No, the U.S. is not becoming Nazi Germany

Right now I’m reading a book recommended a while back by a commenter, The End of the Holocaust by Alvin H. Rosenfeld. Although I’m only about 40% of the way through, Rosenfeld’s thesis is clear: the presentation of the Holocaust in popular books and movies (one example is “Schindler’s List”) has diluted the memory of that horrific episode, minimizing its brutality and, in a particularly American twist, attempted to find some good in it so that we needn’t be totally dolorous about the whole thing. In “Schindler’s List”, for example, Rosenfeld claims that the Jewish victims—those who were tortured and gassed—were largely in the background, relegated there by a “demon versus angel” narrative involving concentration camp head Amon Göth on one hand and a Christian “savior”, Oscar Schindler, on the other.

The movie ends with a note of joy and redemption, in a genuine clip where the Jews who Schindler saved parade by his grave, each leaving a stone on his tomb. To Rosenfeld, this sanitizes the Holocaust by diminishing its lesson, which is basically that there was hardly anything to find admirable in people’s behavior (e.g., far more people betrayed Jews than saved them). Rosenfeld gives more examples, and I’m looking forward to the next two chapters, which deal with how Anne Frank’s story has been coopted and changed by its popularity. Rosenfeld appears to see in the Holocaust an unredeemed horror, and decries those who, like Ronald Reagan, use the word as a metaphor for something like legal abortion.

This came to mind when I did my sporadical perusal of the dreaded dreadful Huffington Post (now “HuffPost”), and saw on the front page two pieces implying that Trump is like Hitler and that America is in danger of becoming like Nazi Germany as the alt-right proliferates. (Click on the screenshots to go to the articles.) I see both pieces as crying wolf. Trump is odious and a complete disaster as President, but there’s no way he’s going to set up concentration camps in this country. And we’ve moved on since World War II, hopefully learning that bigotry combined with violence has no place in a democracy.

The headline of the first piece implies that Trump is endorsing camps like Auschwitz or Dachau, but the text shows something quite different:

The text starts out like this:

President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio amounts to an endorsement of the idea of concentration camps, says a journalist who has reported on the global history of the deadly facilities.

Arpaio referred to his own county jail as a “concentration camp.” For over two decades, he operated “Tent City,” where detainees were kept in brutal conditions, including temperatures soaring well above 100 degrees Farenheit. They were also forced to work on chain gangs and to wear pink undergarments as a form of humiliation. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order prohibiting the detention of people based on mere suspicions about their legal status.

In an email to HuffPost Saturday, Andrea Pitzer, the author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, defined a concentration camp as a “mass civilian detention outside the standard legal process, usually on the basis of race, ethnicity, or political activity.” While Pitzer said Tent City was a prison technically constructed to hold those convicted by law, it bore familiar elements to a concentration camp, including “brutal dehuminization.” [sic]

Well, not only was the Tent Camp not a concentration camp by Pitzer’s own estimation, it still “bore familiar elements to a concentration camp.” And Trump didn’t endorse the idea of them; he pardoned Joe Arpaio. I’m not sure, in fact, that Trump has said anything about those camps, yet PuffHo implies that by pardoning Arpaio, he endorses them. This is smearing someone by association, and Trump doesn’t need more smearing since he smears himself constantly.

I’ve objected to these camps before—in fact, just yesterday—as brutal and inhumane, and criticized Trump for pardoning the bigoted Arpaio. (Do I really need to keep issuing these disclaimers?)  But these tent camps weren’t Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen. Inmates were often given dire food, but they weren’t starved, tatooed, worked to death, or gassed. To imply that Trump endorsed Nazi camps—and make no mistake about it, for that’s what the headline implies—is to lie. Look, we’ve got enough problems with Trump; we don’t need to distort headlines to make him look worse than he is. This is part of the Manichean view of politics that Leftist rags like HuffPo hold.

