toy

Trump week 1: on fears of a coup

The problem with these medium.com shock pieces is that they're demobilizing. It's hard to tell how much of Trump's first week is strategy and how much of it is incompetence. But we know that one thing that has slowed previous Republican over-reaches (Contract with America, government shutdowns, etc.) is protest and outrage, and this week has seen a bigger and quicker mobilization than many.

Meanwhile, the Jake Fuentes piece suggests that protesters may be unwitting pawns in Trump's game, and the Yonatan Zunger piece suggests that a goal of Trump's actions is to create "resistance fatigue." Both of these arguments are so bad that refuting them makes you dumber. Neither author has any deep knowledge of or experience thinking about social movements. Fuentes is an executive or mid-level manager, I can't quite tell which, at Capital One. Zunger is a computer engineer for Google. (I'm sure that there are lots of computer engineers who have interesting things to say about social movements, but to do so, you have to put in some time studying them. Zunger's articles don't suggest a deep engagement with the topic.)


Even Michael Moore has gotten in on the action. And he does have a deep engagement with politics and social movements. But he's also notoriously inconsistent.

Keep up the pressure! I have no idea how things will unfold, but this is a president who is historically unpopular as a newly elected president, with a majority in Congress which is suspicious of much of his agenda and a national security establishment that is at least partly quite concerned about him, too. The leaders of major, mainstream corporations have been speaking out loudly and confidently against the signature policy of his first week. That sounds more like a recipe for a coup against Trump (oddly contemplated here in a Chicago Tribune commentary) than a coup by him. (And for the record, we shouldn't be supporting either.)



There are a few more detailed responses to the claims of these pieces which are worth reading. Edit: Corey Robin's post makes some broader points which are well worth considering, and Arin Gupta has a good response to the straight-up coup speculation aspect of things.

I wonder about the psychological payoff of reading and sharing these kinds of pieces. I love reading them too. Right after Donald Trump was elected, all I wanted to read for a while was climate change apocalypse articles. There's something exciting (in the analytical sense, not the "fun" sense) about seeing the potential for doom in the present. I'm reminded of Melancholia ... reacting differently. The feeling of impending doom does not always produce inaction and quiescense. Obviously the last week has *not* generally produced that. But too much "watch the wizard/master chess player" seems to lean a little too much towards conspiracy theory and not enough towards recognizing the broader field of power.

Agitation and Control.
(Anonymous)
You are definitely on the mark, this isn't the kind of thing that will just fade. It is more likely both sides will continue to up the ante until there is a reckoning of sorts. The dynamic is agitation and control and the point of the former is to constantly frustrate the latter until it lashes out violently and shows institutional power for the heavy handed bullies they are. You also have the dynamic of an administration that can't keep order which also frustrates them and can force their hand in often explosive and damaging ways. Passive violence works because when they beat you up they show the world who they are.
Are you missing the point?
(Anonymous)
I have read and shared on FB several medium posts this week alluding to the smokescreen/rope-a-dope tactics Trump's cabal are employing. For you to dismiss these writers for lacking expertise on social dynamics is simply not justified. The mainstay of multiple recent articles by medium writers is not a negative criticism of demonstrations, but an observation that the media then focuses on the masses assembled, not the more indidious machinations afoot in the White House. Yes, when I dig deep into the LA Times I can find disturbing news about Bannon's takeover of the NSC, but I know how few people are plowing through the immigration and demonstration coverage to see these details clearly. Moreso, the Times' own analysis of White House strategy and tactics is beyond naive in its cautious objectivity-over-insightfulness approach. That said, kudos for your Melancholia observation. I've been trying to get a handle on the emotional responses I sense brewing up, despair and defiance, defeat and the thrill of a resistance building up and speaking out in so many brave and creative and heartfelt acts. We are having a national heart attack, and I guess feeling elated at still being alive is part of the flipside of this dread.
Re: Are you missing the point?
I think the Medium articles are getting too much attention. On their own, they are what they are -- sort of interesting speculation about stuff we can't really know for sure. But they are getting shared so much that it seems like people think that if we just read the tea leaves carefully enough, we will know the Truth about Bannon's dastardly scheme and that will let us ... do what exactly is never clear; there the pieces break down. It's a moderately educated rumination on fear that produces more fear.

There are things to be fearful of that have happened since Trump took office, clearly. But let's keep an eye on the bigger, knowable picture.
(Anonymous)
Excellent piece. Thankyou.