Monthly Archives: February 2017

Why Do The Media Dislike Donald Trump So Much?

Followers of this blog will know that I have considerable reservations about, not to say antipathy towards Donald J Trump, and not just because he likes to lampoon disabled journalists, of which I am one (although that now infamous incident involving Serge Kovaleski did open a revealing window into his mind).

I think he is a liar, a fraud and a con-man who is on the make for himself and his grotesque family and is prepared to ally himself with dangerous, under-rock lifeforms to advance his ambitions and will think nothing about lying to and betraying all those rust-belt types who voted for him thinking their long-lost jobs would return.

At the same time I do find the outrage of the US media and their cousins in Europe at Trump a bit hard to take. The outlets these journalists work for in large measure turned a blind eye in the 2000’s to a barrage of, and not-difficult-to-disprove, Presidential (and prime ministerial) lies, ranging from George W Bush’s fraudulent election to the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria (the McClatchey Group being a distinguished exception regarding Iraq).

And they barely said a word in apology when the truth finally emerged (preferring instead to punish individual journalists while forgiving the managements which accepted, welcomed and trumpeted their stories on front pages).

Trump’s lies, which admittedly are more obviously lies and more crudely delivered that those of his predecessors, have the media in a ferment of protest and outrage.

I can’t help think there is a bit of snobbery – not to mention double standards – behind much of this aspect of anti-Trumpism. The man clearly hates the liberal media, he doesn’t read (some wonder if he can), watches cable TV endlessly, especially Fox News, tweets semi-literately and can barely put a coherent sentence together.

Part of the truth about the US media’s relations with Trump is that he is not one of them. Despite his alleged wealth and Manhattan ties, he really does come from the rust-belt. Obama, by contrast and despite his skin colour, was a Harvard man who probably lied as outrageously but somehow that was more acceptable.

So it is worth reading this Media Lens‘ critique of the BBC’s coverage of Trump’s extraordinary press conference of last Thursday via an interview with a British journalist called Peter Oborne.

Oborne, by the way is a former Daily Telegraph writer and is now a deputy editor for the equally right-wing Spectator magazine. Sometimes even reactionaries can be right (mind you, I can’t remember either The Telegraph or The Spectator subjecting the Iraqi casus belli to much scrutiny).


22 February 2017

The ‘Superficial, Arrogant Smugness’ Of BBC News – Peter Oborne Delivers Some Home Truths On BBC Radio 4 Today

In a recent media alert, we noted the occasional tell-tale signs of uncomfortable truths that slip through cracks in the propaganda façade of BBC News. Very occasionally, the propaganda nature is clearly highlighted and can be enjoyed for its directness and the flustered BBC response it provokes.

Such was the occasion last Friday (February 17) when the BBC’s Justin Webb interviewed political journalist Peter Oborne live on BBC Radio 4 Today. It is fair to say Webb wasn’t expecting what happened. His attempts to hide his discomfort by repeatedly laughing can be heard in this clip captured and uploaded to YouTube by Steve Ennever. We have provided a transcript in what follows.

Immediately before Oborne was interviewed, BBC North America correspondent Jon Sopel had delivered his verdict on US president Donald Trump’s ‘most extraordinary’ press conference the previous day. (Sopel’s radio contribution was summed up in a piece by him on the BBC News website). The BBC correspondent claimed that ‘everything about reporting on this presidency is unexpected and unpredictable’.

Justin Webb then began his interview with Peter Oborne:

JW: ‘What do you make of Trump last night?’

PO: ‘Well, I thought it was great entertainment. And I have to say that I was listening to Mr Sopel there who reported the Blair years very enthusiastically, and he was accusing Donald Trump of all sorts of things which he never accused Blair of, and [Alistair] Campbell: he only took one line of argument, he excluded the hostile press, he was obsessed by the media. This just as much applied to the man that Mr Sopel admired so much when he reported it for the BBC, which was this sort of one-dimensional politics and obsession with the press. Welcome to what’s been going on for the last twenty years. Nothing new.’

This was a brave opening gambit by Oborne. To directly challenge the propaganda stance of a BBC correspondent who had just been reporting – to declare that he ‘reported the Blair years very enthusiastically’ – was a remarkable breath of fresh air. Webb laughed in apparent disbelief at Oborne’s criticism and hit back:

JW: ‘Are you saying that…are you seriously arguing that Donald Trump is a kind of extension of Tony Blair?’

