Donald Trump's Barbarism: The Power-Amassing Techniques of Demagogs
March 10, 2016
William Saletan / Slate.com & Robert Reich & The Berkeley Daily Planet
Commentary: How does an enlightened nation descend into barbarism? That used to be a question for historians. Now it's a process you can watch in real time. In recent days, Donald Trump has been casting aside moral constraints on torture and violence against civilians. At his campaign rallies, crowds have cheered him on. What kind of country would the United States become if Trump and his followers get their way?
Donald Trump's Barbarism
The GOP front-runner's plans to prosecute the war on terror are sickening
William Saletan / Slate.com
(March 7, 2016) -- How does an enlightened nation descend into barbarism? That used to be a question for historians. Now it's a process you can watch in real time. In recent days, Donald Trump has been casting aside moral constraints on torture and violence against civilians.
At his campaign rallies, crowds have cheered him on. What kind of country would the United States become if Trump and his followers get their way? Just listen as Trump spells it out for you.
1. Torture. Since November, Trump has said he would approve not just waterboarding, but "a hell of a lot worse." That's a change from George W. Bush's administration, which justified waterboarding on the grounds that it wasn't torture.
Trump dismisses the taboo against torture altogether. "Let's assume it is" torture, he said of waterboarding at a campaign event in South Carolina on Feb. 17. It's still "absolutely fine," he concluded, and "we should go much stronger."
2. Retribution. Other Republicans, such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, argue that brutal interrogation methods are justified only to prevent an attack. Trump rejects that constraint.
On Nov. 23, he told a crowd in Ohio that waterboarding extracts useful information from terrorists, but that even if it didn't, he would approve it, and "more than that," because "if it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing to us."
3. Collective punishment. In a Trump administration, you don't have to be a terrorist to be targeted for retaliation. You just have to be related to one. On Dec. 3, Trump said of terrorists, "You have to take out their families."
When Fox News host Bill O'Reilly asked Trump to explain himself, Trump replied, falsely, that wives and children of the 9/11 hijackers had been sent home before the attack to "watch Daddy tonight on television knock down the World Trade Center." He continued: "There has to be retribution. And if there is not going to be retribution, you are never going to stop terrorism."
4. Hostage taking. Trump says he would target terrorists' family members because they're the people terrorists care about. On Dec. 6, he said on Face the Nation that although terrorists "say they don't mind dying . . . I can tell you this: They want their families left alone."
At a Republican debate on Dec. 15, he added: "I would be very, very firm with families. Frankly, that will make people think, because they may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families' lives."
The audience applauded. The next day, Trump repeated that terrorists "care more about their families than they care about themselves" and that he "would do pretty severe stuff" to a terrorist's wife. The crowd roared its approval.
5. Religious war. Trump routinely demands payback against ISIS for killing Christians. "The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages, and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind," he wrote in a USA Today op-ed on Feb. 15. Often, Trump mentions that ISIS kills other people, too. But the only victim group he identifies by name is Christians.
6. Weakness. If you don't accept torture or targeting civilians, Trump says you're soft. In the Dec. 15 debate, Jeb Bush said these ideas were "crazy." Trump replied that Bush was "a very nice person. But we need tough people." In another debate on Feb. 6, Cruz rejected torture and waterboarding.
Trump called Cruz's answer "really weak." At a rally in New Hampshire on Feb. 8, Trump gleefully told the crowd what a woman in the audience was calling Cruz for his answer: "She said he's a pussy."
7. Level playing field. Trump views laws and scruples as foolish impediments. At a rally in Florida on Saturday, he complained that in the war on ISIS, "We're playing with two sets of rules: their rules and our rules."
At a press conference that night, after winning two primaries, he went further: "It's very hard to be successful in beating someone when your rules are very soft and their rules are unlimited." He vowed to loosen American torture laws "so that we can better compete with a vicious group of animals."
In an interview that aired Sunday on Face the Nation, Trump reinforced this point: "We are playing by rules, but they have no rules. It's very hard to win when that's the case." He pledged to "strengthen the laws so that we can better compete." Trump's exchange with moderator John Dickerson continued:
Dickerson: Isn't that separates us from the savages -- rules?
Trump: No, I don't think so. No. We have to beat the savages.
Dickerson: And therefore throw all the rules out?
Trump: We have to beat the savages.
Dickerson: By being savages?
Trump: No. We -- well, look, you have to play the game the way they're playing the game. You're not going to win if we are soft, and they are -- they have no rules. Now, I want to stay within the laws. I want to do all of that. But I think we have to increase the laws.
