Trump bases his propaganda directly on Hitler’s ideas in Mein Kampf: focus solely on the lowest common denominator — the poorly educated
(11-26-2017, updated 07-11-2018) “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” he said at a rally. That tells you what he thinks of his voters: they’re schmucks, useful idiots. Hitler’s thoughts exactly.
One of Trump’s ex-wives, Ivana, said that he greatly admired the bastard, and that he always had a copy of a collection of his speeches on his night stand. I doubt he reads them anymore; his mind is almost completely shot. That’s why I also doubt that Trump came up with his campaign strategy, but white supremacist Steve Bannon has studied Hitler closely, I’m sure, and he was Trump’s Chief Strategist. (And I think he’s probably still the main fascist Trump whisperer, even if he’s no longer in the White House.)
I just finished reading Mein Kampf, in the spirit of “know thy enemy”. In English, online, so I don’t financially support any white supremacist publisher. Of course I had learned about the book in high school in Holland, but we didn’t read it–it was banned. The only banned book for adults in the Netherlands. But if you live in Trump’s America and you want to know your enemy, reading Mein Kampf is definitely informative.
Hitler wrote it in prison, where he landed after a failed coup. It has two volumes, published in 1925 and 1926. Volume One is more or less an autobiography, from his childhood to his membership in the NSDAP, the National Socialist German Workers Party. In Volume Two he lays out his complete Nazi philosophy and how he envisioned it would be implemented in Germany.
For those readers who are not that familiar with Hitler’s Nazism: he envisioned a Germany inhabited–eventually–by only “pure, perfect” Aryans, white Nordic and Germanic people. For that to happen other ethnicities would have to leave or at least not be allowed to procreate. (This was in 1925; his “Final Solution”–the plan for the complete annihilation of the Jews–was to come later.) People with genetic abnormalities would also not be allowed to procreate and could adopt a “healthy” Aryan baby instead.
This was his main goal, a pure, perfectly Aryan Germany with plenty of land for all Germans. Everything else had to be a step toward that goal; every person in Germany had to work toward that goal–anyone who didn’t was in the way. That Germany wasn’t successful at that time (it had lost the World War and it was in an economic depression) was due to the Jews and to the bastardization of the Aryan race by outsiders–like the Jews. All according to Hitler, that is.
In Volume One he describes at length how he became interested in propaganda during World War I–then still called The World War, of course. He admired the British and American messaging. It was single-minded, aimed at the masses and had one single message. The motivational speeches and newspaper articles could vary somewhat in subject, and the truth could be bent, but in the end it always came back to the one single, simple message.
Doesn’t that remind you of “Make America Great Again“? It doesn’t matter what Trump speaks about, or how messy his speech is, he can always end with that slogan and it will seem as if he’s wrapped it up with a nice, neat bow.
Hitler’s ideas on propaganda were greatly influenced by the laser-like focus of the Allied messaging. He despised the Weimar parliamentarians, who approached everything too intellectually for his liking. They never made any bold statements that people could get behind. They always qualified everything, afraid they’d not be completely truthful otherwise. He realized that the educated classes would either agree with him or not, or be indifferent. If they agreed with him already, great; if they were indifferent, they would go any way the wind blew; and if they didn’t agree with him he wouldn’t be able to persuade them, because they were independent thinkers.
So in his chapter about propaganda in Mein Kampf, he writes how he focused on the working class, and only on them. But for all the attention he gave to the working class, he scoffed at them — his disdain for them practically drips off the page. At best he referred to them as simply “the masses”, but he never skipped an opportunity to demonstrate that he saw them as uneducated, stupid and impressionable. Germany was “internally armed with faith in the goodness of God and the impenetrable stupidity of the electorate” (Vol. 2, Ch. 1). The German workers were his useful idiots.
Hitler saw how intellectual Brits and Americans attacked the propaganda of their countries as low-brow and stupid, and he laughed, because they didn’t realize that that was beside the point. It wasn’t aimed at the intellectuals. It was aimed at the workers, and they were lapping it up. Those folks weren’t going to listen to any intellectual criticism. The propaganda put things in simple, black and white terms that the masses could understand and get behind.