Webb’s incredulous response reminded us of a 2004 BBC Newsnight interview, when anchor Jeremy Paxman commented to Noam Chomsky:

‘You seem to be suggesting, or implying – perhaps I’m being unfair to you – but you seem to be implying there is some equivalence between democratically elected heads of state like George Bush or Prime Ministers like Tony Blair and regimes in places like Iraq.’ (BBC Newsnight, May 21, 2004)

Likewise, in a 2001 BBC radio interview, an equally astonished Michael Buerk asked former UN assistant-secretary general Denis Halliday:

‘You can’t… you can’t possibly draw a moral equivalence between Saddam Hussein and George Bush Senior, can you?’

Oborne was unfazed and rose to Webb’s challenge:

PO: ‘Well, what, the mendacity, the lying, the cheating, the obsession with the press. What’s new, of course, is that it’s much more entertainment. The Blair lot imposed this boring message. They just refused to… there was a ban on anybody saying or doing anything interesting. Now with Trump, at least he’s off-message, he’s real, it’s actually happening, and you know BBC correspondents can sneer at it as much….’

JW [interrupting, incredulous] ‘Well…, he wasn’t sneering. He wasn’t sneering. He was just reporting what actually happened.’

Webb’s attempted defence of his colleague Jon Sopel was lame. Anyone who checks Sopel’s remarks will see that he was not ‘just reporting what actually happened’. Sopel’s account was clearly coloured by his own prejudices.

Oborne reasonably countered that ‘it was [sneering]’. He now removed his gloves altogether:

‘The superficial, arrogant smugness with which he [Sopel] condemned the president, the democratically elected, by the way, I know you don’t like elections much at the BBC…’

JW: [laughing]

PO: ‘…democratically elected president of the United States of America.’

JW: ‘We absolutely reported on his democratic election, and on his policies, and on what’s happening. Are you seriously suggesting that the chaos of the Trump presidency, and his approach to the outside world is being got up by a media that don’t like him? And actually behind the scenes, as he says, everything’s running smoothly. Is that a serious position that a serious person can take?’

Oborne dismissed Webb’s blather as a strawman argument:

PO: ‘I didn’t say any of those things. The point I was making was that the characteristics of the Trump presidency, and in particular its media handling, the attempt to side-line the press, the complete contempt for the truth, there’s nothing new here. It happened with the Clinton years, it happened during the Blair years. Actually, it was worse during the Blair years, because the press was so reverential, and they sold us the lie about weapons of mass destruction and the Iraq war. And then they sold us – Cameron, the inheritor of Blair – sold us the lie about Libya and that catastrophe in north Africa. And the press and the BBC cheered him along. They didn’t question it and now that they’ve got somebody they don’t like, they’re going after him….’

JW: [chuckling]

PO: ‘But when you had liberal leaders who you loved – Iraq, Libya and so forth – you cheered them on.’

This was all much too much for the ‘neutral’ BBC. Webb shut down the discussion:

JW: ‘Well, I’m not sure they felt at the time they were necessarily cheered on. Certainly not the Blair government and the BBC. And indeed not this programme. But, erm, there you go. Peter Oborne, nice to talk to you, thank you.’

This was BBC-speak for: ‘Get lost!’

Oborne was absolutely right to point to the media’s complicit role in enabling the Iraq war and the destruction of Libya. He was also entirely justified in highlighting the media adulation that was showered on Blair; still noticeable at the Guardian, in particular, which is apparently unable to move on from its love affair with the war criminal. For Webb to chuckle his way through these uncomfortable truths says it all. The mocking disdain for the truth encapsulates the complacent, power-serving ‘liberal’ mindset that infests BBC News.

Mark Doran, one of our readers, noted afterwards on Twitter that Webb also laughed out loud with apparent incredulity during an interview with US journalist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald was challenging Webb’s assertion that Edward Snowden had ‘given away secrets that had been useful to people who want to do harm to other perfectly innocent people’. Greenwald responded: ‘You just made that up’, and proceeded to outline Webb’s ignorance of the facts of Snowden’s revelations.

As is typical for a high-profile BBC journalist, Webb has a long history of subservience to state power. In 2007, we discussed his three-part homage on BBC Radio 4 to the United States, the mythical ‘shining city on a hill’. His paean to the US exposed the ideological blindness that holds sway at the BBC, smoothing over, or ignoring, the brutal realities of US power.

Ten years later, with everything that has happened since, our conclusion has only been confirmed: namely, that Justin Webb, Radio 4 Today editors and senior BBC professionals are doctrinal managers whose task is to deflect attention from the interests, goals and brutal consequences of Western power.

Is This Why Gerry Adams Wants To Hobnob With Donald Trump On St Patrick’s Day?

There has been, understandably, some puzzlement at Gerry Adams’ apparent determination to go to Washington next month to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with Donald Trump in the White House.

