The Danger of Quirky Cults and Politics
The forces of democracy should be on vigilant guard against dangerous far-right cults and political movements today as much as they were during World War II.
The Donald Trump administration opened the door for quirky and crazy cults to dominate political discourse in the United States. Never before in the history of the United States has a political movement combined a cult of personality – that surrounding Trump – with a crackpot political conspiracy – “Qanon” – and fundamentalist “prosperity gospel” Christianity, the latter best described as the unauthorized use of Jesus’s name by a gang of money-grifting charlatans. This toxic brew has been used as a convenient vehicle for right-wing politicians to build a base of donors and supporters. The truly dangerous nature of the Trump political movement, which nested in the Republican Party to the point that Trumpists now control the party of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, was demonstrated in the January 6 takeover by Trump supporters of the U.S. Capitol building.
Today, alarming numbers of Americans believe in the most outlandish of conspiracy theories, including those that undermine the American political system, including its electoral process. This is not only an American problem. The political cults nurtured under the Trump administration are being exported to other countries, including Brazil, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, and others, where they are not only being embraced by rank-and-file citizens but by political leaders of the far-right.
With the Republican Party now fully under the control of Trump and his base of Trump cult members and Qanon conspiracy cultists, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Republican arm of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is positioned to spread far-right conspiracy-laden propaganda in countries where it maintains a presence. Coupled with Trump fanatics who burrowed their way into the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors entities – Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and Television Marti, Alhurra, and Radio Sawa – control of the IRI provides a mechanism for Trump and Qanon conspiracists to spread their neo-fascist and neo-Nazi venom to foreign political parties and media outlets.
The international repercussions of Trumpism as a fascist political ideology are being felt in Latin America, where Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of Brazil’s Adolf Hitler- and Benito Mussolini-admiring president, Jair Bolsonaro, serves as a linchpin in Trump political adviser Steve Bannon’s global “Fascist International,” known as “The Movement.” Eduardo Bolsonaro was placed at a meeting of a Trump “War Council,” which included leaders of the Qanon conspiracy, in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC on the evening of January 5 of this year, the eve of the armed and violent attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Congress. This represents the type of internationalization of the fascist movement not seen since Hitler’s “Deutsches Ausland-Institut” in Stuttgart recruited the far-right in other nations to organize their own Nazi political organizations and parties. Authorities in the United States and Brazil must be on guard against efforts by the IRI and its parent organization, NED, to provide material support to the Bolsonaro family’s new far-right political contrivance in Brazil, the Alliance for Brazil (ALIANÇA). Just as the entire Trump family, including his offspring, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Tiffany Trump, have laid claim to the stewardship of the U.S. Republican Party, Bolsonaro’s sons, Federal Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, Rio de Janeiro councilor Carlos Bolsonaro, and Sao Paulo Chamber Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, along with their father, control ALIANÇA. And, just as ominously, Eduardo Bolsonaro currently serves as the chairman of the Brazilian Congress’ Foreign Affairs Committee.
The combination of far-right cultism and nepotism have had a damaging effect on the democratic systems of the United States and Brazil, especially considering that the bases of political support for Trump and Bolsonaro in their respective nations are found in the cultist Christian fundamentalist sects, from where Qanon and related conspiracy theories are generated and propagated, including those related to the coronavirus pandemic. Bolsonaro ally and Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo has falsely called coronavirus a plot by “Communists,” referring to the virus as the “comunavirus.” He has similarly described global climate change as a “Communist plot” designed by the government of China. Araujo and the Bolsonaros have also falsely re-written history to claim that Nazism was a “leftist” movement and Adolf Hitler was a “socialist.” Those sorts of conspiracy theories are also predominant in the Trump Republican Party, where two Chinese conspiracy cults, Falun Gong and exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui’s “Himalaya Supervisory Organization,” constantly traffic in conspiracies about Chinese development of Covid-19 as a biological super-weapon, fanatical tripe that is gladly spread by Qanon and other far-right conspiracy outlets.
