“You can’t see the forest for the trees.” — adage

CPAC met this weekend in Dallas, Texas, a place which the late president John F. Kennedy characterized as “nut country” a few hours before a bullet ended his life. Kennedy knew things were bad when he flew into Dallas that day, but he didn’t know how bad, or he would have taken better precautions. Here are excerpts from a speech he planned to give that night In November, 1963, courtesy of Charlie Pierce.

“America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem,” the speech began.

Then the president planned to go to town.

But today other voices are heard in the land — voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the Sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest single threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security…We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will ‘talk sense to the American people.’ But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense.

That was in the early sixties. Now the “unreality” and “nonsense” of which Kennedy spoke has taken form as the Cult of QAnon, a sect of the Cult of Trump, and they believe that both JFK and his son, JFK Jr., are going to return from the dead and Junior will run on the Republican ticket with Donald Trump. Can you imagine Kennedy’s reaction if a time traveler from 2022 had shared these things with him?

And can you imagine his reaction to the debacle we saw in Dallas this weekend, when an actual authoritarian dictator, Viktor Orban, was invited to speak at CPAC and he delivered a full on Hitler-esque tirade? To a standing ovation, no less?

What happened in Dallas this weekend is nothing short of horrifying and the mainstream press seems to be soft soaping it, minimizing it, for reasons which are unclear to me.

I tip my hat to Steve Schmidt. He sees the CPAC travesty in the same terms I do and I agree with his reasoning 100%.

Viktor Orban’s Dallas speech was a fascist obscenity. Fascist is precisely the correct word. Fascism was invented by Benito Mussolini, and Orban gave a speech celebrating his invention. Mussolini was correct when declaring that since he created fascism, he was the person who got to determine what a fascist was.

CPAC is not “Woodstock.” CPAC is not Davos. The Associated Press compared it to both. Why? What don’t they get? What is the disconnect? What are the qualifications for leadership atop a global news organization? It seems that they might be as shallow and brittle as those around US Senators and the political class.

CPAC is the American Bund. The main difference is an aesthetic one. CPAC dropped the torches and parades for fascist kitsch and Ripley’s Believe it or Not-level freakery. The high-water mark for the American Bund was the night in 1939 when they filled Madison Square Garden with 22,000 Nazis for what the marquee billed as a “patriotic evening.” A George Washington banner was hung behind the podium and flanked by swastikas. Fritz Kuhn, the American Fuhrer, began his speech almost precisely like Orban. Orban attacked the media with his Dracula-like accent and his crocodile tears around the villainous haze that surrounds him, caused by his words spoken out loud and then reported by the media. This is a standard fascist trope. Hitler opened his speech to the German industrialists he was trying to win over in 1932 in Düsseldorf exactly this way.  Victimization, conspiracy, pseudoscience, lies, bunk and ego are the foundation of all political fascism. [emphasis mine]

None of this information is classified. All of it is basic 20th century history, and yet the American press seems almost uniformly unable to explain, contextualize or make any sense of what is happening in front of their eyes. There seems to be no ability to connect causal events by way of explaining the totality of unfolding events that are the crisis of our time that no one notices – yet. Everyone will eventually if the menace isn’t confronted and defeated. For example, how much of the coverage of Orban’s speech mentioned Tucker Carlson’s pilgrimage to Budapest and the Fox News hand in elevating the Central European autocrat to an icon among extremist America?

Our inability to contextualize the present and learn from history is what may do us in. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is the state that a sheep is in before the wolf rips it apart and it doesn’t know what hit it.

One of the most horrific episodes at CPAC this weekend was when Donald Trump suggested that as part of his 2024 platform he would abolish the Department of Education. That was meant with a resounding cheer.

If you think we have ignorance and pseudoscience now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

A main reason things have been slipping into nuttiness the past few decades is because the population is getting older and the WWII generation is gone. We don’t remember the horrors of WWII and the people who lived it are not here to talk about it anymore. Steve Schmidt says, “The boundaries of the world are pushing outward past the lifetimes of the men and women who were the warriors, liberators, survivors and participants of the Second World War. These events are rapidly slipping into history, past the line of lived and shared human experience.”

That’s correct. And it’s also dangerous as hell. I have listened to Holocaust deniers in my time. Years ago I would have said to somebody that stupid, “Let me get my friend Ara on the phone. He was at Dachau. He will tell you what’s real and what’s not.” I can’t do that now because Ara is dead, along with other dear friends of the WWII generation. They knew who Hitler was. A speech like Viktor Orban gave would not have been allowed twenty years ago, possibly not even ten.

The extremist crowd in Dallas was cheering Hitlerism and a foreign leader who was quite open about his desire to see America torn apart in his twisted vision of culture war. He wants to wreck American freedom, American institutions, and American democracy. Viktor Orban sees himself as “Putin light,” for now, and he smells an audience. The CPAC audience is that crowd, and it is as un-American as their Bund, Klan, neo-Nazi, movements with which it has merged.

Viktor Orban is likely disoriented by his proximity to a radical crowd of fellow travelers….The term “Jew” has been replaced by code words like “globalist.” Jewish conspiracy libels have been short-handed to “Soros.”

The language is understandable and clear.

CPAC was a complete shitshow with all of the bottom feeders of Congress there. You know their names, Bobert, Greene, Gaetz, Jordan along with Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, insurrectionists, election deniers, climate deniers, in short the dregs. Forget about the deplorables, we passed them on the road way back. The people cheering Orban at CPAC were the dregs.

Democracy is a fancy word for how society organizes itself in a way where the people are protected from the tyranny of a small group of power-hungry hustlers who have an ambition for tyranny. What they require is power. The only way they can ever get power is if the people give it to them. The national conservatives have been quite clear, as were their national socialist cousins. They don’t intend to give power back once they get it. The stakes will be too high for that. The defense of civilization will be too important for that. After all, they will need to keep the bloodlines pure.

What was Viktor Orban doing in Dallas? He was meeting his disciples and spreading his gospel. It is an unholy one and the inability to recognize it as such is inexcusable.

CPAC was a gathering of wolves. They look at all the rest of us as sheep. That is how fascists think. Americans are not sheep. Maybe it’s just that fascists can’t learn.

I pray that Americans are not sheep. I know too many people who don’t follow politics because it’s “too depressing.” CPAC was a wake up call, yet it wasn’t covered like one. I pray that we can keep America. After what I saw this weekend and with what I read every day about the subversive elements in the GOP putting personal ambition above party or country, I have my doubts.

What I know for a fact is that election deniers won big in GOP primaries in swing states. Color me apprehensive.

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  1. Why hasn’t this gotten the intense condemnation it should be getting? One word answer; Money! The people who own and run media outlets (both print and electronic) in their well-appointed corner suites when they aren’t indulging in the luxuries of one of their many lavish homes (travel to and from on the corporate jet of course!) have been bought off. Long ago. They don’t care who gets fucked because they’ve gotten theirs. Frankly, they don’t even give a shit about their kids and grandkids. As long as when they die they will have had every luxury a person can experience.

    So not just Orban but all of the horrors spoken to and among cheering crowds gets a “ho hum, some folks said some strange things” type response from “journalists.” I believe a lot of money (a LOT) and promises of money have been going on for far too long. And it’s not limited to the shot callers in journalism. Hell, as I wrote in a comment on another site earlier today it’s infected even respected halls. Amnesty International put out a despicable “report” both accusing Ukraine of war crimes and equating, if not advocating Ukraine is the guilty party when it comes to the atrocities in that war. And after the backlash and their “non-apology apology” their leadership has decided to double down!

    How much has MBS been shoveling to conservatives including in Congress? And other countries? This is all sick, and it wouldn’t have been possible for it to get this bad without the double barreled conservative strategy of dumbing down America AND initiating the stunning transfer of wealth into a very few hands. Add in your point about the WWII generation being gone, and no one to bear direct witness (as if old folks could compete with “influencers” on social media at all!) and we might already be fucked.

    I remember when dad died, and at one point (when I took the suit to the funeral home) quietly asking Gene if I could see dad, in particular those scars I knew were there but he’d worked so hard to ensure I and others in the family would never see. (He even wore his t-shirt in the tub while taking a bath) Gene, a Korean veteran who was a corpsman on a Hospital Ship off the coast of Inchon and had seen a LOT gently told me I shouldn’t look – he knew how my dad didn’t want any of us to see those scars on his torso, and he felt (probably correctly) it would sear me in a way I’d never forget.

    Now? I wish I’d snuck in their with a camera and taken pictures. And in my heart I think my dad would approve of me posting them online with the message “See? SEE what we went though to stop fascist dictators? So many of my fellow soldiers, airmen and sailors died and millions more were wounded. TENS OF MILLIONS of people around the world died stopping that shit! And you ASSHOLE conservatives and fat-cat media moguls are trying to bring the world back to what I got these fucking scars to stop!”

    My mind is circling around and meeting in that horrific place where darkest depression and white-hot fury crash together.


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