The Concept of The Other

It’s time to talk again about the ‘Other.’ The Other, as a tool employed to facilitate an authoritarian’s rise to power. It’s the ‘them’ in Us vs. Them. The Other.

Because there’s always an other. The notion is straight out of the Autocrat’s Handbook. It’s Authoritarianism 101. And it’s useful for us – those of us still in favor of the fundamental structure of our liberal democracy, our Republic; those of us who are not willing to cede control of America to those who might seek to replace our current form of government with another, less savory, sort of rule – it’s useful for us to identify the use of the Other as a tool in an authoritarian’s rise to power.

I touched on this idea in a short tweet storm a while back; a tweet storm that I eventually took down because it received exactly zero fucks and I otherwise don’t care for tweet storms. Tweet storms are, IMO, contrary to the fundamental essence of Twitter as the Great Sentence Contest.

But tweet storms are becoming more and more popular, or are used with ever increasing frequency, in large part because of the unique platform Twitter provides. Between followers and retweets, most people have a larger audience or potential audience on Twitter than at any other place in their lives – their work, circle of friends, Facebook (gag), Instagram, etc. Outside of professional journalists, media members, and celebrities, no one has a bigger audience than their Twitter followers. And journalists, media members and celebrities all also have Twitter accounts.

Twitter has become the de facto primary communications medium of the country/world.

Who reads blogs, for example? Never mind that a blog is a much more appropriate venue to air most all thoughts longer than 140 characters. By and large, however, nobody reads them. Not even blogs referred to in a link embedded in a tweet. Not unless that link leads back to an article in the Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Vox, The Guardian, or the Wall Street Journal, etc.

If you doubt me, stop for a minute. Do you hear those crickets? See what I mean?

Anyway, I took down the tweet storm and re-composed it, after which it went from a 12-part thread, to a 100-part monstrosity warning of the rise of Rodrigo Duterte, a murderous thug and Trump wannabe who currently reigns supreme as ‘president’ of the Philippines. Duterte’s utilization of a different other only helps highlight the Other as a generic tool in-and-of-itself, not a reference to any one specific group.

What I haven’t done yet is convert that long series of short sentences into a properly formatted, paragraph-based essay. And unless I can figure out how to install an image of an actual (blank) tweet as the backdrop of each sentence in the thread, numbered tweet storms look a little silly as an essay.

So that’s coming, the Duterte essay. (As a side note, I saw a profile of Duterte on the BBC the other night, so his little backwater fascism isn’t going to stay under the world’s radar for much longer. The New York Times has already done several excellent pieces in the past months, including a stunning photo essay, highlighting the atrocities quietly taking place in Manila and surrounding environs.

Still, I think most Americans see the unpaved backstreets of the Philippine capitol and shrug, thinking “Sure, but that can’t happen here. That’s a third-world problem right there.” Well, maybe it won’t happen exactly that way, with all of Duterte’s unhinged, murderous, extra-judicial thuggery, but the overall pattern should be alarming, independent of the relative number of asphalt contractors employed in a given country. The focus should be on the chilling parallels in governing styles, a pattern that repeats in autocracies and authoritarian dictatorships the world over; a pattern that echoes deep through the cavernous halls of history.

In the interim (i.e., while I get my sh*t together on the Duterte essay edits), we should talk about the Other as a notion. Particularly now that Dear Leader is ratcheting up the rhetoric about radical Islamic terrorists, or to use his shorthand, Muslims, in preparation for his next power grab in the aftermath of the nearly inevitable next terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

More on this next time…

– Atticus West

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