Originally posted here.
Donald Trump, the Most Dangerous Face in the Republican Crowd
By Sasha Abramsky
…What happens when a narcissist is unleashed by the mass media and becomes convinced that his media persona is actually both capable and deserving of ruling the world?
[Elia Kazan’s 1957 movie “A Face in the Crowd”] warned of the dangers. Today, nearly sixty years later, [the movie’s main character] Lonesome Rhodes has come to life in the form of Donald Trump. The brand-name mogul, the reality-TV star, who resides in a gauche Versailles-styled penthouse overlooking Central Park but who plays to the anxieties of poor and marginalized people far from the epicenters of power, has come to believe his own guttural, shits-and-giggles shtick. And, tragically, the popularity footprint he gained through The Apprentice—look at the camera, strut your big-man, alpha-male stuff, ruthlessly cull your participant-hopefuls with the infamous “You’re Fired” tagline—and appearances in tough-guy arenas such as World Wrestling Entertainment has translated into political capital. For a not insignificant portion of the voting-age population, the fatuous bromides of faux-reality TV qualify Trump, who has never previously run for any public office, to be the most powerful human being on earth.
Trump articulates the resentments and fears that these voters feel against particular demographic groups. Not because he believes them, necessarily, but because they serve his need for adulation. It’s the language of street violence pushed by the billionaire autocrat, redolent of second-rank tyrants such as the Shah of Iran, Papa Doc Duvalier or Augusto Pinochet, who wanted the world to think they were bigger than they were, and who wanted to be loved by their followers for the fear that they instilled in their opponents. It is the language of raw power, utterly unrestrained by the nuances of legitimate authority.
Trump pursues this strategy with deliberate disregard for the political niceties of the democratic back-and-forth, labeling opponents as enemies and dissenters as traitors. His dehumanization of domestic opponents takes the language and the ferociously callous attitudes of war—those that rationalize what we euphemistically call “enhanced interrogation techniques” against terrorism suspects and remote-controlled drone assassinations of enemies—and imports them into the domestic landscape. After a decade and a half of war, perhaps it should be no surprise that a master propagandist has now harvested, for domestic electoral gain, the macho rage-culture that grows out of the violence of conflict.
Trump freely talks the language of the fifth column, the stab-in-the-back rhetoric beloved of fascists of an earlier epoch. And he generalizes about entire races and religions in a way that would have been familiar to members of the White Citizens’s Councils in their backlash against the civil rights movement. He promises to “Make America Great Again,” and, in calling for Mexicans to be deported, Muslims to be barred entry, and Black Lives Matter protesters to be beaten, as well as in his mockery of the way that Asians speak English, he conveys that what he really means is “Make America White Again.”