May 8, 2022
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By Jonathan Wallace

Our world is ending

The lead essay this month is really mild-mannered. Here are some of the things I expected I would say in it.

If after 2024, the Trumpoids are in control of all three branches of government, they will be empowered and enabled to come for everything I care about. If you think the Constitution will prevent them when they will have total control over interpreting it, you are sadly naive. The Chilean constitution, never suspended, had a clause that said "Torture shall not be applied" through-out the Pinochet dictatorship. The predictions I made, in summer 2016, as to what a Trump Presidency would entail, which included a vast increase in domestic spying, false arrests and "trumped"-up convictions of opponents, I acknowledged in 2020 were mainly things the Trumpoid Object aspired to but could not do--largely because the Courts stopped him, and he lost control of Congress. A President Trump or DeSantis in 2025 is going to be much more powerful out of the gate.

If, in an unbearably trite Star Trek moment, Q erupted into my surroundings and transported me back to George III's Britain, I would at least have a pretty concrete idea of how to live there quietly and undisturbed, whether I chose to do so or not. In late 2020's America, we won't have that choice, because the people in charge will be brutal, impulsive, totalitarian, very self-deluded, and quick to punish. I have very little idea of how to get by in Trump Universe, given that "Own the libs" is the Prime Directive.

Thirty years or so ago, I first dreamed up my science fiction parable of "Labrador", a realm of space with two hundred Earth-like planets without intelligent life. You could give Trump and the MAGA crowd (whom I call the "Lost Boys") a world, and then observe them from afar for a century or so. I believe that MAGA world would expire in an orgy of violence in less than fifty years: When there are no "libs", you have to own someone!

Through-out history, there have been stable authoritarians who ruled for a long time-- the Emperor Justinian of Byzantium, for example, whom even his own pet historian, Procopius, claimed (after Justinian's death of course) to have been a sort of evil alien shapeshifter. There is a class of totalitarian who, though murderous, knows how to keep the supermarkets supplied and open, the trains running, etc. Trump and the Q Anon crowd are not that. I can't find an example in history of a movement more deluded and more likely to immolate itself in a few years. The obvious and trite comparison to Hitler, whose Thousand Year Reich committed suicide in only twelve, is not exact. Hitler invaded almost every European country and Russia all at once-- and then declared war on the U.S. Groceries were still plentiful until the end of 1944 (in large part because he was stealing everyone else's).

The Trumpoid Object is so Hugely incompetent, bad at everything, that in Trump Universe everything will break down in short order. We have had very incompetent Presidents before (Bush II) but they at least knew to hang back and let other people work. Trump doesn't. His perception of himself as a "stable genius" good at everything, and ready to interfere in everything, suggests that Trump Universe will experience a devastating Entropy Event much sooner than other Universes. What if its someone smarter, like DeSantis? This "dollar auction" or "potlatch" effect, visible in his punishment of Disney, of performing for the base, makes smart people as stupid as Trump.

DeSantis as Disney Princess, ha

What DeSantis in Florida has just attempted to do to Disney is a case study of the instability I am predicting at the national level in a few years. DeSantis is daydreaming of defeating Trump in the primaries and being our next President. Disney reluctantly and belatedly took a stand against the "Don't say gay" legislation, and was punished within weeks for its presumption by having its special status repealed. Full disclosure, I need to take a much closer look at this really to understand all the nuances, but it seems that as a side effect., Disney will no longer pay for services in its area which the not very wealthy nearby citizens will now have to provide for themselves-- and can't afford to. It seems as if DeSantis is crushing a not inconsiderable number of people many of whom voted for him in order to slap Disney. From Five Miles Up, there is also the fact that central Florida was a swamp before Disney showed up, and that the company still contributes very significantly to the economy through its own spending and employment and tourist dollars. Florida trying to kill Disney, which I never imagined was possible, has aspects of DeSaantis burning his own house down as Symbolic Speech. When Texas adopted its crazy, vigilante-enabling anti-abortion law, I (who used to travel to Austin for a week every month for part of the 1990's) immediately imagined that the tech companies there would start to have trouble recruiting, that UT Austin would get fewer quality applications, etc. A few days ago I read of companies who cannot get new recruits to work in Texas, and a chemicals company which opened a Boston office to deal with that.

Texas, Florida, Putin's Russia and soon, the United States, all seem to be rushing to become North Korea. You would think there would be some other way, in the culture wars, to subtract oneself from the liberal compact. But no.

If you enjoyed Bane, you'll love Musk!

Circa 1995, I was as successfully fooled as anybody by the idea that brilliant, innovative and successful technology businessfolk were leading us into a new world of freedom and comfort. I even published a very mainstream book, put out there by venerable and respected Henry Holt, and reviewed favorably in the Times and The Washington Post, arguing that the Internet would save democracy. Well, as we now know, the Internet has fucked democracy.

By 2016, the billionaires I most admired divided into two camps, those who financed the Trumpoid Object and voted for him,like Peter Thiel, and those who merely enabled him, like Mark Zuckerberg. (There were anti-Trump billionaires, but that class is vanishingly small.) I had never followed Elon Musk that closely, but, charismatic and outspoken, he seemed to fit that "he will help us innovate and live better!" mold, so it took a minute to see what he really is: a wannabe comic book supervillain ("Musk" is actually a pretty good Supervillain Name).

We are in the middle of a Perfect Storm of things which should never have happened (which include Trump getting elected, the Supreme Court overruling Roe, and DeSantis trashing Disney). Impulsive, brutal, Dreadly Certain Elon Musk owning Twitter as his personal megaphone is another of those. He will invite Trump back, and Trump (after saying no one or two more times) will accept (because the Twitter-competitor he thought he was building isn't worth shit). Come to think of it, in 2026 President Trump or DeSantis will actually control four branches of government (the press being the Fourth Estate of course).