The trial opened on February 26, 1924. The makeshift courtroom, on the second floor of the building, was packed with eager observers. The judges (for the trial constituted a tribunal) were each commiserating, fascinated and more than a little intimidated by the defendant.
At first the defendant answered every question the prosecutor put to him with terse efficiency. But as the trial continued his answers became more verbose and articulate. Spurred on by the enthusiasm of the partisan crowd, indulged by the silly men of the impotent tribunal and carried away by his own grandiloquence, the defendant’s answers turned into speeches which grew into solipsistic harangues.
The obedient press was there and reported every word of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was on trial for high treason, for attempting to overthrow the lawfully established Weimar Republic. He was ultimately given a shockingly light sentence of five years, of which he only served a little more than a year.
Had Hitler not been platformed by the press he might have remained justly obscure and would have never captured the public imagination. He was instead helped to power by a greedy and irresponsible media, heedless of the dangers Hitler and his thugs represented, careless that they were adding to his fame by indulging his lies and endangering their very own freedom to report the truth.
It’s easy, even facile, to draw a comparison between Trump and Hitler, but there are lessons of the past that are readily available through Hitler’s example that remain unlearned nearly 100 years later. In May the offending non-learner of history’s lessons was CNN when they gave Trump unredacted access to spew his lies to their audience. On Sunday it was NBC and the latest host of Meet the Press, Kristen Welker, giving new wings to this MAGA monster with unbelievably softball questions and pathetically little pushback.
Some have gone so far as to credit Welker with “genius” for entrapping Donald Trump and making him, inadvertently, admit that he and he alone was responsible for the decision to try to overturn the election, that he was not misled by his lawyers. I am unimpressed. I saw nothing clever in her interview. Besides, I think Trump has already made that point clear many times. He’s confessed in a million ways that he ignored his lawyers. We don’t need a million and one.
No, what we need is a press that calls him what he is, a liar, and all Sunday’s interview did was destroy the credibility of yet another American news network by giving this lying bastard implied legitimacy. In so doing, NBC just took another large and dangerous step to the MAGA right.
Whatever ultimately becomes of Donald Trump, and I believe he will be going to jail before Christmas, it remains clear that the mainstream media is promoting an evil monster. Trump attempted to destroy America’s 247 year old government and replace it with a fascistic regime of hate and intolerance, and the mainstream media is content to try to let him get away with it.
While Donald Trump may not endure, his legacy of narrow-minded bigotry and fanatical totalitarianism will live on, thanks in part to a press that insists on continuing to normalise this fiend. NBC should be ashamed for platforming this lying fool, and the whole rotten apparatus that brought Trump’s lies on the air on Sunday should be rounded up and summarily repudiated and dismissed from the network. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.