America’s First Dictator — Chauncey DeVega in Salon.
Donald Trump is a very honest liar.
When Trump says he is going to hurt you he means it. This is one of the primary reasons his political cultists are so loyal to him.
On this, journalist Masha Gessen warns and advises: “Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: Humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable.”
In her new book, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson shares how during the Jan. 6 terrorist attack on the Capitol by his followers, Trump was heard chanting “hang” as Mike Pence was fleeing for his life. Cassidy’s account is but one more example of many showing how the disgraced and mentally unwell ex-president likely has what psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank suggests is an erotic relationship to violence.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Cassidy issued the following warning about her former boss: “I think that Donald Trump is the most grave threat we will face to our democracy in our lifetime, and potentially in American history.”
Confirming Hutchinson’s warnings, in a Sunday post on his Truth Social disinformation platform, Trump again threatened to end freedom of the press and the First Amendment if he returns to power.
They are almost all dishonest and corrupt, but Comcast, with its one-side and vicious coverage by NBC NEWS, and in particular MSNBC, often and correctly referred to as MSDNC (Democrat National Committee!), should be investigated for its “Country Threatening Treason.” Their endless coverage of the now fully debunked SCAM known as Russia, Russia, Russia, and much else, is one big Campaign Contribution to the Radical Left Democrat Party. I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events. Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE? They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!
Trump is not exaggerating, or posturing, or just being hyperbolic as too many in the American news media, the country’s political class, and among the general public would like to believe – which at this point is delusional. When Trump calls the news media “the enemy of the people” and invokes the Nazis and their attacks on the “lugenpresse“, he is threatening members of the news media (and public more broadly) with prison – and worse if they dare to oppose him.
At a rally in Iowa last Wednesday, Trump told his followers that he is going to invoke the Alien Enemies Act, which is a little-used law that gives the president unilateral power to deport and detain non-citizens who are older than 14 years old. The Alien Enemies Act was last used by President Roosevelt during World War 2 to put Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Trump has also promised to reinstate a ban on travel to America from Muslim countries as well as his regime’s evil “family separation” policy – and presumably the concentration camp system that accompanied it.
Trump is threatening to use the Alien Enemies Act against “drug dealers” and “suspected gang members”. Trump should not be believed: given his past behavior and announced plans to become a dictator he will likely use that law to target his personal and political enemies. As seen in his recent attacks on Gen. Mark Milley, Trump is escalating his fascist threats of violence as part of his plan to become America’s first dictator.
In an interview earlier this month with Hugh Hewitt, Trump summoned the white supremacist conspiracy theory lie that the “Democrats” and “the left” are “importing” black and brown people from “Third World countries” in an attempt to replace “real Americans”, i.e. White “Christians”:
These are corrupt people. These are fascists. These are Marxists. These are communists. These are sick people that are destroying our country. We have millions of people coming in. I’m in New York right now, and I just rode through the streets. I’ve never seen anything like it. New York, I’ve never seen it looking like this. And you have thousands and thousands of people in plain sight that come from foreign countries that most people never even heard of. It’s not just countries adjoining us. It’s foreign countries that many people have never even heard of. They’re coming from all over Africa. They’re coming from areas of the world that nobody can believe, and how far it is away for them to get there. These cartels are making a fortune, and they’re destroying our country, and we’re doing nothing about it. And we have a president that’s incompetent and corrupt.
In his interviews and speeches and other communications, Trump is also continuing to announce his plans to deploy the military to occupy America’s cities (meaning major cities with large populations of nonwhites in “blue” parts of the country), put homeless people in camps, use the Department of Justice to punish and imprison his political rivals (including President Biden), and to criminalize transgendered people.
In all, Trump’s plans are an extension of a decades-long revolutionary project by the “conservative” movement and white right to end multiracial pluralistic democracy and replace it with a Christofascist plutocracy. These plans to end American democracy are detailed in Trump’s Agenda 47 and the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025.
In a 2022 essay at Current, historian John Fea reflected upon the lessons for how to turn the United States into a fascist nation as instructed in the 1938 satirical novel “The School for Dictators”:
1. Encourage anti-intellectualism.
2. Undermine moral standards, especially among lawmakers.
3. Pursue power for power’s sake.
4. Develop a spiritual connection with loyal followers.
5. Rewrite national history.
6. Create political chaos.
Some eight decades later, “The School for Dictators” is a prophetic guidebook for the Trumpocene.
For more than seven years, the American news media has, largely, continued to fail in its responsibilities to defend American democracy against Trumpism and neofascism. In a time of democracy crisis, the news media should be speaking truth to the powerful, shining a light on the threats to democracy and civil society, and helping the public to understand the nature of the challenge and what they should do about it. Instead, the American news media has decided to play referee or alternatively to behave like a traffic cop who does not intervene to stop the crimes he or she is witnessing.
Donald Trump is an objective threat to American democracy and civil society. That is a fact. Instead of stating that fact consistently and plainly, the American news media has decided to be neutral and to create false standards of “fairness” and “balance” and “bothsideism” that reduce these existential dangers to being mere “partisanship” and “polarization” where the Democrats and Republicans, Biden and Trump, those Americans who believe in a real democracy vs the supporters of the MAGA movement and neofascism, are all more or less equivalent.
In all, profits and entertaining and distracting the public matter to the mainstream news media more than telling uncomfortable truths.
In a recent post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, author Stephen Beschloss described such irresponsible behavior by the country’s news media in the following way:
Trump is getting worse, more dangerous, more bent on inciting violence. This is not a presidential candidate; this is a criminal defendant seeking to save his own skin no matter how much damage it causes. The media must stop pretending this is a normal presidential horse race.
In this context, a news outlet can cover Trump’s affronts to democracy. But it can’t quite internalize them. For such a publication to fully behave as though it has a working memory — and a capacity to rationally weigh the significance of disparate pieces of information — would be for it to resemble a partisan rag.
The most salient truth about the 2024 election is that the Republican Party is poised to nominate an authoritarian thug who publishes rationalizations for political violence and promises to abuse presidential authority on a near-daily basis. There is no way for a paper or news channel to appropriately emphasize this reality without sounding like a shrill, dull, Democratic propaganda outlet. So, like the nation writ large, the press comports itself as an amnesiac, or an abusive household committed to keeping up appearances, losing itself in the old routines, in an effortful approximation of normality until it almost forgets what it doesn’t want to know.
Once again, as Masha Gessen warns, “Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.”
The autocrat – and in the case of Donald Trump, he who wants to be a dictator – is not kidding. Denial, wishcasting, hope peddling, and hiding behind “centrism”, “norms”, “consensus”, “institutions”, “the guardrails”, “tradition”, “American Exceptionalism”, “our leaders”, “the adults in the room”, and other myths and fantasies and failed psychological coping mechanisms will not save you or American democracy from Trump and the Republican fascists’ cruelty and destruction and pain.
Doonesbury — Time flies when you’ve got good duty.