There’s a brilliant scene in the brilliant BBC television series The Last Kingdom where a Viking named Ragnar goes beserk on his sworn blood enemy Kjartan. He kills Kjartan and then proceeds to go mad, literally pulverizing the corpse with his sword.
Quick cuts to crowd reactions – his men, his brother (and our hero) Uhtred, his bloodthirsty girlfriend Brida, two ambiguous religious characters – Beocca, a priest, who’s not adverse to slitting throats so long as those throats are not attached to humans who’ve been baptized in the Christian faith and Hilde, a nun whom the aftereffects of pillage and rape have turned into an efficient killing machine.
And at first, the crowd is enthusiastic. Chanting, “Woo! Woo! Woo!” Which I take it was ancient Danish for “Go team!”
But gradually, the chants stop. And the faces of this remorseless assemblage grow horrified.
It’s a really genius depiction of the effects of exponential violence.
I thought of this scene many times yesterday. As I tried to make sense of the purported Sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians and the American response.
For who can fail to be outraged when chemical weapons are used on innocent civilians? Whose heart does not cry for retribution? Who does not want to join voice with one’s fellow Americans in a comforting chorus of, “Woo! Woo! Woo!”?
Full disclosure here: While the Russians may have messed around a bit on the periphery of the 2016 U.S. election, I continue to believe it’s far more likely that some disgruntled, high-ranking Democratic Party operative spilled the specifics that allegedly brought down Hillary Clinton.
I believe it because that’s the simplest explanation.
I believe it because the spilled info was not in and of itself that incredibly damaging: In the end, those 63 million people who voted for Trump don’t really give a shit where somebody’s email server is located; until very recently, all of Trump’s senior staff continued to use private email accounts.
No, those 63 million people were looking for a reason not to vote for HRC. And they found one.
One might also say, given all the original Clinton administration’s underground machinations – in 1991 and again in 1996 – designed to snare Russia’s leadership for uber-Drunk Boris Yeltsin, that any outrage on America’s part about electoral meddling has a decidedly comic angle.
One of the rare good things about Trump, I thought, was that he seemed determined to improve Russian/American relations.
Anyway. It’s quite obvious the Trump administration is not going to do a damn thing to help the constituency that floated it into office. The old Republican establishment is pretty much pushing through the kinds of programs they’ve always wanted.
And even if factories do come back to the U.S., it’s not gonna matter: Most of those jobs are automated now.
The Trump base seems pretty oblivious to this right now.
But sooner or later, even they are gonna come to understand that though they’re having the Big Fun calling out the snowflakes in the comments section on Fox News, nothing else is happening.
This war’s for them!
Because nothing else gets the juices of a white working-class constituency flowing like war. Drone strikes! Ground troops!
Of course, this isn't actually a large departure from policies under Obama, but the rhetoric surrounding them will be more aggressive, more targeted toward inciting scapegoating.
War is always based on a kind of pseudo-speciation behavior, a belief that cultural differences can be so profound that they amount to biological differences.
Woo, woo, woo!