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Farewell, Obama!

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Jill and Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama and daughter Malia after Obama gave his farewell address to a crowd of thousands and the nation during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017.

For a full gallery of images from last night, please see my archive, “President Obama’s Farewell Address“.

BBC World Service: “World Have Your Say” on Russian Athletics Doping

Today I got to discuss how Russians cheat and lie, this time in sport with host Ben James and a panel including a Canadian and Kenyan Olympiad and colleagues in London and Germany on the BBC World Service’s “World Have Your Say” program.

…we hear the conversation surrounding the latest twist in allegations of doping in Russian sport. The New York Times says Russian officials have for the first time admitted to the existence of a doping operation which affected major competitions.

Quartz: Russia’s meddling to get Donald Trump elected president is straight out of the old KGB playbook

Russia’s meddling to get Donald Trump elected president is straight out of the old KGB playbook
Quartz
December 19, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Turkish Prime Minister's office at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on December 3, 2012.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Turkish Prime Minister’s office at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on December 3, 2012.

Mysterious arrests. Disappearances. A far away death in an unknown gulag concealed from family for a generation. These are realities for those of us whose families came to the US from Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the last world war and subsequent Soviet occupation. These are also the reasons why every act against Donald Trump now is an act of patriotism on behalf of the American people.

During the 1970s and 1980s, KGB defectors warned Americans to beware Russian interference. Those warnings were mostly buried. Today, however, Trump’s rise should be examined in the context of these methods of Kremlin ideological subversion and psychological warfare.

The confluence of evidence suggests Donald Trump was supported, and his campaign efforts bolstered, by Russia this election season (as the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have concluded). Plucked from the KGB’s (now FSB’s) playbook for installing world leaders sympathetic to Moscow, we are now witnessing what Russian intelligence officers would refer to as “active measures.”

The first phase of this strategy is to bombard a nation with propaganda, usually of a racist, anti-Semitic nature. The point of this propaganda is to sow the seeds of discord among a population. The second phase is the instigation of incidents that can be used and broadcast widely for the purposes of demoralization. In phase three, Russia installs a friendly leader and leverages the economy according to Moscow’s will.

In the US, phase one was accomplished through the spread of propaganda, often but not always in the form of “fake news,” on social media and at Trump’s rallies. Mainstream media networks played a useful role here by allowing Trump’s rallies to be broadcast unfiltered and often unchallenged, further normalizing Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. We are now between the second phase, with its intent of demoralization. We must never allow the final stage.

History shows us what happens when Soviet ideology and power mix. In George F. Kennan’s seminal “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in Foreign Affairs in 1947, the former US ambassador to Moscow outlines Stalin’s expansionist philosophy in the context of Marxist-Leninist thought. In the opening paragraphs, he clearly articulates the Soviet-era doctrine, some of which still holds sway in the Kremlin today.

Stalin believed a country built on free trade and open markets would eventually slip into a form of late-stage capitalism that in turn leads to anarchy, war, and ultimately class revolution. The answer? State control over everything from the economy to private life. Citizens in this system become subjects instead of active participants in society.

In other words, Russian influence over US policy would not simply represent a political shift—it would set the stage for a possible humanitarian disaster. Stalin’s interpretation of this Marxist fantasia evolved into gulags and the deaths of millions. Putin’s interpretation is a sort of Stalin-lite philosophy, in which central control of the economy is handed over to a coterie of loyal elites known as oligarchs. Arrests and assassinations are used to maintain law and order (a rallying cry for Trump during the campaign). Absolute control is still the goal.

In the former Soviet bloc, the memory of the Cold War still looms large. But the majority of Americans don’t understand the reality of things like purges, gulags, disappearances, and state terror. Americans need to wake up, right now, to a different era—an era in which the institutions they were taught would always protect them may be weakened, or even destroyed.

Trump has arguably already started this process in the US via his cabinet appointments. There are other warning signs as well. After watching Trump and his family interviewed in their gilded penthouse on 60 Minutes, it’s clear money is the primary language he speaks. This is also the language most familiar to the Kremlin, and to Putin, who after nearly two decades spent systematically plundering the Russian state of its resources may very well be the world’s richest man.

Indeed, Trump’s gilded penthouse bears a striking resemblance to the palace of the deposed former leader of Ukraine and Putin ally, Viktor Yanukovych. When Yanukovych fled his palace in 2014, he left behind a dizzying array of documents and lavish accouterment, including a personal zoo. Yanukovych’s greed came with a high cost; ultimately it was his country’s sovereignty, economy, and the welfare of the Ukrainian people.

