Trump's Demagoguery Threatens Democracy Itself
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Dec 09, 2015 at 12:57:18 PM EST
Now is the time for blunt talk. Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue generating "scripted violence." Trumpism threatens not just the First Amendment but democracy itself. I call him a right-wing populist using fascistic rhetoric to target scapegoated groups. Other journalists and scholars have dubbed him a fascist or a totalitarian. But we all smell the stench of the burning bodies. So let us have our terminological debates, but setting aside all intellectual disagreements, as citizens of an increasingly unfree society, we must stand up and speak out.

The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, and that includes the right to call religion ridiculous. It protects devout Roman Catholics and those in the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster--even those who sometimes wear colanders as hats. Here at Talk to Action we are nonpartisan, welcome respectful contributions discussing human, civil, and constitutional rights, and find debates between theists and atheists annoying (no trolls blasting either are allowed). Democracy is what we cherish...and it is in trouble.

Some early studies of prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating treated the processes as marginal to “mainstream” society and an indication of an individual pathological psychological disturbance. More recent social science demonstrates that demonization is a habit found across various sectors of society among people who are no more prone to mental illness than the rest of society.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt taught us that ordinary people can become willing--even eager--participants in brutality and mass murder justified by demonization of scapegoated groups in a society

Lawrence L. Langer raises this as a troubling issue regarding the Nazi genocide:
“The widespread absence of remorse among the accused in postwar trials indicates that we may accept the possibility of a regimen of behavior that simply dismisses conscience as an operative moral factor. The notion of the power to kill, or to authorize killing of others, as a personally fulfilling activity is not appealing to our civilized sensibilities; even more threatening is the idea that this is not necessarily a pathological condition, but an expression of impulses as native to ourselves as love and compassion.”

A troubling concept--that some of us who helped jumpstart this website have discussed for decades--is that when most people in a society realize that a fascist movement might actually seize state power, it is too late to stop it. So let us act now: as Republicans, Democrats, Independents and the folks who think voting just encourages a corrupt system. As people of faith, the spiritual, the agnostic, and those who think that God is Dead because she doesn’t exist. We are all in the same lifeboat here. Grab an oar.

Facing History and Ourselves reminds us of the “Fragility of Democracy” in a series of essays by Professor Paul Bookbinder, an international expert on the Weimar Republic in Germany in the period just before that nation collapsed into the inferno of Nazi rule and genocide. No, we do not face a crisis like that faced by the German people in the 1920s and 1930s. Yet as Bookbinder observes, there were moments when Hitler’s thugs could have been stopped.

In her small yet powerful book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that evil was banal, and that if there was one clear universal truth, it is that ordinary people have a moral obligation to not look away from individual or institutional acts of cruelty or oppression. We recognize the processes that lead from words to violence, they are well-studied, and the theories and proofs are readily available. Silence is consent. Denial is complicity with evil.


Chip Berlet, an activist involved with building democracy and human rights for over 50 years, is an invesigative journalist and independent scholar who blogs at Research for Progress.

However, it is not Trump who scares me. I read my facebook posts - one of the things retirement provides me the time to do - and am very troubled by what people find as patriotism, as religious Christianity, as unquestioned moral superiority. It is the moral fabric of our citizens which troubles me. We couch our fear, our bigotry, our greed and lust for power in the language of Christianity. We call ourselves Christian, and are enamored with religion - but it manifests itself in a drive for national, indeed world domination. There is little understanding of Jesus - little recognition that his love extended to and included those forgotten and denied acceptance in society. Jesus was passionate in his acceptance of the poor - the imprisoned - the sick - the rejected. His message was love others, indeed he offered hope that perfect love would cast out fear. It isn't surprising, that our building fear is resulting in all the opposites of love. We will have the government we deserve - if we remain silent we in the words of Pogo, will have met the enemy, and he is us!

by chaplain on Thu Dec 10, 2015 at 11:06:08 AM EST
Think about how Trump and the Republicans (and Christians in general) sound to NON-Christians (such as myself).  

I'm making an assumption based on your username, but based on that, you're an ordained minister.  Most of the Christians in this hellhole would deny your ordination and your calling because you don't follow the Jesus they believe in - and you can't deny their Christianity either - beware the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.  Trump is just a figurehead for the attitudes and beliefs of the majority of Christians (at least in hellholes like this).  They're also laboring hard to export their values and beliefs to other churches and people - there has been adequate evidence of that on this website (IRD?).

I hear Trump and he scares the cr*p out of me (he also sounds/reads like many of the people in this area).  I'm someone who would not do well if he gets his way - I'm minority (but refuse to pass as white), I have disabilities (not through anything I did or didn't do), I'm no longer Christian, I'm liberal, and I hold an advanced degree in a social science that is known for exposing the lies of the elites (hopefully within a couple of years have Ph.D. after my name).  If he wins, it would be a green light to the sorts that dominate this landscape.  If people think Christian Terrorism is bad now, I almost would guarantee it would skyrocket if he wins.  (I would argue more so than the other Republicans.)  The sort of demonizing language he uses has been shown to increase violence against the demonized - I've read several journal articles on that connected to poverty and homelessness, and a couple dealing with "race" too.  He's really the poster child for the sort of thing we struggle against.

Another point:
The problem with the "government we deserve" argument is that there ARE plenty of people who don't deserve it and have been speaking out and fighting against the evil (most of them I've known are NOT Christian - so please don't start assuming that the "real Christians" are the main good guys here - that's a bit offensive to those who aren't Christian and who have experienced Christianity as we have).  It's wrong to punish the innocent for the "sins" of the guilty - or even ALONG WITH the guilty.  We don't deserve any more suffering and abuse, thank you!

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Dec 11, 2015 at 12:40:06 PM EST

In so many discussions there is a war of labels and "hot button shorthand" that does not move either side. Worse than the "True Scotsman" fallacies where every member of a group is legitimately to be considered there really are different universes where one person's definition of a "True Socialist" is about Soviet Russia, and the next person using the word "Socialist" means Denmark, and at any level of detail there is no intersection.

And that is only the most obvious of a growing number of words that have no common intersection of values. It is not that there has been a lack of insights available. George Lakoff comes easily to mind, but Douglas Mc Gregor was discussing the same insights when Lakoff was in knickers, and various examples from the Bible and the different visions possible have been much of what this site is about.

With all the twisting about data (he said-she said; Orwellianisms "corporate is fascist" "slavery to this ideology is freedom" There is a long list of propaganda techniques.

In the end it is how we treat each other that is the only Details that matter in any religion, and is the Real clash of civilization we need to address. I detailed out four basic values that largely define that divide," Two of action and two of observation" That I have quit having many discussions on Facebook as referencing those becomes every answer.

by FreeDem on Sat Dec 26, 2015 at 01:20:07 AM EST

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