There’s a meme commonly circulating on the internet featuring a fanatical Josef Goebbles in mid-rant and captioned, “Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty.” Its obvious intent is to draw a parallel between Nazis and Republicans. I’m always suspicious of internet quotes I’m not familiar with, but this one was positively redolent with inauthenticity. So it should be for anyone paying attention to recent events. It was the “that which you are guilty” part that stuck in my throat. The idea that a Republican of today and a Nazi of the past would openly confess they are “guilty” of anything is absurd on its face. Such a thing would require honesty and a kind of frank self-assessment entirely beyond Republicans, or Nazis for that matter.
As it turns out no one, as far as I can google, seems to be able to locate the origin of the spurious Goebbels quote. No surprise there. But the parallel between the words and practices of fascistic regimes like the Nazis of the past and the Republican Party of today is nevertheless well-established. The parallels are so numerous they are, in fact, eerie.
Michael Moore to the contrary, Hitler wasn’t “elected” in November of 1932, he was in fact appointed to the German chancellorship by the president Paul Hindenberg in late January, 1933. In any case, the feeling then among some of the more philosophical members of the outgoing Weimar Republic was not unlike the feeling among Republican Party bosses in 2016. The thinking in both points of history was that he (Hitler or Trump) could be watched over and controlled. The folly of the first historic case did not prevent the folly of the second, of course. It never does. We all know that history is not a thing to be learned from. Or as George W. Bush so eloquently once put it, fool me once … or something.
The continuation of the folly was handed off to the talking heads waiting breathlessly for that magic flying pig moment when Trump would suddenly become “presidential.” While they waited, they waxed lyrical on the well-established “fact” that Trump is a “brilliant businessman.” Myths not unlike this swirled about Hitler.
It should make us chuckle more, though I’m not surprised it doesn’t, that a darkly ill-favored man in poorly fitting suits, bad teeth and a Charlie Chaplin comic aspect who liked to sleep until noon, could pull off the myth of the figure cut by the “Aryan ideal.” Yet not only do many still sit in baffling reverence of Hitler’s “charisma,” the very same kind of jaw-droppingly badly fitting representations are made about Trump. That a man born to money who sits on golden toilets and disdains the poor could be confused with a “man of the people” is too irritating to be funny. Yet there it is. Stupidity that outrageous really is nothing new. If only I could think of a combination of words that describe it. “Screamingly unfunny” is the closest I can come just now.
But it is the Trump regime’s false myth of the Deep State that worries me more than anything. It is a darkly new twist on the old Nazi playbook. Hitler used the Jews and the Communists as his most potent betes noire. The idea being, of course, to adorn them with “terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity,” as Nietzsche put it. Trump does the same with people of color seeking asylum – and the Deep State.
We know that the myth of the Deep State is now part of the official Trump White House position because they told us so. In late September, in a Shakespearean goof up, the Trump White House accidentally sent its official talking points on how to handle the Ukraine scandal to the Democrats. It went in part like this:
The case [of the president’s Ukraine phone call] just shows another example of the “Deep State”, the media, and the Democrats in Congress damaging our national security by leaking confidential information.
This myth, that there exists a government within the government, run by the Democrats and inimical to the American people and their freedoms is, of course, pure nonsense. The problem is many Americans believe in it, and those Americans are going to be manipulated into fanatical hatred of that mythical government in the coming months, all so the Republicans in general and Trump in particular can continue to hang on to power. And, a few twists and turns aside, it’s straight out of the Nazi playbook.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.