The case for calm in re­sis­tance to Trump

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - DAVID TAL­BOT

OK, let’s re­view. There’s a scary clown run­ning the White House. (That would be Steve Ban­non — and his side­kick seems nearly as un­hinged.) Wealthy tech ti­tans and New York bankers — the guys who are sup­posed to bet on the fu­ture — are fran­ti­cally plan­ning their es­cape havens in New Zealand and ren­o­vat­ing old nu­clear war bunkers in the vast, empty Great Plains. Black bloc an­ar­chists are run­ning wild in the streets. And the white na­tion­al­ist crowd is stock­pil­ing guns and ammo for the rev­o­lu­tion or coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion to come. Amer­ica, Amer­ica, God shed his grace on thee.

Mean­while, Wash­ing­ton and Hol­ly­wood lib­er­als — the types who are al­ways cel­e­brat­ing our en­light­ened and ex­cep­tional demo­cratic sys­tem — are freak­ing out, float­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a mil­i­tary coup to re­move Pres­i­dent Trump from of­fice and re­store san­ity in the land.

“WAKE UP & JOIN THE RE­SIS­TANCE. ONCE THE MIL­I­TARY IS W US FAS­CISTS GET OVER­THROWN. MAD KING & HIS HAN­DLERS GO BYE BYE,” tweeted

co­me­dian Sarah Sil­ver­man last week. What is it about Twit­ter that makes peo­ple go all up­per-case bonkers? The next morn­ing, a chas­tened (and/or sober) Sil­ver­man ad­mit­ted she had kind of lost it: “FEAR can mo­ti­vate even peacenik snowflakes 2 vi­o­lence & last night I felt it hard.”

But the coup meme con­tin­ued to spread in left-wing cir­cles. Rosa Brooks, a hu­man rights coun­selor in the Clin­ton State Depart­ment and Obama De­fense Depart­ment, pub­lished an ar­ti­cle in For­eign Pol­icy ask­ing point blank, “Are we truly stuck with Don­ald Trump?” — a man, she wrote, who is turn­ing out to be “as crazy as ev­ery­one feared.”

One so­lu­tion to the Trump cri­sis, she ob­served, might be “a mil­i­tary coup, or at least a re­fusal by mil­i­tary lead­ers to obey cer­tain or­ders.”

“The prospect of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary lead­ers re­spond­ing to a pres­i­den­tial or­der with open de­fi­ance is fright­en­ing — but so, too, is the prospect of mil­i­tary obe­di­ence to an in­sane or­der,” wrote Brooks, who is mar­ried to an Army Spe­cial Forces of­fi­cer.

“For the first time in my life, I can imag­ine plau­si­ble sce­nar­ios in which se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cials might sim­ply tell the pres­i­dent, ‘No, sir. We’re not do­ing that,’ to thun­der­ous ap­plause from the New York Times ed­i­to­rial board.”

All hell pre­dictably broke loose in the Bre­it­bart and Alex Jones world, and Brooks was bar­raged with death threats and the usual sex­ist and anti-Semitic sludge.

Brooks, the daugh­ter of noted so­cial­ist jour­nal­ist Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich, felt com­pelled to ex­plain that she was not call­ing for a coup, but sim­ply “spec­u­lat­ing on what would hap­pen if Don­ald Trump truly and dan­ger­ously lost his mar­bles.”

Trump’s first weeks in of­fice have trig­gered lots of such spec­u­la­tion, with ar­ti­cles in the main­stream press openly won­der­ing whether the “deep state” — i.e., Wall Street, the oil in­dus­try, na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies, cor­po­rate me­dia and other un­elected cen­ters of hid­den power — will take steps to ter­mi­nate his er­ratic pres­i­dency.

Be care­ful what you wish for, jour­nal­ist Glenn Green­wald cau­tioned his fel­low pro­gres­sives. A deep-state seizure of the gov­ern­ment would only push us from the fry­ing pan into the fire.

We’re see­ing a “proxy war” in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity be­tween FBI fac­tions aligned with Trump and the CIA, which is largely op­posed to him, Green­wald told Fox News’ Tucker Carl­son. (The fact that Green­wald is a wel­come guest on Fox these days un­der­lines the strange­ness of the times.) “It’s re­ally quite dan­ger­ous if we think about sub­mit­ting to rule by these un­elected, dark, deep-state over­lords — it’s the an­tithe­sis of democ­racy.”

For some ad­di­tional san­ity, I con­sulted with re­tired UC Berke­ley scholar Peter Dale Scott, the god­fa­ther of dark power re­search, whose book “The Amer­i­can Deep State” will be rere­leased in the spring. Scott has been ac­cused of fo­ment­ing con­spir­a­to­rial think­ing about power and au­thor­ity in the U.S. But he takes a re­fresh­ingly level-headed view of our cur­rent tur­moil.

“The Amer­i­can state is a very com­pli­cated or­gan­ism — it’s very hard for one man to up­end it. I think the ju­di­cial re­sis­tance to Trump’s Mus­lim ban is a har­bin­ger of what’s to come. The sys­tem it­self is big­ger than any one man. The founders were very con­cerned about the rise of a tyrant, and we can thank them for in­stalling a va­ri­ety of pro­tec­tive mea­sures in the sys­tem against such a specter.”

The deep state is very frag­mented over Trump, ob­served Scott, with Wall Street, for in­stance, cheer­ing his ef­forts to gut bank­ing reg­u­la­tions but fret­ting over his antiglob­al­ist poli­cies. Hope­fully, this darker level of power won’t be called on to in­ter­vene against Trump, said Scott.

“A coup would mean civil war, be­cause the large chunks of this coun­try that sup­port Trump are heav­ily armed and have been pre­par­ing for this kind of show­down.”

Scott thinks pro­gres­sives need to take a deep breath. “Maybe I’m more san­guine be­cause I’m Cana­dian and I tend to see these Amer­i­can up­heavals with the per­spec­tive of an out­sider. Peo­ple are re­act­ing now with anger, fear, ha­tred and de­spair — and these are not emo­tions that we should be adding to the Amer­i­can mix these days.

“Even a smart com­men­ta­tor like (Truthdig colum­nist) Chris Hedges, for whom I have great re­spect, is say­ing we’re about to lose all of our civil rights. This is so over­stated. We need to stay cool and keep calmly build­ing a re­sis­tance move­ment.”

For the record, I too re­spect Hedges, with whom I col­lab­o­rated on a re­cent book, but I agree that Trump has driven him a bit mad lately.

“This coun­try sur­vived Nixon and Rea­gan and Ge­orge W. Bush — ab­so­lutely ap­palling lead­ers,” said Scott. “And even worse, they were all re­elected. But, af­ter­wards, the coun­try came out bet­ter than ever be­fore.

“Trump is so bad that he’s not dan­ger­ous. As the anti-Trump protests grow and peo­ple get or­ga­nized, I think Amer­ica’s demo­cratic val­ues will emerge even stronger.”

There you go, Amer­ica. That’s your mo­ment of Zen for the day.

San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle colum­nist David Tal­bot ap­pears Sun­days, Tues­days and Thurs­days. Email: dtal­[email protected]­i­cle.com

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