How We Talk About Trump

Fight Tyranny sign with Trump's face on it in the basket of a bicycle
Samantha Sophia / Unsplash

People sometimes think that semantics don’t matter, but the idea is wrong. How a discourse is framed actually matters. And for the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about the discourse surrounding Donald Trump.

I’ve previously written about Trump and how his administration illustrates the 14 points of fascism, so this article is going to be more general as opposed to dissecting the 14 points of fascism in depth. That being said, how we talk about Trump actually matters. People shouldn’t resemble an ostrich who has its head stuck in the sand. The excuse that the average U.S. citizen is trying to work and pay bills isn’t a valid long-term excuse. Playing stupid only works till a certain age before having to call BS.

The media is one aspect of how the Trump discourse is framed. The reality is, the media sold the country out by overemphasizing Hillary’s emails whereas Trump wasn’t scrutinized. However, my point isn’t to rehash the 2016 US Election.

My point is that the media largely hasn’t learned its lesson.

Very few people in the media mention fascism in relation to Donald Trump. And that’s wrong. Yes. Fascism shouldn’t be made light of. But as Joy Reid of the MSNBC show AM Joy articulated on her Saturday, June 23, 2018 show, people sometimes need to confront things. And to Joy’s credit, she didn’t criticize her guest (Masha Gessen) who was discussing the problem surrounding asylum seekers/migrants/undocumented immigrants shows the Trump administration’s fascist tendencies. Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin of The View have also mentioned fascism in relation to Donald Trump (like with Trump labeling anything he doesn’t like “fake news”) whereas Mika Brzezinski (of Morning Joe) has been critical of Trump, but was very careful when discussing how former CIA Director Michael Hayden made a direct comparison of Trump’s policy towards migrants/asylum seekers/undocumented immigrants to the Holocaust by directly showing a black and white photo of the Auschwitz train station with the caption, “other governments have separated mothers and children.” If you’d like to learn more about Hayden’s bold stance, you can read about it here.

Ultimately, Joy Reid, Joy Behar, and Sunny Hostin deserve credit. Most people in the media don’t have the guts to be blunt and are more concerned with appeasing Trump and his fascist tendencies.

Furthermore, Donald Trump lies. And his lies aren’t just spin. Trump’s dishonesty is blatant gaslighting.

Like with Trump blaming Democrats for the family separation policy. I mentioned this point in my previous Thought Catalog article, but I must repeat it: The Democrats aren’t to blame about the family separation policy, and Trump should be ashamed of himself. Especially since his base will believe anything he says.

If you need a refresher about how Democrats didn’t create the family separation policy, you can read about it here.

So, Donald Trump’s lying problem must be called out. Calling out someone for lying isn’t playing partisan politics. It’s called telling the truth. And newsflash: just because a Democrat says something, doesn’t mean the point isn’t true.

And that brings me to my next point. CNN encompasses part of the media that’s to blame for all the Trump peddling. Yes. A lot of their anchors and guests for their various programs might be against Trump, but they still shouldn’t bring a Trump surrogate (like Mrs. Alternative Facts…I mean, Kellyanne Conway) on to defend a blatant Trump lie. Trump’s lies don’t deserve to be defended or spun. A lie is different than having both a Democrat and Republican on a news program debating foreign policy, tax reform, or healthcare. When it comes to the facts, there’s a “right” and “wrong” opinion.

Trump’s lying brings me to my next point. All this dishonesty isn’t good. There’s no point in studying history if people won’t learn from it. Because I’m talking about Nazi Germany. Lying was a significant facet of the Nazi regime. Like with the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. A lot of people might not realize this, but the Nazis believed in the idea of the “big lie.” The concept means if you a tell a huge lie and repeat it enough, then people will believe it’s true.

And that’s what Trump and his regime are doing.

Like with the lie about the Democrats being behind the family separation policy. Or about all the phony allegations against Hillary Clinton—such as about her being responsible for Benghazi. Or even about immigrants committing crimes. I got a 4 out of 5 on my AP Psychology exam, and I’d like to explain the concept of how correlation isn’t causation. The concept means a broad, sweeping generalization can’t be made from a few outliers. If you want to read more about how immigrants are less likely to commit crimes, then you can do that here.

So, this long-winded ramble brings me to my main point. Americans can no longer have a cavalier attitude about Trump. Most Americans don’t know it, but we are at the eighth stage of genocide (there are only ten stages). The point isn’t to suggest genocide will happen. Americans just need to be watchful. Trump might’ve issued his recent executive order regarding family separation, but there are reports that Trump wants to expand the number of undocumented/migrant/asylum seeking people who are detained to tens of thousands of people. If you want to read about that, you can do that here.

Anyway, to get back to my point. Genocide is a process, not one event. And I’m going to quickly explain the stages of genocide with an example from Trump’s presidency.

Stage 1 is classification. We’ve already seen that with the “us versus them” mentality. Like with the marginalization of immigrants, Muslims, POC, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Stage 2 is symbolization. And we see that—like when Trump calls Mexican people “rapists” or makes his MAGA cult think all immigrants are gang members.

Stage 3 is discrimination. And we’ve seen that with Trump’s travel bans, the transgender troop bans, and Trump’s other various discriminatory policies.

Stage 4 is dehumanization. We’ve seen that recently with Trump’s “infestation” comment regarding migrants/asylum seekers, and immigrants. “Infestation” is a signal to his base. Like when the Nazis referred to Jews as “vermin.”

Stage 5 is organization. The idea applies loosely because of separating children from their parents vis-a-vis the migrant/asylum/immigrant crisis. The example still goes to the dehumanizing, cruel intent even if it’s slightly different than Nazi Germany.

Stage 6 is polarization. We see that with Fox News, Breitbart News, and all the other Trump surrogates trying to downplay how cruel Trump’s views are regarding immigrants/migrants/asylum seekers in addition to making Americans think that immigrants/migrants/asylum seekers are the enemy.

Stage 7 is preparation. This stage is like Stage 5, as it more loosely connects. Like with wanting to possibly expand the number of asylum seekers/migrants/immigrants held at these “concentration camps.”

Stage 8 is persecution. And we see that vis-à-vis the current detained asylum seekers/migrants/immigrants. What Trump and his surrogates aren’t mentioning is that their administration is turning away migrants from seeking asylum, meaning some aren’t even getting the chance to present their case for asylum. If you want to know more about that, you can do so here. Another point is that Trump’s regime is making it tougher with asylum seekers with regards to the criteria. Like with victims of violence trying to seek asylum.

So, the United States is at a reckoning. Silence is therefore no longer an option. And that doesn’t mean just understanding why Trump’s government is morally bankrupt and oppressive. We must also consider how conversations about Trump and his fascist tendencies are framed.

Words have power, and can’t be ignored.

For example, we should be calling blatantly racist and anti-Semitic people Nazis and fascists; not white nationalists. The “white nationalist” label dresses up the racist, bigoted, and anti-Semitic beliefs into something less ugly, and thus further enables the problem. Especially when the Park Service recently approved a “Unite the Rally” in front of the White House around the anniversary of Charlottesville. TC mark

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