We are glad to share with you a fresh Interview with Stimulator from subMedia.tv about the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump on 20th January. Under the motto “Distrupt #J20” people in Washington and around the US will take the streets and try to disrupt the ceremony. The text was first published on the German website Lower Class Magazine. Together with Babylonia magazine from Athens we are republishing tonight an English and Greek version. It is no running gag anymore: Trump becomes president. What do we do?
Interview and translation: Hamid Mohseni and John Malamatinas
Introductory remarks of the translators:
subMedia.tv is a north-american video production ensemble, which aims to promote anarchist and anti-capitalist ideas, and aid social struggles through the dissemination of radical films and videos. Founded in 1994 in Canada, subMedia.tv has produced hundreds of videos on everything from anti-globalization protests, over demonstrations against the G20 summit in Toronto to films about the Black Panthers or simply to films about shoplifting. These films have been screened around the world in social centers and movie theaters and have been watched by millions on the internet. In Europe too, anarchists and sympathizers usually follow the most entertaining news stories that have been presented for ten years by the fictional character “Stimulator”. In the last show of 2016 Stimulator announced his resignation – to make room for new projects. In February the new website sub.media goes online and the focus is placed on educational productions.
On a regular basis, sumbMedia.tv also reports on protests in the rest of the world, such as the riots at Syntagma Square in Athens or the demonstrations during the opening of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt on 18 March 2015. The current page www.submedia.tv shows all videos since 2003.
For many years the collective has closely followed the events in the USA and supported with their videos various mobilisations. This includes the Occupy movement, Black lives matter, and last but not least the numerous actions against Trump. Currently, they call on the protests on January 20 against the inauguration of Trump in Washington D.C. (# J20). The translators came into contact with them because they are considered as solid US experts and they were curious to see how the North American anarchist spirit tends to confront the shocks of “Trumpism”. In addition to the interview, it is worth taking a look at the subMedia.tv video about Trump.
A mad and authoritarian right-wing business-mogul will be the next president of the USA. This is not a Simpsons-review (episode not review?), but reality. What the fuck is going on in your country?
Yeah, shit’s (did he say maybe: she’s?) pretty messed up. I’d say it’s the culmination of a number of factors and dynamics that have been building up for some time now. The long-standing effects of neo-liberal free trade deals and austerity policies, growing popular disillusionment with political elites, a corporate media environment dominated by FOX News and rampant celebrity worship – all of these things have had a massive impact on predominantly white, rural communities… and this is the result.
How could the Democrats mess up that much? They could have had Sanders, but they finally opted for Hillary. I mean, come on, Hillary – THE most hypocritical politician in the US…!
Well… as I’ve been saying all along, there was never a chance in hell that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would have allowed Bernie Sanders to be their candidate, even if some polls have suggested that he would have been a better match against Trump. The powerful interests who actually run the United States and fund both political parties would never tolerate having a self-avowed socialist elected as president. It’s just not going to happen. Ever. From where I’m sitting, Bernie’s role in this election was to attempt to attract the attention of young voters, most of whom are thoroughly disillusioned with electoral politics. The idea being to bring these young folks into the fold of the Democratic Party, and then to have him gracefully step aside so that their energy and votes could be redirected towards Hillary. And he went along with this by not using his base of support to exert meaningful pressure on the Democratic Party, and by vocally ruling out the prospect of running as an independent candidate from the outset…. which, again, could have potentially given him some leverage to use against the DNC. I think the Democratic Party establishment was really pretty surprised at how much support he received, and by the whole “Bernie or Bust” phenomenon in particular. The idea that people would actually refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton when push came to shove seemed to them to be unthinkable. It’s also worth pointing out that the emails released by Wikileaks show that the Clinton campaign team was actively supporting Donald Trump during the Republican primaries, because they thought that Hillary would destroy him in a one-on-one contest. Again… this just shows how arrogant, and out of touch with the average American voter they’ve become.
Trump’s cabinet looks pretty bad-ass and reactionary. Is this spirit also present on the street? Right-Wings going crazy and attack those who do not fit to their narrow world?
I think it’s important to distinguish between the individuals being named for Trump’s cabinet, and the people on the street who have been carrying out these racist, misogynistic and homophobic attacks. Trump’s campaign served as a rallying cry for a loose coalition of neo-nazis and white nationalists who have coalesced under the banner of the alt-right. It’s undeniable that they have been emboldened by Trump’s campaign – by his talk about building a border wall, registering Muslims and banning them from coming into the country, and so on. And his elevation of Steven Bannon, from Breitbart News, to the role of his campaign manager, and now chief strategist, has no doubt been seen as an encouraging sign by these people. There was already a increase in racist violence, including attacks on Blacks, immigrants and Muslims, that had started to pick up during Obama’s second term… and Trump and the people running his campaign really tapped into this reservoir of hate and helped legitimize it to some extent. More recently we’ve seen him attempt to distance himself from some of his most brazen white nationalist supporters, particularly following the controversy after a video of Richard Spencer’s speech at the National Policy Institute conference in Washington went viral, where he was openly talking about implementing a neo-nazi agenda, and speaking in German and shit. So this could very well be an indication that Trump no longer feels he needs to rely on these forces now that he’s in power, that they pose a possible liability, and that he’d rather make use of the more formal institutions of state power that he now has at his disposal. We’ll see how that dynamic plays out. It will certainly be important for anarchists and other anti-racist forces to pay close attention to this movement in the coming weeks, months and years, and to intervene, both in order to help offer material defense to the marginalized groups that are the targets of their attacks, and to limit their growth and popular appeal more generally.