Given the worldwide anger and disgust at Trump’s Muslim ban, along with the almost daily horror of Presidential cabinet nominations/confirmations, executive orders, insults thrown at media, women and judges, alternative facts, endless badly written tweets and flagrant conflicts of interest in and around the Oval Office, what could the Sinn Fein president possibly hope to gain by being pictured schmoozing with the world’s most disliked man over a bowl of wilting shamrock?

Well, one reason he may decide to ignore the brickbats that will be tossed in his direction is that one senior American supporter of Sinn Fein has already met Donald Trump in the White House, was given a tour of the building by the man himself and got on so well with Trump that he left Washington boasting that he and his colleagues had forged an alliance with the new leader of the free world.

So who was this man and what is his connection to SF?

Donald Trump meets Gerry Adams at a New York fundraiser in 1995

Donald Trump meets Gerry Adams at a New York fundraiser in 1995

He is called Terry O’Sullivan and he heads up the 800,000-strong Laborers International Union of North America. O’Sullivan was in the White House a couple of weeks ago as part of a delegation of trade union leaders invited to meet Trump to discuss his plans for a major infrastructure programme that aims to modernise America’s airports, roads, bridges and tunnels.

The Union bosses were delighted with the meeting, first because it has been years since any US President regarded the American Union leadership as important enough to deal with as a group (even the allegedly liberal Obama only met the occasional trade union leader on an individual basis), and secondly because Trump is offering them the prospect of tens of thousands of new jobs, and new members.

Although he did not say so publicly, Trump must also have been delighted with the meeting, giving him some rare good publicity as well as the support of America’s Trade Union bureaucracy for his job-creating plan.

The left-wing writer and climate change activist, Naomi Klein wrote an Op-ed this week in The New York Times lambasting the bosses for their naivete, warning them that Trump’s deregulation agenda, tax cuts for the rich and planned public spending cuts will more than offset any benefits the infrastructure plan brings.

But even she recognised the significance of the meeting:

‘A new administration can always count on many organizations to issue pro forma statements expressing a nonpartisan willingness to work with the new leader. Let’s be clear: This was not that. This was a new alliance. As Terry O’Sullivan, head of Laborers’ International Union of North America, put it on MSNBC: “The president’s a builder. We’re builders.”’

But what are Terry O’Sullivan’s links to the Shinners?

Well, if you go to the website of the AFL-CIO-sponsored union-owned insurance company, ULLICO, activate the link to the Board of Directors, you can find out more about Mr O’Sullivan by clicking on his name, and this is what pops up:


If you go to the bottom of the panel you can see that Mr O’Sullivan is described as a ‘long-time, vocal supporter and activist for Sinn Fein….’

Now, isn’t that nice for Mr Adams; a trade union boss who along with other powerful colleagues, has just made an important alliance with Donald Trump is a fervent Shinner. That’s what you might call an ‘in’ with the new White House.

And by the way, the same trade union bosses, including Terry O’Sullivan, gave their approval to Trump’s decision to green-light the environmentally disastrous Keystone XL pipeline as well as the Dakota Access pipelines. The Dakota pipelines threaten to pollute water supplies used by the La Cota Sioux native American tribe.

Here is the full text of Naomi Klein’s Op-ed piece. Enjoy:

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Labor Leaders’ Cheap Deal With Trump

For progressives, Donald J. Trump’s presidency so far has been a little like standing in front of one of those tennis ball machines — and getting hit in the face over and over again. Yet looking back, the blow that still has me most off-kilter didn’t come from the new president himself. It came two weeks ago, when several smiling union leaders strolled out of the White House and up to a bank of waiting cameras and declared their firm allegiance to President Trump.

Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, reported that Mr. Trump had taken the delegation on a tour of the Oval Office and displayed a level of respect that was “nothing short of incredible.” Mr. McGarvey pledged to work hand in glove with the new administration on energy, trade and infrastructure, while one of the other union leaders described the Inaugural Address as “a great moment for working men and women.” When Mr. Trump issued executive orders to smooth the way for construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, the same leaders rejoiced.

A new administration can always count on many organizations to issue pro forma statements expressing a nonpartisan willingness to work with the new leader. Let’s be clear: This was not that. This was a new alliance. As Terry O’Sullivan, head of Laborers’ International Union of North America, put it on MSNBC: “The president’s a builder. We’re builders.”

But the edifice that Mr. Trump is building is rigged to collapse on the very people these unions are supposed to defend. His cuts to regulations will make them less safe on the job, and he may well wage war against the National Labor Relations Board, an agency that recently ruled that Mr. Trump violated the rights of the workers in his Las Vegas hotel to unionize and bargain collectively. His proposed cuts to corporate taxes will eviscerate the public services on which they depend, not to mention public sector union jobs. He supports “right to work” legislation that poses an existential threat to unions. His pick for labor secretary, the fast-food magnate Andrew Puzder, has a long record of failing to pay his workers properly, and he has praised the idea of replacing humans with machines.

