I’m watching a Trump speech as I type, and it occurs to me, as I see the lemmings in Trump’s audience (this one is in Dallas, Texas), that we have a species of authoritarian in this country that is so profoundly dumb that, to get adherents headed toward a cliff with their own babies in tow, Trump needn’t even give a good speech. If you’re going to be a clapping seal for a fascist, you might still at least aspire to some baseline of self-respect.
I have written before that only the mindless eschew any reference to Nazi tactics and propaganda out of hand. Although there are few historical analogs to the sociopathic terrors perpetrated by Nazism, the analogs to Nazi authoritarianism and propaganda are, sadly, innumerable. And there is no way to discourage mimicry short of calling it out.
Let me state this clearly: there is no excuse for how the German people acquiesced to Adolf Hitler’s madness in the lead-up to World War II and the Holocaust. (At the risk of sounding like I’m trivializing this, which I certainly don’t mean to do, I must cite here one of the only worthwhile quotes and scenes from the movie, Titanic. It has always reminded me of what compliant Germans must have felt after their evils had been laid bare. In this scene, an elderly survivor says this of those who, although able to row back and save more of their fellow travelers after Titanic sank, chose not to: “Afterward, the [survivors] had nothing to do but wait. Wait to die. Wait to live. Wait for an absolution that would never come.”)
But Adolf Hitler was a rhetorical genius. So at least the masses of Germans who were sucked in by his mindlessness and bigotry could try to say, after it was all over, that they had been hypnotized.
Here’s my question: if you’re a Donald Trump acolyte, what’s your excuse?
No, Trump is not Hitler. And no, his followers are not Nazis. But if one is going to fall prey to Donald Trump’s xenophobic circus act, one should at least be able to say that one was seduced by a maestro. For crying out loud, at least Hitler’s audiences made him work for it.
Here are the similarities between Trump and Hitler: both of their political stories involve charisma, cults of personality, appeals to trust the greatness of a leader rather than his ideas, and the elevation of jingoistic platitudes over substance. In the case of either leader, only a raging intellectual sloth could buy into his bullshit.
But Hitler, quite famously, at least practiced his craft. He was known to model his speeches after symphonies: his speeches had structure and tempo, and, malignant narcissist that Hitler was, he would pose and watch himself deliver his bile endlessly in front of full-length mirrors. His mastery of speechifying at least bespoke the chance that a reasonably intelligent population could not be ensnared by a common chump.
And maybe that’s true: maybe reasonably intelligent people cannot be ensnared by a common chump. This begs the question, what are we to make of those ensnared by Donald Trump?
To say that a Donald Trump speech lacks structure is to understate things by several standard deviations. A Donald Trump speech is a rambling contrivance delivered by a mind addled by adult ADHD through a mouth beset by Tourette’s Syndrome. A Donald Trump speech is a stream of consciousness where the stream flows with urine pissed into an updraft. It circles back to its source with a kind of tornadic ferocity. Trump would struggle with all the interruptions from stimuli in his environs if only he wasn’t so busy interrupting himself.
This is a man whose speeches are about as symphonic as the Animal-House marching band that paraded itself into a brick wall.
And STILL, the seals clap and clap and clap.
What can one conclude? In the modern-day USA, our authoritarian lemmings don’t even have any rhetorical standards. They are as dumb as they are evil.
What do you think? Do you CONCUR or DISSENT?
by Brendan Beery