This book explains how to tell when your country's going to hell and how to stop it

You may have noticed of late that things in America are becoming less, well, American.

A cruel misogynist with dangerously racist beliefs is running the show. Nazis and bigots of all stripes no long fear giving voice to their hatred in public. The nation's journalists and the free flow of information are under attack. The government is working hard to defund the healthcare apparatus designed to protect the country's most vulnerable citizens. Piece by piece, the country's institutions, its heart and soul are being torn asunder, paving the way for something new. After reading Timothy Snyder's most recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, I gotta tell you, if you're scared of the outcome of all of this, chances are you're likely not scared enough.

Snyder is a scholar who specializes in the history of the the 20th century and, more pointedly, the holocaust. His knowledge of how a country's slow slide into fascism at the whim of a tyrant can occur is beyond reproach, given his academic street cred: he's the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale, a Committee on Conscience member at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. What I'm getting at is that he knows from bad shit, how it starts and historically, how it's gone down. With the current political and popular climate in a number of nations around the world, he's concerned that the ugliest parts of humanity are ready to rear their heads once again.

On Tyranny's only 126 pages long. Read the rest

Teacher charged with child abuse after "dragging" boy who sat for pledge

Details have emerged about Karen Smith, the teacher who allegedly assaulted a boy who did not stand for the pledge of allegiance. The BBC reports that she was charged with "child abuse - recklessly and with injury" and with third-degree assault after picking him up by the clothes and dragging him out of class.

Local school officials say students can sit or stand during the pledge. Federal law permits students to sit.

The school district released a statement to parents after the arrest saying they "are co-operating with the District Attorney's Office and respect their decision on this matter".

"We are unable to comment further because it remains a personnel matter that the school district is actively investigating."

If the reporting is true, it wasn't simply inappropriate or excessively physical discipline: Smith committed an act of political violence against a child. Read the rest

Trump tweets islamophobic video from far-right British criminal

Donald Trump retweeted anti-muslim videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of far-right political group Britain First — and a criminal convicted of racially aggravated harassment who is currently facing more hate crimes charges in the UK.

The group, so reviled even prominent Trump supporters were critical of his choice to promote them, was made famous after a member assassinated MP Jo Cox, shrieking the party's name as he shot and stabbed her to death.

The group's leader, Paul Golding, was jailed after a series of "Mosque invasions" staged to intimidate UK muslims.

One of the video purports to depict a "Muslim immigrant" attacking a disabled Dutch boy, but local media reported that the attacker was neither. The other videos purportedly depict a Muslim man smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary and an "Islamist" mob beating that was actually filmed during Egypt's 2011 revolution.

“GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS YOU AMERICA!” wrote Fransen after Trump retweeted her to his 44 million followers.

Fransen was convicted of aggravated harassment after accosting a Muslim mother-of-four on the streets during a "Christian Patrol." She was arrested again two weeks ago following a fascist rally and charged with "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour," with a hearing scheduled at Belfast Magistrates' Court on 14 December.

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Citing Trump, Philippines dictator declares himself to be a "fascist" and vows to persecute peaceful left-wing opposition groups

Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, has been the source of many shocks since he took office last year: he admitted to murdering people as a teen gangbanger and then later as a public official; he zeroed out the budget for the National Commission on Human Rights, and announced that deposed mass-murdering dictator Ferdinand Marcos would be treated as a hero, even as he rolled out death squads that have murdered thousands in cold blood (he also hears voices from God). Read the rest

Thomas the Tank Engine, Fascist

Jia Tolentino describes The Repressive, Authoritarian Soul of “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends”, that most cosy and all-conquering example of English bullshit for children.

through the dedicated and comprehensive Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia, as well as asmattering of critical assessments and message-board threads from dedicated viewers, I have become a little obsessed with the show’s repressive, authoritarian soul.

It is clear from his work that Awdry disliked change, venerated order, and craved the administration of punishment. Henry wasn’t the only train to receive a death sentence. In one episode, a manager tells a showoff engine named Smudger that he’s going to “make him useful at last,” and then turns Smudger into a generator, never to move again. (There are several “R.I.P. Smudger” tribute videos on YouTube.) In another episode, a double-decker bus named Bulgy comes to the station and talks about revolution—“Free the roads from railway tyranny!” he cries. He is quickly labelled a “scarlet deceiver,” trapped under a bridge, and turned into a henhouse. A recurring storyline involves the “troublesome trucks,” which are disciplined into fearful obedience through public, symbolic punishments. Their leader, S. C. Ruffey, is pulled in two different directions until he breaks into pieces—“I guess the lesson is that if someone is bullying you, kill them?” a YouTube commenter writes—and, in another episode, a “spiteful” brake van is crushed into bits.

By the time Awdry wrote “The Railway Series,” the railway industry had shifted away from steam and toward diesel and electric.

