The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock introduced by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists representing a countdown to global catastrophe. It was introduced in 1947, in the early years of the Cold War, with its attention being drawn to the geopolitical game changer known as the atomic bomb, and observing the possibility of mankind’s usage of a series of weapons that could ultimately seal its collective fate. Its attention on the possibility of global thermonuclear war, until 2007 when it expanded to climate change, and other man-made potential risks to humanity.
Apparently, this early stage of Donald Trump’s presidency was enough this year to move the clock 2 1/2 minutes to midnight based on “the strident rise in nationalism”, and his comments indicating a dismissal of the threat of climate change, along with his rather cavalier attitude towards his stewardship of the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal.
It marks the very first time that a single individual has been the reason for a change in the clock, in it in fact increased the risk to our continued existence on terra firma. Not even Nixon (who reportedly told his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, he wanted to nuke Vietnam during a drunken rant), or Reagan (whose Strategic Defense Initiative would have made the already paranoid then-gerontocracy of the Soviet Union even more alarmist and warmed up an apparently cooling Cold War had it been practically feasible to design) carried that ignominy. Yet President Trump did in a week what other bellicose “Cold Warriors” couldn’t do even in eight years of office.
Given his rather alarming presidential speech, which did nothing of convincing the world that he was a president for all Americans, it should be no surprise that Trump invoked such a response. Donald Trump started his presidency with a remarkable lack of subtlety: Within a matter of days, he had already executive orders declaring his war on Obamacare, immigrants, and the “inner cities”. The Dakota Access Pipeline project that Obama halted was immediately reinstated, sparking violence between the Standing Rock protesters and the police. Republicans used the transition period to begin kickstart their agenda to repeal Obamacare by hosting late-night sessions in Congress, hoping to act before the Democrats attempt to block their attempts. It seems that only their own internal disagreements, and their own rush to repeal it catching unwanted attention, are what’s keeping the Affordable Care Act alive.
Trump was also very mindful of the fact that his inauguration attendees were considerably less than that of either of Obama’s, and after taking to Twitter to rant about it, he gave a speech at Langley – The headquarters of the CIA, stood before its memorial and gave a speech with an inordinate amount of focus given to his frustration on the press’ reporting of crowd size. So outraged was John Brennan, the then-director of the CIA – that he announced his resignation from the post. And following his departure, four other State Department officials went with him – it is currently up in the air whether it was a result of their services expiring before the finalised transition, or Trump’s ongoing fit-of-pique, or even reluctance to take part in the Trump Administration. In any event, Trump’s response to the “brain drain” of national security seems to be to doing the same as in how Trump himself got elected – appoint a wealthy, yet woefully inexperienced individual as head of your intelligence branches, in a way that practically screams “special interests”.
In addition to his special advisor and chief strategist, Steve Bannon – CEO of Breitbart.com, a website known for conspiracy-mongering, and churning out right-wing agitprop for the audience of reactionaries and neo-reactionaries with a collective will and a collective persecution complex to mold their own ideals of an America free from burdens such as accountability to a wider populace, respect for dissenting opinions, and a responsibility to marginalized groups.
The Press Secretary spending his hours spouting falsehoods before the media for the sake of Trump’s vanity. The President’s counsellor openly describing these falsehoods as “alternative facts”, and furthermore a chief adviser that advocates an openly adversarial approach with the press telling it to “keep it’s mouth shut”, and referring to it as “the opposition party”. This is as clear a signal of “post-truth politics” and it just so happens that this year, a team working on behalf of the most powerful office in the world is spinning the flow of information as if it were cotton candy.