And yet, too many Americans still remain blind to the dangers of Trump’s presidency. As KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov told American television audiences three decades ago, when it comes to Russia’s plan for world domination, the American “will refuse to believe it until he receives a kick in the fat bottom. When a military boot crushes him, then he will understand it.”

Back in the USA

Mysterious arrests. Disappearances. A far away death in an unknown gulag concealed from family for a generation. These are realities for those of us whose families came to this great country from Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the last great world war as Soviet occupation squeezed the region. These are also the reasons why every act against Donald Trump now is an act of patriotism on behalf of our nation and the American people.

Make no mistake about it, the confluence of evidence suggests Donald Trump was not only supported, bolstered, and aligned with Russia during this election season (as the NSA has concluded) but that his business empire is as well. His son, Donald Jr., told a trade publication, eTurboNews in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets,” adding that, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

After watching Trump and his family interviewed in their gilded penthouse on “60 Minutes” we can safely conclude money and lavish palaces are the language he speaks. This is also the language most familiar to the Kremlin, and Putin, who after nearly two decades at the helm of the Russian government, may very well be the world’s richest man after systematically plundering the state of its resources by leveraging oligarchs against each other for his own personal gain.

Is this the future we want in America? Is it possible the Kremlin’s influence has reached the White House? The answer is clear: yes. Trump’s gilded penthouse bears such a striking resemblance to the palace Mezhyhirya of deposed former leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his palace in 2014 for Russia leaving behind a dizzying array of documents and lavish accouterment, including a personal zoo that included ostriches. The cost was his country’s sovereignty, economy and the health and welfare of the Ukrainian people.

Ukraine is particularly instructional given the similarities between Yanukovych and Trump: their callous demeanor, lack of refinement, completely kitsch style. Before fleeing by helicopter, Yanukovych ordered his security services to fire live rounds on the crowds gathered in Maidan killing nearly 100 in cold blood after tens of thousands turned up to protest his reign for months. Is this the future we want in America?

Most remarkably is the parallel as far as lack of responsibility both men feel for their egregious mistakes of the past. Trump has never apologized for insulting a federal judge, our generals, the electoral process itself. He has only ever doubled down or reversed positions, denying previous culpability. Almost two years after Maidan, what did Yanukovych have to say for himself? “Yanukovych always supported the ostriches.” Another similarity: both men speak of themselves in the third person.

This is not a future we can allow for in this country. My generation does not have time to entertain the nostalgia of a 1950s postwar security we never knew because we grew up in a time of the war on terror in an era of the planet imperiled by climate change. After 15 years in Afghanistan, which the millennial generation bore the brunt of – a war that was never mentioned during the presidential debates – we also cannot further degrade our national security now by allowing a Kremlin puppet to take the seat of the presidency.

Let’s be clear: we are now receiving an assault on multiple fronts of what the Soviet KGB dubbed “active measures”. In George F. Kennan’s seminal “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in Foreign Affairs in 1947, the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow outlines Stalin’s expansionist philosophy in the context of Marxist-Leninist thought. In the opening paragraphs, he clearly articulates the Soviet era doctrine that still holds sway in the Kremlin today as Putin is a former KGB agent, that in country’s like ours built on free trade and open markets, economic crisis brings about late stage capitalism which leads to anarchy, war, and ultimately class revolution.

Well we know how Stalin’s interpretation of this Marxist fantasia evolved into gulags and the deaths of tens of millions, including my father’s uncle. Steve Bannon, Trump’s first appointment of Chief White House Strategist, has described himself in the past in an interview with The Daily Beast in 2013 as a Leninist seeking to bring down the system. “I want to bring everything crashing down,” he said at the time.

Soviet style occupation occurs in three steps as defined by KGB doctrine of “active measures”. Phase I is to bombard a nation with propaganda, usually of a racist, anti-Semitic character with the intention of sowing the seeds of discord among a population. Phase II is the instigation of incidents that can be used and broadcast widely for the purposes of demoralization of the population. In Phase III, Russia installs a friendly leader and leverages the economy according to Moscow’s will.

