The reich stuff – what does Trump really have in common with Hitler?

The reich stuff – what does Trump really have in common with Hitler?

David Smith writes:

When Donald Trump shared a video that dreamed of a “unified reich” if he wins the US presidential election, and took nearly a full day to remove it, the most shocking thing was how unshocking it was.

Trump has reportedly said before that Adolf Hitler did “some good things”, echoed the Nazi dictator by calling his political opponents “vermin” and saying immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country”, and responded to a white supremacist march in Charlottesville by claiming that there were “very fine people on both sides”.

The Hitler-Trump analogy is controversial. “Some of Trump’s critics – including Biden’s campaign – argue that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and authoritarian behavior justify the comparison,” the Politico website observed recently. “Meanwhile, Trump’s defenders – and even some of his more historically-minded critics – argue that the comparison is ahistorical; that he’s not a true fascist.”

The former camp now includes Henk de Berg, a professor of German at the University of Sheffield in Britain. The Dutchman, whose previous books include Freud’s Theory and Its Use in Literary and Cultural Studies, has just published Trump and Hitler: A Comparative Study in Lying.

In it, De Berg compares and contrasts Hitler and Trump as political performance artists and how they connect with their respective audiences. He examines the two men’s work ethic, management style and narcissism, as well as quirks such as Hitler’s toothbrush moustache and Trump’s implausible blond hair.

In a Zoom interview from his office at the university campus, De Berg quotes the American comedian and actor George Burns: “The most important thing in acting is honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” He adds: “The most important thing in populism is authenticity. The moment you’re able to fake that, you’re in.”

De Berg, 60, happened to be renewing his study of National Socialism, and rereading Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto Mein Kampf, just as Trump was first running for the White House in 2015. “Obviously, there are massive differences,” he acknowledges. “Hitler was an ideologically committed antisemite who instigated the second world war and was responsible for the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews died.

“But then I looked at their rhetorical strategies and their public relations operations and I began to see how similar they are in many ways. So I thought, OK, why not do a book looking at Hitler from the perspective of Trump?

“We tend to see Hitler as a genocidal mass murderer, which of course he was, but not so much as a populist. I thought looking at it through the perspective of Trump can help us wrap our heads around the idea as to why so many people actually supported Hitler and vice versa.” [Continue reading…]

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