecht presented us with gangsters as the quintessential creatures of capitalist society. Certainly in "Mahagony" but also, and no less brilliantly, in "The Resistible Rise of Artuo Ui."

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She actually talks about Brecht's Three Penny Opera in Origins.

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One thing worth noting in all this talk about authoritarianism coming home to roost is how many aspects of life in the United States (and indeed Canada and Europe already are thoroughly authoritarian. Consider corporations and other employers. They can be benign, hostile, or any shade in between. But one thing they are not is democratically run. I'm sure there are exceptions, but for the most part this holds true. Many religious institutions are explicitly undemocratic. Even some of the ones that do have elected leaderships of some sort seem to be basically authoritarian. School is the same, maybe a little less so at the college and university level, what with all "the student is king" thinking that seems to go on there. Even in most of our families, if a kid doesn't do more or less as they are told by Mom, Dad or both, there will be punishment, perhaps not the physical punishments of yesteryear, but certainly many a child has experienced last privileges, temporarily confiscated cell phones and the like. In many families, the hand is not heave, but in some others, oh my! This is not even to mention authoritarian-style policing with literally jackbooted cops. And then of course there is the military.

The point of all this is that inmost of our daily lives we are well-conditioned for authoritarianism. It's a wonder, given all this, we are not already happily authoritarian. Such ideas on a national level will always find a market.

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I love how "Happy New Year!" in this context has the same effect as "...The Aristocrats!"

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Was just reading J. Sakai's "The 'Dangerous Class' and Revolutionary Theory - Thoughts on the Making of the Lumpen/proletariat". There's a chapter in there (ch 9) which focuses on the events of Louis Bonaparte's 1852 and Marx's characterisation of it in the 18th Brumaire as a lumpen regime created by an alliance of the lumpenproletariat and lumpenbourgeoisie and, indeed, of creating a kind of lumpen regime. Strong parallels with your reference to Arendt's mob here, I think. The chapter's a short enough read if you can locate a free pdf floating around somewhere

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Santos ran for Congress in 2020 as a Republican non-entity and was crushed. Then came Trump's Big Lie, Jan 6, and the opportunity to cast his lot with a cultish authoritarian neo-fascist whose main call-to-arms is a faux anti-elitism. Trump's imprimatur, and newly arrived mysterious buckets of cash, allowed him to amplify his invented Horatio Alger backstory (always irresistable to a certain kind of American nostalgic)-and the rest is history.

Maybe the singularity here, if there is one, is not so much that buffoons like Santos and sociopaths like Tate exist, but the ease and readiness by which they are taken up, adopted, and put to use by a far right media machine driving the relentless rage engine.

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Happy New Year to you, Mr. Ganz.

I look forward to a 2023 where many criminals receive indictments and sentences.

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Interesting post! Could you fix this one spot: To understand how she uses the term, imagine an identity between its two senses: an unruly, menace in the streets, and the In its way, the mob is just the bourgeoisie stripped of hypocrisy—it possesses many of the same views of shared by normal people but “desublimated,”

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yes

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fixed

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My sense is that what has exploded into our politics is a whole segment of our living culture and values that, until now, had been “allowed” to be openly expressed pretty much only through “private,” segregated cultural vehicles and venues. In this way, I agree that the “mob” elements you and Arendt describe are and will long be resident in our culture. What are these “private,” segregated and protected vehicles and venues? The World Wrestling Federation, the reality “survivor” shows (including Trump’s The Apprentice!), the various new fighting/kickboxing shows, mega-churches and other forms of populist religious institutions, a whole huge cohort of major and minor catastrophe/end-of-the-world/dystopia films where if the bad guys aren’t aliens, they’re “others” like Arabs; and also all sorts of ongoing cultural memes and traditions, from Texas’s hugely influential “cowboy” culture, to the pathologically macho gun culture, to all states’ cowboy equivalents in sports, etc. And, as we have all seen so tragically, a long-standing culture of violence and minority suppression and terrorizing by police and other law enforcement. And so much more.

What Trump did was to suddenly pull all of these here-to-fore variously “segregated” (and sometimes marginal) but robust cultural outlets and venues -- and ideas -- into the mainstream political sphere. By virtue of his almost totally unanticipated and therefore prototypically theatrical election as president, Trump did Trump and opened the floodgates to the mainstreaming of much in our culture that for generations had been essentially taboo in “polite political company.” I was struck almost immediately by how Trump’s rallies and other appearances had the feel of WWF events, where people assemble to watch theater designed around dramatic theatrical enactments of morality tales of good versus evil -- in which thousands and then millions of people can cheer madly and cathartically. I am convinced that most of Trump’s effectiveness rests on his capacity to provide to people who have been at the margins of political power (and hence of agency over their own lives) at least the feeling, the catharsis, of seeing a straightforward good-versus-e veil morality play played out in public policy.

So, as to the origins of totalitarianism, I’m mostly in the “Know thyself” camp. All the origins are easily traced throughout American popular cultural institutions and activities that have been extant forever in our culture and that were, in the last generation or so, more formally cordoned-off into “entertainment,” religious, and other cultural silos. They were formally segregated and protected as entertainment or religious preference, and thereby not substantively addressed as roots of totalitarianism, let alone as large vestiges of ages of potentially corrupting ideas and values.

I could go on about how so much of this stems from Lincoln’s assassination and the consequent “reconstruction” and flourishing of our country’s racist, authoritarian culture and institutions, which lost a civil war, but never the cause or the ability to continue to promote and enforce reactionary ideas and beliefs.

Thanks for your stimulating post. I look forward to more!

Jon.

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The conservative in me—he never dominates, but often snarks—sees this as another manifestation of the Death of Shame, a concept the rest of me didn't like when it seemed to be applied mostly to adults' supposedly not using their sex-organs properly, or poor people acting as if their poverty weren't manifest evidence of a moral crime.

'If queers can act as if they didnʼt deserve a beating at the least, and women as if their silly ideas deserved serious attention, and blacks as if they were _people_, why should _I_ feel ashamed of my entirely reasonable and estimable, blinkered, bigotry?'.

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Classic stuff here

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When we say "the mob" do we mean the mafia? Or a mob of people?

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i address that

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