One of the things about chaos is that it’s hard to keep up. There’s some good work being done out there by people in the US to keep track of the rapid fire changes happening, and documenting what’s right and what’s wrong. But still there is too much. I’m resorting to what jumps out at me. A few things about the last few days.
The US ambassador to the UN threatens the world,
President Donald Trump’s inexperienced new United Nations envoy has warned allies to ‘back the US or else’.
Nikki Haley, the newly-appointed ambassador, has pledged to overhaul the world body – after her boss warned last month that “things will be different” when he came to power.
But her comments that she is “taking names” and will “respond” to those countries that do not support Washington have been met with consternation in some quarters.
The Prime Minister of NZ picks a side, stays silent on the Tr*mp administration ban on Muslims, and then eventually comes out saying that it’s not the NZ way but we can’t tell other countries what to do. His comment is exclusively about refugees.
What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries– is creating what is known as a “shock event.” Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
Last night’s Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.
Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like. I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is. If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.
But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event. A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines.
I see a few key patterns here. First, the decision to first block, and then allow, green card holders was meant to create chaos and pull out opposition; they never intended to hold it for too long. It wouldn’t surprise me if the goal is to create “resistance fatigue,” to get Americans to the point where they’re more likely to say “Oh, another protest? Don’t you guys ever stop?” relatively quickly.
However, the conspicuous absence of provisions preventing them from executing any of the “next steps” I outlined yesterday, such as bulk revocation of visas (including green cards) from nationals of various countries, and then pursuing them using mechanisms being set up for Latinos, highlights that this does not mean any sort of backing down on the part of the regime.
Note also the most frightening escalation last night was that the DHS made it fairly clear that they did not feel bound to obey any court orders. CBP continued to deny all access to counsel, detain people, and deport them in direct contravention to the court’s order, citing “upper management,” and the DHS made a formal (but confusing) statement that they would continue to follow the President’s orders. (See my updates from yesterday, and the various links there, for details) Significant in today’s updates is any lack of suggestion that the courts’ authority played a role in the decision.
That is to say, the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.
Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States. It gave them useful information.
There’s a lot in there (including the mass ‘resignation’ of State Dept staff and questions about Tr*mp’s finances). George Monbiot’s response is “Quite a bit of this requires further investigation. But there are some extremely alarming pointers here”. Also pertinent is that it was written by a senior engineer at Google working on privacy. Jim Wright points to some of its limitations here.
Attys at Dulles with a fed court order entitling them to see detainees told by CBP "it's not going to happen" Attys seeking contempt order
— Damon Silvers (@DamonSilvers) January 29, 2017
This is stunning. The executive branch is straight up defying a court order right now. https://t.co/BM74UjMHbC
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 29, 2017
In the Middle East, this is the point where we start watching to see who the military will side with. https://t.co/6ZNbceU46B
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) January 29, 2017
President Donald Trump granted controversial adviser Steve Bannon a regular seat at meetings of the National Security Council on Saturday, in a presidential memorandum that brought the former Breitbart publisher into some of the most sensitive meetings at the highest levels of government.
Trump also said the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence, two of the most senior defense chiefs, will attend meetings only when discussions are related to their “responsibilities and expertise”. Barack Obama and George W Bush both gave the men in those roles regular seats on the council.
— Kari S Wenger (@KSWenger) January 30, 2017
[Author note: I welcome considered comment, including serious critique of the articles, that helps us make sense of what is happening, as well as genuine questions that add to the debate. I will be moderating this post with zero tolerance for trolling or flaming. If in doubt, choose your words with care.]