Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Timothy Snyder - How Trump Follows the Fuhrer's Playbook

Yale professor, Timothy Snyder, has drawn some eerie parallels between Donald Trump and, yes, that German fanatic who rose to power in the 30s and dragged the world into the worst war in human history.

Snyder, perhaps best known for his recent book, "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century," has penned an op-ed for The Guardian in which he maps out how closely Trump and his minions seem to follow in the footsteps of that German monster (a guy he calls "Hitler").

The governing principle of the Trump administration is total irresponsibility, a claim of innocence from a position of power, something which happens to be an old fascist trick. As we see in the president’s reactions to American rightwing terrorism, he will always claim victimhood for himself and shift blame to the actual victims. As we see in the motivations of the terrorists themselves, and in the long history of fascism, this maneuver can lead to murder.
The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”. 
The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.
... The attraction of the Nazi conspiracy thinking is that we can feel like victims when we attack. Its vulnerability is that the world is full of facts. Hence Hitler’s hostility to journalism. In the Germany of the early 1930s, the newspaper industry was suffering after a financial crisis. Hitler and other Nazis used the idea of the “Lügenpresse” (“fake news”) to attack remaining journalists who were trying to report the facts. In Germany and Austria today, the far right once more speaks of the Lügenpresse, in part because the American president has made the idea respectable. The extreme right in Germany and Austria knows perfectly well that “fake news” is American English for Lügenpresse.

In the United States today, reporting was already in trouble for similar reasons before Trump, like Hitler, began to claim that the reporters who seek the facts are liars and enemies. Naturally, the president denies responsibility when people take him at his word and draw instead from the conspiracy thinking he himself spreads. Trump blames the press for attempts to murder members of the press. He seizes the occasion, as always, to present himself as the true victim. The facts hurt his feelings.

Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out. 
If Trump is not a fascist, this is only in the precise sense that he is not even a fascist. He strikes a fascist pose, and then issues generic palliative remarks and denies responsibility for his words and actions. But since total irresponsibility is a central part of the fascist tradition, it is perhaps best to give Trump his due credit as an innovator.


Lorne said...

The signs are all there, Mound, but willful ignorance about the lessons of history seem to be the modus operandi of so many today.

Jay Farquharson said...

It's not just The Insane Clown POSus. ReThug campaigns US wide are going all in with racism, anti-semitism, lies and hate.

They arn't even bothering to dogwhistle anymore.

Sykes, Wilson and Scarborough are shocked! Shocked I tell you to discover that the ReThug base is full of violent, merderous Nazi's, Klan members, morons and other Bigot's, and has been all along.


the salamander said...

.. can't recall the precise order of gravity, Mound
but in my experience, working under gifted social workers
ie the Phd's who ran remedial programs
I recall they differentiated omnipotence from narcissism
especially in the theatre of drastic comorbid mood disorders

Trump fits the omnipotence category to a T

the narcissism is essentially his showboating
the bizarre mouth/lip affectations & hand gestures
which are posturing and preening
just like the repos of microphones needing no repo
the clutching at his tie or suit buttons
the turns toward the buffoonish & howling crowd

The omnipotence however is in the manipulations
the wife cheating, crudity, tone deafness, the sheer deceits
serial lying & making up of facts..the selling out whenever required
That's 'you can't touch me' stuff
'I'm too big to control.. I can do anything'
'I rule the world as we know it.. and more
I can take it with me.. I am an immortal!'

rumleyfips said...

Two Trumpaloonies will soon be in court for sending bombs and murdering people. Will their defense say that these actions are simply free speech ? In today's Amerika it might work.

Jay Farquharson said...

Already happening:

"Lawyers for convicted domestic terrorist Patrick Stein, who had planned to bomb a Kansas mosque and apartment complex where Muslims lived the day after the 2016 election, are offering a charming argument in advance of his sentencing hearing Friday: They say he should get less than 15 years in prison -- instead of a potential life sentence -- because Donald Trump and rightwing media poisoned his brain against Muslims, so he honestly thought he was acting on the orders of his chosen presidential candidate."