Simple. Because "We" Don't Pay Enough Attention to Orwell

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The New Yorker article headline seems designed to piss me off: Why We Can’t Stop Arguing About Whether Trump Is a Fascist. It is a review of a new book, Did It Happen Here?: Perspectives on Fascism and America, Amazon paid link on your right. And the publisher's blurb claims it "collects, in one place, key texts from the sharpest minds in politics, history, and the academy beginning with classic pieces by Hannah Arendt, Angela Davis, Reinhold Niebuhr, Leon Trotsky, and others."

I'm sorry, book. You lost me at "Angela Davis".

It has been only one day since I unleashed my George Orwell quote that clears up everything, and answers the implicit question posed by the New Yorker article title. It's from his 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language"

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.

The reviewer, Andrew Marantz, could have just quoted George, and observed that saying "Donald Trump is a fascist" is indistinguishable from saying "I don't like Donald Trump".

But, to his credit, Marantz, does quote Orwell. And he's even got better quotes than I do:

One classic text not anthologized in “Did It Happen Here?” is “What Is Fascism?,” the oft-quoted essay published by George Orwell in 1944. “As used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless,” he wrote. “I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit . . . astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.” (This is as true today as it was then. I have seen the F-word applied to Russia, Ukraine, Hamas, Israel, the Catholic Church, academia, and London’s Metropolitan Police—and that was just from one recent perusal of X, and not a very thorough one.) Orwell later pointed out that many such words, including “democracy, socialism, freedom,” had been similarly distorted. (Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and Mitch McConnell have all been maligned as socialists; Sweden calls itself a democracy, but so does North Korea.) Yet Orwell was clear that semantic confusion was no excuse for quietism: “Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this.”

So I gotta say that reading Marantz's review is almost certainly a better use of your time than reading the book itself.

And here's a link to Orwell's 1944 essay: What is Fascism? (Interestingly, it's hosted at ""; how long before that gets shut down?)

Also of note:

  • Into the Memory Hole. Apparently it doesn't focus-group well any more: Biden and congressional Democrats aren't saying "Bidenomics" much. Axios observes:

    For the first time in more than two months, President Biden on Tuesday publicly uttered a word that he and other Democrats have largely abandoned: "Bidenomics."

    Why it matters: Republicans are now using the term — mockingly — far more than Democrats heading into the meat of the presidential campaign, even as the economy has improved under Biden.

    The intrigue: After Axios asked the White House why Biden wasn't saying "Bidenomics" — including in his State of the Union address this month — he used the term at a Tuesday afternoon event in North Carolina.

    • It was the first time he'd done so since Jan. 25.
    • "Leading economists aren't making much fun of 'Bidenomics' anymore," he said of his programs to boost the middle class through public spending. "They're thinking maybe it works!"

    Biden seems to think that the primary function of "leading economists" is to make fun of stuff.

    Veronique de Rugy is one of my "leading economists", and she makes a bold claim: Americans Can Tell the Difference Between Rosy Economic Data and Reality.

    The economy is growing, unemployment is low, wages are up, and inflation is down. However, the American people remain grumpy about the state of the economy. This puzzle was just investigated by four economists. They found that people often know that something is wrong even if statistics don't reflect the problem. In this case, people are perceiving that inflation is still, in fact, high.

    For months now, Americans have been told that inflation's downward trend, from almost 9% annually to around 3%, should make them feel good about the economy. But it isn't working. A recent Gallup poll found that 63% say the state of the economy is getting worse and 45% think it's already "poor." One reason, many have speculated, is that while the rate at which prices are rising might have slowed considerably, prices remain very high. Food and rent in particular are still expensive. These prices are felt everyday by Americans when they pay for their housing and go to the supermarket.

    But that's not all. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research by economists Marijn Bolhuis, Judd Cramer, Karl Schulz and Larry Summers finds that a change in the method used to estimate inflation today, compared to the method used in the 1980s, might well cause an underestimation of the true level of inflation.