Here’s another one:

What detail did the Holocaust survivor notice that made him think that “it’s happening now”? (“It” refers to the Holocaust.) It is the image of the tee shirt worn by this man, an alt-righter identified in the caption:

White nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach screams at the media outside Charlottesville General Courthouse in defense of James Alex Fields Jr., arrested on suspicion of murder, malicious wounding and hit-and-run charges as a bail hearing for Fields is held inside in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Justin Ide

Jack Rosenthal, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, managed to live through internment as a child in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and is still rightfully traumatized at the horror—traumatized in a way that nobody who just watches “Schindler’s List” can ever be. He identifies the tee shirt:

The white supremacist’s T-shirt was the first thing Rosenthal saw. On the shirt was a picture of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, a pre-WWII leader of the Romanian fascist Legion of Saint Michael the Archangel and the Iron Guard political party, which were both linked to the Nazi party.

Codreanu was the face behind pogroms in Romania. The large-scale violent riots killed tens of thousands of Romanian Jews during the 1930s leading up to the Holocaust.

“I recognized the name right away,” Rosenthal said. “You see something like this, you know, it brings back memories and I’m concerned about what could happen in this country,” he said.

He adds, “After I was liberated, I thought to myself the world has learned what terrible traces hate can bring to humanity,” he said. “And now this gives me a depressing feeling because it’s happening again, and it’s happening now.”

Well, no, it’s not. We have a more alt-right that’s become more vocal since Trump was elected, and we have a President who calls out bigots only reluctantly, and as a form of spin control. But seriously, we are not on the verge of becoming Nazi Germany, and only someone driven nuts by Trump (as HuffPo has been) could think that. Yes, the U.S. has had our own bad times, wrongly interning Japanese-Americans in camps during World War II, but even those weren’t remotely similar tothe Lagers.  And even that couldn’t happen again. Yes, you can cry wolf and say it’s on the horizon, but I’d bet money that we’re not going to have government-run concentrations camps under Trump, or that the Nazi Party is coming back big time. The alt-right and white supremacists may be more vocal under Trump, but they’re universally despised, even by Republicans, and they’ll never have significant power.

We have enough problems dealing with a clueless, narcissistic President and a Republican Congress without having to call them Nazis, or trumpet that Trump approves of concentration camps. Let’s at least have a grasp on reality.

67 Comments

  1. Frank Bath
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    On a group visit I refused to join everyone for a tour of her house, one of Amsterdam’s most popular sights, and went to the pub for a beer and a pickled mackerel. That poor girl and her family. It breaks your heart. I don’t need to see where it happened. And you have to pay too.

    • Frank Bath
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Anne Frank of course.

  2. nicky
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I would fully agree here. Moreover, a ‘concentration camp’ -bad as it is- does not necessarily mean a ‘Vernichtungslager’ (literally: extermination camp).

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      When I RT’d that pic of an 18yo Nazi concentration camp survivor that was in my best tweets post, someone commented that this was why we need to use physical force against the alt-right. I disagreed of course, saying that they’re not putting people in concentration camps and if they try the law can and will deal with them.

      I think some people are looking for an excuse to get violent, or to justify violence they’ve already done.

  3. paultopping
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    While I agree with all the over-the-top rhetoric you point out here, I worry that it papers over some things we really should be worried about.

    These bad actors, like Trump and Arpaio, would do much worse if they had the chance. The Nazis didn’t start with concentration camps and the holocaust, they worked up to them.

    It is only the balance of powers and certain conventions in our government that prevent it. Sure, one can say, “See! It’s working.” But think about how easy these things could be subverted. What if a few more Supreme Court positions become open during Trump’s rein? And Trump’s already appointing federal judges to the lower courts. What if Trump is successful in making the rank-and-file patriots in government quit in disgust or solidarity? Autocrats get their way by passing out money and favors. This process takes a while before it takes hold but there’s not much stopping it right now. I certainly don’t think we can count on the Russia investigation.

    I’ll admit this is from my pessimistic, cynical side and it certainly might not happen this way. But I am not as sure as you seem to be.