“The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” (Vol.1, Ch. 4)
He also realized how the press could be his most powerful propaganda weapon:
“[…]the great mass of the people […] represents the simplest-minded part of the nation. It cannot be listed in terms of professions, but at most in general degrees of intelligence. To it belong all those who have neither been born nor trained to think independently, and who partly from incapacity and partly from incompetence believe everything that is set before them in black and white. To them also belongs the type of lazybones who could perfectly well think, but from sheer mental laziness seizes gratefully on everything that someone else has thought, with the modest assumption that the someone else has exerted himself considerably. Now, with all these types, who constitute the great masses, the influence of the press will be enormous. They are not able or willing themselves to examine what is set before them, and as a result their whole attitude toward all the problems of the day can be reduced almost exclusively to the outside influence of others.” (Vol. 1, Ch. 10)
As soon as Hitler came to power, he banned the free press and set up a state-run newspaper. As soon as Trump started running for president, he began to delegitimize the mainstream media every chance he got, with the exception of Fox “News”–already pretty much the platform for the Tea Party Republicans. He praised Fox “News” sky-high, thus assuring their unwavering support. For all intents and purposes the Fox “News” channel had become the Trump’s propaganda channel, and when he was elected, it became, unofficially, the White House “news” channel. Standing by Trump to a ridiculous degree, the Fox pundits twisted themselves into hopeless knots in their attempts to explain his actions or distract from them by trying to keep the Hillary Clinton conspiracy alive.
And it works. Many Republicans have no clue that he spends more than a quarter of his time playing golf, or even that Hillary Clinton doesn’t actually hold office anymore. They’re still calling for her to be impeached. “I love the poorly educated,” Trump said at a campaign rally in 2016, and I’m sure he does.
As the noose is pulled ever tighter around his neck by the Mueller investigation, to the point that even the contortionists at Fox “News” are running out of excuses for the Collusion-with-Russia scandal, and as the “president” has just endorsed a pedophile for senator of Alabama, those Republican Fox watchers who still have a sliver of morality left are having an identity crisis. As a result, we’re seeing a very gradual shift on Fox “News”, because they finally see that they won’t win this, that the game is going to be up rather soon, and they will be left holding the bag if they don’t change their tune. But this is a very recent development–until now Trump’s strategy and that of Fox “News” has been extremely successful in hoodwinking the masses, the poorly educated.
Though he considered the media a powerful tool, Hitler felt that he also needed to address the working class personally and often, at mass meetings. The workers weren’t as prone to reading the newspapers beyond the headlines as the more educated classes were, and the message needed to be repeated over and over again.
“But the masses are slow-moving, and they always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.” (Vol. 1, Ch. 6)
With the instant feedback that he got from the crowd, Hitler knew if they got the message or if he needed to explain it some more, and he would talk until he felt that every single person in a meeting of thousands was convinced of his truth. It was also easier, he believed, to convince people if they were surrounded by so many followers–the newcomers would feel that those followers must be on to something; they’d believe that that many people couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Trump still holds campaign rallies. Yes, for a large part he does this because he needs to have his ego stroked, but he also knows that he needs to keep in touch with his base, that they need to see him in person, that he needs to keep reminding them in person that they mustn’t believe a word the mainstream media say about him, and that he needs to keep them riled up and seeing red with his zero-sum rhetoric.
Democrats can’t get enough of ridiculing his language, his word vomit that doesn’t seem to say anything. But again, he’s not speaking to people who care about sentence structure or content organization. He speaks in dog whistles and conspiracy shorthand. Here’s a good explanation of Trump talk and what it means. His base understand exactly what he’s saying, and that’s what matters.
The only folks that matter as far as his propaganda is concerned are the masses, the incapable and incompetent, the mentally lazy, the impenetrably stupid. Hitler’s words–Hitler, the hero of Trump’s most avid admirers, his white supremacist, Neo-Nazi and fascist supporters, the poorly educated who don’t even know that they’re nothing more than history’s useful idiots.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “Propaganda’s for Chumps”, 11-26-2017)
- Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Somewhere on the Internet. Free. Definitely didn’t pay anyone for this.
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