FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret

by

Business Mogul, reality TV star, and presidential candidate, Donald Trump recently mocked Serge Kovaleski, a New York Times investigative reporter with a disability, at a rally in South Carolina. This contemptuous reference to Kovaleski’s physical disability was morally odious and painful to observe, but not to comprehend, at least not politically. Trump is a hate-monger, and spreads his message without apology in almost every public encounter in which he finds himself.

Some reporters claim he stepped over the line with this act of reprehensible cruelty. That is only partly true. In this loathsome instance, he just expanded his hate-filled discourse, making clear his embrace of a politics founded on arrogance, cynicism, unchecked wealth, and a deeply ingrained racism. In actuality, he stepped over the line the moment he announced his candidacy for the presidency and called Mexican immigrants violent rapists, gang members, and drug dealers. Or for that matter when he called, along with other right-wing extremists, to put refugees in detention centers and create a data base for them. These comments sound eerily close to SS (SS chief) Heinrich Himmler’s call for camps that held prisoners under orders of what euphemistically called “protective custody. To quote the Holocaust Encyclopedia:

In the earliest years of the Third Reich, various central, regional, and local authorities in Germany established concentration camps to detain political opponents of the regime, including German Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, and others from left and liberal political circles. In the spring of 1933, the SS established Dachau concentration camp, which came to serve as a model for an expanding and centralized concentration camp system under SS management.

What is truly sad, dangerous, and even cowardly is how few people along with the corporate media and his intellectual defenders recognize that Trump is symptomatic of the brutal seeds of totalitarianism now being cultivated in American society. Donald Trump represents more than the anti-democratic practices and antics of Joe McCarthy.[1]

On the contrary, he signifies how totalitarianism can mutate and take different forms in specific historical moments. Rather than being dismissed as a wild-card in American politics, it is crucial to recognize that Trump’s popularity represents a dangerous “political space…in both the wider culture and in recent history.”[2] This is evident not only in his race baiting, but in his increasing support for violence against protesters at his rallies, and his call to “make American great again” by any means necessary, none of which is new to American society.

What is new is the degree to which this endorsement of violence, racism, and the call to violate civil liberties are expressed so visibly and without apology. How else to explain the muted criticisms, if not almost non-existent public and media response, to his comments that: “we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule… And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago…”[3] This call to do “the unthinkable” is a fundamental principle of any notion of totalitarianism, regardless of the form it takes.

For instance, Trump’s recent call to bring back waterboarding and to support a torture regime far exceeds what might be called an act of stupidity or ignorance. Torture in this instance becomes a means of exacting revenge on those considered “Other,” un-American, and inferior—principally Muslims, immigrants, and members of the Black Lives Matter Movement. We have heard this discourse before in the totalitarian regimes of the 1930s and later in the dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s. Heather Digby Parton is right when she writes that Donald Trump “may be the first openly fascistic frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination but the ground was prepared and the seeds of his success sowed over the course of many years. We’ve had fascism flowing through the American political bloodstream for quite some time.”[4]

This is a discourse that betrays dark and dangerous secrets not simply about Trump, but more importantly about the state of American culture and politics. Trump’s brutal racism, cruelty, and Nazi-style policy recommendations are more than shocking, they are emblematic of totalitarianism’s hatred of liberalism, its call for racial purity, its mythic celebration of nationalism, its embrace of violence, its disdain for weakness, and its anti-intellectualism. This is the discourse of total terror. These elements of totalitarianism have become the new American normal. The conditions that produced the torture chambers, intolerable violence, extermination camps, squelching of dissent are still with us. Totalitarianism is not simply a relic of the past. It lives on in new forms and it is just as terrifying and dangerous today as it was in the past.[5]

Trump is not just a fool or an idiot, or ethically dead, he is symptomatic of a long line of fascists who shut down public debate, attempt to humiliate their opponents, endorse violence as a response to dissent, and criticize any public display of democratic principles. America has reached its endpoint with Trump, and his presence should be viewed as a stern warning of the nightmare to come. This is not the discourse of Kafka, but of those extremists who have become cheerleaders for totalitarianism.

Trump is not a straight talker as some writers have claimed, he is a monster without a conscience, a politician with a toxic set of policies. He is the product of a form of finance capitalism and a long legacy of racism and violence in which conscience is put to sleep, democracy withers, and public values are extinguished. This is truly a time of monsters and Trump is simply the most visible and certainly one of the most despicable.

Totalitarianism destroys everything that makes politics possible. It is both an ideological poison and a brutal mode of governance and control. It puts reason to sleep and destroys and viable elements of democracy. Trump reminds us in the most exacerbated and dramatic forms of totalitarianism’s addiction to tyranny, its attachments to the machineries of death, and its moral emptiness.

What is crucial to acknowledge is that the stories, legacies, and violence that are part of totalitarianism’s history must be told over and over again so that it becomes possible to recognize how it appears in new forms, replicated under the banner of terror and insecurity by design, and endlessly legitimated by in the image making of the corporate disimagination machines.

Dark times are here but history is open and Trump’s presence—along with his fellow extremists and supporters– should be a rallying cry for a struggle not simply against a crude and reactionary popularism, but against the tyranny of totalitarianism in its new and offensive forms.

Notes.

[1] John Kiriakou, “Donald Trump and the Legacy of Joe McCarthy,” Reader Supported News, [November 15, 2015]. Online: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/33687-focus-donald-trump-and-the-legacy-of-joe-mccarthy

[2] Victor Wallis, “The Trump Phenomenon,” Monthly Review, [November 25, 2015]

Online: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2015/wallis251115.html

[3] Zaid Jilani , “Donald Trump Won’t Rule Out Special ID Cards For Muslim Americans,”

AlterNet (November 19, 2015). Online:http://www.alternet.org/donald-trump-wont-rule-out-special-id-cards-muslim-americans

[4] Heather Digby Parton, “The Unprecedented Nightmare of Donald Trump: He’s Actually a Fascist,” Alter Net, [November 25, 2015]. Online: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/unprecedented-nightmare-donald-trump-hes-actually-fascist

[5] See, especially, Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York: 2001).

More articles by:

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporate
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail