One year ago

Selections from March 2016.

More “Neil’s Decades” –9: 1946

GEM (Channel 82) shows quite a few antique movies. Yesterday I saw an amiable English comedy of which I had never heard, Quiet Weekend (1946).

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I became fascinated by the objects, the clothing, the cars – all of which transported me to earliest childhood, as I turned 3 in 1946.

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Me in 1945-6. Note the wings: my father had been in the RAAF to 1945.

This Canadian says of Quiet Weekend:

For anyone born in the UK before about 1935 (as I was) this movie will bring back memories of austerity, such as very few cars and very little food and primitive plumbing. We all had to make do with what we had; the top rate of income tax was around 95%. Nevertheless the middle classes had those delicious cut-glass English accents; “thanks” was pronounced “thenks”. The lower classes such as the old poacher, spoke their lines in broad accents and were usually considered to be comic characters.

That has all changed now. This movie is good entertainment but also of value to the social historians. It is the way the British coped with the rigors of victory after WW II, i.e. paying off the huge loans owed to the USA while trying to become a socialist society.

In 1946 I lived in Auburn Street Sutherland, which I memorably visited again in 2002: see a post from that time. See also from the early 2000s my reminiscence of life there. I have subsequently revisited and posted over the years. Here are some 2012 examples:

And on this blog Random Friday memory 21 – wind-up gramophone.

From my earliest Auburn Street post:

The table was in the back room, I suspect a closed-in verandah. On the right was the kitchen, with its fuel range and enormous electric Early Kooka stove with a Kookaburra logo on the oven door. On the left was a partitioned off area, partitioned with mahogany, behind which I and my brother slept in the last years we were in Auburn Street. At an earlier stage, my Uncle Roy must have had that room, as I was still in a cot in my parents’ room at the front of the house, and my brother was in a sleepout on the side verandah, an area somewhat prone to spiders.

Early Kooka!

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Sigh!

The Mad World of You Know Who on WIN/9 last night

Very glad to have watched WIN last night to see this, originally shown on the UK’s Channel 4:

The comment thread on YouTube is rather amazing. [Refers to the YouTube I originally linked to.] For example:

Apparently the American GOV think running a country is a game and enjoys screwing the people over everyday! Obama has screwed us the most..he has taxed the shit out of the middle class.we’ve disappeared …obama is a pot head..he and the rest of the mafia gov should be drug tested immediately…they have destroyed America.Trump will bring it back to a great nation..and we won’t be going to war for 15 god damn years!!!

This is typical anti-American propaganda video attacking the American people, Christians and poor people. The commentator tries to insult Christians by calling them evangelicals which Christ would regard as a compliment. He tries to portray Americans as racist when America has done more to eliminate slavery and racism than most any other nation. American is one of the most pluralistic and diverse nations in the world. The commentator tries to tries to stoke class hatred, even though America has done more to eliminate class distinctions than most any other nation. The commentator ignores the issues that Americans actually care about and just engages in ad hominem attack and slander against Donald Trump. He tries to subvert our election process.

Yes, another post on The Donald. I should know better. You can also watch the doco on the Channel Nine site at the moment, by the way. I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already.

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I was obviously impressed with German-born British doco maker Matt Frei’s expose of Trump, though the name was too tendentious. Rather less impressed was Irish reviewer Ian O’Doherty:

Of course, it’s not that difficult to make anything emerging from America look ridiculous and buffoonish but Frei took to his task with relish – Trump was portrayed variously as a dangerous nutter; a man who may have raped his first wife (until they read a statement from said woman denying the claims); a rich boy done bad; and did I mention dangerous nutter?

The problem with this approach was that it was guilty of the very accusation it was levelling at its subject – being utterly devoid of any nuance or complexity whatsoever.

There was nothing new to be learned here. Everybody knows that he came from wealthy stock. We were already well aware that his behaviour in Scotland was increasingly nasty, and, of course, we all know about his various verbal assaults on the aforementioned Kelly, prisoners of war and, most unpleasantly, his mocking mimicry of a disabled reporter. So, this was basically a potted history of Trump’s various outrages against common decency. But this was Comfort TV and much like comfort food, was designed to provide reassurance to the consumer.

In this case, it was made to reassure the viewers that they were right, all along, to think Trump is an idiot and his supporters are thick.