It is noteworthy that Araujo’s father was the notorious Henrique Fonseca de Araújo, the Attorney General for Brazil’s right-wing military dictatorship, who personally interceded to prevent the extradition to Germany of Gustav Franz Wagner, the deputy commander of the Sobibór extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. As part of the Nazis’ Operation Reinhard, as many as 250,000 men, women, and children were murdered by the Nazis at Sobibór, the fourth deadliest of Nazi concentration camps in terms of mass exterminations.
The IRI, now under Trump’s control, can have its wings clipped by convincing its financiers to cut off its funding. These include, in addition to the NED and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), themselves problematic entities, the governments of Canada and Australia, the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEP), and the British High Commission in Islamabad. IRI’s partners, if they truly support democracy, should sever ties to the IRI. Its partners include the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute, the Asian Network for Free Elections, the Arab World for Research and Development, the ARI Movement of Turkey, Avanza Chile, the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Bhutan Foundation, the Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, the Carter Center, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Center for Research Transparency and Accountability, Centar modernih veština of Belgrade, Center for New Initiatives, Center for Research and Security Studies, Centro de Estudios sobre la Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje del Derecho (CEEAD) of Mexico, Election Administration of Georgia, CEVRO in Prague, Community of Democracies, Consejo Civico of Monterrey (Mexico), Civil Initiative Support Center of Ukraine, Eastern European Studies Center, Eduardo Frei Foundation of Chile, Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment (DTCE) of Pakistan, Education for Democracy Foundation, Economic Forum of Poland, European Endowment for Democracy, European Institute for Gender Equality, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa, European People’s Party, Inicijativa F5 of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Freedom House, Forum of Federations, Fundacion Colosio of Mexico, Fundacion Rafael Preciado of Mexico, Generation Democracy, Georgetown University Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, Georgia Institute of Politics, Guyana National Youth Council, Health Policy Institute, (U.S.) House Democracy Partnership, Hudson Institute, Institute of Economic and Social Studies of Slovakia, the Institute for Inclusive Security, Istanbul Aydin University, Institute of Political Education of Ukraine, Institute for Public Opinion Research, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, ICMA-ML of Mexico, International Center for Democratic Transition, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Internews, Kavkasia TV, Leadership Trek, Instytut Lecha Walesy of Poland, Libertarian Club of Serbia, Libertad y Desarrollo (LyD) of Chile, Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, Macedonian Women’s Lobby, MESA 10 of Slovakia, Movimiento Pro-Vecino of Mexico, National Democratic Institute (an arm of the U.S. Democratic Party of which President Joe Biden is the titular head), Mreža za Političku Odgovornost (MPO) of Serbia, Network of Democrats in the Arab World, Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), Peace Education and Development (PEAD) Foundation of Pakistan, the Polish Institute of International Affairs, Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation (PAUCI), Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party (PolAk), Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI), Sally Women’s Institute, Search for Common Ground, Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, South African Institute of Race Relations, Syrian Emergency Task Force, Uganda Youth Network, Wilfred Martens Center, Parliamentary Club of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Women’s Democracy Network, Youth Coalition for Unity and Development of Cambodia, Youth Council of Cambodia, and Youth of the European People’s Party.
The question that should be put to these organizations is a simple one. Do they stand for democracy or will they continue to partner with an operational arm of the Republican Party, which now stands for fascism, white supremacy, and misogyny? That should not be a hard question to answer, even for NGOs that appear to be nothing more than Central Intelligence Agency fronts.
The forces of democracy should be on vigilant guard against dangerous far-right cults and political movements today as much as they were during World War II. After witnessing neo-Nazis and white supremacists laying siege to the U.S. Capitol, various U.S. state capitol buildings, and almost seizing control of the German Reichstag in Berlin last summer, it is clear that the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on May 7, 1945 was not actually a surrender but a cease fire. The Nazis have returned only this time they have penetrated the very halls of democratic political power in the United States and Brazil and are attempting to do the same in Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Australia, Italy, and other nations.