Indeed, the more cleareyed unions are openly questioning whether their organizations will survive this administration. The Labor Network for Sustainability, in a report, warns this could be “an ‘extinction-level event’ for organized labor.”

All this is an awful lot of ground to lose in exchange for mostly temporary jobs repairing highways and building oil pipelines.

And it’s worth taking a closer look at the implications of those pipelines, along with the rest of Mr. Trump’s climate-change denying agenda. A warming world is a catastrophe for the middle and working classes, even more than for the rich, who have the economic cushions to navigate most crises. It’s working and precariously unemployed people who tend to live in homes that are most vulnerable to extreme weather (as we saw during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy) and whose savings, if they have any, can be entirely wiped out by a disaster.

It’s natural to ask: In times of insecurity, why shouldn’t unions worry more about jobs than about the environment? One reason is that responding to the urgency of the climate crisis has the potential to be the most powerful job creation machine since World War II. According to a Rockefeller Foundation-Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisers study, energy-efficient retrofits in United States buildings alone could create “more than 3.3 million cumulative job years of employment.” There are millions more jobs to be created in renewable energy, public transit and light rail.

Moreover, a great many of those jobs would be in the building trades — jobs for carpenters, ironworkers, welders, pipe fitters — whose union leaders have been so cozy with Mr. Trump. These unions could be fighting for sustainable jobs in a green transition as part of a broad-based movement. Instead, they are doing public relations for the mostly temporary jobs Mr. Trump is offering — those building oil pipelines, weapons, prisons and border walls, while expanding the highway system even as public transit faces drastic cuts.

The good news is that the sectors that have made common cause with Mr. Trump represent less than a quarter of all unionized workers. And many other unions see the enormous potential in a green New Deal.

“We must make the transition to a clean energy economy now in order to create millions of good jobs, rebuild the American middle class, and avert catastrophe,” George Gresham, president of 1199 S.E.I.U., the largest health care union in the nation, said in a statement two days after Mr. Trump’s pipeline executive orders.

Other unionized workers, like New York’s Taxi Workers Alliance, showed their opposition to Mr. Trump’s travel ban by refusing fares to and from Kennedy Airport during the protests.

For a long time, these different approaches were papered over under the banner of solidarity. But now some union heads are creating a rift by showing so little solidarity with their fellow union members, particularly immigrants and public sector workers who find themselves under assault by Mr. Trump.

Today labor leaders face a clear choice. They can join the diverse and growing movement that is confronting Mr. Trump’s agenda on every front and attempt to lead America’s workers to a clean and safe future.

Or they can be the fist-pumping construction crew for a Trump dystopia — muscle for a menace.

The Uncanny And Disturbing Parallels Between Adolf Hitler And Donald Trump

Ron Rosenbaum has written an wonderfully perceptive article for The Los Angeles Review of Books comparing the rise of Adolf Hitler in pre-war Germany to the elevation of Donald Trump to the White House which I have reproduced in full below.

Clearly there are differences between the two. Hitler had an ideology, fascism laced with anti-semitism. Trump mostly appears to be motivated by self-enrichment, an inflated ego and a pronounced tendency to autocracy, rather than a worked out political philosophy.


But it is in the methods by which they both rose to power traced by Rosenbaum –  whose work on the Nazi dictator, ‘Explaining Hitler, The Search for the Origins of His Evil’, is regarded as a classic – that the real and disturbing similarities between the two men can be seen.

Prime amongst them is their manipulation of the media, in both cases persuading, cajoling, bullying, threatening and, most effective of all, lying to the media to normalise their rise to power and subsequent rule.

Rosenbaum illustrates Hitler’s rise in this way via one of the few exceptions to the rule, The Munich Post, whose refusal to normalise the brutal excesses of Nazism served to highlight the rest of the German media’s cowardly compliance.


In the US media, the process of normalising Trump is already palpable – with a few noble exceptions –  evident in the gradual acquiescence to the ‘alternative facts’ strategy crafted either by chance or design and daily pumped out by Trump himself or his repellent troop of lackeys in the White House.

It is a longish piece but well worth the read. Enjoy:

Against Normalization: The Lesson of the “Munich Post”
By Ron Rosenbaum

FEBRUARY 5, 2017

THE TRUMP-HITLER COMPARISON. Is there any comparison? Between the way the campaigns of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler should have been treated by the media and the culture? The way the media should act now? The problem of normalization?

Because I’d written a book called Explaining Hitler several editors had asked me, during the campaign, to see what could be said on the subject.

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simplemindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had mainstreamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with “normal” politics and everyday thuggish behavior, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide.

