Donald J. Trump has accomplished something truly remarkable: he’s become the first major party frontrunner in an American presidential campaign to be compared to Adolf Hitler by the mainstream media. An Internet meme had previously noted Trump’s similarities to Hitler: both used racism to rise to power, blamed minority scapegoats (Hitler: Jews, Trump: immigrants) for their nation’s problems, proposed an unpopular religious minority (Hitler: Jews, Trump: Muslims) should wear special identification, proposed mass deportations, and promised to make the country great again. I might add they both have bad hair.
Other similarities abound: both charismatic speakers who know how to play to their audience; both experts at simultaneously manipulating and attacking the media; and both proposed limits on free speech. But while Trump suggested a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies might have deserved having been roughed up by his supporters, it’s not as if he travels with an entourage of Brownshirts. Oh, wait… He did tell Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos “Go back to Univision,” as he motioned to his bodyguards to have Ramos physically removed from the press room.
But I’m not going to call Trump a fascist. I’ll leave that to the Philadelphia Daily News, which on its December 8th front page showed Trump raising his hand in a Nazi-style gesture with the caption “The New Furor”. But what does The Donald himself think of the comparison to the Reich’s Fuhrer? Former Clinton political advisor turned journalist George Stephanopoulos asked Trump: “You're increasingly being compared to Hitler. Does that give you any pause at all?” To which Trump answered “No.” He then went on to talk about “solutions” presidents might use to deal with undesirable ethnic groups. He even raised the specter of internment camps within the U.S., although he added, “I don't like doing it at all. It's a temporary measure.” It’s somewhat reassuring to know his solutions are only temporary and not final.
I don’t know if Donald Trump is a fascist. He certainly has been spouting a lot of fascism lately but that may merely be part of his act. I’m not convinced he’s truly running for president. Trump is an egomaniac and loves the limelight. As you can tell from his three-hour speeches, the man is in love with the sound of his own voice. He may be the star of his own one-man reality show, in which he is willing to do or say anything to get ratings. How else can you explain a so-called political candidate who is so obsessed with touting his own poll numbers in every speech?
Donald Trump, whether egomaniac or fascist, doesn’t worry me. What I do find scary – make that downright terrifying – is the huge number of mindless Trump supporters to whom he panders, who lap up the hatred and visceral he dishes out like flies on a turd. It’s not the man who scares me; it’s his followers.
As one of my characters in my Halos and Horns series put it:
“By serving others, I am fulfilling a greater purpose,” Remick replied. “For even the greatest leaders would be naught without followers. Do you know what they call a leader lacking followers? A fool. And what do they call a leader with many followers? A great man. Thus it is followers such as myself that separate a fool from a great man.”
There are lots of fools in the world. They only become dangerous when they obtain followers. I wrote a short story entitled “The Devil is in the Details”. I wanted to give it the politically incorrect title of “In Defense of Hitler” but I was afraid it would be misjudged before anyone bothered to read it. Its premise was it was unfair to blame the deaths of fifty million people on Adolf Hitler because he didn’t do it alone; he had help… lots of help, in fact. Sure, he may have been the poster child for evil, but it was his followers who did the actual legwork. In my story, the devil gives us a guided tour of Hell, where we find Hitler housed in a section reserved for the insane, while a lower level of Hell is reserved for the truly evil souls: his followers.
“Adolf is in the Asylum because he is a madman. Listen to the others shriek their cries of insanity. Adolf and the mad soul in the next cell spout the same indistinguishable madness. The only difference is, the people listened to Adolf and acted on his demagoguery. Fear and despair combined with demagoguery and Crowd Behavior Theory allowed the evil within their hearts to bubble to the surface. The ordinary citizens were the ones who committed the heinous acts of the Holocaust. They brought the dreams of a madman to life. Adolf was only the catalyst; a mere spark. They were the individual flames that composed the conflagration. It is only fitting they be damned to the pit of the Inferno.”
There will always be fools, fascists, and madmen preaching political demagoguery. As Americans, we have a choice to either ignore them or succumb to their impassioned appeals to our prejudices and fears. That choice will determine whether we see the real American fascist the next time we look into the mirror.