There has been plenty of ink spilled on the complex issues of Trump’s moral indifference to the alt-right and their domestic terror — as there are, “good people on both sides”, so he says. In the process of trying to decipher why it is the case that the ISIS terrorist organization is painted with different moral paintbrush than homegrown terror, it could be the case that Trump — and by extension, his like-minded followers — are envious of ISIS and their categorical pursuit to crush them at all cost is pathological resolve, not logical. The Trump and the ISIS ideology both share the following commonalities: a) they have an unbridled need to reinforce nationalism and devout state sovereignty, b) they loath secularism, c) fetishize violence and d) defend patriarchy and misogyny.
NATIONALISM & HISTORICAL REVISIONISM:
The weight of the slogan Make America Great Again is to underline two key components: first, it is calling out American exceptionalism (our greatness) and second, it is calling out a period of time when this occurred. In this sense, Trump is arguing for a ‘revolution’ in the etymological sense of the word — to ‘revolve’ (like a wheel) backwards to some other era, a revolution is a rejection of the present to champion the past. I have asked many Trump supporters to tell me when this ‘again’ period was and when were we great, but they generally take my question as patronizing (as if I am implying we were never great). However, I was given some answers in good faith, such as: 2008 (pre-obama), 2001 (pre-bush/911/PATRIOT Act/DHS), 1992 (pre Clintons), 1972 (pre modern politics), 1965 (pre Lyndon Johnson ‘great society’ concept), 1932 (pre-FDR), 1912 (pre federal reserve) and 1861 (pre civil war), to name a few. For the most part it seems that the ambiguity of the Trump slogan allows it to become a catch-all for anybody to affix their ‘america nostalgia’ to and create their own what-if alternate universe based on whatever historical event/figure they disagree with. Regardless of when this greatness was, the point being is that there is some ‘idealized’ and ‘historical’ concept of America that they consider to be Great and want a return to this period.
Likewise, so it goes, this is the same ambitious goal of ISIS. ISIS does not have a ‘sovereign state’. But nonetheless, their appeals to an ‘islamic state’ is literally part of it’s acronym. They want, as it were, to make Islam Great Again and for them, they have in mind the 7th century, specifically — they do not equivocate on the time frame. ISIS and Trump believe in different strategies on how to bring about these changes: — these revolutions to back in time — Trump uses lawyers to manipulate/exploit laws to bring about dictatorship like power to revel in nationalism and isolationism; whereas ISIS utilizes executions and bombings and the differences thereof is only a matter of mere (fascist) methodology. They are both using their tools-at-hand to exploit conditions in favor of their intentioned ends.
Regardless of determination and plunder of might, for both Trump and ISIS, their desire to roll back time is painted by a disturbing glaze of historical revisionism (historians fallacy), that facilitates this romantic notion of history where they think it is possible to take the things they like from the present and things they like from the past and merge the two periods of time into their idealistic state. This is as absurd as wishing I was a high-school student in the 18th century, but with the car I actually had in high school to impress all my peers — perhaps this would make a great movie starring Pauly Shore, but I certainly shouldn’t build a political ideology from this. And this certainly shouldn’t be the premise for public policy.
The point of creating this type of historical revisionism and idealization of the past is because it is something that can be unchallenged. The cultural trope of ‘the good ol’ days’ gains weight because people tend to romanticize their past — especially their childhood — as a time of simplicity and happiness. This makes the MAGA slogan akin to stating, ‘Make America like that feeling when you were happiest as a child’. As one compares their childhood simplicity to their adulthood complication (bills, work, healthcare, dependencies, et al) it is pretty easy to be troubled by the disparaging differences and it is easy to point blame at this, or that… then wish into a crystal ball to roll back time before this or that. In both the case of Trump and ISIS, they want to recreate — or at least exploit the pursuance thereof — a fictional historical period.
ANTI-SECULARISM & FETISHIZING VIOLENCE:
Regardless of your particular belief system — or religion — the suffix ‘ism’ affixed to the end of the word implies it is a system of belief. And, structurally speaking, there is no difference between catholicism and capitalism, socialism and buddhism, fascism and communism — insofar that they are ideological containers with prescriptions of belief bundled within them (Hararai). Secularism, in this regard, is that the state is distinctly separate from any belief system whatsoever — there is no ‘state sponsored religion’ so to speak. The Trump supporters believe that Capitalism and Christianity are intrinsic to the concept of America and opposing these systems will not be tolerated. Let me give you an example, since 9/11 there have been roughly 5000 domestic terrorist attacks by right-winged organizations and a large percentage of these align themselves with defending christian values and 45% of the deaths caused by ‘terrorism’ are from right-winged domestic terror. This means the odds you will die from Islamic inspired terror and right-wing (christian faith backed) terror is almost a coin toss. Secondly, I do not need to show America’s long history of demonizing communism (because it opposes capitalism) and the Trump supporters bashing of ‘liberal colleges’ for preaching ‘cultural marxism’ and other assumedly communist-like aligned values. Many Trump supporters I talked with did not say ‘I disagree with you’, rather, they asked me to leave the country and were quite explicit that my non-christian and non-capitalistic views were not welcomed. In this regard, I am the antithesis of their understanding of America.
