What we learned this week

  • Nice to see a community cooperative winning the coveted title of Britain’s best pub. Bought back by its customers after it went bankrupt, it now hosts a library, shop and allotments.
  • A gloomy but important warning from Richard Heinberg on how the US may be ‘awaiting our own Reichstag Fire‘ – a disaster that will serve as an excuse for cracking down on the press and the courts.


  1. Trump is awaiting his Reichstag fire. That is incredibly insulting and an immediate Goodwin’s law fail.

    Trump Derangement Syndrome clearly is a real thing.


    You say I am patronising you but you have said Trump is trying to start a war and now you think you have ‘learned this week’ that he planning some kind of coup. You sure you don’t want to sit down in a darkened room for a while?

    1. Settle down already. I haven’t said that Trump wants a war or that he’s planning a coup.

      1) In my post on military funding, I have pointed out that moving to a war footing without an actual war may well precipitate one. I have no idea what Donald Trump wants, other than our endless attention. What he’s going to get is a reply in kind – increased military spending from China and Russia. That’s profoundly dangerous. I also know that some of Trump’s most senior advisers believe an apocalyptic war against Islam is inevitable – also profoundly dangerous.

      2) In this post, I’ve linked to one of many commentaries pointing to lessons from history about how a disaster can be used to legitimise a power grab. Forewarned is forearmed. We’ve already seen how the Trump administration fabricates terrorist acts to make their case. What are they going to do with a real one? I chose Heinberg’s because he lists specific risks, but the same point was made more moderately by Paul Waldman in The Week:

      You’re also misusing Godwin’s law, by the way. It refers specifically to online discussion forums and hyperbole. If we want to learn anything from history, we can’t go yelling fail at any mention of the Nazis.

      1. I am old enough to remember the election on Ronald Reagan. Supposedly he was a dangerous fool, with evil advisors who was going to destroy US civil liberties and start a world war by increasing in defence spending. Sound familiar? Yet he handed over to a democratically elected successor having defeated Soviet tyranny and is now in the pantheon of great presidents.

        Now Trump is no Reagan (not by a long chalk) but this constant hyperbole is undermining any sensible point you make.

        China is not increasing its defence budget because of Trump’s proposed increase. This year’s increase is 7%, last year China increased their defence budget by….. 8%. So obviously Obama threatened them more than Trump or more likely they have a long term plan they are sticking to. Same for Russia. Not a dangerous arms race.

        The US has the oldest written constitution in the world, revered by all levels of society, that is precisely designed to prevent an over-powerful leader. The differences to Weimar Germany are so much greater than the similarities. I’ll put money on it surviving Trump.

        Running to the Nazi’s for historical allusions show the poverty of historical knowledge. Surely a much better comparison to the case of the risk of Trump is that of 19th century Latin America where many republics based their constitutions on the US one only to fall to strong man rule. Or maybe Chavezism in Venezuela in the last 20 years.. oh sorry, the left liked him to start with.

        Now if you like Richard Heinberg spend all day fretting that global calamity is around the corner because of peak this and that, or climate change or overpopulation, then you develop a millenarian mindset that sees disaster in everything.

        1. I’m not making predictions, certainly not about the collapse of America. Knowing how freedoms can be eroded is vital to protecting them.

          I disagree on your historical comparisons. Those are comparisons to Trump and strong man rule, and that’s not the point here. The reichstag fire is a specific reference to an event legitimising a crackdown.

          Alternative allusions would include the London bombings and the subsequent Terrorism Act, which made it possible to detain people for 90 days without charge. Or you could look at the deportations that followed the assassination of president McKinley in 1901, and the surveillance programmes that led to the formation of the FBI. Or the press censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression that followed bomb attacks in Paris in 1893. But those are not better comparisons than the Reichstag fire, since we’re ultimately dealing with a hypothetical in Trump’s America.

        2. The Reichstag fire is the extreme event of using a crisis. Hitler used it to end democracy and it was a fairly straight line to war and genocide from that.

          Trump using an event to strengthen the Patriots Act or similar would be much closer to Blair after 7/7 or the those others that occurred in democratic countries. (And remained so after the event).

          Leaping to the extreme example is either a case of the writer getting things out of proportion or an attempt to exaggerate to gain an audience, a kind of fake news style reporting that those same writers would decry on the other side. It’s part of the polarisation of politics I thought you believed was a bad idea.

          TRUMP – HITLER! headlines, with a little qualification later that of course the writer isn’t comparing Trump to Hitler have a place on The Canary but otherwise demean the author.

          1. There’s no need to compare Trump to Hitler. That’s getting ahead of ourselves in unhelpful fashion. The specific incident of the Reichstag fire is what we’re discussing. The whole point is to learn from history so that nobody gets to do what Hitler did with that incident. It is possible to mention the Nazis without insulting anybody. It has to be, or we can’t learn anything. Your needless flagging of Godwin’s law just comes across like some kind of internet Basil Fawlty.

            Sure, the Reichstag fire is a dramatic example, but alerting people to a worst scenario is entirely legitimate. We’re not talking about a Blair scale tinkering here. Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to ‘do something’ about the free press, and he has been scapegoating the judiciary as well. If he follows through on those threats, then we are talking about serious damage to American democracy.

          2. Context is all. In a context where it seems like half the blogsphere has been shouting ‘Trump is Hitler’ for a couple of months making historical allusions to Trump’s Reichstag fire is a pretty clear link. I mean can you discuss the Reichstag fire without reference to Hitler?

            It is not the start to sober analysis but is clickbait. It is exaggerating and the trouble with crying wolf is that when the wolf does arrive no one believes you. So in claiming Trump is looking for his Reichstag fire since you are clearly exaggerating you are making people take the genuine threat to liberty less seriously, not more.

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