On the other hand:

Essentially a spoilt, buck-toothed and tubby little rich kid of a bully, as opposed to the deb’s delight into which he’s matured, he must have grown used early to John Q Normal crossing snake-strewn streets to avoid him. Over the decades, his personality matured as do the perfumes of prawns in a jockstrap. Frei was doing the telling, admittedly, but it could have been done by David Irving, David Starkey or the late Alan Clarke. The evidence made the nose wrinkle, whether it was his squandering of Daddy’s millions, his undeserved parachutes from bankruptcy, the crippling immaturity of his misogyny or his treatment of Scotland, though there was much tawdriness to that little tale.

The Trump in Scotland saga was news to me, I have to say.

The Republican Presidential candidate’s much-hyped Aberdeenshire golf course has been a loss-maker since it opened in 2012. He has also made similar threats of pulling investment after losing fights against local residents and failing to block plans for a local wind farm.

A final review of the documentary:

9. Critics made strongest case

Frei hit the campaign trail to conduct (mercifully brief) interviews with Trump’s growing army of exuberant supporters, but it was his detractors whose comments really resonated.

Muslim activist Jibril Hough, who was shown being forcibly ejected from two Trump rallies, said he was a “buffoon that has to be taken seriously”. Ex-Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens called Trump “a huckster, a fraud, a stark raving disaster for the Republican party. This isn’t a reality show, it’s running for President. These displays of stupidity and hate are dangerous.”

10. …But he could yet become President

Trump has already made a meteoric political rise and as we saw here, he’s tapping into the distrust and disenchantment of middle America. Frei, formerly the BBC’s Washington correspondent, said: “I have to say the last time I saw crowds as enthusiastic as this was for Barack Obama in 2008.” Gulp…

Frei’s film reminded us of the dark side beneath the Trump caricature and it was soberingly scary stuff.

It really isn’t too hard to see why so many in the USA are investing in Trump as a secular saviour. Not all is well in the USA, clearly. He offers hope, albeit very randomly articulated by the man himself, while endorsing all kinds of resentments.

Should, God forbid, he ever claim “the crown”, “make America great again” will go down in history as just another vacuous political slogan, one of the most egregious ever — because this is precisely what Donald J Trump will almost inevitably NOT do.

Must watch Citizen Kane again…

Postscript

Just saw Tom Switzer’s The rise of Donald Trump in the US has similarities to the rise of Pauline Hanson in Australia two decades ago.  Well worth reading.

…Both led nationalist movements railing against Washington and Canberra and appealing to voters abandoned by globalisation and betrayed by politicians. Trump reflects a deep-seated belief that Americans have lost the country they know and they want America to stand alone on top again. Hansonism was as much a reaction against Paul Keating’s cultural agenda as an isolationist backlash against Australia’s engagement with Asia.

Both have been purveyors of conservative red meat: thick, juicy cuts of the stuff. But both also blurred the ideological left-right divide. Hanson was an agrarian socialist, who opposed Telstra privatisation and foreign investment. Trump distinguishes himself from fellow Republicans by defending entitlement programs and attacking free-trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership…

Like Trump, Hanson was a political novice who rocked the nation’s establishment with repugnant views. Who can forget her claim that Asians were swamping Australia? Or Trump’s claim that Mexico is exporting its rapists and criminals to the US, not to mention his call for a ban on all Muslim immigrants? …

No words today

Except these.

Brussels: At least 31 people have been killed and hundreds injured in coordinated attacks on Brussels Airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital early on Tuesday, triggering security alerts across Europe and a manhunt for at least one suspect.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which occurred four days after Brussels police captured the prime surviving suspect in the Islamic State attacks on Paris, which killed 130 people in November…

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The good refugees

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“The Good Samaritan,” artwork by Dinah Roe Kendall, age 82, Sheffield, England.

This story seemed most appropriate to share today, especially given the overwhelming nature of recent stories from Europe. I found it lurking on page 13 of today’s print Sydney Morning Herald, but apparently it has been around for a few days. This version is from the UK Daily Telegraph.

A leading member of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party has thanked two Syrian refugees who came to the aid of another party member after he was seriously injured in a car crash.

Stefan Jagsch, 29, a candidate for the NPD in upcoming local elections, was seriously injured last week after he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree in the town of Büdingen.

Two vans carrying about 16 refugees stopped at the scene – and two Syrian men came to Jagsch’s aid, pulling him from the wreckage and providing first aid treatent while they waited for an ambulance.

They had reportedly left the scene by the time police arrived.

Regional NPD official Jean Christoph Fiedler praised the refugees for performing “a very good, humane act”, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reports…

Jagsch, writing on his Facebook page on Tuesday this week, stressed that he was unconscious at the time of the rescue, so couldn’t confirm or deny that the people who came to his assistance were Syrians.

