Timothy Snyder argues that the abyss of American democracy is fed by a crisis in truth that has left us in a pre-fascist moment. But Snyder recognizes that President Trump never could bring himself to embrace fascism. He alienated the military, on which a fascist government would need to depend. He emboldened militias, but never organized them into a unit. His social media attacks were constant but scattered.
As the lies pile up, people ask why the President’s lies don’t seem to hurt his standing. Roger Berkowitz argues that lies barely register today because lying has become, simply, a way of life. And he asks, “How Do We Rebuild a Shared American Reality on a Foundation of Lies?”
At the beginning of a conversation with Bill T. Jones this week as part of the Hannah Arendt Center’s “Race and Revolution” lecture series, Bill T. Jones read an excerpt from Hari Kunzru’s essay “Wages of Whiteness.” Kunzru’s essay is a magisterial retelling of the rise of current focus on whiteness, identity politics, and white privilege, one that raises as many questions as it answers.
William Foege, one of the leading epidemiologists in the world, sent a private letter to Robert Redfield of the Center for Disease Control urging him to create a written record acknowledging that the CDC had responded poorly to Covid-19. Foege writes: “I start each day thinking about the terrible burden you bear. I don’t know what I would actually do, if in your position, but I do know what I wish I would do. The first thing would be to face the truth.
Hannah Arendt never tired of reminding us that politics is about power. The only way to prevent a tyranny of the majority, she argued, is by dispersing power through institutions and across the population. She valued greatly the American Constitutional tradition because it sought to create multiple and competing power centers. In part this happened through the embrace of federalism, which pitted the states against the Federal government.
Emily Langer tells the story of Ruth Gruber, “an American journalist who stumbled into one of the great rescue stories of the Holocaust when the U.S. government appointed her to escort nearly 1,000 Jews across U-boat infested waters to the shores of the United States, [who] died Nov. 17 at her home in Manhattan. She was 105.” The story is well worth your time.
In 2016, after the death of Antonin Scalia, and during the Republican decision to block a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senator Lindsey Graham made what appeared to be a principled statement. "I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever...
Two recent essays address the way that the press and social media in particular are polarizing and radicalizing our politics. First, Matt Taibbi argues that the political polarization has its source in the new way that the news is marketed to partisan audiences.
Emma Graham-Harrison writes that new reports show that China is continuing to build re-education concentration camps for Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province. China has built nearly 400 internment camps in Xinjiang region, with construction on dozens continuing over the last two years, even as Chinese authorities said their “re-education” system was winding down, an Australian thinktank has found.
Gershom Scholem called them “plastic hours.” Hannah Arendt called them “Revolutionary situations.” George Packer argues we are likely now living through such a moment when “an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. They require the right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events—usually a crisis.