But after the election, things changed. Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German. Now is the time for a much closer inspection of the tactics and strategy that brought off this spectacular distortion of American values.

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

I came to this conclusion in a roundabout way. The story of Hitler’s relation to the media begins with a strange episode in Hitler’s rise to power, a clash between him and the press that looked like it might contribute to the end of his political career. But alas, it did not. In fact, it set him up for the struggle that would later bring him to power.

It was one of the crucial, almost forgotten incidents in the dark decades before World War II — the November 1923 Munich “Beer Hall Putsch,” Hitler’s violent attempt to take over all of south Germany in preparation for a strike against Berlin.

Hitler and his swelling Nazi party had been threatening a power move for months. Threatening first violence, then alliance with one of the other factions. Hitler was keeping them off balance, promising he’d not use force with one, scheming to use it with another, finally betraying his word to all.

At the very apex of the Beer Hall Putsch, a clash between his militia and Munich’s chief opposition newspaper, the Munich Post, may have changed the course of history, giving evidence that Hitler had the potential for a far more ambitious course of evil than anyone in Germany believed. Only the reporters who had been following Hitler seemed able to imagine it.

On the night of November 8, 1923, amid a clamorous political meeting in the Bürgerbräukeller, a huge echoey beer hall where political meetings were often held, Hitler stood up, fired a pistol into the air, and announced his militia had captured the three top leaders of southern Germany’s Bavarian province and handcuffed them in a back room in the beer hall. The next morning, he declared, his Stormtrooper militia would capture the capitol buildings and then head north to Berlin.

It didn’t happen. That morning there was a firefight on the bridge to the city center that ended with Hitler’s forces having failed to cross that bridge, Hitler flinging himself — or being flung — on the ground amid gunfire in ignominious defeat.

What caused his defeat? Some have suggested (myself among them) it was Hitler’s fateful decision to detach his elite private militia, the forerunner of the SS — the Stosstrupp Hitler — and send them on a mission to trash and pillage the offices of the Munich Post, the newspaper he called “the poison kitchen” (for the slanders about him they were allegedly cooking up).

Trash and pillage they did. I saw a faded newsprint photograph of the after-action damage to the Munich Post — desks and chairs smashed, papers strewn into a chaos of rubble, as if an explosion had gone off inside the building.

By the mid-’90s, when I first saw that picture, the memory of this chief anti-Hitler newspaper during his rise to power from Munich to Berlin had virtually disappeared from history. But while researching my book, I’d found a cache of back issues crumbling away in the basement archive of a Munich library, seemingly untouched for years.

Cumulatively, the stacks of issues told the story of a dozen-year-long struggle between Hitler and the paper, which began soon after the mysterious Austrian-born outsider appeared as a fiery orator and canny organizer on the Munich streets in 1921.

The Munich Post never stopped investigating who Hitler was and what he wanted, and Hitler never stopped hating them for it.

As Hitler sought to ingratiate himself with the city’s rulers (though never giving up the threat of violence), the Post reporters dug into his shadowy background, mocking him mercilessly, exposing internal party splits, revealing the existence of a death squad (“cell G”) that murdered political opponents and was at least as responsible for Hitler’s success as his vaunted oratory.

And in their biggest, most shamefully ignored scoop, on December 9, 1931, the paper found and published a Nazi party document planning a “final solution” for Munich’s Jews — the first Hitlerite use of the word “endlösung” in such a context. Was it a euphemism for extermination? Hitler dissembled, so many could ignore the grim possibility.

The Munich Post lost and Germany came under Nazi rule — but, in a sense, the paper had also won; they were the only ones who had figured out just how sinister Hitler and the Nazis were. I believe Hitler knew this. And so, back in 1923, when Hitler had thrown the opposition into disarray and division, he saw the chance to eliminate the Munich Post. And he took it and tried, though he failed at that, too.

After the 1923 fiasco, Hitler served nine months of a five-year sentence for rebellion and pledged to stay out of politics. But his parliamentary party didn’t quit, and eventually Hitler had demonstrated enough neutral behavior (discounting the murders committed by the Nazi death squads not directly connected to him) that he was allowed to campaign again. Was it a mistake? Had he learned a lesson? As it turned out, Hitler used the tactics of bluff masterfully, at times giving the impression of being a feckless Chaplinesque clown, at other times a sleeping serpent, at others yet a trustworthy statesman. The Weimar establishment didn’t know what to do, so they pretended this was normal. They “normalized” him.

And so they allowed him and his party back onto the electoral lists, the beginning of the end. Democracy destroying itself democratically. By November 1932, his party had become the largest faction in the Reichstag, though not a majority. After that election though, it looked as if he’d passed his peak: his total vote had gone down. It looked like the right-wing parties had been savvy in bringing him in and “normalizing” him, making him a figurehead for their own advancement.

