Trump uses fascist techniques to tell a Big Lie. Does that make him a fascist?
I was previously reluctant to call Donald Trump a fascist, because he hasn’t overtly called for a dictatorship. It also seems like an ad hominem cheap shot to compare anyone to the Nazis. The Donald’s first television commercial, however, reminds me how much his campaign resembles fascist political initiatives in Italy and Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s. In the commercial, which stylistically resembles Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will,” he uses the fascist method of manipulating film (or nowadays video) to support a Big Lie.
That Big Lie in the spot, as most of us now know, is that hordes of people, mostly criminal or degenerate, are scurrying across our border with Mexico and that we need to build a fence to keep them out. The TV ad shows a disorganized mass border crossing while the voice talks about U.S. borders. The actual video, however, shows a Moroccan scene, as I believe Politifact was the first to uncover.
Trump and one of his campaign factotums both claim that they did it that way on purpose, to show what could happen if we don’t build a fence. But no one reads the ad as a hypothetical. The juxtaposition of sound and images explicitly communicates that it’s the Mexican-American border.
I’m now ready to call Donald Trump a fascist.
How is Trump like a fascist? Let’s count the ways.
Trump has created a cult of personality.
He has stated he would run the government in an autocratic, unilateral way, as a strong man, for example saying that he would crush ISIS, he would make Mexico pay for a wall and he would stare down Putin. His platform consists of the “great genius” toughly and courageously attacking all problems by himself. A purely fascist sentiment.
The growing unruliness at Trump’s rallies, sometimes goaded by the great man himself, conjures the spontaneous violence that broke out at fascist gatherings.
Trump has told a number of Big Lies, including about illegal immigrants, Muslims, what happened after 9/11, job creation patterns, vaccinations, the president’s birth, the ramifications of his tax policy and his own past.
Now he has substantiated his favorite Big Lie with one of the very most unethical propaganda tricks around, editing film to distort reality. Editing or mislabeling film, BTW, is now routinely used by the right-wing to make caring physicians sound like butchers and dedicated civil servants sound like racists.
When I add up all these traits of fascism, I’m reminded of the childhood joke in which someone sees, touches and tastes something in the street, determines what it is and decides he’s glad he didn’t step in it.
If it barks like a dog and has fleas…
In other words, Trump’s first crude exercise in buying time to televise overtly racial agitprop seals the deal: He is a fascist, with views similar to well-known fascists such as Mussolini and the German Nazi Party.
I’m not saying that Trump wants to destroy an ethnic group the way Hitler tried to destroy the Jews. But like Mussolini and Hitler before they assumed power, Trump has argued for racial politics, exaggerated the problems facing the country, told blatant lies about “outsiders,” war and the economy, assumed the persona of an all-knowing strong man, attacked both the government and the basic governmental structure, and used manipulative techniques of the mass media to illustrate his lies.
One poll says that 47% of voters would vote for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in a presidential election. He is now consistently polling around 40% among Republican candidates for the nomination. There are plenty of signs in the polls that Donald Trump’s following is much wider than that of today’s Nazi-leaning National Democratic Party of Germany. I guess that means that 70 years after we defeated Nazi Germany in World War II, there are many more devotees to fascism in the United States than in Germany.
Of course, the Trump phenomenon may not extend to the caucuses and voting booths. The country could get tired of him, the way we grow tired of a TV show in the middle of the second season or a pop star whose songs all have the same incessantly peppy beat. He may misplay his hand by going after Bill Clinton’s past affairs, since it puts his and his family’s sordid sexual past into play, which could turn off the Evangelicals in his base. He may yet say something so outrageous that it kills his support. But even if he fades from the political scene long before November, his dominance in Republican polls for such a long time says something very ugly about the land of the free and the home of the brave.