    You can read the Bolhuis/Cramer/Schulz/Summers NBER study here: The Cost of Money is Part of the Cost of Living: New Evidence on the Consumer Sentiment Anomaly. Abstract:

    Unemployment is low and inflation is falling, but consumer sentiment remains depressed. This has confounded economists, who historically rely on these two variables to gauge how consumers feel about the economy. We propose that borrowing costs, which have grown at rates they had not reached in decades, do much to explain this gap. The cost of money is not currently included in traditional price indexes, indicating a disconnect between the measures favored by economists and the effective costs borne by consumers. We show that the lows in US consumer sentiment that cannot be explained by unemployment and official inflation are strongly correlated with borrowing costs and consumer credit supply. Concerns over borrowing costs, which have historically tracked the cost of money, are at their highest levels since the Volcker-era. We then develop alternative measures of inflation that include borrowing costs and can account for almost three quarters of the gap in US consumer sentiment in 2023. Global evidence shows that consumer sentiment gaps across countries are also strongly correlated with changes in interest rates. Proposed U.S.-specific factors do not find much supportive evidence abroad.

    Fortunately, I don't need to borrow money, so I'm doing OK. But those high prices? They seem to be staying high, Joe. That's Bidenomics.

  • Henceforth, NBC will only be employing Democrat-approved liars. Jacob Sullum observes: If Ronna McDaniel Is Beyond the Pale, NBC May Have Trouble Presenting 'Diverse Viewpoints'

    Two weeks after the 2020 presidential election, Ronna McDaniel, then chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), let Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's lawyer, hold a press conference at the RNC's headquarters in Washington, D.C. During that bizarre presentation, Giuliani and Sidney Powell, another member of the Trump campaign's "elite strike force team," crystallized the craziness of the president's stolen-election fantasy by describing a baroque international conspiracy that supposedly had delivered a fraudulent victory to Joe Biden.

    On January 29, 2021, three weeks after angry Trump supporters who believed that fantasy invaded the U.S. Capitol as Congress was about to affirm Biden's election, McDaniel expressed regret about hosting Giuliani's clown show. "When I saw some of the things Sidney was saying, without proof, I certainly was concerned it was happening in my building," she told The New York Times. "There are a whole host of issues we had to deal with: What is the liability of the RNC, if these allegations are made and [prove to be] unfounded?"

    That incident reflects McDaniel's ambiguous role in promoting Trump's baseless claims of decisive election fraud in the two months prior to the Capitol riot. Her support for those claims, which stopped short of outright endorsement but nevertheless lent them credibility, was at the center of the complaints that yesterday persuaded NBC executives to abruptly rescind their decision to hire her as an on-air commentator.

    Sullum does a heroic job of laying out the history of what McDaniel actually was saying about the 2020 election.

    For extra credit, check out Matt Taibbi's rebuttal to an NBC "news" story about his revelations of government's censorship campaigns against "disinformation": The Peacock Joins The Smear Campaign.

  • Yep. Fiona Harrigan says what's probably not said enough: Immigrant Workers Who Died on the Baltimore Bridge Were Hardworking Heroes. She's pretty disgusted by Fox News spokesmodel Maria Bartiromo's spin:

    "The White House has issued a statement on this saying that 'there's no indication of nefarious intent in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge,'" said Bartiromo yesterday, prefacing an interview with Sen. Rick Scott (R–Fla.). "Of course, you've been talking a lot about the potential for wrongdoing or potential for foul play given the wide-open border."

    Despite Bartiromo's implication that the tragedy at the Key Bridge might be linked to border crossers, the details of Tuesday's incident say far more about the contributions of immigrant workers than they do about the perils of an "open border."

    "Jesus Campos, an employee of contractor Brawner Builders, had worked the overnight shift of the bridge work before switching to another," reported The Baltimore Banner. "He said the missing men are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico." The New York Times confirmed that at least one of the missing men was from El Salvador and two were from Guatemala.

    In other words—based on what's currently known about the victims—the men working on the Key Bridge when it collapsed were immigrant workers who sought better economic opportunities and ended up filling difficult jobs. "They are all hard-working, humble men," said Campos, and all came to the country to help their loved ones in their home countries, the Banner reported.

    RIP, gentlemen.