Phase I was accomplished through the spread of fake news on social media and among the throngs who flocked to Trump’s rallies by outlets such as Breitbart News (where Bannon was in charge until taking a leave to become CEO of the Trump campaign) and Fox News as well as a bevy of false news sites online. We have now entered phase II where incidents are instigated and played to maximum effect with the intention of demoralization. We must never allow phase III to occur.

We must fight for our future as Americans.

An Open Letter To the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations Regarding the Trump DC Hotel Hanukah party co-hosted with the Embassy of Azerbaijan

To the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations:

At a time when internment camps and mass deportations are being discussed in public and political life in our nation and the state is forcefully closing in on civil liberties and the executive threatens our free press and union leaders, the notion of co-hosting a Hanukah party with one of the world’s most authoritarian regimes at a hotel that bears Trump’s name is beyond inappropriate, it is a scandalous threat to the future of all American Jews in this nation. The Jewish community’s true leaders are not looking for a tribal advantage inside the incoming regime in this country but rather to protect at all times their friends, family, neighbors and colleagues from the brutality a state can unleash on its citizens.

Many of us are in this country because we fled persecution at two key historical moments. The first is around the Second World War as Hitler and Stalin closed in on the Pale regions of Eastern Europe, threatening Jewish life there. Half of my family belongs to this generation and we came to this country at a time of genuine American leadership on the world stage, when rather than shun refugees, we lead the world in drafting the United Nations Convention on Refugees. The second period was in the 1990s with the demise of the Soviet Union, which presented another threat to what remained of Jewish life behind the Iron Curtain. How ironic and utterly ahistorical that now at a time when a demagogue seeks to divide our own nation, the so-called leaders of the Jewish community see fit to curry favors with him as he speaks of menacing others who are not us. Well, I am sorry but they are us, as we are not simply Jewish people but American citizens who must stand up for and protect the rights of all our people, especially when they don’t look like us or pray like us. We cannot expect greater humanity and compassion than we ourselves are willing to show.

As for Azerbaijan’s role, I would like to speak to that as someone with experience working, reporting and living in that country first as a National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee in 2010 and later as a Fulbright grant recipient in 2011-2012. Azerbaijan is an Orwellian universe of the sort the incoming administration seeks to bring here. My friends in civil society for the most part live in exile, for if they chose to live in Azerbaijan they sit now either in jail, with their passports confiscated or looking down in silence. When I lived in Azerbaijan, my colleague, investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova was secretly recorded in an act of intimacy in her bedroom, the footage of which was later used to blackmail her and broadcast on the internet and later television. She spent time in jail for the absurd offense of inciting a man to suicide, who lived, naturally, and later recanted. She has since been freed thanks to the work of civil society internationally and organizations like PEN America.

Beyond my colleagues though, to court Azerbaijan and to do so under the moniker of a hotel that bears the name of the president elect is to embrace a disaster in the form of a civil liberties nightmare that will backfire so badly not just on your organizations, but on Jewish life in America. I photographed and interviewed personally people who had their land expropriated by the state one day when they were merely removed from their homes, arrested and returned to a pile of rubble. I spent nine months with the family of a writer, Rafiq Tagi, who was murdered after writing Islam and democracy are incompatible – an act the Azerbaijani government blamed him for while not investigating claiming publicly that he brought it on himself. But perhaps most damning is when I protested my colleague Khadija’s detention outside the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington. They reacted by calling the police, expecting we might be summarily hauled away and brutalized by the police as happens in Azerbaijan. When the DC police showed up at our modest protest, I watched as Embassy employees moved away from the window and closed the curtain as I shook the police officer’s hand and politely answered his inquiries concerning the reasons for our protest.

I understand Israel has very few friends in the world and I will not deny that Jewish life in Azerbaijan is more comfortable than elsewhere and that the Azerbaijani government has shown great willingness to cooperate with the Israeli government on defense and energy – two critical sectors for any national economy and security. However, the cost of this partnership need not be carried by American Jews who will bear the brunt of the symbolic appearance of this event in their daily lives as such events sow the seeds of doubt, conspiracy and ultimately terror. Jared Kushner’s paper The New York Observer is now on record accusing political opposition as being akin to political terrorism and has urged the FBI to go after its enemies. This sounds more like Azerbaijan than America to me and this is simply not what I want for the future of my own nation.

