Perón in the White House
The Perils of Ethnocentric Solipsism
45 doesn’t know what the third person is. There is a nascent personality cult around 45, perpetuated by the man himself. It’s what poet Robert Pinsky accurately described as charismatic indecency. Like the rest of 45’s ideology and movement, this personality cult is in its early forms. It is Fascistic, even if not Fascist. It’s different than anything normal in a free society, but does not perfectly match Hitler, Stalin, or Mao — yet.
Recently 45 was asked about rising anti-Semitic incidents in our country. The reporter made explicit this question was not an allegation against 45. He was asking what 45 would do to combat these incidents. The orange mountebank responded that he is “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” Never mind that we are now in a shameful new era where the Leader of the Free World has to address allegations of anti-Semitism; the person supposedly most dedicated to public service in the United States instinctively thinks not of our country first, but of defending himself. If a question is asked, it’s about him. And if 45 is not anti-Semitic, then anti-Semitism cannot exist in America.
45 is not simply a psychological narcissist, he is an ideological Leader. The Leader is everything. As the Leader does, everyone does. As the Leader is, the nation is. In Nazi Germany, the Fuhrer was the Law. Ditto in Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.
45 does know what the second person is. There is me (no ”us,” which is just subordinate under “me”) and then there is “you” — the enemy, the other, the opposition. There is not a third person because He is relentless. He always directly calls out the enemy, provoking them, aggressively confronting their cabals. Everything comes down to “me” and “you.” He invented something worse than the classic “us” versus “them.” He offers nightmarish visions of media villainy and lambasts, in Bolshevik lineage, “the enemies of the people.”
Fascists and Communists have strong beliefs and stick to them. They are, in a way, not liars. 45 might be a Fascist, but he is, to use his word, the “greatest” liar. 45 still has some sort of radical ideology, regardless of how incoherent and illogical (never mind tyrannical, wrong, and buffoonish). 45 did not, however, invent this schizophrenic kind of ideology.
That distinction, most seriously carried forward now by Putka, aka Vladimir Putin, belongs to the 1940’s, 1950’s, and then 1970’s dictator of Argentina, Juan Domingo Perón. Perón created a movement uniting the Church, the military, and the descamisados (literally, the shirt-less ones, which should remind us of the Jacobins’ sans-culottes). He united brutish nationalism with fanatic collectivism, something done in practice by Soviet tyrant Koba Djugashvili and admittedly by Hitler, and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP).
Perón created a classic modern tyranny: mass rallies, long speeches, policies based on loyal personnel, marches, songs and banners. Unlike the Mugabe-style African strongman, this oppression was not committed out of greed and ambition: Perón believed in what he was doing. He was ideological and indulged in redemptive fantasies. He was liberating a great people from mortal oppression, so they said. Thus, the only crime was not to kill the impediments to progress, in the name of the Revolution.
This is an ideological dictatorship, commonly known as Communism and Fascism. Historian Martin Malia called it partocratic ideocracy. The Leader and his Party believe in the predestined necessity of what they are doing — hence they murder with lots of vigor and no remorse. Furthermore, they have massive popular support. Trapped between propaganda and the Leader’s bluster, the people support the regime as it slaughters them.
Perón was a little different. Communists hate the right, and Nazis hate the left. Nazis are for the most part classically reactionary, and Communists classically progressive. Perón, however, invented an incoherent, illogical, paradoxical, impossible, utterly idiotic ideology that was neither left nor right.
Perón was both a Nazi and Communist sympathizer throughout his life. Some of his policies were radically progressive, some radically reactionary. He smugly said, “I have two hands, a left and a right. I use each one whenever convenient.” He stuck to this tactless creed in his honest personal ideology and in his propaganda. As we have seen this past year, a Leader’s bluster and propaganda succeed among the masses. If 45 can fool 21st century American college graduates, Perón could fool 20th century Argentine workers. Perón lurched his country between obviously conflicting views, all the while murdering and silencing.
Perón could lead this ideologically incoherent movement because of his personality. Not ideology (like the Nazis) nor the Party (like the Communists) but he led the way. In other words, he saw himself as the Nation’s infallible super-ego. The Argentine people were tormented and loving it, for a different idea every day. Because the leader was greater than the ideology, stupidity, not even ideology, was able to motivate tyranny.
In whatever deep crevice from which they emerged, 45’s closest kin is Juan Domingo. 45 is incoherent. Although he is not very bright, he has some sort of ideology. It is chaotic and paradoxical, but either way it leads him to oppress for the “greater good.” And he is dragging along a large mass of popular support behind him. One of 45’s many idiocies is unstoppable self-aggrandizement. “Me,” “I,” “Mine” (not “my,” because he is usually grammatically murderous). He has the answer, he has the vision, he has the courage, he has the leadership, he has the selfless motivation. The triumph will be his as well — the “we” of the nation has folded into 45’s “Me.” There is no longer first-person plural, third person singular or plural, or second person plural in Trump’s America. It’s just first person and second-person singular. It’s Trump versus the enemies.
Will all the rebels please stand up? Who is proud to be labeled by 45 as “you?”