Last January, after Katrina Pierson, Donald Trump's spokeswoman at the time, Tweeted a blatantly racist message about President Obama and Mitt Romney, J.K. Rowling Tweeted back, "Death Eaters walk among us."
What a difference a year makes. Death Eaters not only walk among us--now they occupy the White House.
In the Rowling's Harry Potter books, a Death Eater is someone who hates democracy, equality, and human rights. Death Eaters advocate racial purity, seeing other peoples and races as ugly, inferior, and dangerous. Death Eaters have no respect for the truth, and consequently don't understand the value of a free press--which they despise.
Being sociopaths, Death Eaters are free of the normal constraints of empathy and conscience, and so give free reign to their aggressive instincts towards others. Death Eaters are aroused by and drawn to the vulnerability of others, the way sharks are aroused by the smell of blood. Death Eaters like to bully and intimidate people, particularly those they perceive as weaker than themselves. Violence, war, and even torture are attractive to Death Eaters.
If you had any doubt that Donald Trump is a Death Eater, consider all that the Groper in Chief and his circle of Dementors have done in the space of just three short weeks:
*Banned over 200 million people, from seven Muslim countries, from entering the US.
*Banned all refugees from settling in the US.
*Revoked the visas of 60-100,000 people, stranding thousands across the globe and filling millions of immigrants and alien residents with fear and anxiety.
*Insulted, threatened, or bullied the nations of Iran, Mexico, Germany, and Australia.
*Floated the idea of removing federal protections for gay and transgender people, in the name of "religious freedom" (before backing down).
*Appointed the CIA officer and war criminal who once oversaw torture at a "black site" in Thailand, as the new Deputy Director of the CIA.
*Kicked the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence off the National Security Council, replacing them with Trump's chief advisor, Stephen Bannon--an ultra-rightist with no political experience.
*Authorized a botched Special Forces raid on an alleged Al-Qaida camp in Yemen, killing dozens of people, including perhaps ten children. An 8-year-old girl named Nawar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was shot in the back of the neck. She bled to death over the course of two hours.
But these are only the highlights. Each day has brought some new attack on our democratic institutions, some new shameless tissue of lies issued by the Trumpists, some new attempt to circumvent the nation's principles and laws. Because that's what Death Eaters do.
Sigmund Freud speculated that living organisms have a "death drive" in addition to a life-drive--a primordial instinct for self-destruction and self-extinction. Death Eaters have the death drive in spades. The Nazis (upon whom Rowling based the Death Eaters in Harry Potter) are the paradigmatic case. Hitler not only murdered European Jewry and unleashed a terrible war that claimed tens of millions of lives, he also led his own nation into an abyss of mass destruction and moral shame. Then he too self-destructed. Alone in his bunker with his "alternative facts"--and bitterly blaming the German people for having let him down--Hitler shot himself.
Like earlier forms of fascism, Trumpism too seems governed by an unerring instinct for national self-combustion. There is something fantastically self-destructive and delusional about the Trump-Bannon-Pence troika as they sow fear and hatred across the world, a kind of slouching towards Götterdämmerung.
Veteran political elites are aghast at the international wreckage already piling up at Trump's feet, warning of the incalculable damage that Trump is doing to the American "brand." Indeed, the more aggressively Trump acts to promote his America First ideology--gutting the State Department diplomatic corps, pulling in the welcome mat for immigrants, alienating traditional allies, reneging on international human rights treaties, etc.--the more he undermines American hegemony and sets the stage for the collapse of the US Imperium.
Behind this paradox lies the irrationality of the world capitalist system, which is rapidly destroying the conditions of all planetary life. Trumpism is merely capitalism in its purest, most virulent form, signifying the collapse of all distinctions between life and death, between persons and things. The millionaires and billionaires serving in Trump's Cabinet share his vision of the total dominion of capital over workers, animals, and the natural world. That is why they want to obliterate the EPA and to deregulate Wall Street. Like capitalism itself, which has no allegiances or values of its own, they are fundamentally nihilists.
The greatest of these nihilists is Stephen Bannon, who has explicitly blamed the breakdown of society and the growth of radical Islamism on the "crisis of capitalism." But Bannon--a former Goldman Sachs executive--wants to egg the crisis on, not resolve it. Like earlier fascists, he would leverage global instabilities into an extreme nationalism, chiefly by demonizing ethnic, racial, and religious minorities.
Disturbingly, millions of Americans are coming along for the ride. Last week, after the President's unconstitutional Executive Order targeting Muslims, refugees, and immigrants, a poll found that a plurality of Americans (49%) approved of his actions. This suggests that whatever else Trump is, he is not merely an ugly anomaly or rogue element in our political system, but an excresence of the social body itself. The success of Trumpism suggests that the death drive has begun to predominate over society at large, turning the citizenry's healthy life instincts and passions into tools of repression and destruction.
We should be beyond scared. Unlike the Death Eaters in Rowling's fiction, the ones ensconced at the White House are real, and they now control the most powerful military and surveillance machine in the history of the world--including 7,000 nuclear weapons. That means that Trump, if he so chose, could unilaterally order the destruction of the whole living world in the space of 60 minutes--and there would be nothing any of us could do about it.
The fact that our system has so centralized political and economic authority that it has now placed a world-destroying power in the hands of a single madman reveals the terrifying irrationality of the "death-eating" system more generally. The problem isn't just Trump--it's the pathological society that has given monstrous birth to him.