In conclusion, I ask that this event be cancelled even though I expect no such thing and that rather than come together around a holiday that celebrates victory over those who sought to place pigs in our temples, we work to keep the pigs out of other’s sacred spaces, that we join them in these spaces for prayer and reflection. To host such an event at a Trump-branded hotel with a country that is counted by Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and a host of other organizations as among the most restrictive in the world is not a gesture of humanity in the face of oppression rather the opposite. You call yourselves leaders but this is not the behavior of leadership. Lastly, Jared and Ivanka will not erase the swastikas which have only grown in number by the way, that task falls on us, American citizens.

Sincerely,

Amanda Rivkin, photographer + writer
National Geographic Young Explorer to Azerbaijan 2010
Fulbright grantee to Azerbaijan, 2011

UPDATES:
Jewish Women International, Women of Reform Judaism and Americans for Peace Now have informed me by email that they declined to attend the Hanukah party and in a Huffington Post article, Workmen’s Circle, has questioned the merit of the event and disavowed it and the National Council of Jewish Women and Union of Reform Judaism said they would not be attending the event for the same reasons. Thank you.

2016: A Year of Monumental, Collective Failure

Do you feel impotent watching fascists on the march? You are not alone! You are so not alone! So in deference to your “shattered dreams” as Dr. King calls a hallmark of our mortal life, I am acknowledging you and your failures + shattered dreams, by acknowledging a few of my own. Two op-eds I couldn’t publish because one took on the largest owner of images in the world + the other arguably the largest owner of human souls, namely the office of the incoming president elect. But the failure is all mine! Surely, this work is inadequate and undeserving of a human audience. The bots can scrutinize it, as can any future interrogators. I leave my original headlines with the assumption that others could have done better, much, much better, because America will be great, so great, again! And at the end, a list of celebrities who have led the charge in normalizing the highly abnormal or flipped and gone full on fascist. By inauguration day/anticipated date of an American Kristallnacht, I will surely have a fuller list.

Without further ado:

“American History No Longer In American Control”

Steel workers perched high above Rockefeller Center eating lunch over the New York City skyline. Dorothea Lange’s portrait of a migrant mother from the dust bowl era. Marilyn Monroe poses over a subway grate, her skirt blowing to expose her underwear. And most tellingly, the “tank man” image from Tiananmen Square in 1989. Iconic images by American photographers no longer in American control.

In one deal last month between Bill Gates and a relatively obscure Chinese corporation, America lost control of a staggering portion of its visual history. The Visual China Group now owns Corbis Images, previously owned by Gates, which in turn reached a distribution deal with Getty Images, the world’s largest visual provider and long-time competitor of Corbis. The Getty CEO, Jonathan Klein, tweeted the announcement in a bombastic fashion: “Almost 21 years but got it. Lovely to get the milk, the cream, cheese, yoghurt and the meat without buying the cow.”

But how can we trust the cow to have good stewards when incidents like the Sanlu formula scandal in 2008, where milk given to children was found to have melamine, involved literal cows and made more than 50,000 Chinese children sick? Many of the lawyers involved in advocating for the parents of the sick infants and 6 dead children, like my friend Xu Zhiyong, are now behind bars under Xi Jingping’s iron fisted crackdown on civil society. In China, the jails are full and the internet is heavily censored by what locals call “the Great Firewall”. Both CNN and The New York Times have published articles in the last week questioning what will happen to Corbis’ vast stock of images of Tiananmen, Tibet and other sensitive issues to the Chinese government.

If what has happened several times to my friend is any indication, images of these sensitive issues may very well end up disappeared, confined to a vault and given limited exposure to the public. America was once a country that supported illegal publication of samizdat literature in Eastern Europe, written by dissidents and published in the tiniest form so it could be shared among intellectuals and the public. Now one of the greatest treasures of our nation, namely its visual history, might some day require such stealth dissidents to be viewed again.

As a former contributor to Corbis Images, whose work has thankfully been removed from their archive since the sale to Visual China Group, I can also speak to the chilling effect the near monopolization of the distribution of imagery through Getty is having on my profession. Known for its “race to the bottom” tactics, Getty Images long went for quantity of sales as its benchmark, slashing rates to the point that most professional photographers barely eek out a viable living any more. Credentialing for events is also a tricky matter; with consolidation comes fewer smaller players who can promote new talents through the sort of exposure only big events garner.

You might wonder why do we need image-makers when everyone has a cell phone and a Twitter account? While reporters and members of the public often post to Twitter and Instagram images of breaking news which are in turn distributed by the mass media to the general public, exhibits featuring these images such as one at the photojournalism festival Visa Pour L’image in Perpignan, France a few years ago, never quite stand up in quality. The images never quite manage to seer themselves into the public conscience like those taken by professionals. The German newspaper Bild published an image-free edition last fall to make this point in a very poignant fashion.