    • sensorrhea
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for that. Surely the rise of Nazism was accompanied by sincere published minimizers – as well as cynical propagandistic deniers.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      The Nazis weren’t the ones who started concentration camps in Germany. They were continuing and greatly expanding something Germany had been doing in Africa for some time. (Which helps your hypothesis of course.)

      What you say is the real issue and is the reason why Democrats should be focusing on winning elections instead of punching Nazis or getting rid of statues.

      The biggest problem is that Republicans dominate governments throughout the country, and most can’t be relied upon to stand up to Trump.

      If you have to choose between fighting to retain healthcare for the poor and the symbol of a statue, put your efforts into fighting for healthcare. You’ll do a lot more to actually help marginalized people.

    • David Coxill
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      There were a lot of detention centers set up from the moment the Nazis came to power ,mainly by the SA .
      They rounded up anyone they had a grudge to settle with .
      By Andrea Pitzers definition ,Gitmo Bay is a concentration camp.

  4. Randy schenck
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Fully agree with your take on this. Nothing, bad as it is, would justify such thinking. However, I continue to rate as gutless, the response from the republican congress regarding Trump actions. They are mostly a spineless group who seem to want Mueller and his group clean up their mess (Trump). And the democrats need to be raising more hell.

    • Taz
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Which is why those who despise Trump should forget idiots with swastikas and concentrate on good old fashioned electioneering. A resounding defeat in the mid-terms would put some spine in congressional Republicans (and Democrats as well). A good voter registration drive would accomplish much more than any anti-Nazi rally.

  5. Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I do have faith (can I use that word?) in our Constitutional democracy. Comparing Trump America to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust truly diminishes how monstrous those horrors really were.

    • GM
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      One should also not fall in the trap of going to the other extreme, and elevating them to a level of monstrosity they do not really deserve.

      Because the truth is that in the grand scheme of human history, the only thing that distinguishes the Holocaust is the scale of it, and that was made possible by overall population explosion over the preceding two centuries and by technological advancements.

      But in terms of one group of people deliberately exterminating another? That has happened countless times.

      I personally don’t find placing people in gas chambers more horrifying than raiding the neighboring village, raping everything that moves, then hacking everyone into pieces, roasting them on open fire and eating them.

      • Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but the Nazi Holocaust happened in one of the most advanced societies on the planet, land of Liebniz, Goethe, Beethoven and Planck. That, to me, makes it uniquely horrifying.

        • GM
          Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          Yes, which is precisely why it happened on such a scale — the society was advanced so it could organize it better.

          I see no surprise there.

  6. Historian
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Yes, concentration camps of any sort are not going to appear here (most probably). Still, that is hardly grounds for relief. Trump may leave this country so broken and divided that recovery could take decades, if at all. As an example, the environmental damage he may create could be irreversible. Concentration camps are hardly necessary for democracies to fall.

    • Leigh
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      What was Manzanar?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and Trump would’ve posed a greater danger had he ridden his wave of bigoted populism to power in the middle of the worldwide economic recession of 2008.

  7. GM
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Stay on the path of further and further dividing into two groups that perceive each other as out-groups not to be treated as fully human, and atrocities will eventually happen.

    It’s the nature of the social primate

  8. Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I agree that it is absurd to equate Trump with Hitler, or those idiots marching about holding their little tiki torches with the actual historical Nazis.

    However, having watched Trump’s rise in the US has made it suddenly far clearer to me how swiftly a civilized society can unravel. The US is not in anything like the chaos of post WWI Germany, of course, but you do have people like Bannon and Roger Stone openly talking of “war” and “death” for their opponents.I think it is wrong to take such talk figuratively. Trump would already be locking up journalists if he could.

  9. gormenghastly
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I believe you were also very confident that Trump would never be elected.

    • Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Yes I was. But that doesn’t mean my arguments this time are worthless. What point are you trying to make here?

