Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Donald Trump May Not Be Adolph Hitler, But He's Doing A Good Imitation Of Him

Donald Trump is not Adolph Hitler.  Nor was Hitler a rapacious Manhattan real estate developer who made several fortunes on the backs of poor working stiffs.   
But there are deeply uncomfortable similarities between Hitler's satanic quest to Make Germany Great Again and Trump's campaign to do the same for Amerika . . . er, America.  And woe to those who don't see the similarities and the menace a Trump presidency represents in this context 11 months since the narcissistic boy-man took and promptly violated his oath of office with a smorgasbord of pronouncements and actions, including his Muslim ban (which of course did not involve countries in which he has business interests) and praise for white supremacists that are strikingly similar to those of Der Führer. 
Using Nazi analogies is typically a loser's game.  
Comparing someone or something to Hitler or the Third Reich stifles debate, almost always is in bad taste and triggers inevitable side debates about whether calling someone a Nazi is as bad as calling them a "kike" or "nigger."  Then there is Godwin's Law, which states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability. 
In the interests of full disclosure, I have broken what for me has been a cardinal rule about not using Nazi analogies.  This is when I have written about the Bush administration's embrace of torture techniques right out of the Nazi playbook, as well as the deafening lack of response from most Americans to this and other outrages not unlike the Germans who failed to speak out against the excesses of the Third Reich.  My first such reference was in 2007, and I feel even more strongly now that these analogies have been apt given the circumstances. 
But Mr. Godwin can rest easy, because in a coincidence that is seriously serendipitous, an acclaimed newish biography of Hitler makes the case that there are deep similarities between Herr Donald and Der Führer without intending to do so.   
The book is Hitler: Ascent (1889-1939) by Volker Ullrich, and the similarities -- again, without intent -- laid out by the German historian-journalist are so unsettling that there are accusations that Michiko Kakutani's review of the book in The New York Times is a thinly-veiled Trump comparison.  It is not hard to see why.  This is because just about everything that Kakutani says about Ullrich's book reflects warnings that Trump should not be dismissed as just another crackpot who was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth.   
Chillingly, Ullrich sets up his 1,008-page portrait by stripping away the mythology that Hitler created of himself in Mein Kampf as just another talented guy.  (The comparison's to The Art of the Deal, Trump's Mein Kampf, which means "My Struggle," are mindblowing.) 
Ullrich warns in an introduction that "In a sense, Hitler will be normalized -- although this will not make him seem more 'normal.' If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific."  Ditto for The Donald. 
Let's go to the comparisons -- yet again without intent -- in Ullrich's own words: 
Hitler was an egomaniac who "only loved himself," a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and a "characteristic fondness for superlatives" who had a "keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people." 
* Hitler had a "bottomless mendacity" that took advantage of the latest technology to spread his message and "was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth." 
* Hitler was an effective orator and adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences, concealing his anti-Semitism beneath a "mask of moderation" when trying to win the support of middle-class liberals. 
* Hitler specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements and adapted the contents of his speeches "to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners." 
* Hitler peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers and fomented chaos by playing to crowds' fears and resentments in "offering himself as a visionary leader who could restore law and order." 
* Hitler presented himself in messianic terms, promising "to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness," although he typically was vague about his actual plans while painting "the present day in hues that were all the darker." 
* Hitler virtually wrote the book on modern demagoguery by using repeated emotion-based "mantralike phrases" consisting largely "of accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future." 
* Hitler's ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of adversaries who failed to understand his ruthlessness and tenacity, as well as partners who believed "he was not serious or that they could exert a moderating influence on him."  
There is another comparison to be made between Hitler and Trump: Cowardice. 
Like Hitler, Trump never does dirty work himself.   And Trump hides behind his enforcers, as did Hitler.   Trump's Muslim Ban (which was the work of Steven Bannon, his very own Heinrich Himmler), is itself a study in cowardice, and never mind the inevitable walk back after the proverbial hit the fan with global criticism and widespread protests.   
That's not going to stop Trump, and hasn't.  Just embolden him as it would have merely emboldened Der Führer.


DefenseLiberal said...

Shaun, I am a new reader and really enjoy your writing so it is with apologies that I offer a small correction: Hitler served in the trenches in WWI, was decorated for valor, was wounded (gassed), and was promoted to Corporal. He also went to prison after his failed putsch. He was a horrible monster but unlike Donald Trump, Hitler did not avoid military service or manifest personal physical cowardice.

Shaun Mullen said...

You are correct. Thank you. I have amended my post.

scripto said...

Bannon is more a dirty Goebbels than a Himmler. I thought greasy at first but I believe dirty rolls off the tongue more easily.