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Friday, July 28, 2017

The new Chief of Staff. Plus: Steve Bannon and the mage

Reince Priebus has finally been pushed out; he'll be succeeded by General John Kelley, currently the head of Homeland Security. Kelly has said that a major act of terrorism in the U.S. is inevitable, and that the threat is so severe, people "would never leave the house" if they knew the truth.

Do you smell smoke? Someone may be planning to start a Reichstag fire.

CNN has said that the Priebus resignation actually occurred on Thursday. The NYT offers this interesting tidbit:
The announcement capped a fraught 24 hours in which the president’s advisers waited for a change they had long anticipated. Mr. Priebus accompanied Mr. Trump on Air Force One for a day trip to Long Island as his fate was being decided. Making for a tense flight, his rival, Anthony Scaramucci, the communications director who had publicly vowed to force Mr. Priebus’s resignation, was also on the plane and in the motorcade.
First: That kind of humiliation is so Trump. Why on earth would anyone work for that man?

Second: Long Island? Do any readers know why he went there? Is there a connection to the Mercers?

Third: This move signals Trump's continuing divorce from the Republican establishment. The  separation gives Republican congressfolk more room to vote contrary to Trump's wishes, more room to support Mueller's investigation -- and more room to support impeachment, should things come to that.

Bannon. Many journalists have not known how to report the Mooch's rather colorful description of Steve Bannon. Faithful reader b has suggested the phrase "The Ouroborean metaphor," which I love -- although the term may be a little too Hermetic for the Trumpists.

Speaking of Hermeticism: The hippest thing on the internet right now is this episode of Trumpcast, in which Bannon biographer Joshua Green delves into Bannon's reliance on esoteric fascist Julius Evola and his metaphysical mentor, René Guénon. I first learned about those two eccentric thinkers via Gnosis magazine; the old Bodhi Tree bookstore on Santa Monica Blvd. carried their works, which were otherwise unavailable. It's a little odd to see those names mentioned in polite society. Just a couple of years ago, Evola and Guénon were names known only to aficionados of the odd -- like me.

Guénon was a Freemason and occult dabbler who, during his time on the Sufi path, referred to himself as Abd al-Wāḥid Yaḥyá. Freemasonry, occultism and Islam: Shouldn't Alex Jones be at least a little bit alarmed by Bannon's intellectual descent from such a personage?

No. He won't complain about Bannon's rather dubious philosophical influences. Republicans may do what Dems may not. 

The right-wing conspiracy cranks are always quick to link the Democratic party with the occult, despite a complete absence of evidence for such a link. Actually, Fascism -- not liberalism -- is the political movement which grew out of the 19th century occult revival. Before you pooh-pooh the idea, consult James Webb's masterful The Occult Establishment and Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's The Occult Roots of Nazism.

(I can't recommend most other volumes exploring this terrain, because the field attracts many sensationalistic and unscholarly writers. And yes, I'm well aware of that garbage book by Trevor Ravenscroft which you were just about to recommend. It's a hoax.)

Joshua Green also delves (though not deeply enough) into the links between Bannon and Alexander Dugin, described as Putin's Bannon. We are getting a glimpse of a hidden world -- the world of (for want of a better term) esoteric fascism.

Incidentally, there have long been rumors of a dangerous cult operating on Long Island -- a cult whose membership is said to include some well-heeled individuals. I'm not saying that these rumors are true; stories of this sort are usually baseless. Still, fun-seekers may want to check out this NYT piece from 1993 and this NY Post article from last year, as well as this piece published ten days ago. Pleasant dreams!
Long Island: Right. Many possible hosts in the Hamptons like Lord Darlington of "Remains Of The Day".
The Ron Rosenbaum piece has put me in an odd mood. When he's good, he's really good.

Of all members of the weird Trump parade, Scarramucci is near as we'll get to a proof that what we're watching is a horrible Reality Sitcom. The bizarre cousin Mooch has now come to stay awhile. Uncle Fester Bannon is hoping to remain undisturbed in his dungeon, about twenty stories deep. One could go on, but the "real life" Morticia was so much more appealing than Melania.