      • gormenghastly
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Your arguments back then weren’t worthless either (and I agreed with them).
        Recent history has tilted the plane; what was barely conceivable has become real, what was impossible has become barely conceivable, etc.
        Trump has an incredible and insatiable hunger for attention, and when the outrageous has become normal, he will find more and more outrageous things to maintain the same level of satisfaction. Are you confident that the norms of good governance will stop him? I hope that sooner or later they will, but there hasn’t been much sign of it yet.

  10. Tom
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    The peculiar set of circumstances that led to the rise of the Nazis is not being repeated in America
    Consider:-
    It happened in a militaristic country which had just lost a disasterous war but still tended to venerate its military caste.
    Hundreds of thousands of highly trained veterans were enrolling in paramiltary organisations closely linked to political parties
    Rampant inflation ruined the currency followed by the great depression.
    Communism was on the rise in the East and was considered a threat.
    And these are only the most well known conditions that favoured corporal Hitler.
    I cannot see an example of any of these in American society.

  11. somer
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I know Ive expressed contempt for Trump and think he’s a psychopath (of the conscience-free, scheming, manipulative barely competent but devious office variety). However the whole idea that the US is moving towards being a Nazi state is silly. The extremists at Charlottesville were a relatively small group. After Charlottesville 100 or so of them staged a “free speech” demonstration but were outnumbered by about 10,000 peaceful leftists.

  12. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I sincerely hope you’re right, but historically, Hitler didn’t look all that different from Trump at a comparable stage of their respective histories. The main reason to hope that you’re right is that Trump is a complete bumbling idiot who can’t stop indicting himself. Other reasons to hope is that the far right media is suffering a loss of revenue due to consumer boycotts. If Trump manages to get a second term or manages to so corrupt the electoral processes that subsequent elections will be even more meaningless than is currently the case with all the voter suppression, corrupt voting machines, and gerrymandering, — all bets are off and concentration camps for “libtards” and “mud people” will be terrifyingly more likely. Maybe PuffHo is in their own counterproductive way trying to keep the current majority of the politically active population of the US on high alert to be ready to resist such an eventuality.

    • GM
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Hitler didn’t look all that different from Trump at a comparable stage of their respective histories

      Strange statement. Mein Kampf was published in 1925, eight years before Hitler took power, and it was already quite an anti-semitic book.

      So if we assume that Trump and Hitler are at equivalent stages of their histories, there is absolutely nothing to fear in this case, because Trump hasn’t so far expressed any views remotely as alarming as those of Hitler (what the media will try to have you believe is a different matter, but this is a science blog, so we’re supposed to be objectively looking at the cold hard facts, right?)

      • tomh
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        What is it “the media” is trying to have you believe? And “the media” encompasses everything printed or broadcast from every conceivable direction. I don’t understand generalizing “the media” into one homogeneous group.

  13. Veroxitatis
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    The runner up to best joke by a comedian at this year’s Edinburgh Festival was by Frankie Boyle. – “Trump’s nothing like Hitler. Hitler wrote a book”.

    • Historian
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      As opposed to Trump having other people write his books for him.

      • David Coxill
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Well to be accurate ,you know who dictated Mein Kampf to Rudolf Hess ,don’t know if he wrote his second book himself .
        The powers that be were very sympathetic to adolf ,the so called beer hall putsch was an act of treason ,he should have been hanged for it ,or he should have been deported back to Austria .

  14. Richard Sanderson
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Just as the far-right think Islamists are under their beds, the SJWs and regressive left believe “Nazis” are under their beds.

    The is what fascists and bigots on the far left and far right believe, because their dogma is so deeply entrenched, they have to believe it is true. Or else their narrative falls apart.

    You only have to look at racist bigots like Dan Arel, who has resorted to calling Jewish people, “Nazis”.