However, he did give thanks to “all the people who were on the spot to help me.” …

Two on Trump

First, the Big Speech was better than expected. The entire text is at that link.

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Trump rehearses his Congress speech in the car

My former student David Smith has commented in The Australian Financial Review. David is now academic director and senior lecturer at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney.

Indeed, the difference between Trump’s scripted and unscripted comments is often stark. He began his address with a forceful condemnation of the “hate and evil” behind recent attacks on Jewish community centres and cemeteries. Earlier on Tuesday, however, he reportedly told state attorneys-general that the attacks could have come from “the reverse” “to make others look bad”. Trump also steered clear of his usual Twitter obsessions. There was no mention of the media as “enemies of the people”, nor of leaks in the intelligence community or sabotage by former members of the Obama administration.

In his most important speech so far, already earning him accolades for being unusually “presidential”, Trump remained focused on his role as the unifier of the people against external threats. Tomorrow he may go back to his fixation on enemies within.

Then there is Don Watson in the March issue of The MonthlyAmerican berserk. By the way, I am one of the few people, I suspect, to have actually read Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade, which is mentioned in the article.

…yet the uncanniest thing is the sense that Trump’s election is a simulacrum for all manner of events imagined or foretold that hover in the back rows of our consciousness – way back from the daily flow of news, spin, messaging and commentary. A scam artist, an ignoramus, a professional liar, a colossal and malignant narcissist, a vulgarian, a casino operator, a serial bankrupt – a Roy Cohn–mentored billionaire with deep Mob connections – is in the White House. Has there ever been a more American presidency? What took them so long?

For devotees of HL Mencken, these are days of vindication. In a presidential election, he declared around 1920, “all the odds were on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre”. It was the logic of democracy, he said, that the people would one day get their heart’s desire and put a “downright moron” in the White House. While understandable, the widespread belief that George W Bush fulfilled Mencken’s prophecy has proved premature… But Trump is the King Kong of shallowness: the only deep things about him are his roots in the American psyche. He brings forth not just the pout, the hair and the ties, but the greed, indulgence and psychotic menace of the “indigenous American berserk” – to call on Roth again. The mistake of his opponents – including the satirists – has been to focus on his otherness: in truth he’s dredged straight from the brute material of American culture….

Time to assert the critical role of media professionals

Today for example the Sydney Morning Herald brings us an important interactive page on the 2003 invasion of Iraq — a must read. Such media voices are now under attack from the most powerful office in the world, and we must all fight back with everything we’ve got.

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Thanks to jollyjack on Deviant Art

Now for some signs of these times. First:

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—A few minutes into his CPAC speech Friday, esteemed and honest president Donald J. Trump said people were so excited to hear him speak that, “There are lines that go back six blocks. I tell you that because you won’t read about it.”

In a sense, he’s right. You won’t read about it, because they don’t exist…

Second:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday hand selected news outlets to participate in an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the James S Brady Press Briefing Room.

The news outlets blocked from the press briefing include organisations who President Trump has criticised by name. CNN, BBC, The New York Times, LA Times, New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, The Hill, and the Daily Mail, were among the news outlets barred from the gathering.

Instead, the press secretary hand-picked news outlets including Breitbart News, One America News Network, The Washington Times, all news organisations with far-right leanings. Others major outlets approved included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, Reuters and Bloomberg…

Third:

“I can run a little hot on occasions,” he admitted at the conservative freak show known as the CPAC conference. Judging from his rare public outing on Thursday, that would be an unusual example of diplomatic understatement.

Bannon spoke disdainfully and at length about the real threat he identified facing the nation: a critical media that he likes to call “the opposition party”. “They are the corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda that Donald Trump has,” Bannon yelled.

Bannon clearly shares Trump’s burning sense of resentment at being excluded from the establishment. For his boss, that reached a peak with the humiliation of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

For Bannon, now safely inside the West Wing, that means still seeing the world through the lens of the Breitbart website that shocked the media conscience with so much alt-right trash. At one point on Thursday, Bannon even used the phrase “we at Breitbart”, as if there were no real difference between his old job in digital far-right media and his new job as a presidential adviser.

Bannon predicted the media would fight “every day” against the Trump agenda…

Fourth:

Trump used the opening of his remarks to again denounce the media, saying many stories about his administration are “fake news” with stories that rely on anonymous sources. Trump pointed to a Washington Post story this month that cited nine current and former intelligence sources who said Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn discussed US economic sanctions on Russia with that country’s ambassador before Trump took office.

