In the left wing media and in social media both, Trump is frequently compared to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and with good reason. He talks the same talk: He’s loud, with simple solutions to complex problems, he’s angry, he hates with a passion, sows fear among his followers, and let’s face it, he’s a bully who doesn’t want to be questioned. Literally.
Add to these voices Anne Frank’s stepsister Eva Schloss, who said Trump is “acting like another Hitler,” and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman – a Republican – also brought up Hitler in discussing Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration, saying “If you go and look at your history and you read your history in the lead-up to the Second World War, this is the kind of rhetoric that allowed Hitler to move forward.”
CNN’s Sally Kohn also drew such comparisons and warned in December that “people need to remember in this country, Adolf Hitler, when he first rose to power, was elected by 36 percent of the German voters.”
Now Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox, president from 2000 to 2006, has joined the chorus, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper Friday that,
“Today, he’s going to take that nation (U.S.) back to the old days of conflict, war and everything. I mean, he reminds me of Hitler. That’s the way he started speaking.”
Take a listen courtesy of CNN:
Having already exclaimed in a Fusion interview that “I’m not going to pay for that f***ing wall,” Fox pointed out to Cooper that it’s not only Mexico: “He has offended Mexico, Mexicans, (and) immigrants. He has offended the Pope. He has offended the Chinese. He’s offended everybody.”
All true. Is it fair? Forbes columnist James Marshall Crotty argued in Huffington Post yesterday that “comparing Trump to Hitler is the worst kind of hate speech.” According to Crotty, not only do you lose the debate instantly, but “comparisons to Hitler and the Holocaust are grossly irresponsible” in that nobody can compare to Hitler and it insults the memory of the holocaust (tell that to Ann Frank’s stepsister).
It apparently doesn’t matter that speech analysis shows the comparison to be apt.
Crotty is missing the point. I have often looked at the intersection of the hate speech of American conservatives and National Socialist rhetoric, and shown where one follows the other. If Republicans are repeating the Nazis, are we not supposed to make legitimate comparisons? Should we ignore it? Or as our society so often does, cloud the issue with invented euphemisms?
Crotty even appeals to Godwin’s Law, that “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” There ought to be a law describing how long it takes for cries of Godwin’s Law to arise. Since I find myself a frequent offender, I’ll call it “Hrafnkell’s Law.”
I am trained as a historian. I studied National Socialism and the rhetoric of the Nazi era while translating biweekly inserts in Goebbels’ Berlin newspaper called “Heim und Welt” (Home and World) focusing on the role of women in National Socialism. These are not just words to us who have studied the era.
Facts are facts, no matter how offensive they seem. If Trump sleeps with a book of Hitler speeches and then sounds like Hitler when he speaks, what are we to make of it? Yes, it’s fair. Trump doesn’t have to say everything Hitler said to sound like Hitler. Bernie Sanders doesn’t have to say everything Roosevelt said to sound like FDR.
Nobody, so far as I know, is saying Trump is Hitler – he hasn’t killed millions of people after all. But neither had Hitler before he came Fuhrer. All we have to judge Trump by is his rhetoric, and we should not pretend he does not sound like somebody simply because that somebody is Hitler.
There are no exceptions to history. And that’s all Godwin’s Law, when gratuitously applied, represents.
If you know your history you know conservatives have been sounding like Hitler for a while now. Republicans use the same sort of language the Nazis used of Jews, but now with regard to Muslims and gays and other “undesirables” of whom they do not approve.
Trump has the enthusiastic endorsement of the KKK and white supremacists of all stripes, including the Neo-Nazis of Stormfront. They’re not backing him because he sounds like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Winston Churchill. And it’s Trump, after all, we’ve been told by an ex-wife Ivana, who slept with a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside.
Noam Chomsky tells us that Trump is putting to use the same forces Hitler used in his rise to power, fear and a “breakdown of society.” I have long warned that conservatives lacked only a real leader, a charismatic figure to drive their extremism. Trump was not the figure any of us were looking for, but then neither in the 30s was it an unknown Austrian corporal.
Republicans would rather lose the election without Trump than win it with him, and that’s great. We all appreciate the sacrifice. But it’s for all the wrong reasons. They haven’t learned a thing, that their brand is already in the toilet because Trump isn’t breaking new ground here.
He’s merely picking up strands already in place. The Hitler thing is neither new nor unique to Trump. Then again, the whole Nazi thing was neither new nor unique to Hitler. He also picked up strands already in place, white supremacy not least among them.
It’s absurd to expect people to apologize for making the comparison, but not expect Trump to apologize for sounding like Hitler, as though making the comparison is the problem.
Vincene Fox is right: Trump does remind us of Hitler, and appealing to Godwin’s Law doesn’t change anything.