  15. samitchell79
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t go making any bets Jerry, didn’t work out so well with Hillary. Trump is becoming more erratic and it leaning in hard towards his wish to piss off every liberal in America. The Donald might want to send Obama and the Democrats to some sort of re-education camp where the conditions might cause the “unintended” death of some of the campers, but who would miss them really? He is just not organized enough to accomplish such a task and currently does not employ people who are capable of such a task. But maybe someday…

    • David Coxill
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Never heard the inmates of concentration camps called campers before .
      For all the Brits here ,remember the joke about holiday makers at Butlins forming escape committees .
      Hi de hi .

  16. Mark R.
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Out of the 37% who are enthralled by their cult leader, how many of them would support the implementation of concentration camps for their scapegoats? I bet we’d all be shocked how many would support such camps. And how many of the hundreds of millions of guns in this country are owned by said 37%? I’m sure upwards of 60%. This is why I’m not a tiny bit at ease with what America can become; her institutions are not nearly as secure as I once believed.

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    • GM
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Out of the 37% who are enthralled by their cult leader, how many of them would support the implementation of concentration camps for their scapegoats?

      So?

      Just as the Holocaust was not that extraordinary once you look at it from the perspective of the overall history of genocides on this planet, neither are concentration camps.

      After all, even the highly enlightened North held Southern soldiers in concentration camps during the Civil War, and the even more highly enlightened British created concentration camps in Kenya, and that was SHORTLY AFTER WWII. And the list is endless.

      We have also seen radical feminists proposing to put all men in concentration camps.

      Why are you not alarmed about that?

      • Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        It terrifies me to think of those women guards having their way with me.

        • David Coxill
          Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          Me too .

      • Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        There are differences, though they may only be semantic to some, between the types of concentration camps of the American Civil war and post WWII Kenya and the kinds of extermination camps of the Nazis.

        I feel those differences should not be papered over.

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        When radical feminists who propose to put all men in concentration camps comprise 37% of the population, I’ll be alarmed. Believe me. And also what mikeyc said.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Rather than any kind of Nazi state, I think the worst-case scenario under Trump would be the type of effete autocracy David Frum imagined in this piece in The Atlantic.

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Although the film directors Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg were close friends, Kubrick was not enamoured of his friend’s “Schindler’s List” for precisely these reasons- it is about a small handful of survivors rescued by a noble outsider.

    By far and away the best film about the Holocaust IMO is Roman Polanski’s 2002 Oscar winner “The Pianist” which conveys the brutality of the era far more devestatingly. (Polanski is of course the film industry’s best claimant to the title of Holocaust survivor. He lived homeless in Poland between the age of six and 12 while his parents were in a concentration camp.)

    Roger Ebert had a long essay on why “Schindler’s List” was more successful than the film of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” (which I cannot find online), but he noted that Beloved was unrelentingly dark over a running time of 3 hours in a way that SL was not.

    =-=-=

    The American Heritage dictionary defines a concentration camp as a place where people are held without any hearing past or future, so I guess that technically means Sheriff Joe’s camps aren’t really concentration camps.

    However, I remain alarmed by the even semi-fascist overtones of the Trump administration.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      “held without any hearing past or future — ” Sounds like Guantanamo.

    • Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Kubrick was making his own Holocaust film. Kubrick, being Kubrick, pissed around so long that Spielberg’s film came out before he started filming it. Same thing happened with Full Metal Jacket when Oliver Stone beat him to the punch.

    • Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      The American Heritage dictionary defines a concentration camp as a place where people are held without any hearing past or future, so I guess that technically means Sheriff Joe’s camps aren’t really concentration camps.

      Like Gitmo?

    • Noel Carrascal
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      ‘Son of Saul’ has become the most recent film that I use to try to know what it would be like to have witnessed the holocaust. It is terrifying, but I am not sure how accurate.

  18. Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Trump is no Hitler. Hitler galvanised a country and his hand waving was far superior and done with more conviction all the while orating like a man processed. (fuck, is that a hitler compliment)
    But does anyone seriously think (Trump)is going to compromise his wealth for people he doesn’t give a rats arse about.
    That said, there are dangers because he is narcissistic Trump, then again, he is being watched and by his own efforts like no other President, that’s what feeds him and scares everyone else.

    • David Coxill
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget ,adolf was handed Germany on a plate by franz von papen amonst others ,while the snatch snatcher was elected by an E C ,so America only has another 3 years of him .
      Unless he blows us us all .

      • Posted August 30, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        … yep by hook and by crook hitler manipulated his way to power… and then it was to late. The hitler “galvanised a country” comment was in contrast to trump who is polarising the US and in some ways got himself in by a confused and divided mainly left voters. And now it’s to late, stating the obvious.

  19. Craw
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this.

    Lord knows there’s enough real stuff to complain about with Trump. Hyperventilated fantasies are not needed.

  20. Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Trump is no Hitler. More importantly, the USA is not Nazi Germany. You could put Literal Hitler in charge and it still wouldn’t be Nazi Germany. The USA isn’t suffering the humiliation of a failed war because its recent failed wars all happened thousands of miles away so nobody has to think about them.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 4:38 am | Permalink

      No, of course the USA isn’t and doesn’t. (As for you could put a literal Hitler in charge and everything’s going to be more or less fine – come on!) But as the examples of Turkey and Hungary show (to take just two), it doesn’t need a Hitler to ruin a democracy (admittedly ones that were neither so democratic or traditionally and structurally democratic as the USA). I was talking to a young Hungarian friend the other night, and he is seriously considering getting out of Hungary with his wife. I wonder at the complacency that is apparent in quite a few of these comments: We are Americans, after all, so it’s all going to be all right in the end, and we can get on with sniggering at the ‘repressive left’ and the Huffington Post and feeling splendidly superior to them, and not worrying about our endless wars, and sit back and do nothing…

      • Tim Harris
        Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:51 am | Permalink

        ‘regressive’ not ‘repressive’ left, though I suppose in the minds of those who like this convenient scapegoat and excuse not to address issues seriously, the difference is not important.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    The big difference here is that Trump has no grand plan to remake America in his own ideological image — in that he hasn’t any to speak of (ideology that is). Trump has an authoritarian, narcissistic personality, so authoritarian right-wing rhetoric is a natural fit for him. But he has no real commitment to any of it, or to anything else beyond his unslakable thirst for fame and fortune and the approbation of his hardcore base. Left to his own devices, for example, Trump would be as comfortable enforcing a “one child” policy as he would be imprisoning women for having an abortion.

    Also, the US has 240-years’ worth of constitutional and institutional checks-and-balances meant to resist an authoritarian takeover. The courts have shown they’re willing to push back against Trump, as they did in staying his Muslim ban. And at long last some Republicans in the US senate have begun to show a bit of spine, with a couple now openly questioning Trump’s fitness for office, and by stymieing his incipient scheme to get rid of the special counsel by making a recess appointment of a new attorney general,

    Still, there’s good reason to think Trump may push these institutional safeguards to their limit, by thrusting the nation into its greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.

  22. aljones909
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Who will be put in these “concentration camps”. Hispanics, blacks, leftists, illegal immigrants? It doesn’t make any logistical sense. The jewish population of Germany in the 1930’s was 0.7% of the total German population. It was quite feasible to round up and imprison all German jews. The Nazis had the added advantage of having established a totalitarian government. Are Republicans going to vote to fund the building of these camps? Is Trump going to declare a state of national emergency and abolish the other branches of government?

    It’s simply mad to suggest America could becoming a fascist state (even if you have an idiot for a president).

  23. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    The left is looking ever more like a fun-house mirror of the right. Recall not that long ago when some on the right were screaming about Obama’s FEMA concentration camps, black helicopters, gun confiscations and the New World Order?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget the “death panels.”

  24. Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    We did have the internment camps for the Japanese post Pearl Harbor. I could see this president *talking* such a line if he thought it would rally his troops, even if there was no support for actually doing so.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Last year, some of Trump’s surrogates raised the possibility of creating a Muslim registry, with an eye to putting them in internment camps should the need arise.