Instead, it was truly the stupidest move made in world politics within the memory of mankind. It took only a few months for the hopes of normalization to be crushed. As Sir Richard Evans, the leading British historian of the period has proven at painstaking length, the Reichstag Fire was not a Hitler plan to excuse a takeover through martial law. It had indeed been the work of a Dutch man, Marinus van der Lubbe. But Hitler, ruthlessly and savagely, took advantage of it, instituting martial law and crushing electoral democracy. There would have been another excuse. Once in power Hitler was going to go on maximizing it until the “final solution.”

And the Munich Post never stopped reporting on this ultimate aim and on Hitler’s use of murder, decrying any attempts to “normalize” the tyrant. They kept fighting until two months after his January takeover. In March 1933, when the Nazis ruled the media and the Post was “legally” shut down. There had been a few other brave journalistic souls — Konrad Heiden, Fritz Gerlich. But swiftly, oh so swiftly, the order of the day became “gleichschaltung” — “realignment,” or forced conformity, savage normalization. Goebbels and other Nazi propagandists made it their crusade to get the German body politic “adjusted” to the new reign of terror. “Gleichschaltung” meant normalize or else.

Hitler’s method was to lie until he got what he wanted, by which point it was too late. At first, he pledged no territorial demands. Then he quietly rolled his tanks into the Rhineland. He had no designs on Czechoslovakia — just the Sudetenland, because so many of its German-born citizens were begging him to help shelter them from persecution. But soon came the absorption of the rest of Czechoslovakia. After Czechoslovakia, he’d be satisfied. Europe could return to normal. Lie!

There is, of course, no comparison with Trump in terms of scale. His biggest policy decisions so far have been to name reprehensible figures to various cabinet posts and to enact dreadful executive orders. But this, too, is a form of destruction. While marchers and the courts have put up a fight after the Muslim ban, each new act, each new lie, accepted by default, seems less outrageous. Let’s call it what it is: defining mendacity down.

And look where it got us. Perhaps we should have seen it — the way Trump’s outrageous conduct and shamelessly lying mouth seemed so ridiculous we wouldn’t have to take him seriously. Until we did.

Give him the harmless attention he seems to crave and he’ll no longer be a nuisance. The whole thing would be childish if it didn’t seem sinister in retrospect. It recalled to me a conversation I had with Alan Bullock (1914-2004), Oxford University historian and author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1952), the first substantive biography of the dictator.

Bullock, then nearing 80, told me how students of Hitler were often misled to focus on his vicious anti-Semitism. In fact, Bullock had initially argued, it was likely he had believed in nothing and just used the Jew-hatred to advance his cause with the nitwit thug segment of the German people. Just as Trump appealed to his nitwit thug racist, anti-Semite followers. Hitler was a “mountebank,” Bullock exclaimed, a con man who played the Jewish card, using it to whip up rowdy enthusiasm and give the impression of a movement. This is the comparison I’d been seeking.

Bullock, as I’ve written, would later change his mind to incorporate the vision of Hitler offered by Hugh Trevor-Roper, who found the anti-Semitic ideology to be primus inter pares in Hitler’s fevered brain. Be that as it may, he saw that this tactic of playing the fool, the Chaplinesque clown, had worked over and over again, worked like a charm. It kept the West off balance. They consistently underestimated him and were divided over his plans (“what does Hitler really want?”). The tactic became irresistible, as repeated always success does.

Few took Hitler seriously, and before anyone knew it, he had gathered up the nations of Europe like playing cards.

Cut to the current election. We had heard allegations that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, but somehow we normalized that. We didn’t take him seriously because of all the outrageous, clownish acts and gaffes we thought would cause him to drop out of the race. Except these gaffes were designed to distract. This was his secret strategy, the essence of his success — you can’t take a stand against Trump because you don’t know where Trump is standing. You can’t find him guilty of evil, you can’t find him at all. And the tactics worked. Trump was not taken seriously, which allowed him to slip by the normal standards for an American candidate. The mountebank won. Again.

Suddenly, after the inconceivable (and, we are now beginning to realize, suspicious) Trump victory, the nation was forced to contend with what it would mean, whether the “alt-right” was a true threat or a joke to be tolerated. Did it matter that Trump had opened up a sewer pipe of racial hatred? Once again, normalization was the buzzword.

And I remembered the Munich Post, defending Weimar Germany. I reflected on how fragile democratic institutions could be in the face of organized hatred. Hitler had been tricky about his plans until he got the position and the power to enact them. Trump had been tricky, neither accepting nor rejecting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke. David Duke! The KKK! In this century! He claimed he didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t be disqualified because of someone he didn’t know. That’s where we all went wrong, thinking he was stupid and outrageous, not canny and savvy and able to play the media like Paganini. The election demonstrated the weakness of a weak democracy, where basic liberties could be abolished by demagoguery and voter suppression.

