From the evidence so far, it’s clear that Trump and his top advisers are trying to pull off a domestic shock doctrine. The goal is all-out war on the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of antipollution regulations or programmes for the hungry. In their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations. It’s a programme so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide-and-conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a nonstop spectacle of media distractions. And, of course, it is being backed up with a massive increase in war spending, and a dramatic escalation of military conflicts on multiple fronts.
Though Trump breaks the mould in some ways, his shock tactics do follow a script, one familiar from other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of crisis. During Trump’s first week in office, when he was signing that tsunami of executive orders and people were just reeling, madly trying to keep up, I found myself thinking about the human rights advocate Halina Bortnowska’s description of Poland’s experience when the US imposed economic shock therapy on her country in the midst of communism’s collapse. She described the velocity of change her country was going through as “the difference between dog years and human years” and she observed that “you start witnessing these semi-psychotic reactions. You can no longer expect people to act in their own best interests when they’re so disoriented they don’t know – or no longer care – what those interests are.”