  25. Taz
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    The biggest bogeyman for most on the right is the government itself. Trump is not going to convince them otherwise.

  26. Tim Harris
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    ‘I’m not sure, in fact, that Trump has said anything about those camps, yet PuffHo implies that by pardoning Arpaio, he endorses them. This is smearing someone by association, and Trump doesn’t need more smearing since he smears himself constantly.’

    I’m sorry, but do you really think that pardoning Arpaio is in no way an endorsement of Arpaio’s actions (amongst which is of course the creation of those ‘camps’, or whatever one wants to call them)? Why else would Trump pardon him (leaving aside those other and possible unstated reasons, such as sending a message to those cronies of his who are being investigated by Mueller)? One can certainly criticise HuffPo for its exaggerations, but Trump surely did endorse Arpaio’s actions by his ‘pardon’, including the use of those ‘camps’.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      Also, even if Trump was so inconscient as to suppose that his pardoning was an entirely private action, he is a public figure who wields immense powers, and his actions necessarily have a public dimension, and whatever he may be supposed to have intended, his action will be taken as endorsing Arpaio and his actions, including both his flouting of federal law and his creation of those ‘camps’. I cannot help but connect what seems to me to be a blindness towards public meanings with your assertion in connexion with the statue controversy that if you came across a statue of Hitler in a public place in modern Germany, you would brush it off, so to speak. But were statues of Hitler to be found in Germany at the present time, Germany would be a different place from what thankfully it is at present.. One really cannot suppose that public meanings do not exist and do not have broad influence.

  27. T. Martin
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    In ‘On Tyranny’, Timothy Snyder quotes the following from an editorial published in a newspaper for German Jews in February of 1933:

    “We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in [Nazi newspapers]; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob. They cannot do this because a number of critical factors hold powers in check.”

    Many didn’t realize what was happening at the time. It’s clear that the same is true today.

  28. Posted August 28, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “And we’ve moved on since World War II, hopefully learning that bigotry combined with violence has no place in a democracy”. You said it: “hopefully”… Let´s not make predictions. We can´t say -we can´t know- “it is going to happen!”. We can´t know -hence we can´t affirm- if the democratic future is safe. As you can see in the NYT archives and elsewhere, there was an abundance of predictions against Hitler, and Hitler won power and did what he did. Let´s not make the same mistake. The available data doesn´t mean “nothing it´s going to happen!”. And let´s not forget some other things: democracies can die; Germany was a democracy, Hitler came to power through democratic elections; the Holocaust was not an immediate outcome, because it wasn´t the first policy decision; the Holocaust was the worst outcome, not the only bad thing; nationalism was and is a huge problem (fascism is impossible without nationalism); the “american” democracy is not perfect and has been deteriorating, Trump is another factor of deterioration; the history of “american democracy” is not what lots of “americans” believe: after all, “Jim Crow” appears as an example in “Mein Kampf”; ICE is acting in a fascist fashion. Etc. I see differences and similarities, I don´t equate leaders and experiences, I don´t jump into broad conclusions, I see risks. I worry, think and wait -I wait, think and worry…

  29. Posted August 28, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Hitler in the newspapers of the age:

    I recommend two readings: Richard Evans and Timothy Snyder.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Richard Evans & Timothy Snyder are people who take history, politics and power seriously, think seriously about it, and understand their workings; they do not suppose, with Henry Ford and Alex Rosenberg, that history is bunk, and they are not in the business of reacting all at once on coming across something not greatly important that they happen to dislike. Towards the end of his ‘On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century'(published this year after elevation of Trump) Snyder writes, ‘If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it. And to make history, young Americans will have to know some.’ The epigraph to the little book is Leszek Kolakowski’s ‘In politics, being deceived is no excuse.’

      • Posted August 28, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        I couldn´t agree more, Tim.
        “And to make history, young Americans will have to know some” is a great line, and a great guideline too.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 29, 2017 at 3:35 am | Permalink

          Some older Americans, too.


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