Making stuff up

“My fellow citizens,

The rise of this blusterous man bewilders the educated among us, conjoins opposing politicians, agonizes our international allies, threatens minorities, spits on the disabled, and touches the hearts of those who just don’t know any better.

Let us stop propounding how mad this all is, but instead, do something.”

Liselotte Hübner

Germany, 1929

Well, indeed. Trump bears some resemblance to Hitler. The meme with the quote on a photo of Trump has gone round facebook, and eventually reached me. I googled Liselotte, and the first hit was Snopes. Another was this wordpress blog with the quote itself, and pictures of Hitler, and Trump with a Hitler moustache and uniform.

This has been a Republican game, too, comparing President Obama to Hitler, showing him with his arm in a position somewhat like a Nazi salute, and now Democrats are playing it. Possibly Liselotte Hubner existed, possibly she said something like that, though she would have been prescient, as the NSDAP had only twelve Reichstag members at the time. Sebastian Mueller-Soppart’s post on facebook has had 97,595 shares. “Minorities and the disabled” sounded a bit modern for 1929, but “minorities” was used in that sense in the early twentieth century, says the Oxford English Dictionary, and “disabled” may have particular connotations but is a modern translation. Sebastian says Liselotte, my grandmother, spent two years in a concentration camp after voicing her opinion. Dachau was founded in March 1933, just after the Nazi coalition came to power, so he may be right; though it only had two hundred prisoners, then.

But- what good does it do us? On the Left, it gives us a small hit of self-righteousness- at best, solidarity in sharing it- but tells us nothing. More use is Mark Salter, former top adviser to John McCain: Whatever Hillary Clinton’s faults, she’s not ignorant or hateful or a nut. She acts like an adult and understands the responsibilities of an American president. That might not be a ringing endorsement. But in 2016, the year of Trump’s s campaign, it’s more than enough. Hitler is uniquely evil, invading France, Belgium, Holland, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and others, murdering six million Jews and as many gay men as he could manage. Trump can cause a great deal of damage, in the White House, but I hope not quite that much death.

It produces an emotional response. I don’t feel the “Hubner” quote motivates me, particularly: it just makes me horrified and miserable. It gives Trump supporters something to resent, and when we descend to their level we cannot ask them to show a better side of themselves. It lowers the tone of political debate. Trump foments and feeds on resentment and frustration. We need to be rational, and to lead his supporters to rationality.

Don’t make stuff up. There is plenty of reasoned argument: here’s Mark Salter again. [Trump is] unhinged by criticism from women, most particularly female journalists. Who knows what that’s about, but whatever the cause of his misogyny, minor exchanges provoke it. It needn’t take an insult or criticism; sometimes just a lack of fawning deference will have him spewing abuse at the offending woman. That is a fact. We can back it up, with examples. Comparing Trump to Hitler just plays into his hands.

Goya, La Leocardia

13 thoughts on “Making stuff up

  1. I completely agree with you. I was appalled by all the silly comparisons and memes doing the rounds about Obama from the Republican side. I don’t think doing the same to Trump is helpful, however tempting it may be. Like you say, keeping the response clear and factual would do much more to stop fanning the flames that making him so popular.

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    • My phone only published the first part. Well. It appears the Russian secret service hacked the Democratic National COmmittee emails, showing they supported Mrs Clinton over Mr Sanders- as if that was not obvious from the Superdelegate vote. Mr Trump said, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press. Possibly he went too far- he was rebuked for “treason”, and now say the remark was “sarcasm”. As President Obama hinted, he is a demagogue. He calculated his fans would like the remark. They experience anger at him as anger at them. Patient explanation is the best response.

      Added: Michael Bloomberg, former Republican mayor, put it well: There are times when I disagree with Hillary. But whatever our disagreements may be, I’ve come here to say: We must put them aside for the good of our country. And we must united around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.

      The New York Times on countering Mr Trump’s emotional appeal: the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict, like a small rider — conscious, verbal, reasoning — sitting atop a large elephant — the other 98 percent of mental processes, which are automatic and intuitive…. the goal should be to portray Trump in ways that conflict with “deep moral intuitions about fairness versus cheating and exploitation.”

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  2. Whooo, well said, Clare. This whole mess over here makes thinking people wilt with dismay. Any UK thoughts on the Johnson/Weld ticket? For the first time ever, I am dabbling my toes in the Libertarian pond.

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    • All I have seen of Mr Johnson is video of him calling Mr Trump a “pussy”, repeatedly. I am aware of third party campaigns; the conventional wisdom is that they never get their candidate elected, though sometimes disrupt major party campaigns- which is conventional wisdom because it is true. A vote for Mr Johnson, or Jill Stein, is a wasted opportunity. In an election where many want to stop one major candidate, please, please vote to stop Mr Trump. He is a bad man.