And after Trump’s victory I began to follow the debate over how much deference Trump was owed, how much responsibility he had for the hate speech the alt-right morons cheered. Some found solace in the hashtag #notmypresident. David Remnick seemed to have woken the next morning with an especially felicitous gift of disgust, writing: “The fantasy of the normalization of Donald Trump — the idea that a demagogic candidate would somehow be transformed into a statesman of poise and deliberation after his Election Day victory — should now be a distant memory, an illusion shattered.”

He was joined in that spirit of defiance by Teju Cole in The New Times Magazine, Jamelle Bouie in Slate, Masha Gessen in The New York Review of Books, Charles M. Blow in The New York Times, and, most recently, Charles P. Pierce in Esquire.

It looked like a movement was building. What form it would take was unclear.

But now, a couple months later, the momentum is dissolving. The default position is normalization. Should we be content with that? Or should we resist, be it by taking to the streets or simply by “preferring not to,” Bartleby-style?

While sifting through possible courses of action, I remembered something sad — possibly the saddest thing I had ever read: the last few issues of the Munich Post. They had put up a brave front. Somehow, most touchingly, they had continued the serialization of a novel begun before Götterdämmerung, the way a normal newspaper might in normal times. It was a novel by the elusive, pseudonymous B. Traven, called The White Rose. It’s a novel about corporate greed and land-grabbing in Mexico’s oil fields — a text of protest perhaps more relevant to our current struggle than to the struggles of Germany in the 1930s.

I had to search another Munich archive to find the very final issues of the Munich Post, but they were even more dispiriting than I could imagine. The paper went down fighting a lie, fighting Nazi murderers, refusing to normalize the Hitler regime.

A week after Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933, the Munich Post published their regular murder survey under the headline “Nazi Party Hands Dripping with Blood,” enumerating the bloody casualties: 18 dead, 34 wounded in street battles with the SA Stormtroopers.

These are the headlines that followed in daily succession:

“Germany Under the Hitler Regime: Political Murder and Terror”

“Blood Guilt of the Nazi Party”

“Germany Today: No Day Without Death”

“Brutal Terror in the Streets of Munich”

“Outlaws and Murderers in Power”

“People Allow Themselves to Be Intimidated”

The era of normalization had begun everywhere else, but the Munich Post resisted.

The Munich Post lost, yes. Soon their office was closed. Some of the journalists ended up in Dachau, some “disappeared.” But they’d won a victory for truth. A victory over normalization. They never stopped fighting the lies, big and small, and left a record of defiance that was heroic and inspirational. They discovered the truth about “endlösung” before most could have even imagined it. The truth is always worth knowing. Support your local journalist.

(Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars, among other books. LARB published the afterword to his new edition of Explaining Hitler last year.)

Can Donald Trump Even Read?

What an interesting and, when you think about it, obvious question…….

Does Dublin Magazine’s Cover On Trump Speak For Millions?

This is the cover of Dublin’s ‘Village‘ magazine’s February issue. The question is as follows: is this just a cheap way to garner publicity, an incitement to murder or merely putting into words, or rather words and an edited photo, what many others around the world are thinking or even hoping? To judge by my own interactions and conversations since November 9th, 2016, I’d put money on the third option. (full disclosure: I have written for the Village from time to time)


Howard Stern ‘Spills Beans’ On Donald Trump

Howard Stern talks at some length about his friend, the current US President. He has an interesting take on Trump which at times almost makes you feel sorry for him. But only for a moment……..A lot of questions that should have been asked but weren’t, which is a pity.



Democracy, Sinn Fein-Style….

A very good piece on the recent elevation of Michelle O’Neill (nee Doris) to Martin McGuinness’ old job in the Northern Assembly from Michael Clifford in The Irish Examiner.

Stalinism and armed Republicanism are like Siamese twins; always have been and always will be, peace processes notwithstanding. For ard-comhairle read politburo; for Uncle Joe read…..well do I have to spell it out?


Mock-yah democracy still rules waves

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Back in the days when Britannia ruled the waves, the party of government had a unique method of selecting a new leader, writes Michael Clifford.

Party big wigs would retire to a smoke-filled room, tipple brandy, and determine which leader would best serve the interests of those assembled.

It was taken as a given that the interests of the assembled coincided with the interests of the party and what was good for the party was good for country and empire.

This was a ‘mock-yah’ form of democracy, in which a small, privileged group wielded power way beyond their mandate.

The new leader knew where the bread was buttered, and what was expected. And on everybody trundled, plundering half the world, ruling with an iron fist where required, and offering up buckets of self-praise for Britannia as the greatest bastion of democracy known to the civilised world.