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'Demonic activity was palpable' at Trump rally, says Florida pastor

A Florida pastor who took his 11 year old daughter to see a Donald Trump campaign-style presidential rally said he'd hoped his kid would learn something, but instead witnessed that “demonic activity was palpable.”

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Trump supporter in a lynch-the-journalists tee, November 2016

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Echoing Infowars, Trump lies that 'very dishonest' U.S. press are covering up terror attacks

President Donald Trump went full Alex Jones Infowars conspiracy theory wingnut today, saying the American news media are conspiring to cover up a vast series of Islamic terrorist attacks in which innocent God-fearin' Americans have been killed.

Statements like this from authoritarian leaders are the sort of thing you hear when a regime is preparing to institute martial law. Perhaps that is where America is now headed. Hope not.

Today's wackadoodle Trump camp statement was yet another nutty lie, just like Trump's long-running racist birther campaign against President Barack Obama, whom we miss terribly, please for the love of God make this descent into national insanity stop.

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Filmmaker threatened with arrest at JFK #MuslimBan protest for making this short film

“I was threatened with arrest for filming this 3 minute short documentary film about @nobanjfk lawyers at NYC JFK airport on Sunday,” says filmmaker Aaron Stewart-Ahn.

Aaron wasn't the only one to report harassment, intimidation, and threat of arrest for photographing, filming or recording audio of the massive protests at this airport and others, as travelers officials scrambled to come to grips with Trump's sneak attack executive order.

[Vimeo]

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The headquarters of Mussolini's Italian Fascist Party, 1934

From Rare Historical Photos, this 1934 snapshot of the Italian Fascist Party Federation in Rome.

The building in the picture is Palazzo Braschi in Rome, the headquarters of the Fascist Party Federation (the local one, not the national Party headquarters). It was not always covered up like that; this set-up was displayed for the 1934 elections, in which Italians were called to vote either for or against the Fascist representatives list. The “SI SI…” lettering (meaning “Yes Yes…”) was propaganda for one of the two plebiscite elections held during the Fascist Regime, where electors didn’t vote for individual parties (there wasn’t any but the Fascist one), neither for single candidates, but just voted “Yes” or “No” to a single list of candidates presented by the Duce himself.

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Paul Verhoeven on media's normalization of fascism

LJ Frezza takes a loving look back at how Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers are wry commentaries on mass media's normalizing effect on sexism, militarism, climate change, corporatism, and state-sponsored terrorism. Read the rest

This is what it's like when tyranny takes hold

"What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust."

The New Yorker's Evan Osnos, with one of the best essay openings of the year, examines the posthumous memoir of Xu Hongci, a Chinese revolutionary and true believer of Mao Zedong, later imprisoned.

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France's next President could be an Islamophobic "Thatcherite" who wants to dismantle the social safety net

The Trump election gave real legitimacy to Europe's fascist parties, including France's Marine Le Pen of the National Front; and in the absence of real, left-win alternatives for populist discontent, the only real opposition to these authoritarians is coming from the hard right parties, which are swinging even further to the right to try to gain back some of their supporters. Read the rest

Hungary's Prime Minister shuts down opposition press, then goes after everyone else

Noemi writes, "After closing down Hungary's largest opposition paper (online archive included) Hungarian Prime Miniter Viktor Orban is steadily and methodically turning back the clock on 27 years of history, steadily edging back towards a dictatorship -- except this time with a fascist face. He is testing how far the beleaguered EU will allow him to stretch the boundaries of democracy. This is where the attention of European democratic efforts need to be directed. Not in kindergarten tantrums about sandwich spreads." Read the rest

With 3,500 U.S. legal actions, Trump is most litigious presidential nominee ever

An analysis from USA Today finds that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is currently involved in 3,500 legal actions. Who else is involved? Everyone from the government to vodka makers. This number is unprecedented in scope for any presidential candidate in U.S. history, and likely far too many for the entire American press corps to really get down to the bottom of, in time for voters to determine what that means for their choice in November.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, The Washington Post

Sleep tight. Read the rest

In power, Trump will punish the media first

Last night, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump blithely threatened Jeff Bezos over The Washington Post's investigations of him. It's a preview of exactly what form Trump's authoritarianism would take in government: the use of federal power to intimidate media.

Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power. So that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. He’s getting absolutely away — he’s worried about me, and I think he said that to somebody ... it was in some article, where he thinks I would go after him for antitrust. Because he’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much. ...

I’ll tell you what: We can’t let him get away with it. So he’s got about 20, 25 — I just heard they’re taking these really bad stories — I mean, they, you know, wrong, I wouldn’t even say bad. They’re wrong. And in many cases they have no proper information. And they’re putting them together, they’re slopping them together. And they’re gonna do a book. And the book is gonna be all false stuff because the stories are so wrong. And the reporters — I mean, one after another — so what they’re doing is he’s using that as a political instrument to try and stop antitrust, which he thinks I believe he’s antitrust, in other words, what he’s got is a monopoly. And he wants to make sure I don’t get in. So, it’s one of those things.

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