You can see where this line of thinking would take us. To even the odds -- to equalize the rules -- we would have to behave like ISIS. Trump thinks about the laws of war the same way he thinks about trade barriers: The only way to get a level playing field is to do to others what they've done to you.
8. Imperial presidency. In Thursday's debate, Trump was asked what he would do if the military, citing U.S. law, refused his orders to target the families of terrorists. He replied, "They're not going to refuse me. . . . If I say, 'Do it,' they're going to do it." The next day, apparently after consultation with cooler heads, he issued a statement promising, "I will not order a military officer to disobey the law."
But by Saturday, at a rally in Florida, Trump was vowing to push back those laws: "We're going to stay within the laws. But you know what we're going to do? We're going to have those laws broadened." On Face the Nation, he said he would "have the law expanded." Trump has previously suggested that he could restore waterboarding without changing the law: "You reclassify [it], and you'll see what happens."
9. No limits. Trump rarely specifies what he would do to terrorists' families. On Dec. 6, when Dickerson asked Trump what he meant by "going after the families," Trump told him, "I'm going to leave that to your imagination." In a Dec. 16 interview, O'Reilly asked Trump, "You're not going to assassinate them, are you?"
Trump replied, "I don't know what I'd do." Trump keeps his answers vague on the same grounds he uses to justify his vagueness about future military action: He wants to keep the enemy guessing. In both cases, the effect is that Americans have to guess, too.
Fifteen years ago, in an address to Congress after 9/11, President George W. Bush described the moral pathology of terrorists. "We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety," said Bush. "By abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism and Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it leads, in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies."
Some day, God willing, that's where Trump's ruthless ideology will end up, too.
Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He's the author of Bearing Right.
Trump's Script: The Eight
Power-Amassing Techniques of Fascist Dictators
Robert Reich / Robert Reich's Facebook Page
(March 8, 2016) -- Since the 1930s, fascist dictators have used 7 techniques to amass power. I'm not suggesting Donald Trump is a fascist or wanna-be dictator, but he does seem to be following the script.
1 Create a cult of personality. (Donald Trump doesn't offer policy prescriptions. He offers himself as a strongman who is powerful enough do whatever it takes.)
2 Jail the media. (Trump hasn't gone this far, but reporters covering his rallies are kept in a cage, quite literally. And he describes the media as his enemy.)
3 Intimidate opponents. (This is Trump's stock in trade. For example, he tweeted recently that the Ricketts family, who are spending money against his candidacy, "better be careful, they have a lot to hide.")
4 Incite violence. (People describing themselves as Trump supporters have attacked Muslims and the homeless. At his rallies, his supporters have beaten and spit on black protesters.)
5 Scapegoat racial and ethnic minorities. (Trump blames America's problems on Mexican immigrants, Muslims, Muslim-Americans, and African-Americans.)
6 Glorify national power. (Trump's entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power and fueling xenophobia against other nations.)
7 Disregard international law. (Trump wants to use torture, punish the families of terrorists, for example.)
8 Create a mass following directly, without party or other intermediaries. (Trump's tweets circumvent all filters. It's just him and his followers.)
What do you think?
Readings on the Theme of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler
Compiled by Gar Smith from Various Sources
Donald Trump Used to Keep a Book of Hitler's Speeches by His Bed
(March 4, 2016) -- According to a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, Ivana Trump once told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that her husband, real-estate mogul Donald Trump, now a leading Republican presidential candidate, kept a book of Hitler's speeches near his bed.
"Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that, from time to time, her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed . . . . Hitler's speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist," Marie Brenner wrote.
* * *
Trump and Hitler
When Brenner asked about the book, Trump said, "Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he's a Jew."
Later, Trump said, "If I had these speeches -- and I am not saying that I do -- I would never read them."
The best part? While Davis acknowledged being Trump's friend and giving him a copy of My New Order (not Mein Kampf as Trump claimed), he isn't even Jewish.
* * *
Hitler's Rhetorical Theory
Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Idaho State University
Hitler was a great public speaker. His claim in 1939 was probably correct: "I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses."
Hitler scholars seem unanimous in recognizing his speaking skill. Writes Klaus Fisher, "Without his remarkable gift of persuasion, Hitler would never have reached such heights of power." CBS correspondent William Shirer, who heard Hitler often, declares, "Hitler has a magic power to sway millions with his voice."
British scholar of the Nazi-era H. Trevor Roper explains: "Hitler, at the beginning, had only his voice . . . that was his only instrument of power. His only asset was his demagogic power over the masses, his voice." Kershaw concedes "his rhetorical talent was, of course, recognized even by his political enemies."
