Bruce Loebs Hitler’s Rhetorical Theory is a thumbnail sketch of the making of a tyrant, a fascist and a view of how Hitler played the German people into submission. Submission that would lead to one of the most repressive and dangerous regimes the world has ever seen. His sheer audacity, will power and talent for plugging into the German nationalistic pride changed the world forever. Yet, oddly, Loebs notes that Hitler had an unbridled contempt for the German masses. A contempt that he did little to hide or sugarcoat,
Hitler had contempt for his German audiences declaring,“the masses are slow moving and always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice something, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses remember them.”
In today’s highly partisan political landscape of America, Trump focuses his contempt on the Democrats or others who have the temerity to question his flamboyant style which is hardwired directly into his monumental ego. He has no compunction in demonizing any group in the country if he feels that he can extract a bit of advantage from the encounter. He has repeatedly accused Democrats of being proponents of “open borders”, supportive of lawlessness, obstructionist within the Congress and personally attacks anyone he feels threatened by at any given time.
The recent Maxine Waters (D-CA) dust up is a prime example. Waters injudiciously called for Democrats to call out administration officials they encounter in public places. While resistance has its place, Waters may have gone over the line in her comments. Trump, however, saw her comments as a gift from heaven.
“Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party,” Trump tweeted. “She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!” Business Insider
Trump’s attacks on Waters which he has renewed daily since her comments were made highlight yet another trait both Trump and Hitler share. Both men’s disdain for women is palpable, yet different considering the shift in cultural norms and mores of the times. Trump has a long history of treating women as objects is centered more in patriarchal disdain than dealing with them as equals in a world dominated by men. Loebs suggests in his essay that Hitler’s disdain was more of a practical approach, if not sheer bafflement, on how to deal with them in public discourse,
Hitler was especially condescending toward women: “to convince women by reasoned argument is always impossible.”
Hitler’s talent beyond his personal oratorical gifts, Loebs states, was in propaganda. His ability to move the masses was directly related to his ability to latch on to the ideas that would appeal to the greatest number of Germans. Trump is no different. What liberal hasn’t taken exception with the slogan, “Make America Great Again”. Beyond his base, most people understand that America is one of the greatest nations on earth. Similarly, “Drain the Swamp” implies that Washington is a place badly in need of restructuring to be able to serve the masses, preferably according to terms dictated by Trump. While both statements may hold a kernel of truth, Trump and his minions’ desire is to return to a time when white privilege was secure and not under attack by forces unlike themselves.
Loebs notes that Hitler’s use of propaganda was based in his belief that the average German was limited in their ability to absorb the “big picture” due to their lack of intellectual expertise, but as Loebs notes, “their power of forgetting is enormous”. Therefore, repetition becomes an important tool in swaying the masses beliefs on any give topic.
“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is born in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. Propaganda must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over again.”
How often have Americans witnessed Trump rallies where chants of “Lock her up, The media is the enemy of the people, Drain the Swamp”, “Crooked Hillary” and other equally offensive terms are repeated again and again. In may ways the repetition of these phrases becomes the foundation off which Trump whips up his audiences into a fever pitch which has in the past incited his audiences to violence, both real and projected.
Of course, repetition spills over into the structure of the political organization. Just like Trump’s cabinet often sound like talking myna birds as they repeat talking points either of the current Republican political philosophy or Trump himself, Hitler’s own leadership did much the same. For both, the approach is often based on lies, or in Joseph Goebbels, the German Reich’s Minister of Propaganda, the “whopper”.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Trump is a master of the big lie. From claiming the “zero tolerance” fiasco was based on a Democratic law when it was actually his own policy to claiming the Democrats want open borders and support allowing rapists, killers, gang members and other “undesirables’ to enter the United States have all been repeated over and over again in both the media and in the halls of Congress. Trump’s “big lies” are all encompassing depending on the current scandal which he becomes embroiled week after week. This week it’s child and parent separation on the Texas border. A couple of weeks ago it was the infantile assertion that Americans can sleep easy because the nuclear threat from North Korea was ended. Over and over the lies are repeated which become red meat for his base who, shamefully, have no idea or inclination to know what the truth actually is.
Loebs makes several other points about Hitler that are similar to Trump’s way of thinking. “Black/white reasoning” emphasizes there is only one way of looking at an issue. This would be, of course, Trump’s way of thinking. Any deviance is a slap in the face of his agenda and is not tolerated. “Passion over reasoning” is predominant in the way Trump Tweets, speaks to his base and parrots ever time news crews are filming him in the normal course of his work week.
Finally, the concept of “consolidate(ing) enemies” has become one of Trump’s primary ways to discredit people like Democrats, the Canadians, Europe, and a long list of others. In Trump’s world, the Democrats are in league with MS-13 gang members. The G-7 along with the European Union, NATO, China and others are all in league to inhibit his ideas from being implemented on a global scale. For Loebs, this was rooted in disdain for the German people by Hitler. He wrote,
Hitler cautions against attacking multiple enemies because “as soon as the wavering masses are confronted with too many enemies objectivity at once steps in and the question is raised whether actually all the others are wrong and your movement alone is right.”
This is a tactic Trump struggles to incorporate into his message although he tries. The reason is Trump’s ego is so large and fragile he sees offenses everywhere. Currently, however, it’s safe to say that “enemies” are separated into domestic and foreign, which describes his current “enemies” base. It will be interesting how he develops this tacit going forward.
One other trait that Hitler became adept at was “scapegoating”. For Hitler, of course, the Jewish people were the perfect category of Germans to focus his rhetoric and ire upon; a message the German people were quick to embrace. Loebs cites a quote by Robert Waite who wrote,
“Who stabbed Germany in the back? Who signed the armistice? Who had accepted the ‘Treaty of Shame’? Who caused the inflation and the Great Depression? The answer was clear and compelling; ‘always and only the Jew’.”
Trump’s scapegoat is, of course, illegal aliens, most notably, immigrants crossing the American southern border. As mentioned above, his modus operandi when dealing with this topic is to vilify all aliens crossing the southern border as vile and unworthy and by lumping them all (consolidate enemies) together as “Mexicans”. This includes everyone from children and their parents coming to the country for a better life to asylum seekers who have a legitimate reason for fleeing repressive conditions in their own countries to save their families and themselves from death or slavery.
Trump is no Adolph Hitler. He isn’t smart enough to be . . . yet. However, his habit of emulating the repressive tactics of one of the world’s most infamous dictators is frightening to all sane and patriotic Americans. Where will it end? Oddly enough, the answer may lie in the hands of the Republican Party and the hope they will decide to thwart their party leader’s grandiose display of buffoonery and stop him before he does any real danger to our democracy. Other than that, there is Robert Mueller or the ballot box.