On the other hand, the individuals that are being selected as appointees to Trump’s administration represent an entirely different kind of threat. Aside from Bannon, many of the peeps (could this be pimps?) being tapped to join his administration are either Wall Street and corporate elites, members of the far-right wing of the Republican establishment, or dissident generals from the Obama administration with an axe to grind. Mike Pence, the incoming Vice President, is going to be a really dangerous figure in the new administration. He is a born-agin Christian who is in favour of making abortion illegal and rolling back LGBT rights, in addition to being a front-man for the Koch brothers — the major funders of the Tea Party movement. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, is a billionaire corporate ideologue who wants to privatize the American school system. She also just so happens to be the sister of Erik Prince, the guy who started Blackwater. And there are other examples… lots of people he’s naming to his national security establishment are in favour of torture, and want to attack Iran, for example.
Will Trump make America great again? What do you expect from his politics?
Well, we really have to ask ourselves… when was America ever great? It’s a colonial nation born out of the genocide of the lands’ original inhabitants, and built up through centuries of slavery and global imperialism. It’s the richest country in the world, yet has incredible levels of poverty and the highest rates of incarceration on the planet. I think that the rise in this weird sort of nostalgia for a time when America was great comes from a sense of declining living standards, and people being confused and unsure about their place in the world. It comes from people being constantly taught that America is the greatest country on earth (something the vast majority of Americans actually believe), and yet that not conforming to their own lived experiences of growing poverty and insecurity. The fact that their real lives don’t match up with the image of America that they see on television, or in Hollywood movies. This makes people angry, as though they’re missing out on something… when this image of America as a great utopia of freedom and opportunity is just a myth that they’ve repeated so often they actually believed it was true.
As for Trump… I don’t think he’s going to be able to square the two concepts — the reality and the myth. He’s not going to “make America great again”. If you look at who he’s putting into positions of power, and the history of his own business empire, I think it’s pretty clear he’s going to lead the country into a dark time of even more brutal violence and even higher levels of economic inequality than already exist. And he’s going to get even richer while doing it. It’s amazing that so many people fell for his lies… the guy is a horrible liar. It was clear through his whole campaign that he was making shit up as he was going along, and that he’s really just a sociopath and a compulsive liar. But at the end of the day enough people believed him… because they wanted so desperately to believe that things were going to get better. I’m not sure what the reaction of all of these millions of people is going to be, once it dawns on them that they’ve been lied to yet again.
On the other hand, we see several marches against Trump. Is it some kind of spontaneous, desperate frustration or is there something more consistent to it?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it desperate, although it was definitely spontaneous. I think a lot of people were just shocked and angry when it dawned on them that he was actually going to be president for the next four years. The very first marches all took place on the west coast, where he has very little support. These were some of the cities where there were mini-riots at Trump rallies… or at least some of the people in these cities would have participated in those events. It’s also worth pointing out that lots of Trump’s support came from small towns and deindustrialized cities, so in most of the big urban centers he didn’t have nearly as much support, and I don’t think many people there expected that he had a chance of winning. It was a running joke for a long time… something that they laughed about on talk shows and liberal media outfits. It was a big shock to these people when he actually won… and to their credit lots of them took to the streets to demonstrate their rage that someone as heinous as him could actually get into office.
We’ll see how things develop… but I do think that there’s going to have to be a lot of critical reflection on how so many people could be wrong about how strong his support base was, and what that says about the cultural divide in the United Snakes.
No joke question (who would have thought): Will we experience the “American spring” 2017?
I guess anything’s possible… but I would be pretty stunned. I hope that by 2017 we see the beginnings of the emergence of a new movement, and preferably one that’s not just focused entirely on the individual personality of Trump, but on the entire capitalist and colonial state system that he represents. There’s definitely not going to be a Tahrir Square moment on the steps of congress, or in Times Square or anything like that. The US is very different than the countries where the Arab Spring revolutions broke out. It’s much bigger, for one thing… and it has a much more sophisticated system of state surveillance and repression. But it’s also very different culturally and politically. It has different contradictions, and different fault lines.
I do hope to see the movements that have emerged over the past several years, such as the Black-led movement against police killings, and the Indigenous-led land defense movement at Standing Rock, continue to grow and move in new directions. I hope to see struggles and movements begin to link up and learn from one another… start to test out what works and experiment with new tactics and organizing methods. But as for an American Spring… I wouldn’t hold my breath. I would be happy to be proven wrong on that, though.
On #J20, will we see smoke over the city when Trumpie gives his inauguration speech?
Ummm… I think you’re thinking of the ceremony when they announce a new pope.
Seriously though, I don’t know the answer to that. Presidential Inaugurations are extremely high-security events… and this one will be particularly heavily policed. But there’s also millions of people who hate Trump and everything he stands for, who will no doubt be looking to ruin his special day. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.