Trump said he didn’t believe there were nine sources. “They make up sources. They are very dishonest people,” Trump said. The Post’s stories helped lead to Flynn’s resignation after further disclosures that he had misled administration officials, including Vice President Pence, over the nature of his conversations.

“We are fighting the fake news,” Trump said. “It’s fake, phony, fake.”

Fifth:

President Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland was littered with some of the president’s favorite and frequently cited falsehoods. Here’s a roundup of 13 of his more dubious claims, listed in the order in which he made them:

“I saw one story recently where they said, ‘Nine people have confirmed.’ There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. . . . They make up sources.”

Trump is referring to a Washington Post article that disclosed that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials. The Post report prompted a firestorm that led to Flynn’s firing by Trump, because it turned out that Flynn had misled Vice President Pence and other administration officials about whether he had discussed sanctions.

The article cited information provided by “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.” (Calls by the Russian ambassador are monitored by intelligence agencies.) No White House official has disputed the accuracy of the article — and indeed, it resulted in Flynn’s departure from the administration…

Sixth:

There is reason to be concerned about the integrity of American political and legal institutions as the president and his advisors have thrown them open to question and manipulation. The president seems not to have thought through how these tactics will affect the future political trajectory of the country — a fact that contains stark similarities to the way the leaderships of Egypt and Turkey have leveraged institutions to meet immediate political challenges and, in the process, consolidated the authoritarian nature of their respective political systems.

Finally, with my teaching hat on, from the International Literacy Association:

If we have time to teach our students only one thing this school year, let it be critical literacy! There are few topics more crucial for students today than those that enable them to analyze information critically.

Gone are the days when trusted teacher- and peer-edited textbooks were the main providers of knowledge. So long to a time when most fake news existed at the checkout line in supermarket tabloids. These days, our students are flooded with information, and without the proper skill set for identifying fact from fiction, it will be difficult for them to determine legitimacy. Modern media come in many different formats, including print media (books, magazines, newspapers), television, movies, video games, music, cell phones, various kinds of software, and the Internet. Knowing how to read these media critically is the key to literacy and understanding for today’s learners and information consumers…

One way is to teach students to use the 5W’s for Critical Analysis, recommended by Donald Leu, Deborah Leu, and Julie Coiro in their 2004 book, Teaching With the Internet K–12. They suggest it is helpful for students to ask the following questions while consuming information: Who is saying/writing/creating this? What was their purpose of the particular media that was used? When did they say/write/create? Why did they say/write/create it? Where can we go to check for accuracy?

Tailpiece 10am:

Part of the developing picture.

AUSTRALIA’S best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport.

Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay”.

President Donald Trump had created the climate for this sort of behaviour, she said, adding: “This is what happens when extremists take power.”…

“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair.

“The way I was treated would have made any decent American shocked to the core, because that’s not America as a whole, it really isn’t. It’s just that people have been given permission to let rip in a fashion that is alarming.”

The irony that the two most popular of her more than 25 books published in the US, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Whoever You Are, are both about diversity, was not lost on her. Nor was the fact that the theme of the conference she was attending was inclusivity and diversity.

Fox has visited the US more than 100 times since 1985, and is widely known there as an author and literacy educator…

Non sequiturs and The Tweet

I am a fan of Wiley Miller’s “Non Sequitur”: we get it in the Sydney Morning Herald.  Lately he’s been having fun with the “fake news”/”alternate facts” meme.

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A convincing take on where President Tweet’s head is at comes from Josephine Tovey this morning. It’s a bit of a worry.

There’s a new rule emerging for observers of American politics trying to understand a confusing new outburst or claim from President Donald Trump – go and check what’s happened on Fox News in the past 24 hours.

It was key to understanding his otherwise confounding comments about Sweden at a rally last weekend, when he told a fired-up crowd: “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”…

This was not a first. In fact, a huge number of Trump’s outbursts and falsehoods can be linked to something he saw on television or on one of his preferred websites….

It’s not only Fox that fires up the President. Several of his most egregious claims in recent months have come from or mirror those on America’s most prominent conspiracy website Infowars – which is perhaps best known for pushing the lie that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax….

Meanwhile on Politico you find aggregated latest stories.  I guess Tweet would count them as “enemies of the people” when they run inconvenient stories like Trump’s disapproval rating keeps creeping up.