As far as I know, neither Gerry Adams nor Martin McGuinness smokes. Maybe either, or both, enjoy the odd snifter of brandy, but a wild guess might conclude that they would be more at home sharing a bottle of red wine.

Apart from that, though, it’s difficult to spot much difference in the selection of new leaders between the empire-mongers of 19th century Britain and the self-styled republicans in 21st century Ireland.

Two weeks ago, Michelle O’Neill was chosen, selected, anointed, conferred, confirmed, directed, instructed, or even ordered to take the role of leader of Sinn Féin in the North.

There is absolutely no evidence that she was elected. In fact, there has been no effort to even suggest that either the elected representatives or the membership of the party, North, South or both, had any input into her anointment.

This is astonishing. What is even more astonishing is that nobody in the party has as much as batted an eyelid. In both jurisdictions — and let’s drop the pretence that the party treats the two as one — Sinn Féin has in recent years been boosted by the election of a coterie of intelligent, able representatives.

Not one of them has even expressed an opinion on the manner in which Ms O’Neill was anointed. In parliament North and South, they argue passionately for parity of esteem for all, social justice, the basic tenets of democracy. They rail against “the elite” who have purportedly hijacked democracy at the expense of “the people”.

Yet, within the confines of their own party, they button lips and grin and bear a system which appears to involve a few individuals, pushing on in years, deciding who will lead the party into the future.

The discipline required to suppress any expression of independent thought on the matter is military in its bearing, and abhorrent to the actual ideals of republicanism.

A few days before she was anointed, word seeped into the media that Ms O’Neill was the chosen one. She was, we were told, “selected” by the leadership. But which leadership exactly?

Last Tuesday on RTÉ, Seán O’Rourke pressed her on the detail.

“The party has internal processes and we went through the Árd Chomhairle and the officer board and Martin and Gerry spoke to me,” Ms O’Neill said.

Right, well that’s clear as mud.

O’Rourke pressed her again.

“Were you elected or anointed?” he asked.

“I was chosen by the Árd Chomhairle, she said.

“There was a decision in the room, yes. It was put to the Árd Chomhairle and unanimously decided that I would be leader. Martin and Gerry spoke to me in relation to taking on the role, Gerry then put it to the Árd Chomhairle and we had a full discussion on it, people had their views.”

Right. The decision was unanimous, and people had their views, so presumably all views coincided with the recommendation from Mr Adams. Everybody got in line.

There was no alternative opinion. What Gerry said went, or at the very least, his powers of persuasion were enough to change the mind of anybody in the room with a different opinion.

The O’Rourke interview also illuminated that there apparently was a perfunctory process by which Ms O’Neill was selected.

Is there any record of that meeting, when it occurred or what was said? Is there any morsel at all in there for the notion of democracy?

In the absence of any transparency in the selection of a leader, speculation fills the vacuum. Is the chosen one anointed by the same personnel who peopled the army council of the IRA, as some suggest?

Or is it just Martin and Gerry, who have been both in the leadership of the so-called republican movement for nigh on 45 years? Do they regard the party as their personal fiefdom?

What criteria was used in the selection of Ms O’Neill? Was her family background considered? Her father served time in prison for membership of the IRA.

That might be irrelevant to the bright young things who want to effect social change in democratic societies, but it could mean something to those of the background and vintage of Messrs Adams and McGuinness.

It simply wouldn’t do to be slackening the leash of control to a Johnny-come-lately republican who signed up principally to effect socio-economic change.

No doubt she has plenty of attributes but, in the absence of a transparent process, the voter is left all at sea as to the reasoning behind why she was selected.

Later in the year there is expected to be another anointment, this time in the southern jurisdiction. Mary Lou McDonald is the favourite to succeed Mr Adams. Unlike, say Leo Varadkar, she need not canvass support among elected representatives. Unlike, say Jeremy Corbyn, her elevation will not be dependent primarily on any appeal to the wider membership of the party.

If the constituent elements of the party were fully involved, then the long-term project could be blown off course with the election of somebody wielding strong or independent thoughts on how the party should evolve.

Instead, it has been determined prospective voters have no right to know how exactly the party is being governed, and who is pulling the strings.

If anything the anointment of O’Neill is a reminder once more that there remains something of the night about Sinn Féin, even in its present incarnation. And that may go some way to explaining why, despite the political turmoil around the world, this country is still governed by the same old, same old.

Sinn Féin was the obvious vehicle to drive a degree of dramatic change.

But despite disillusion with the old order, it still prevails in this country. How could it be otherwise when in some ways, the alternative is more a throwback to the days of empire than a gateway to a bright, new world.