The danger posed by nihilistic leaders

Although it was hardly a newsworthy event when Donald Trump, in a lackluster November 15 speech at his Mar-a-Lago grifters’ club in Florida, announced that he was launching another presidential campaign, it served as an example of the growth of nihilism among the “libertarian” right, fascist far-right, and various lunatic conspiracy-obsessed factions of the left in the world today. From Trump’s ongoing “Make America Great Again” traveling white nationalist carnival act and the BREXIT catastrophe in the United Kingdom to the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s imperialist threat to attack and occupy Taiwan, the “burn it all down” approach to governance has taken hold in the halls of power of dozens of nations, including those that possess nuclear weapons.

Perhaps no one exemplifies the nihilism of the far-right more than the disheveled hobo-looking Steve Bannon, who once prowled the halls of the White House when he was Donald Trump’s “chief strategist.” There was a time when those who looked like Bannon rooted through trash bins outside of the White House, not along the buffet line in the White House mess. Bannon, like other fascists of his ilk, advances no principles on how to govern, he merely desires to tear down all government structures in order to replace them with something else. Bannon wants to destroy everything he sees, from the U.S. government and United Nations to the neoconservative National Review and Weekly Standard, which he has labeled “left wing.” For those like Bannon, it was a dream come true to witness mobs of far-right zealots storm the U.S. Capitol, pummeling law enforcement officers and destroying priceless oil paintings, chandeliers, sculptures, personal items of members, and media equipment in the process.

The “something else” Bannon wants to see replaced modern institutions of governance, international diplomacy, and global commerce had not been figured out in advance by those Bannon fellow-travelers in the UK who pushed for BREXIT. None, including the far-right xenophobic dandy Nigel Farage, the original architect of BREXIT, contemplated the effect of British withdrawal from the European Union on the commerce-heavy “non-border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland and cross-English Channel commerce between the British Isles and European mainland. With the UK out of the EU, the Irish-UK border is now a point of contention. With Ireland remaining in the EU, while Northern Ireland, which voted against BREXIT, out in the cold, the Irish-Ulster frontier is now a renewed zone of friction between Dublin, Belfast, and London.

The commercial traffic jams between Dover and Calais have cost businesses on both sides of the Channel billions in lost revenue. Farage, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, and the other Brexiteers knew how to break British membership in the EU, but none of that lot have any idea how to fix the damage. That pretty much sums up the nihilism of the right and crazy far-left. They have adopted the policy of accelerationism, but they are blind as to what they are accelerating toward. Generally, these mindless rabblerousers agree that nirvana for them is a strong authoritarian dictatorship. For the far-right, the models are Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and General Augusto Pinochet of Chile. For the far-left, they are Pol Pot of Cambodia, any of the three Kim family leaders of North Korea, and Abimael Guzmán, the founder of the Shining Path movement in Peru.

The Covid-19 pandemic was another example of nihilism creating the perfect storm for deaths on a massive scale. The mixture of right-wing libertarianism, conspiracy fanaticism, and rejection of modern science led some leaders to ignore the advice from their own public health specialists, epidemiologists, immunologists, and others and create a situation that saw economic collapse, unneeded deaths, and a rejection of modern medicine and science. From Trump advocating injecting bleach into those infected with Covid to Boris Johnson hosting and attending drinking fests while the rest of the UK remained locked down points to the right-wing’s inability to govern under any circumstance, normal or abnormal.

While far-right politicians can incite their followers on a steady diet of hate-filled propaganda, few have shown they can govern. The British Conservative Party, which has moved to the extreme right, has gone through five prime ministers in six years, a testament to the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher now being a force for instability instead of governance. It remains to be seen whether the Italian neo-fascist coalition government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni can actually govern. Rife with neo-Nazis and Mussolini admirers, so far, the Italian government has only been able to showcase those like Galeazzo Bignami, the deputy minister for infrastructure who was photographed wearing a black shirt and Swastika armband and Paola Frassinetti, the junior education minister who attended a cemetery event honoring Italian SS volunteers in World War II. It’s easy to be a far-right performance artist but it’s much harder to govern, particularly when the over-arching political mantra is to bring down the government. These Italian fascist government leaders are no different than far-right Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor (ex-Greene), Matt Gaetz, and Paul Gosar, who can troll and meme white nationalist slogans all day long but they have never once proposed anything of legislative value as members of Congress. Taylor’s constituent services are practically non-existent and those of Gaetz and Gosar aren’t much better. As Democratic House Speaker Sam Rayburn once said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.”

Fascist leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban and defeated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have very little to show for their terms other than sources of xenophobic hot air and rallying symbols for fascists, neo-Nazis, racists, self-entitled crybabies, and right-wing nihilists everywhere. Deep-pocketed billionaires like Peter Thiel have financially aided and abetted the metaphorical “bomb throwers” of the far-right. In Thiel’s case, his money was instrumental in an election denier and his alt-right former employee, J. D. Vance, being elected as a Republican senator from Ohio. Thiel’s other candidate, the Nazi-admiring Blake Masters, was not as fortunate in Arizona.

Right-wing nihilism has led to the manifestation of bizarre offshoots, including the involuntary celibate (incel) craze. Thanks to the availability of guns and ammunition, young men who harbored an intense hatred for women, in particular, and society, in general, carried out mass casualty events in downtown Toronto; Isla Vista, California; at a yoga studio in Tallahassee; a bank lobby in Sebring, Florida; Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon; and Plymouth, England. In almost every case of an incel committing a massacre, it was discovered that they had been influenced by nihilist propaganda found on far-right websites. Some of the same far-right websites and forums, including 8chan, 4chan, Gab, and QAnon hangouts, have incited terrorist mass shootings at schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, and shopping centers.

A common trait among far-right nihilist leaders is that they, being the narcissists that they are, will not hesitate to destroy everyone else if they do not achieve their goals. Hitler, who remains an iconic figure for far-right white nationalists, faced with the imminent collapse of what he believed was to have been a “Thousand Year Reich,” said the following about Germany and the German people prior to taking his own life in a Berlin bunker: “Everyone has lied to me, everyone has deceived me, no one has told me the truth. The armed forces have lied to me and now the SS has left me in the lurch. The German people have not fought heroically. It deserves to perish . . . It is not I who have lost the war, but the German people.” One can imagine Vladimir Putin raging on in a similar manner about the Russian people and armed forces as international sanctions and a military quagmire in Ukraine take their toll on Russia.

And then there is Trump, who is quite willing to put himself ahead of the United States and its people, who are still recovering from his mishandling of a pandemic, his attempted insurrection and coup d’état, and his championing of racism, anti-Semitism, governmental instability, and xenophobia. Trump and others like him have declared war on modern society. Instead of iconic battlefields like Yorktown, Gettysburg, Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Chosan, and Khe Sanh, our present war is remembered with the names of battle sites like Charlottesville, Squirrel Hill, El Paso, Parkland, Uvalde, and Capitol Hill. It was Plato who said, “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” Those like Trump and his two fascist-minded ideological acolytes, Governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, always find ways around the laws. The sooner Mr. Trump is consigned to the history books as yet another dark example of a power-driven nihilistic leader—like the many before him and those contemporary with him—the better off the United States and the world will be.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2022

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).

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