Smirking Chimp - August 10, 2019
Here are 20 serious points of comparison between the early Hitler and Trump.
1. Neither was elected by a majority. Trump lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, receiving votes by 25.3 percent of all eligible American voters. “That’s just a little less than the percentage of the German electorate that turned to the Nazi Party in 1932–33,” Neuborne writes. “Unlike the low turnouts in the United States, turnout in Weimar Germany averaged just over 80 percent of eligible voters.” He continues, “Once installed as a minority chancellor in January 1933, Hitler set about demonizing his political opponents, and no one—not the vaunted, intellectually brilliant German judiciary; not the respected, well-trained German police; not the revered, aristocratic German military; not the widely admired, efficient German government bureaucracy; not the wealthy, immensely powerful leaders of German industry; and not the powerful center-right political leaders of the Reichstag—mounted a serious effort to stop him.”
2. Both found direct communication channels to their base. By 1936’s Olympics, Nazi narratives dominated German cultural and political life. “How on earth did Hitler pull it off? What satanic magic did Trump find in Hitler’s speeches?” Neuborne asks. He addresses Hitler’s extreme rhetoric soon enough, but notes that Hitler found a direct communication pathway—the Nazi Party gave out radios with only one channel, tuned to Hitler’s voice, bypassing Germany’s news media. Trump has an online equivalent.
“Donald Trump’s tweets, often delivered between midnight and dawn, are the twenty-first century’s technological embodiment of Hitler’s free plastic radios,” Neuborne says. “Trump’s Twitter account, like Hitler’s radios, enables a charismatic leader to establish and maintain a personal, unfiltered line of communication with an adoring political base of about 30–40 percent of the population, many (but not all) of whom are only too willing, even anxious, to swallow Trump’s witches’ brew of falsehoods, half-truths, personal invective, threats, xenophobia, national security scares, religious bigotry, white racism, exploitation of economic insecurity, and a never ending-search for scapegoats.”
3. Both blame others and divide on racial lines. As Neuborne notes, “Hitler used his single-frequency radios to wax hysterical to his adoring base about his pathological racial and religious fantasies glorifying Aryans and demonizing Jews, blaming Jews (among other racial and religious scapegoats) for German society’s ills.” That is comparable to “Trump’s tweets and public statements, whether dealing with black-led demonstrations against police violence, white-led racist mob violence, threats posed by undocumented aliens, immigration policy generally, protests by black and white professional athletes, college admission policies, hate speech, even response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico,” he says. Again and again, Trump uses “racially tinged messages calculated to divide whites from people of color.”
4. Both relentlessly demonize opponents. “Hitler’s radio harangues demonized his domestic political opponents, calling them parasites, criminals, cockroaches, and various categories of leftist scum,” Neuborne notes. “Trump’s tweets and speeches similarly demonize his political opponents. Trump talks about the country being ‘infested’ with dangerous aliens of color. He fantasizes about jailing Hillary Clinton, calls Mexicans rapists, refers to ‘shithole countries,’ degrades anyone who disagrees with him, and dreams of uprooting thousands of allegedly disloyal bureaucrats in the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI, and the CIA, who he calls ‘the deep state’ and who, he claims, are sabotaging American greatness.”
5. They unceasingly attack objective truth. “Both Trump and Hitler maintained a relentless assault on the very idea of objective truth,” he continues. “Each began the assault by seeking to delegitimize the mainstream press. Hitler quickly coined the epithet Lügenpresse (literally ‘lying press’) to denigrate the mainstream press. Trump uses a paraphrase of Hitler’s lying press epithet—‘fake news’—cribbed, no doubt, from one of Hitler’s speeches. For Trump, the mainstream press is a ‘lying press’ that publishes ‘fake news.’” Hitler attacked his opponents as spreading false information to undermine his positions, Neuborne says, just as Trump has attacked “elites” for disseminating false news, “especially his possible links to the Kremlin.”
6. They relentlessly attack mainstream media. Trump’s assaults on the media echo Hitler’s, Neuborne says, noting that he “repeatedly attacks the ‘failing New York Times,’ leads crowds in chanting ‘CNN sucks,’ [and] is personally hostile to most reporters.” He cites the White House’s refusal to fly the flag at half-mast after the murder of five journalists in Annapolis in June 2018, Trump’s efforts to punish CNN by blocking a merger of its corporate parent, and trying to revoke federal Postal Service contracts held by Amazon, which was founded by Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
7. Their attacks on truth include science. Neuborne notes, “Both Trump and Hitler intensified their assault on objective truth by deriding scientific experts, especially academics who question Hitler’s views on race or Trump’s views on climate change, immigration, or economics. For both Trump and Hitler, the goal is (and was) to eviscerate the very idea of objective truth, turning everything into grist for a populist jury subject to manipulation by a master puppeteer. In both Trump’s and Hitler’s worlds, public opinion ultimately defines what is true and what is false.”
8. Their lies blur reality—and supporters spread them. “Trump’s pathological penchant for repeatedly lying about his behavior can only succeed in a world where his supporters feel free to embrace Trump’s ‘alternative facts’ and treat his hyperbolic exaggerations as the gospel truth,” Neuborne says. “Once Hitler had delegitimized the mainstream media by a series of systematic attacks on its integrity, he constructed a fawning alternative mass media designed to reinforce his direct radio messages and enhance his personal power. Trump is following the same path, simultaneously launching bitter attacks on the mainstream press while embracing the so-called alt-right media, co-opting both Sinclair Broadcasting and the Rupert Murdoch–owned Fox Broadcasting Company as, essentially, a Trump Broadcasting Network.”
9. Both orchestrated mass rallies to show status. “Once Hitler had cemented his personal communications link with his base via free radios and a fawning media and had badly eroded the idea of objective truth, he reinforced his emotional bond with his base by holding a series of carefully orchestrated mass meetings dedicated to cementing his status as a charismatic leader, or Führer,” Neuborne writes. “The powerful personal bonds nurtured by Trump’s tweets and Fox’s fawning are also systematically reinforced by periodic, carefully orchestrated mass rallies (even going so far as to co-opt a Boy Scout Jamboree in 2017), reinforcing Trump’s insatiable narcissism and his status as a charismatic leader.”
10. They embrace extreme nationalism. “Hitler’s strident appeals to the base invoked an extreme version of German nationalism, extolling a brilliant German past and promising to restore Germany to its rightful place as a preeminent nation,” Neuborne says. “Trump echoes Hitler’s jingoistic appeal to ultranationalist fervor, extolling American exceptionalism right down to the slogan ‘Make America Great Again,’ a paraphrase of Hitler’s promise to restore German greatness.” ...
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