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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

 

Those who forget the lessons of psychohistory

by Tom Sullivan



Smirking Chimp's Jeff Tiedrich links to a Guardian account of how the press mis-covered rising political stars in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

The press largely dismissed them as curiosities, John Broich writes, with most coverage of Benito Mussolini, for example, "neutral, bemused or positive in tone." For the exception, Broich links to this stinging account by Ernest Hemingway of Mussolini at a conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. "The biggest bluff in Europe," Hemingway wrote of the Italian leader:
The Fascist dictator had announced he would receive the press. Everybody came. We all crowded into the room. Mussolini sat at his desk reading a book. His face was contorted into the famous frown. He was registering Dictator. Being an ex-newspaper man himself he knew how many readers would be reached by the accounts the men in the room would write of the interview he was about to give. And he remained absorbed in his book. Mentally he was already reading the lines of the two thousand papers served by the two hundred correspondents. “As we entered the room the Black Shirt Dictator did not look up from the book he was reading, so intense was his concentration, etc.”

I tip-toed over behind him to see what the book was he was reading with such avid interest. It was a French-English dictionary – held upside down.
But what damage even a big bluff can do. Too late the world discovered its miscalculation. As Tiedrich alludes, we may be about to repeat that mistake of history.

In Isaac Assimov's "Foundation" series, "psychohistorian" Hari Seldon predicts the collapse of the Galactic Empire and develops a multi-generational plan for shortening the coming new Dark Ages from a projected 30,000 years to under 1,000, ending in the rise of a new order.

Democrats could use somebody like Seldon about now. Someone with a plan for shortening the coming age of Trump. Someone to introduce a little disaster progressivism, a la "The Shock Doctrine,", who might turn the coming disorder to their advantage. But that might take Democrats out of their natural, defensive crouch. It's more of a Shelbyville idea.

If Pat McCrory's T-party legislature in North Carolina is any indication, Democrats on Capitol Hill face a kind of trench warfare. Beyond fundraising for their next election, they will find little time for thinking beyond fending off the next bayonet charge. If there is any strategic planning at all, it is behind doors lefty bloggers rarely peek behind. One suspects is there isn't much to see anyway.

With all those think tanks and foundations in and around Washington, D.C., one might expect something resembling strategery is taking place. But since the preponderance of them are funded by right-wing billionaires, not by the left, well, here we are.

Look over there, another Trump tweet.