ISIS, similarly, wants the same. Sharia law is, a system of penal law, social law and economic law, it has — comparatively speaking — the same prescriptive categories as you find within the Christian doctrine and capitalist doctrine. Not to say they fight for the same laws, but more that they speak about laws to the same material conditions, but with different speculations and determinations thereof. They both only perceive their state as being pure insofar that it remains loyal to the ideological prescripts of Christianity/Capitalism and Islam/Sharia. In this regard, Donald Trump is the American Caliphate.
The difference between ISIS and it’s recent and historical predecessors is that the current has a more visceral and fetishized relationship with violence (respective to Wahhabis) and a grander rejection of attempting to form compatibility with western modes (respective to al-Qaeda) of engagement. These two conditions — regarding violence — are interconnected of sorts. ISIS is trying to relive their 7th century discordance by underlining the world into the strict dichotomy of Muslim and non-Muslim, where non-Muslim represents a categorical existential threat. Al-Qaeda, conversely, had onto-theological desires, but politically and economically they operated in more mainstream channels that still echoed of western influence. ISIS has doubled-down on the us versus them mentality and draws the lines on all terms and this purest conception of Jihad gives stronger arguments to the apocalyptic thinking that the end-days are near and a final battle between the good (Muslim) and bad (non-Muslim) will come to be (ironically supported in how the US foreign policy is perceived by faithful jihadists).
It has been spoken many times that Donald Trump represents a ‘battle for the soul of America’ and, similarly, ISIS believes they are fighting for the soul of Islam. The battle to which they both prescribe does not shy from a fetishized concept of violence. The most concrete example of this concept in America would be the Abu Ghraib case where American soldiers sexually assaulted prisoners — the full merger between the domain of sex and violence became, as Zizek reflects, American soldiers showing their prisoners the true essence of American violence and culture (Zizek). Although that was before the Trump era, it is emblematic of the Trump concept of America and his relationship to violence and sex. Otherwise seen in his desire to build big ships and tanks — a throwback to the days of giant death machines of eroticism — and have military parades, where we meld girls dancing in scathingly clad stars and stripes and finely tuned machines of war. Trump’s concept of a strong military is represented by giant machines and phallic shaped missiles — not necessarily, efficient instruments of war — and not diplomacy, ideological war, cyberwar or any other non-large artillery method. Sex and war are visual. Visceral.
Misogyny & ‘Merica
Much has been and discussed regarding Trump and his views of women and, additionally, it would not take much effort to illustrate that ISIS also has an archaically skewed sense of gender roles and their views of women in general. The idea of misogyny is very much tightly woven within both the Trump and ISIS ideology. If you ask a Trump supporter about this, their go-to response would be to state the fact that the Trump administration has the highest quantity of women in high-ranking positions — which was true at one point in time. However, this does not mean — necessarily — that you are not a misogynist. I recall reading an interview during the campaign that interviewed somebody who used to work for Trump in the 1980’s and they illustrated that he tends to hire women in high-ranking/executive positions at a higher rate than other organizations, but it is not because of some inner sense of perceiving women equally or from some desire to create equality. Rather, it is more that Trump wants executives under him that are ‘yes men’ and do not question his authority. And, because of that, he has discovered that because of the embodiment and internalization of the patriarchy it is sometimes easier to find these qualities in women than men.
I was only two years old when John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan and for whatever reason, I remember this. My memories of anything before the age of five are kind of a blur of fragments, but this is one that stands out distinctly. It was — if anything — a big fucking deal. Last week a man in Florida made an assassination attempt on two former presidents — as well as ten other individuals associated as being anti-trump — and our American Caliphate called this a pre-election distraction. Just like any ISIS backed dictator, Trump will accept any and all efforts — no matter how violent or perverse — to defend his power and his slogan.
Maybe it is the case that Trump — and his followers — are envious of the revolutionary aims of ISIS and their desire to stomp them down is just placating their psychosis.
The grander point here is that if one is going to be anti-radical-trumpism, then it should be assumed that you are anti-radical-islam as well. You cannot promote — tolerate — an intolerant belief under ‘secularist’ values without undercutting the teleology of a tolerant and secular society. We should not tolerate Trump desecrating the office of presidency and not lower ourselves to the standards of reality television. An American caliphate shall not be tolerated.