The M Word That Isn’t Moscow (opinion)

Posted by ractrose on 1 Feb 2020 in Nonfiction

Image of salt shaker warning post contains salty language

Cartoon of Mitch McConnell as apprentice knightAssorted Opinions

The M Word That Isn’t Moscow 









From one of the books I’m reading, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes, by James Palmer (Basic Books, 2012), on the last days of Chairman Mao and the horrific Tangshan earthquake, comes this translation of a Maoist anthem:



The East is red, the sun is rising

China has brought forth Mao Zedong

He works for the people’s welfare.

Hurrah! He is the people’s great saviour!

Chairman Mao loves the people.



If you’ve seen news coverage of the praise sessions Donald Trump’s supporters engage in around the conference table, the language of this encomium may sound familiar. Or, you may have seen bits of his televised rallies, attendees accoutered with a sort of workers’ uniform (MAGA hat and tee shirt), and putting their faces through paces, to laugh, cheer, nod, chant, at the correct moments. It may seem to you yesterday’s doomed bid for witnesses (at the president’s impeachment trial) resulted from Mitch McConnell’s urging GOP senators’ obedience to instructions in their Little Red Books.

What else?

One of the Fox news pundits likes to call Democrats “demon-rats.” During the Maoist regime, enemies of the state were branded “cow-demons”.

What else?

When the CPC leadership decided to destroy an individual they’d labeled an enemy of the party, they launched a hate campaign, exhorting members to make a daily project of criticizing him or her.

In short, though Russia (and its lingering Communist associations) gets all the attention, and while Republican totalitarianism seems fascist, it’s impossible to read about the practices of Maoist China without thinking of Trump.

Another thing Red China practiced on its people, members in good standing and enemies alike, as Palmer states, was known among WWII American soldiers as “chickenshit”. Many present-day American businesses practice—especially when they want to put Baby Boomer employees out to pasture at no cost to themselves—in the chickenshitting vein, campaigning those who may for convenience be labeled “dead weight”, into quitting their jobs.

A worker (for the heck, we’ll say he) is sent to do a job, but hasn’t been trained to do it. He is interrupted while studying the manual/website by some new request. A supervisor interrupts this second assignment to tell him he’s in trouble for not finishing, or for “messing up” the first. Worrying over this, he finds he can’t finish the second either because the person he needs to get information from has gone home…

Just one brief sequence, in a vast body of possibilities.

Totalitarian organizations create bureaucracies that habitually generate fudged data because everyone fears getting fired, charged with something, or simply yelled at. This seems signature to the Trump administration, which has rid itself fairly thoroughly of all competent staffers…as the just-reported resignation of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch demonstrates.

One tactic the president has brought from his personal life to his administration is the filing of nuisance suits, used by Trump to avoid reckoning for his actions, or payments owed to contractors and banks…


…and perhaps to discourage by countersuit less well-funded petitioners from continuing their cases, using the courts to nickel-and-dime them, to disrupt the smooth conduct of their businesses.


Everyone should have a good idea of what legally must be proven in a defamation suit. According to the Cornell Law school site, these are the requirements:


  1. False information purporting to be fact.
  2. Publication or communication of that information to a third person.
  3. Fault amounting to at least negligence.
  4. Damages, some harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement.

Those conditions are stated as minimums. From negligence (taking less than reasonable care), a defamation campaign may go as far as bringing about a tragic denouement. From “some” harm, slander or libel may cause the victim great material harm, as in losing a job or a contract, being falsely accused (by insinuation) of a criminal act.

If the allegation is true, it isn’t defamation.

If the allegation is made under oath (called absolute privilege), it isn’t defamation.

If it’s made when repeating for any purpose of discussion the remarks of another person (whether or not explicitly stated, if widely known or apparent from context); when framing your own or anyone’s remarks in such a way that “purporting” clearly isn’t taking place: a comedy routine, a work of fiction, a “what if” scenario, a “this is what I’ve heard” hedging, it isn’t defamation. (I assume the “bad words” are cancelled somewhat, also, by the concept of negligence, that when you read or hear a thing you have your own obligation to process it sensibly.)

As we mention (at our peril?) Devin Nunes, Trump himself, Tulsi Gabbard in her recent response to Hillary Clinton, let’s consider a decision by the Supreme Court of the state of North Carolina, in North Carolina vs Robert Bishop:


This was a case of cyberbullying, on a shocking scale (as the objective reader may conclude), with an egregious piling on against the victim—but when appealed to the state’s highest court, a new law meant to protect minors from cyberbullying was deemed in violation of free speech.


If a kid can’t be protected from humiliation, including photos and grotesque descriptions drawn from fantasy, we will take what Dillion Price endured as the standard of personal toughness well-to-do and seasoned politicians need to beat before they can claim psychological trauma…and material harm looks out of the question.




The M Word That Isn’t Moscow

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(2020, Stephanie Foster)




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