Meanwhile, over in the UK – where it’s halfway towards insanity, as opposed to completing the whole track. Prime Minister Theresa May is deadset on a “hard Brexit” – which equates to a swift and hasty termination of the United Kingdom’s involvement with the European Union and the renegotiation on the laws, treaties and the trade regulations that it was beholden to, in addition to an exit of the EEA – The European Economic Area, which would have the UK adhere to largely the same regulations, and receive the same benefits in the EU (with virtually no input in its direction), only leaving free decision-making being in the fishering policies, its home and foreign policies and its exclusion from the Schengen area would remain intact. Though that last bit would have effectively meant the same thing as it was in the EU anyway.
“Brexit means Brexit” became a whole lot clearer when a plot by the Cabinet to announce Britain skydiving off the economic plane with no parachute was announced. May had made it clear that she wanted to ensure that nothing of the UK’s was beholden to the EU. And although stalled by the efforts of Gina Miller by starting a challenge to the legality of the Government’s plan to launch Brexit had slowed the march to economic uncertainty down with the Supreme Court ruling that Government cannot come to an Article 50 agreement without the consultation of Parliament.
This had, at best only slowed May down on the march to Brexit. For on February 2nd, the House of Commons took a vote on the “White Paper” signifying the process in which the UK will trigger Article 50, with Parliament overwhelmingly being in favour of the White Paper – 498 in favour, 114 against. And so, closer and closer to the abyss Britain moves.
When Ms. May Went To Washington
While Theresa May claimed that when meeting President Trump that she would hold him to account over his sexist comments, and other concerning statements regarding the “Muslim ban”, they were conspicuously absent during her visit on the 27th January. As a matter of fact, far from giving a stern lecture to Trump on behalf of the United Kingdom, she held hands with him. It was not as if she forgot what she came for – Indeed, if making it clear to Trump what the boundaries of British goodwill were the mission, then none other then BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg did not hesitate directly ask Trump about his travel ban, and his reactionary stance on reproductive rights would’ve presented a good reminder. However, since the purpose seemed more about getting a post-Brexit Britain with a new trade deal with the United States, and reiterating other alliances – May was only too happy to address the question directed to the US President, since the President was not willing to respond. “Special relationship” indeed.
Some onlookers regarded this as something of a parallel to the Bush-Blair relationship. But it is more complex than that: Anyone who’s followed Theresa May’s Premiership, or indeed her political career in general would have already received whiplash from the amount of flip-flopping that she does on her stances. Just take a look on her statements on the NHS: Recently, she admitted that the NHS is under pressure and claimed that £400million to alleviate winter period strain even after she insisted just months before that the NHS will receive no further payments, saying that it received enough money that it is. Indeed, Brexit itself is one of them – she chose to abstain from the whole thing while half her party were raring to break out, including rivals Boris Johnson (sort of) and Michael Gove. Now she’s striving for severance from the EU as soon as possible.
Remember that the previous president, Barack Obama was very vocal about the UK severing its relationship with the EU, even saying that it’ll be “in the back of the queue” to any new trade negotiations that the US would be interested in making. Now, we have a have President determined to captain SS Uncle Sam completely in opposition to the previous one. And May seeks to use that. After all, Trump is a man who called himself “Mr. Brexit” before he gave any indication that he knew exactly what it was. May believes that this man, volatile as his administration seems to be running, can be made to work with her by appealing to his ego. To her credit, getting him to walk back on the US leaving NATO is something of a victory for her. This relationship isn’t Blarite. It’s downright Nixonian. Only that the balance of power still lies towards the nation that perfected many of his bag of tricks.
Still May has now fallen into bed with a man who, as of today, has affected the lives of 100,000 people – from students to film directors as a result of his travel ban, and is battling a federal judge on the ban to see it through despite its questionable legality; attempting to take apart the US’ own environmental agency, feuding with national park employees, and open contempt for historical allies of the US – the alliance, as seems to be any alliance with Trump’s America, seems to be tentative. We should be worried, as Trump has shown himself to be a whimsical leader. And in an era where right-wing populism is dragging Western nations like a black hole of concentrated reactionary politics, we can expect darker times ahead in era of pompous demagogues. The clock ticks ever closer.