As a photographer, it pains me that we might leave a lesser visual legacy than the one we inherited, one of selfies and food instas rather than compelling documentation of the most important social and political issues of our time. Many look at photography as a fun thing or dream job, a pastime, but for those who cover violent conflict, dramatic social upheaval and serious injustice at great personal risk both at home and around the world, occasionally paying the ultimate price, it is also a responsibility. As Milan Kundera famously wrote, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

Beyond the effect on the professionals we rely on to provide visual accounts of modern times and past events, no nation can develop into the future without preservation of its past. Legislation at the federal level under historic preservation guidelines may be required, something arguably necessary in this instance.

“Back in the USA”

Mysterious arrests. Disappearances. A far away death in an unknown gulag concealed from family for a generation. These are realities for those of us whose families came to this great country from Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the last great world war as Soviet occupation squeezed the region. These are also the reasons why every act against Donald Trump now is an act of patriotism on behalf of our nation and the American people.

Make no mistake about it, the confluence of evidence suggests Donald Trump was not only supported, bolstered, and aligned with Russia during this election season (as the NSA has concluded) but that his business empire is as well. His son, Donald Jr., told a trade publication, eTurboNews in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets,” adding that, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

After watching Trump and his family interviewed in their gilded penthouse on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, we can safely conclude money and lavish palaces are the language he speaks. This is also the language most familiar to the Kremlin, who after nearly two decades at the helm of the Russian government may very well be the world’s richest man after systematically plundering the state of its resources by leveraging oligarchs against each other for his own personal gain.

Is this the future we want in America? Is it possible the Kremlin’s influence has reached the White House? The answer is clear: yes. Trump’s gilded penthouse bears such a striking resemblance to the palace Mezhyhirya of deposed former leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his palace in 2014 for Russia leaving behind a dizzying array of documents and lavish accouterment, including a personal zoo that included ostriches. The cost was his country’s sovereignty, economy and the health and welfare of the Ukrainian people.

Ukraine is particularly instructional given the similarities between Yanukovych and Trump: their callous demeanor, lack of refinement, completely kitsch style. Before fleeing by helicopter, Yanukovych ordered his security services to fire live rounds on the crowds gathered in Maidan killing nearly 100 in cold blood after tens of thousands turned up to protest his reign for months. Is this the future we want in America?

Most remarkably is the parallel as far as lack of responsibility both men feel for their egregious mistakes of the past. Trump has never apologized for insulting a federal judge, our generals, the electoral process itself. He has only ever doubled down or reversed positions, denying previous culpability. Almost two years after Maidan, what did Yanukovych have to say for himself? “Yanukovych always supported the ostriches.” Another similarity: both men speak of themselves in the third person.

This is not a future we can allow for in this country. My generation does not have time to entertain the nostalgia of a 1950s postwar security we never knew because we grew up in a time of the war on terror in an era of the planet imperiled by climate change. After 15 years in Afghanistan, which the millennial generation bore the brunt of – a war that was never mentioned during the presidential debates – we also cannot further degrade our national security now by allowing a Kremlin puppet to take the seat of the presidency.

Let’s be clear: we are now receiving an assault on multiple fronts of what the Soviet KGB dubbed “active measures”. In George F. Kennan’s seminal “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in Foreign Affairs in 1947, the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow outlines Stalin’s expansionist philosophy in the context of Marxist-Leninist thought. In the opening paragraphs, he clearly articulates the Soviet era doctrine that still holds sway in the Kremlin today as Putin is a former KGB agent, that in country’s like ours built on free trade and open markets, economic crisis brings about late stage capitalism which leads to anarchy, war, and ultimately class revolution.

Well we know how Stalin’s interpretation of this Marxist fantasia evolved into gulags and the deaths of tens of millions, including my father’s uncle. Steve Bannon, Trump’s first appointment of Chief White House Strategist, has described himself in the past in an interview with The Daily Beat in 2013 as a Leninist seeking to bring down the system. “I want to bring everything crashing down,” he said at the time.

