Language and the Art of Demagoguery

Many others have pointed out Trump’s odd choice of the term “America First” before me, but I will just remind everyone that its most well-known use was by the anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh to argue that America should stay out of a war that he saw as promoted by the Jews, the British and Roosevelt.

The term “enemy of the people,”  discussed in Andrew Higgins’ New York Times article this morning, actually comes from the French Revolution, but was used most infamously by Soviet leaders to prosecute and send political foes to the Gulag. No less a person than Nikita Kruschev banned the term because “it eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight.

Mr. Kruschev’s great grand-daughter said that the language of “autocracy, of state nationalism is always the same regardless of the country, and no nation is exempt…and that the formulas of insult, humiliation, domination, branding, enemy-forming and name calling are always the same.” If anyone doubts the above, just look at Mr. Trump’s language during the primary toward his own party’s candidates.

The Nazis also liked this term.  Der Sturmer, a Nazi paper, stated “In former times sane people and sane leaders of the peoples made short shrift of enemies of the people. They had them either expelled or killed.” (Wiki) Yet Donald Trump uses this term to denounce a free press.

Now, as pointed out by the Washington Post‘s E.J.Dionne in his column this morning, Stephen K. Bannon promises an ominous-sounding “new political order,”  a phrase that echoes uncomfortably the Nazis’ prophecy of a “New Order of Europe (German: Neuordnung Europas), the political order which Nazi Germany wanted to impose on the conquered areas under its dominion.” (Wiki)

The latest Bannon contribution, “the deconstruction of the administrative state,” may be the most dangerous of all and, in fact, means that “In practice, this is a war on a century’s worth of work to keep our air and water clean; our food, drugs and workplaces safe; the rights of employees protected; and the marketplace fair and unrigged.” (Dionne)

When you look at the above language, does anyone doubt that these words are meant to convey the foretelling of an authoritarian state? Shouldn’t we take Trump and Bannon at their literal word and believe this is what they want to deliver?

Most people I know, especially Jewish friends and relatives, are alarmed by this language and they have every right to be. If we are repeating history, can’t we learn from those lessons and take these people seriously? we are in real trouble if we don’t.









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