Tuesday, July 21, 2020


What initially had me confused about President Trump's deployment of a thug army to Portland -- with another group reportedly headed to Chicago -- is that I always imagined fascism, if it came to America, being effective. I assumed that the tanks would roll in and any popular dissent would be brutally suppressed.

But this is repression without merciless efficiency. The Portland deployment is arresting people from unmarked vehicles, brutalizing unarmed protesters (including a Navy veteran) and attacking reporters -- but phalanxes of moms are defying the troops, a small fire was set at the Portland police union building only after they arrived, and there's no evidence that the thugs are accomplishing anything except randomly terrorizing people. The demonstrations, if anything, are getting bigger.

But this is perfect for a president who's a Fox News addict and who's trying to appeal to voters sharing the same addiction. Fox addicts don't want to win -- they want conflict. They'd be bereft without enemies to hate. They don't really want to establish a right-wing Utopia. They want to feel contempt, moral superiority -- and fear. Sure, they want to feel that their manly heroes are protecting them from their enemies. But that can't happen unless they think their enemies are running amok, can it? So they want the conflict to be eternal.

It's not clear how many troops Trump has deployed. The mayor of Portland says "dozens, if not hundreds" of federal troops are in his city, and the planned deployment to Chicago is 150. That Chicago deployment seems particularly small for a city with a police force of more than 12,000 officers.

But what difference does it make? This is not about restoring "law and order." The troops are there so Trump and his fellow Fox fans can see people they hate being hurt. There's no other mission.

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