A majority of respondents said Trump is not honest (55 percent), doesn’t have good leadership skills (55 percent) or care about everyday Americans (53 percent), isn’t level-headed (63 percent), doesn’t share their values (60 percent) and is doing more to divide the country than unite it (58 percent). However, a majority also said they believe Trump is a strong (64 percent) and intelligent (58 percent) person.

“President Donald Trump’s popularity is sinking like a rock,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “He gets slammed on honesty, empathy, level-headedness and the ability to unite. And two of his strong points, leadership and intelligence, are sinking to new lows. This is a terrible survey one month in.”

But why should he worry? After all he won the most electoral college votes since Ronald Reagan, didn’t he? Not.

Mr Trump’s 2016 victory did not come close.

Former President Barack Obama won 332 votes in 2012 versus Mitt Romney’s 206 votes, a far higher number than Mr Trump’s 304 electoral college votes in 2016.

And Mr Obama won an even higher number – 365 – in 2008.

Bill Clinton gained 379 electoral college votes in 1996, and George H W Bush gathered an incredible 426 votes in 1988.

This amazing graphic shows quite clearly how the popular vote went — and confirms my belief in our Australian system of mandatory voting too! Bit hard to write these facts off as “fake news”, don’t you think?

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Update

From the Toronto Star: The complete list of all 80 false things Donald Trump has said in his first 4 weeks as president.

Rereading Simon Schama

Back in June 2009 I posted:

star30 star30star30star30star30 1. Simon Schama, The American Future: A History(2008).

Rather snooty review by David Brooks in The New York Times: “His book is called “The American Future: A History” (which is a puerile paradox before you even open the cover), and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the American future.” When you actually read the book you do get the title: historically “The American Dream” (the phrase itself, if not the idea, first appeared in 1931) has been very much about possibility and the future – witness the ending of The Great Gatsby. Beginning each chapter with vignettes of the 2008 Presidential Election, Schama traces a series of themes back through a number of intelocked and fascinating profiles. The result, in my view, is one of the most subtle portraits of the USA and its evolution that I have ever read. Nothing puerile about the title or the book.

Much nearer the mark is Carmela Ciuraru in The Christian Science Monitor.

William Faulkner once famously wrote that “the past is never dead; it isn’t even past,” a quote that aptly describes the perspective of Simon Schama’s latest book. In The American Future: A History, the eminent British historian and Columbia University professor offers a kaleidoscopic view of our national identity – by way of examining war, immigration, religion, and prosperity.

He sets off these themes with the 2008 presidential election, “impregnated with history,” an event that Schama likens to Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural in 1801, when Jefferson similarly spoke out against divisive rhetoric, proclaiming that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”

Weaving in original reportage, analysis, and historical events, Schama investigates where our nation of boundless appetite and ambition might be headed. The book (a companion to his BBC documentary series) is both a celebration and a wake-up call. “The American future is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed with anticipation,” he writes. “The American past is baggy with sobering truth.” The author is particularly harsh about our country’s recent past, notably “the woeful performance of [former president George W. Bush] and his hapless maladministration.” …

He isn’t striving for objectivity; this book is part history, part polemic. As a scholar and an outsider in his adopted country, he views the Bush administration as an unmitigated disaster. Yet the author is smart enough to (mostly) keep his opinions to himself, and let others do the talking – whether through contemporary interviews or quotes from historical figures…

He’s especially adroit at studying our historical ambivalence toward immigrants, and how religious ideology has shaped our identity. (He notes that American evangelism has always puzzled “habitually secular, skeptical Europeans.”)

American history is endlessly rich and fascinating, but Schama’s travelogue makes it come alive in a wonderfully accessible way. Sure, some of his pronouncements seem a bit obvious, but he includes so many surprising moments (an amusingly candid off-the-cuff encounter with George W. Bush, for instance) that all is forgiven. Schama happens to be a marvelous storyteller, too. Never condescending, his portrait of America’s complexities and contradictions is entertaining, provocative, and above all, hopeful.

The chapter on religion — “American Fervour” – is particularly valuable. It is a nuanced corrective to the polarised and polarising views of the subject one so often sees.* Let’s face it, too much we see and hear about the USA is at the level of cartoon thought, whether it be mindless patriotism on the one hand or subscription to the idea that the USA is at the bottom of all that is wrong with the world on the other.

You can read Chapter One here. Some idea of the TV series may be seen here. A definite Best Read of 2009!

* See also Caspar Melville “Free Market Faith”, New Humanist May/June 2009.