But not all other casting choices were substandard, merely different. As when Angelica Huston's Morticia asked Gomez, "Unhappy, Darling?" His only possible answer, a contented, "Completely."
He went to Long Island to tell the Suffolk County cops to beat the shit out of suspects. (video autoplays, sorry)
Trump is a walking pathography. Those details of the attacks complete with reasoning...yuk.

As Carl Oglesby pointed out, it's a mistake to think that Fascism results from displacements produced by modern industrial society. Fascism is a result of elites exploiting already unequal power structures to gain greater control (my paraphrase). These are the political and economic aspects.

But the psychological heart of Fascism is sadistic domination, which Trump wears proudly, revels in.

There may be a connection with the cult activity mentioned in this post.

In the introduction to his extraordinary book-length essay _Cultural Amnesia_, Clive James noted the fine, athletic condition of Nazi SS war criminals who had escaped punishment, even at their advanced age. Perhaps, James speculated bitterly, machine gunning children confers some life-enhancing power to the perpetrators. Sorry for another paraphrase, hard to capture his mordancy.

Ah, the Bodhi Tree on Santa Monica Blvd brings back a rush of nostalgic memories. Circa 1976, my then two-year old daughter picked out her first book there all by herself---a small red one sitting at the corner of a bottom shelf. Regarding Long Island, I read a news snippet two or three weeks ago noting that Jared and Ivanka had attended a party in the Hamptons. This would have been at the height of the media buzz about the June 2016 meeting. The item caught my attention because it said this was a Democratic gathering, which I thought was an odd bit of news to include.
@Tom at 1:49AM

I loved Oglesby's "Yankee and the Cowboy War". I still have a tattered paperback edition on my book shelf. I should reread it, as I think it set the stage well for the most current resurgence of Confederacy cultists and the power they've assumed in the Rethuglican party.

On another note, Dave Emory (TheSpitfireList) has opined that many of the concepts/proponents of the New Age movement were/are fascistic. I dabbled in it in the 80's/90's, and while I found some concepts and practitioners helpful, many of the books and so called gurus of the movement struck me as authoritarian and cult like. Many proponents advocated disengaging from "The World". Convenient philosphy for those who have a political and economic agenda to advance.
Wow, got lost in that NYT Lon-Guyland piece!

How cool he used Pynchon's observations about split-levels and ranches as an extended metaphor. If there is such a thing as a split-level psyche (or gnarly outgrowths from single stories) I wonder what the mentality of people living in McMansions will become? I love the mid-century homes in Northern VA (where I grew up) and they are being replaced one by one with garish mansions covering every square inch of the lots they are built on. Garish and poorly built. I question the mentality of anyone who would even want one! In fact, the day after the election I took a picture of one towering over a tiny cottage on my aunt's street: to me it represented the fact that we, as Americans, are becoming Trump every day. We want oversized cookie-cutter junk as opposed to efficient, cute, and individualized. It's not even ostentatious, it's fake-showy.

Well, at least the (purported) tiny house craze is real show-offy, in a backlash kind of way.

I could not even with the "Satin Lives" article! Too funny.

That's all I had time to read. Questions: Do you sleep, Joseph? Someone asked "Are you a magician?" Well?

Gnosis Magazine! I used to own a complete set of them. Really strange stuff, fun to read. Loved the Long Island article.

Boston Boomer
Big Guy, you have made one of the essential updates to Oglesby, that the cowby has been destroyed and replaced by the redneck. The redneck wears a cowboy hat, and the boots, but lives inside a box owned by the owning class, whatever we might call them now.

Confederacy cultists, very true. John C. Calhoun is very much their guiding spirit.

_Democracy in Chains_ by Nancy MacClean is new and essential reading. Absolutely solid historical work. The negative reviews are typical right wing smears.

Thanks for mentioning Emory.
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