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        • We cannot call anyone nitwits after voting for Brexit. We have devalued our currency, devalued British-based business, reduced our economic activity and greatly increased the number of racial attacks. Not all Brexit voters are racist, but the racists think themselves justified by the vote.

          Mr Johnson is not going to win. All he can do is let Mr Trump in. Mr Trump will not please social conservatives: having spoken for Personhood but also for freely available abortion, who knows what he might do?

          Read Mark Salter’s article, then hold your nose and vote for Hillary. Listen to Mr Trump calling for the Russian secret services to hack the Secretary of State’s emails, or threatening not to defend NATO states against invasion. However left-wing, Mrs Clinton cannot do as much damage to America, its standing in the world, its economy and its polity, as Mr Trump.

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            • Well, there is always a write-in. An American friend tells me he could write in my name if he wanted. I objected that I was not born a citizen- and am not one now, either. He said he still could. I would find having a vote for US President rather wonderful- so, vote for Abigail Maxwell!!

              Julian Assange says he has emails which are sufficient evidence to indict Mrs Clinton: note, the source is Russian:

              Second edit: those were a bit flippant. You have my sympathy and my prayers. You will do as you think best for your country, and I feel that is enough.

              Republican congressman Richard Hanna will vote for Mrs Clinton.
              Meg Whitman will vote for and fund Mrs Clinton.

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  3. Respectfully, I disagree. “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” -Voltaire. On the ground, this is exactly what is happening. The media is a disturbing perspective, but not even the tip of the iceberg. Good and decent people, Christians who take their faith seriously, believe the words of this man without question and defend them despite facts and reason. They have, in a very real way, created a faith around him. Belief in him is just as powerful and potent as belief in any deity. There is weeping in defense of his “Christianity,” utter disbelief in any wrongdoing, complete willful ignorance in his many lies.We have the most powerful army in human history and the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of a man who promises to use them and hears only worshipful praise, should scare us to the core. I compare him to Hitler without reservation. He has announced his ban on an entire religion, then moved it to include “Arab nations”, crossing the religious to genetic divide. He and his followers have gone so far as to dehumanize those who oppose him calling them r.a.t.s. He has revoked credentials media outlets he doesn’t like from his rallies censoring the people. He is systematically controlling each aspect of this race and conditioning his followers for a blood bath after which they will only feel triumph. A holocaust doesn’t begin with gas chambers, it begins with perspective control and dehumanization. Yes, of course, it was ridiculous to compare President Obama to Hitler, but that does not mean it equally as ridiculous to compare Trump to Hitler. I tell you we have not faced an election like this in living memory. This is not an election of differing opinions in decent, albeit self-serving people, as it has been in the past. Trump is dangerous. We can only hope he does as is rumored and allows Mike Pence (why did Kasich refuse?!) to do everything and just gets his pictures taken. It is my opinion that if we suffer any kind of terrorist attack while he is President, nuclear war is completely inevitable for him. His pride is unbearable in that way.

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    • OK. Compare him to Hitler if you want.

      You are right- I don’t understand the Christians either. I disagree with US evangelicals on abortion, equal marriage, etc, but had thought that respect for truth and love of neighbour was non-negotiable in Christianity. “He is a baby Christian” would have some validity- people turn to Christ, and maturity in Christ takes time- but I don’t see any respect for Christianity in him. He remains a volatile bully.

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      • Sadly, it’s not. Nothing is a non-negotiable value of Christianity anymore because in our country Christianity is patriotism. The Christians supporting the right whether knowingly or unknowingly worship only at the altar of nationalism. I web just read an article by a Christian who insisted that the constitution was written by God. This is not unrelated to our influx of police violence, racially motivated killing, and suppression of simple human rights like the right of transgendered individual to use the restroom that they need to. The way it’s playing out on the ground is terrifying.

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        • Here is Prof. Wayne Grudem, theologian, on why Voting for Donald Trump is the morally good choice- because he would install Supreme Court judges against abortion, and in favour of discriminating against LGBT folk- and politically and theologically conservative Madison Pearce on why his character flaws should stop Christians voting for him. She writes that Trump has proven himself to be mean-spirited, uncharitable, reactionary, narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, and—to be a bit uncharitable myself—a buffoon. To elect a man who feeds off fear, calls those he dislikes “losers,” and has given us no reason to trust he will do what he says once in office is not, in my view, seeking the good of my nation. She cannot vote for a man of such bad character. Thank God. So, this November, I will be voting my conscience, continuing to pray for my country, and hoping that come 2020, the GOP puts forth a candidate I can get behind. I don’t consider this an apocalyptic, self-righteous, or reductionist thing to do. Perhaps it’s because I believe the God I worship is bigger than 2016—and that in him my future, our future, is secure.

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