Soviet style occupation occurs in three steps as defined by KGB doctrine of “active measures”. Phase I is to bombard a nation with propaganda, usually of a racist, anti-Semitic character with the intention of sowing the seeds of discord among a population. Phase II is the instigation of incidents that can be used and broadcast widely for the purposes of demoralization of the population. In Phase III, Russia installs a friendly leader and leverages the economy according to Moscow’s will.

Phase I was accomplished through the spread of fake news on social media and among the throngs who flocked to Trump’s rallies by outlets such as Breitbart News (where Bannon was in charge until taking a leave to become CEO of the Trump campaign) and Fox News as well as a bevy of false news sites online. We have now entered phase II where incidents are instigated and played to maximum effect with the intention of demoralization. We must never allow phase III to occur.

We must fight for our future as Americans.


CELEBRITY FASCISM
– overt or covert;
– everything short of outright denunciations from normalization to hearty endorsements
– bullshit fatigue induced fascist outburst (see: Kanye, documented first)
– not included: pundits, political personality, anybody actually in politics

2016 CAMPAIGN

Tom Brady
– outspoken Trump supporter during campaign

Jon Voigt
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “I like this guy.”

Kid Rock

– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “I’m digging Trump.”

Willie Robertson, “Duck Dynasty”
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “I love Trump. How can you not love Trump?”

Gary Busey
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “He’s a great guy. He’s sharp. He’s fast.”

Loretta Lynn
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “Trump has sold me… I just think he’s the only one who’s going to turn this country around.”

Stephen Baldwin
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “I think he’s fantastic. I love him.”

Mike Tyson
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “He should be president of the United States… I like Trump.”

Wayne Newton
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “I love Donald and he would make a great president.”

Mike Ditka

– endorsed Trump during the campaign; spoke at + attended Chicago fundraiser with Ivanka in October 2016.

Dennis Rodman
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; also drinking buddies with North Korean leader, so good company.

Hulk Hogan
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; “I want to be Trump’s running mate.”

Ted Nugent
– endorsed Trump during the campaign

Kirstie Alley
– endorsed Trump during the campaign

Stacey Dash
– endorsed Trump during the campaign

Gene Simmons
– endorsed Trump during the campaign; also appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice”


2016 RNC

Scott Baio
– spoke at RNC 2016

Antonio Sabato Jr.
– spoke at RNC 2016

Peter Thiel
– spoke at RNC 2016


TRANSITION

Tila Tequila
– fixture at alt-right conference in November 2016; heil Trump salutes, Nazi regalia photoshopped onto Auschwitz backdrop, general sad incoherence.

Kanye West
– on-stage meltdowns praising Trump + telling black people to get over racism before announcing fatigue-induced rehab in November 2016; said to be paranoid + depressed, later attributed to sorrow over anniversary of mother’s death, set to collect insurance money as result of diagnosis.

Ari Emanuel

– Hollywood super-agent who repped Trump + brother to Chicago Mayor Rahm, seen at Bedminster, NJ during transition in November 2016.

Gwyneth Paltrow
– refused to outright denounce Trump, proclaiming the election results “exciting” and stating “we are at this amazing inflection point,” in November 2016.

Oprah Winfrey
– Vanity Fair reported Oprah said after Trump was elected, “brotha has been humbled by this world thing,” citing an Associated Press report in November 2016; she Tweeted a photo after Trump + Obama met in WH, “Everybody take a deep breath! #HopeLives”.

Tommy Hilfiger
– Suggested people dressing the FLOTUS “not become political about it” after fashion colleague Sophie Theallet, who dressed Michelle Obama throughout her time as First lady, posted a letter declining to do the same for Melania Trump because of “the rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s campaign.” When pressed outside a Cipriani Wall Street cancer charity fundraiser in November 2016 on the contents of Theallet’s letter, he praised Melania and Ivanka: “You’re not gonna get much more beautiful than Ivanka or Melania.”

A Time for Great Patriotism

Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-17124 Children of the Weill Public School pledge allegiance to the United States flag. San Francisco, 1942.

Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-17124 Children of the Weill Public School pledge allegiance to the United States flag. San Francisco, 1942.

In the 1980s as the Cold War was in its final intense years, punctuated by START talks and ICBM treaties, KGB defectors appeared on American television to issue warnings to the American people. In stark language, they outlined the KGB’s “active measures” which sought to demoralize a public and lead to the eventual class revolution that would install a Marxist paradise through war, chaos and revolution. In the following decade, the Russian state collapsed and consolidated into the hands of a dozen or so oligarchs, all subservient to the Kremlin and all driven by internal rivalries and mafias while the rest of the country collapsed into a state of disarray.