Lately I have been rereading The American Future with mixed enjoyment and sorrow.  Right now I have been revisiting the 1850s and the Know-Nothings.  Deja vu indeed.

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See Lorraine Boissoneault, How the 19th-Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics.

America fought the Civil War over slavery, and the devastation of that conflict pushed nativist concerns to the back of the American psyche. But nativism never left, and the legacy of the Know Nothings has been apparent in policies aimed at each new wave of immigrants. In 1912, the House Committee on Immigration debated over whether Italians could be considered “full-blooded Caucasians” and immigrants coming from southern and eastern Europe were considered “biologically and culturally less intelligent.”

From the end of the 19th century to the first third of the 20th, Asian immigrants were excluded from naturalization based on their non-white status. “People from a variety of groups and affiliations, ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the Progressive movement, old-line New England aristocrats and the eugenics movement, were among the strange bedfellows in the campaign to stop immigration that was deemed undesirable by old-stock white Americans,” writes sociologist Charles Hirschman of the early 20th century. “The passage of immigration restrictions in the early 1920s ended virtually all immigration except from northwestern Europe.”

Those debates and regulations continue today, over refugees from the Middle East and immigrants from Latin America.

Phillips’s conclusion is that those bewildered by current political affairs simply haven’t looked far enough back into history. “One can’t possibly make sense of [current events] unless you know something about nativism,” he says. “That requires you to go back in time to the Know Nothings. You have to realize the context is different, but the themes are consistent. The actors are still the same, but with different names.”

Then read Laura Reston’s 2015 article Donald Trump Isn’t The First Know Nothing to Capture American Hearts.

Pundits have been trying for weeks to explain why Donald Trump has continued to lead Republican polls, drawing massive crowds and attracting a media circus, despite stepping in it time and again on camera. But the Donald tweeted something yesterday that may help answer all their questions.

So many people who know nothing about me are commenting all over T.V. and the media as though they have great D.J.T. insight. Know NOTHING!

While the tweet reads as nothing more than Trump’s typical bombast—more bluster than substance—the Republican frontrunner seems to be invoking a secretive political organization that dates back to the first days of the Republican Party: The Know Nothings

The Know Nothings were rabidly xenophobic. Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy had flooded the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. This was the first time that Americans had to confront an immigrant class whose origin stories, last names, and religious beliefs set them apart from the British settlers who had cleared her forests and populated her first towns centuries earlier. The Know Nothings claimed that Catholics immigrants owed their allegiance, not to the burgeoning American government, but to the Pope, whose autocratic ruling style was antithetical to American democratic values (the same argument that was trotted out when John F. Kennedy was campaigning for president). And for a country whose founding fathers had written about religious tolerance only a few decades earlier, the message was surprisingly effective…

Like his predecessors the Know Nothings, Trump faces a challenge: how to win supporters from an electorate that, for the last eight years, has seemed to gravitate more and more toward the Democratic Party. Like the Know Nothings, Trump has chosen to denigrate immigrants, playing up the xenophobic idea that they are stealing jobs and resources from American citizens. He even went so far as to accuse Mexican immigrants of raping American women.

The rise of the Know Nothings, an episode in American history often brushed under the rug or simply forgotten, demonstrates that Trump is a part of a tradition dating to the earliest days of the Republican Party.

Did you watch THAT press conference? Strange indeed. Donald Tweet replies:

Thank you for all of the nice statements on the Press Conference yesterday. Rush Limbaugh said one of greatest ever. Fake media not happy!

On Breitbart of course. Really, Trump is such a fool!

See ‘I’m not ranting and raving.’ Trump on defensive in first solo news conference.

FEBRUARY 16, 2017 The first gripe came three minutes into President Donald Trump’s first solo news conference on Thursday, when he accused reporters of ignoring a poll showing him with a 55 percent approval rating – a figure at odds with most other surveys.

From there, the president’s criticism of the media went from barbed to personal in a cutting assessment of what he viewed as unfair coverage of his first few weeks in office – a period that has seen a succession of crises.

On a day when he ceded a loss over a signature policy in a federal appeals court, had to replace his labor secretary pick and faced questions over the resignation of his national security adviser, Mr. Trump chose to make the media a central focus of an unusually long and combative presidential news conference…

And here is something not fake:

Personal trust is in question amidst swirling, competing narratives. But institutional trust, that sense of what is believable, reliable and true that underpins a democracy, is taking a hammering in the President’s relentless attacks on the institutions that, despite their various shortcomings, are still the keepers of a holy grail – the media, the courts, colleges and the intelligence services.