What explains a few thousand people showing up during a rainstorm in order to hear Donald Trump’s all-too-familiar old white guy grievance speech in Sarasota, Florida, the one-time home of Ringling Brothers Circus? Even more bizarre is why thousands arrived early in circus town to listen to the neo-Nazi ramblings of a Florida congressman—Matt Gaetz—criticizing the American military and promising to vote for Trump for House Speaker if the Republicans regain control of the House in 2024. It obviously did not matter one whit to the crowd of Trump supporters and cannibal/pedophile-obsessed Qanon cultists that Gaetz is under federal investigation for the sexual trafficking of underage girls.
Welcome to the age of buffoonery. At the core of widespread buffoonery and nitwittery is a cult of anti-science. Pew Research discovered in 2018 that almost 30 percent of Americans believe in astrology. Thirty percent, depending on which polls are consulted, also roughly represents the segment of the American population called the “Trump base.” Even putting the Qanon cultists aside, an overwhelming majority of the Trump base is anti-vaccination, doubtful about climate change, and embrace other pseudo-scientific claptrap. Some blame the rise of buffoonery on the Internet, others claim it is the result of one-time serious cable channels like the History Channel, National Geographic, Arts and Entertainment, and Discovery now offering up program choices on crypto-zoology, magic, ghosts, and the dubious prophecies of soothsayers like Nostradamus, Madame Lenormand, and Edgar Cayce.
To the buffoons, science and intellect are enemies, which are often lumped in with “globalism,” “international bankers,” liberal elitism, “Hollywood,” and institutions of higher education. Such attitudes are the breeding grounds for fascist politicians and those who vote for them. Not only has the current philosophy of rejectionism been embraced by the far-right, but some on the far-left have also fallen for the anti-science rantings and ravings of modern-day traveling medicine men who reject modern pharmacology and medical research in favor of miracle tonics, elixirs, and other worthless placebos. When it comes to the age of buffoonery, the far-right and some sectors of the far-left meet at a certain point in the deep recesses of the twilight zone. This is especially true of critics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations.
This is an age when a president of the United States actually endorsed the injection of bleach, the ingestion of a chemical used to clean fish tanks, and a veterinary drug to prevent heart worm in dogs as “miracle cures” for a deadly viral pandemic.
Public education from K through 12 and into junior college and four-year state universities are taking a beating from a combination of evangelical Bible thumpers and white racists. School curricula, particularly that which addresses antebellum slavery, post-Civil War Jim Crow laws enacted during Reconstruction, and the modern civil rights movement are under assault from self-appointed jingoists and white supremacists opposed to teaching the actual history of the United States, warts and all.
In Texas, there is opposition to presenting the history of that state’s independence movement from Mexico as a struggle to maintain slavery in Texas. Slavery was abolished in Mexico in 1829. Because Texas opposed abolition, Mexican law provided an exemption for Texas. However, Mexican law prohibited the further importation of slaves, including from the U.S. South into Texas. At the outset of the Texan war of secession in 1835, many black slaves in Texas revolted and joined either the Mexican or Cherokee forces against the white Texan secessionists, who included a number of Southern U.S. mercenaries, including a rather obese drunkard from Tennessee named Davy Crockett. Sorry, Texas racists: Crockett did not look like either John Wayne or Fess Parker. Crockett’s only saving grace was that as a member of the U.S. Congress from Tennessee he adamantly opposed President Andrew Jackson’s removal policy with regard to Native Americans in Tennessee. It was too bad that Crockett failed to extend such humanitarianism to enslaved blacks in either his native Tennessee or his adopted Texas. Nevertheless, the buffoons in our midst want Crockett and others to maintain their mythological hero status in corrupted and inaccurate American history textbooks.
The racist movie director D. W. Griffith is best known for his Ku Klux Klan-praising film, “Birth of a Nation.” Griffith also produced “Martyrs of the Alamo,” a homage to the slave-owning Texan secessionists who were routed by the Mexican Army at the Alamo mission in San Antonio. The hero of Griffith’s Alamo movie was the coonskin cap-wearing Tennessee mercenary, Davy Crockett.
The famed professor and expert on mythology Joseph Campbell said the following about flim-flam figures of American history: “Almost all non-literate mythology has a trickster-hero of some kind. . . . And there’s a very special property in the trickster: he always breaks in, just as the unconscious does, to trip up the rational situation. He’s both a fool and someone who’s beyond the system. And the trickster represents all those possibilities of life that your mind hasn’t decided it wants to deal with. The mind structures a lifestyle, and the fool or trickster represents another whole range of possibilities. He doesn’t respect the values that you’ve set up for yourself, and smashes them.” Campbell’s description of the trickster-hero pretty much sums up Donald Trump and other misanthropes of American history.
Call it critical race theory or the non-whitewashed history of the United States, but lily-white suburban busybodies throughout the United States are trying to ban the teaching of any history that does not portray white American leaders as pure as the newly-driven snow. They want lesson plans to include Crockett, the slave-owning Daniel Boone, Robert E. Lee, Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, and religious huckster Billy Graham but totally ignore Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Mother Jones, Paul Robeson, and Malcolm X. More buffoonery. While president, Trump attempted to create a “National Garden of American Heroes.” All the above named white heroes were to have statues in the garden, save for Robert E. Lee.
When one looks closely at far-right rallies, all the usual suspects are present: Qanon, white nationalists, Christian Dominionist Bible-thumpers and “prosperity gospel” suckers, anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, moon landing deniers, sovereign citizens, and just plain kooks—the sort of people who claim to be picking up radio broadcasts from their dental fillings and those who swear they encountered Big Foot on their last camping vacation. If America is to be graded on the temperament and education of one-third of its population, the national report card should show a big “F.”
Pundits, in addressing the naked fascism now being advanced by a large sector of the American public, often say, “America can do better than this.” Perhaps not.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).