* * *
Fundamental to Hitler's rhetorical theory is his conviction that, for leadership, the spoken word is superior to the written word. So ingrained is this principle that Hitler expresses it in the brief one-page preface to Mein Kampf: "I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to orators and not to great writers."
Hitler dismisses "fops and knights of the pen" who "for leadership" are "neither born nor chosen. The broad masses of people can be moved only by the power of speech."
* * *
Hitler had contempt for his German audiences declaring, "the masses are slow moving and always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice something, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses remember them."
* * *
In a preface to Hitler's Table Talk British historian H. R. Trevor Roper describes Hitler's opinion of the German people: Dickschadel (thick skulled), Querschadle (mentally fouled up) and Dumm Kopfe (dumb, stupid). Hitler did not conceal his contempt. He told 200,000 cheering Berliners in 1926, "the broad masses are blind and stupid and don't know what they are doing.
* * *
Hitler was especially condescending toward women: "To convince women by reasoned argument is always impossible."
German historian Werner Maser explains, "Hitler knew his people -- the masses he so detested. More than that, he despised them and said so openly without circumspection -- and still they applauded him."
* * *
Hitler: "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is born in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. Propaganda must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over again."
* * *
Hitler agrees with Sigmund Freud, who wrote in 1924, the same year Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, "the orator who wishes to sway a crowd must exaggerate, and he must repeat the same thing again and again."
* * *
Hitler cautions against attacking multiple enemies because "as soon as the wavering masses are confronted with too many enemies objectivity at once steps in and the question is raised whether actually all the others are wrong and your movement alone is right."
Hitler: "It is necessary to indict one sole enemy to march against one sole enemy." Because his enemies were numerous, Hitler believed "it is part of the genius of a great leader to make adversaries of different fields appear as always belonging to one category."
* * *
Explains Klaus Fisher, "Anti-Semitism, in fact, was the oxygen of Hitler's political life. Anti-Semitism was the hate that fueled the Nazi Movement."
* * *
Hitler: "You will see how little time we need to upset the ideas of the whole world simply by attacking Judaism. Anti-Semitism is beyond question the most important weapon in my propaganda arsenal and I use it with almost deadly efficiency."
* * *
Hitler's rhetorical theory also emphasizes one-sided, black-and-white, all-or-nothing reasoning, because, according to Hitler: "the thinking of the people is not complicated but very simple and all of one piece. Their thinking does not have multiple shadings. It has positive and negative, love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie but never half this way and half that way."
* * *
Hitler: "In the size of the lie there is a certain factor of credibility, because, with the primitive simplicity of their feelings the masses fall victim more easily to a big lie than to a small one.
Since they themselves occasionally lie in small matters, but the masses of people would be ashamed to tell great lies. Such a falsehood would not enter their minds, and they will not be able to imagine others asserting, with great boldness, the most infamous misrepresentation.
And even with the explanation of the matter the masses long hesitate and vacillate and accept some ground as true. Consequently, from the most bold lie something will remain."
* * *
Hitler: "For myself personally I would never tell a lie, but there is no falsehood I would not perpetuate for Germany's sake."
* * *
According to Hitler: "Conscience is a Jewish invention like circumcision. My task is to free men from the dirty and degrading ideas of conscience and morality."
* * *
Hitler: "the people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions far less than emotions and feeling." Hitler explains, "My purpose is to arouse, to whip up, to incite."
* * *
[Hitler] constructed a pragmatic Machiavellian rhetorical theory, based on a cynical analysis of his audience, that emphasized repetition, scapegoating, black-and-white reasoning, lying, and emotional appeal.
* * *
Hitler: "I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses."
A Brief Profile of Adolf Hitler: 1889 - 1945
In Mein Kampf, Hitler promised to provide jobs, sort out the economy and make Germany proud and strong again.
The Racist Origin of Trump's Family Fortune
Troutfishing / The Daily Kos
(February 28, 2016) -- . . . . By the late 1940s, Donald Trump's father, Fred Trump, was a flourishing real estate developer profiting heavily from the pro-WW2 vet largesse of the federal government.
As iconic folk singer and WW2 veteran Woodie Guthrie learned, after renting an apartment in Fred Trump’s FHA-supported Beach Haven, NY apartment complex, Trump did not rent to African-Americans, veterans included.
In short, racist, government-supported public housing built the fortune that launched Donald Trump. Fred Trump did not originate the segregationist rental policy, but he did enforce it.
Historian Will Kaufman, digging through material at the Woodie Guthrie Archive, found several song lyric writings from Woodie Guthrie that attacked Fred Trump’s racist rental policy:
Old Man Trump knows
Just how much
he stirred up
In the bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed
That color line
Here at his
Eighteen hundred family project ....
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