In the 1960s, DC introduced “Bizarro World” in their Superman comic books. It is the fictional planet of “htraE” (“Earth” spelled backwards) where everything is inverted and backwards. Up is down, wrong is right, logical is illogical, giving is taking, insanity is sane, liberty is tyranny. A salesman gets rich selling Bizarro bonds: “Guaranteed to lose money for you.”
A number of commentators have compared the Trump administration to Bizarro World, with cabinet picks who are hostile to the mission of their departments led by a plutocratic grifter posing as a working class hero.
In The New Republic, Jeet Heer argues that Trump is the Bizarro Noam Chomsky. Republicans have a habit of saying that Democrats don’t believe America is the morally superior nation which must lead the world.
However, Trump is a Republican who challenges this notion of American goodness. In an interview on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly asked Trump if he respected Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said he did.
“He’s a killer, though,” O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”
“There are a lot of killers,” Trump replied. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
Heer argues that Trump’s point of view is similar to that of the radical left as expressed by linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky.
Heer writes, “Trump often describes the goals of America as not the promotion of democracy and international order, but brutal capitalist pillaging. As he told members of the CIA when he visited their headquarters in January, ‘The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” — you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil.’”
The idea is that Chomsky and Trump both believe that our nation tends to do many of the right things for all the wrong reasons. Heer adds, “Both are skeptical of claims made by mainstream liberals and conservatives that America has any special moral status. The crucial difference is that Chomsky wants the U.S. to stop behaving in this manner, while Trump promises to be more effective in his brutality and looting. Trump, then, is a kind of Bizzaro Chomsky — one bereft of a conscience, of any sense of right and wrong.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump accused his opponents of being hypocrites. The other candidates would point out his inconsistencies but the charge of hypocrisy wouldn’t stick in his case, argues Russian American journalist Masha Gessen in a recent New York Times op-ed. She says Trump was destroying the rules of political conduct: “He was openly claiming that he abused the system to benefit himself. If he didn’t pay his taxes and got away with it, this made him a good businessman. If he could force himself on women, that made him more of a man.”
Gessen asserts that this pose is not new: “Fascists the world over have gained popularity by calling forth the idea that the world is rotten to the core. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, author Hannah Arendt described how fascism invites people to ‘throw off the mask of hypocrisy’’ and adopt the worldview that there is no right and wrong, only winners and losers… In the last decade and a half, post-Communist autocrats like Vladimir V. Putin and Viktor Orban (current Prime Minister of Hungary) have adopted this cynical posture.”
Trump’s peculiarities have created confusion and division everywhere. Even on the American left. He expressed a desire for better relations with Russia at the time when other Republican presidential candidates and Hillary Clinton seemed stridently hawkish. Unfortunately, he legitimized and condoned Putin’s territorial encroachments and foreign interventions at the same time.
It is a little unlikely that his consistently pro-Putin sentiments are based upon a principled pacifist stance.
Bill Browder, who once operated the largest foreign-investment fund in Russia, has said: “Trump is a dealmaker, and I can’t imagine that he would be doing this [promoting policies favorable to Russia] unless there was something in it for him. He doesn’t think of it as high treason. He thinks of it as a deal. What that deal is we don’t know.”
Trump has had numerous business relationships with Russian buyers and investors over the years. Money from Russia was important to Trump’ because bankers on Wall Street were unwilling to lend to him after his many bankruptcies. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” his son Donald Jr. told the global trade publication eTurboNews in 2008. He said that Russians were key investors in the Trump Organization’s assets. “And in terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York,” Trump Jr. added.
Now all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies are charging that Russia intervened in the 2016 elections in order to elect Trump. Such interference is happening in Europe as well. A European Union task force reports that Putin is targeting French, German and Dutch elections with disinformation. Putin has an alliance with far-right Trump-like political parties throughout Europe.
We need an independent, non-partisan investigation as soon as possible. This is poisoning the political climate. If the charges are true, Russia might have embarrassing information that could be used to blackmail Trump. If the charges are false, Trump is the victim of a huge injustice. Bizarro.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.