Welcome to the dystopian unreality of this precise moment in American history and so in turn, perhaps human history. In reality, we now know that our precious democratic system looks something more like a kleptocratic oligarchy from where we currently stand. In both red states and blue states, where support for Trump is greatest and weakest, this is the current working consensus. Let us move forward from here.

The American experiment has been punctuated by moments of breathtaking brutality, the sort of violence that ignites Hollywood scenes and sends blood pouring through the streets of our great cities. We have inspired the world at times and been defeated by it, as we were on September 11, 2001. In the time between our rise in the aftermath of the Civil War, during a time of dramatic upheaval in our nation and the reactionary re-entrenchment of the white landed classes of the American south during a phase of history we euphemistically refer to as “Reconstruction,” and the present, we have also so demoralized smaller nations and allowed for the state to prey on minority communities at home.

Every instance of a police shooting and every cop who is fired upon represents the core of a fundamental problem where American domestic policy and international affairs invariably intersect. It becomes difficult if not near impossible to make an argument for democracy as a greater guarantor of citizens’ rights in the world if our own citizens – white, brown or black, in uniform serving our state or absent one and all too often, minorities from the lower economic classes – are shot as feral dogs in our streets. Just as buffer states, it forces an individual confronted with such a stark reality into an impossible tension between accommodation and rebellion. Yet our people and nations in the world exist and survive with this tension every day.

This is one of only a handful of nations on earth that has ever demonstrated an innate tendency throughout its history to hear the voices of the oppressed, to withstand the cynicism of the great forever state of the future where peace and harmony are only ever achieved through constant war. We stand now on the brink of economic and political domination by the Russian state, at a time when a foreign nation — once our greatest adversary in the world for half a century – has demonstrated an outsized role in our electoral process through a hacking campaign engaged in gleaning compromising material on opposition figures. Russia stands accused of attempted hacking of the very instruments by which we cast our vote by our own intelligence community.

In America today we are experiencing the greatest stress test on our democratic institutions since perhaps the Civil War. In quarters small and privileged, a certain kind of elitism has arisen for those who seek only to protect the instruments of state from being pillaged through petty acts that chip away at the democratic fiber of our nation or enrich anyone but themselves and a small group of associates. This directly mirrors what occurred within Russia itself in the period from 1989-1991. Petty acts of corruption have magnified to such a degree that the American countryside, once the pride of the industry that sustained our nation and lead it charging past all other industrialized nations in the aftermath of the Second World War, is an unrecognizable, addicted, decaying ghost of its former itself. What we have retained is a shell, enough to sustain the military but not the middle class.

This is not a time to lose hope in the American process, vision or the values as they have come to represent America in the world today: inclusivity, justice, liberty, freedom, peace and prosperity. It is a time for tremendous patriotism, it is a time to listen to Eisenhower’s farewell address and think about his role and warnings in the context of our present predicament which has seen America at war for 15 years in a nation that was discussed all but once in the context of the presidential election and for no reason other than to attack an opponent’s ignorance of the matter.

A generation that has been asked to shoulder the burden of the war on terror saw its civil liberties and rights signed away to a security state apparatus that promised to protect us. This breach of electoral insanity that now sees our journalists and diplomats flooded with hacking attempts by a foreign nation suggests we have a long way to come from the heroic warrior myth built into a slogan, “We support our troops,” that most veterans I know hear as, “We are grateful it was you instead of me.” How much do we really support our troops if we do not ask hard questions about why they are engaged in a forever war with no clear strategy toward victory or bringing them home?

It is not just my generation that this concerns or my nation, but the lives of many in smaller nations around the globe who rely on America for currency stability, protection, and aid. There is no turning back or re-dos, no second chance at rewriting history. If millions die they are lost forever to the history books and recorded as such, a little more and sometimes much less, denied in the final act of genocide. For each of us who acts to defend the country from becoming everything we once ridiculed other nations for being, we need to take a long and hard look at what it means to be a patriot.

We need to understand that true patriotism is not built on empty slogans but in acts and deeds both small and greater gestures. There are threads we must work to build with and there are tunnels of despair we should do everything we can to avoid looking down. Do not cede your freedoms before they are taken. For each right you have now, blood has already been spilled for the privilege. Whatever you do, however you behave, whatever may happen to you, know this much going forward.

Happy Thanksgiving America.