Donald Trump already resembles historic political tyrants like Mussolini and Hitler. This is not a comparison I take lightly and I’m not saying we’ll be seeing an evil like mass genocide over the next four years. But he does threaten democracy and the freedom of speech and our press; and that is the real danger Trump poses.
Please note that this opinion piece is more a comparison of leadership styles than it is claiming that Trump is pure evil. I personally do think Trump is an awful, bigoted person; but I am not implying he is something as sinister as Hitler.
Now that I’ve made it pretty clear the aim of this piece, let me get into how exactly I view Trump as a tyrant. Trump squashes all his opposition, particularly (but not exclusively) the press. According to Robert Reich, professor at University of California, Berkeley:
“Democracy depends on a free and independent press, which is why all tyrants try to squelch it. They use seven techniques that, worryingly, President-elect Donald Trump already employs.”
What are these 7 techniques?
- Berate the media
There are countless examples of Trump berating the media. He made jabs at the New York Times all election season. He repeatedly stated on Twitter and in rallies that all kinds of media networks were liars. And he even called a meeting with the press just after the election to scold TV networks like CNN and NBC for their ‘dishonest’ and ‘unflattering’ coverage of him. It’s highly unusual for any public official to directly insult the media, especially to the extent that Trump has undergone.
- Blacklist critical media
Trump has revoked The Washington Post’s press credentials and cancelled meetings with the New York Times when he didn’t like the terms. At one point Megyn Kelly criticized Trump for only speaking to fellow Fox News colleague Sean Hannity. Trump has repeatedly limited access to information to those networks and anchors whose coverage he approves of. Accordingly, many mainstream media networks were blacklisted.
- Turn the public against the media
Lying, Dishonest, Disgusting, Scum. Just some of the words that Trump used to describe the media on his Twitter account and at his rallies. Trump actively tried to smear the media’s reputation to his base of supporters. He denounced their credibility and claimed many had motives for their negative coverage.
- Condemn satirical or critical comments
You don’t have to look far for Trump’s condemnation of satire and criticism. He has repeatedly gone back and forth with Alec Baldwin on Twitter for the actor’s inaccurate and un-funny portrayal of him. He not only insulted Balwin, but SNL itself. Trump also attacked the cast of “Hamilton” for making a political statement directed at VP Pence. So beyond news networks, Trump criticized any creative messages that opposed him.
- Threaten the media directly
Trump repeatedly threatened to sue The New York Times for coverage of multiple scandals of his. He also claimed on the campaign trail that if he were to win, he’d “open up our libel laws” so that when the press “write[s] purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
- Limit media access
Trump rarely meets with the press; and opportunities to question him are very limited. Both Obama and Bush called press conferences three days after finding out the outcome of their elections. Trump did not. And it was the Kremlin, not Trump, that reported first that Putin offered Trump a congratulatory call after the election.
- Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly.
Our main source of communication with Trump? Twitter. All election season Trump has used Twitter to bypass the media entirely and communicate his message directly to the public. This is where Trump has chosen to express himself, in a form where he avoids being challenged by the intermediary – the media.
Trump’s clear attempt to squash the media is reason for alarm. And it’s not just the media he condemns; any public opposition of his is met with Twitter attacks or attacks at rallies. This ranges from Rosie O’Donnell to a college-aged woman that posed a question to Trump and said he wasn’t “a friend to women.”
Beyond this push against the media, The Atlantic also pointed out a very concerning argument – that like Mussolini, Trump is a “charismatic leader who tests the limits of what the public, press, and political class will tolerate.”
All of the above are guilty of allowing him to test the nation’s limits. 46% of the public allowed him to betray norms when they elected him president. The press allowed him to push the limits by giving him an excessive amount of coverage for almost everything he did. The Republican Party may have been divided during the election, but following his election, backed him, in humiliating ways. Think of powerful Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. Trump practically relished in Mitt Romney’s discomfort as Romney was interviewed for Secretary of State.
All of these behaviors are what breeds revolutions, and sometimes not for the better. If you ask me, this is what I’m most concerned about during this Trump presidency. Trump doesn’t fully understand and does not care to understand how the government works; and we are letting him do it. Just like Germans did with Hitler and Italians did with Mussolini. As Mussolini rose to power, plenty of liberals disliked him, but tolerated his behavior in the hope that he would become more mainstream when he was given real power. They were wrong; and they realized it too late. Hopefully, the Republican Party doesn’t make the same mistake.
By Linsey Stonchus
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