How do you get people riled up -- so riled up as to surrender all their democratic values, their Christian values, their ability to process facts, their very human rationality?
“That is easy,” explained one of history’s greatest experts on the subject. “All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
Ladies and gentlemen, your Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.
This is the essence of demagoguery: seizing on the public’s anxieties, insecurities, prejudices and deepest fears, and then creating a sinister Other on whom to foist the blame. You needn’t go to Nazi Germany to find examples in modern history. You could think of Rwanda, or Yugoslavia, or Cambodia, or China in the Cultural Revolution. But why be so exotic?
You could simply recall America’s “Yellow Peril.” Or America’s Red Scare. Or America’s Jim Crow. Or America’s internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Or America’s ongoing brisk marketplace for anti-semitism, sometimes dog whistled -- “New York elites” -- and sometimes explicit, as in Henry Ford’s noted four-volume page-turner, The International Jew, The World’s Foremost Problem. (Volume Two, Chapter 26 is particularly enlightening: “The Scope of Jewish Dictatorship in the U.S.”)
Oh, we’ve had so many marketers of the year. Ford, Father Coughlin, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Gov. George Wallace, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and now the uber marketer -- whose entire worldwide business is built on the branding of an empty promise --- Reichsmarschall Donald Trump.
You know, the guy who has suddenly recalled seeing thousands of Arab New Jerseyans cheering the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down, and that tells you something. It was well covered at the time."
Actually, it wasn’t covered at the time, because it didn’t happen. Did. Not. Happen. Which is hardly surprising, because Trump is a serial liar whose lies are often easily debunked based on things like verifiable facts. From his inflated net worth to Obama’s birth certificate, really, take your pick:
“The last quarter, it was just announced, our gross domestic product [growth] … was below zero. Who ever heard of this? It's never below zero." (Except for the other 42 times over the 272 quarters ever measured.)
"We have the highest tax rate anywhere in the world." (Not No. 1, but 103 out of 111, according to the World Bank in 2012)
Number of illegal immigrants in the U.S.: “30 million, it could be 34 million.” (11.3 million, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2006)
The Trans-Pacific Partnership "was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone." (The TPP, which excludes China, is designed to do the opposite.)
"The Mexican government ... they send the bad ones over." (The Mexican government sends nobody over.)
But as the poll numbers and mass rallies more than demonstrate, truth is not the raw material of fear marketing. The secret sauce is understanding what frightened people are prepared to believe. Then, a la Goering, you just repeat it again and again until it becomes their reality -- whether it’s chanting Jersey Muslims or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or Obamacare “death panels.”
Some people call this the Big Lie. Some people call it propaganda. Really, it’s just faith.
Ben Carson, a trained physician, is able to discard the fossil record and carbon dating to believe in recent Biblical Creation. The GOP insists as an article of faith that regulating business on environmental practices or anything else kills jobs -- although there is essentially zero historical economic evidence to support that.
(They also ignore all economic reality on the subject of deficit spending, which is very bad for households and very good for superpowers.) The Birthers are prepared to believe a conspiracy so prescient as to plant a phony birth notice for infant Barack Obama in Honolulu newspapers in 1961.
None of this has anything to do with rational thinking, nor even necessarily stupidity. It has to do with belief. Donald Trump has spent a career telling the public like it isn’t, and yet has a majority of likely Republican voters crediting him for telling it like it is.
Is this any different from gilding faucets at kitschy resorts or selling crappy merchandise at Macy’s, supposedly imbuing the goods with Trump success and “sophistication?” No.
Trump understands what people most want: validation for their unattainable hopes and darkest fears. The gold faucets of his politics are simplistic explanations, tough talk, safety, security and someone to blame. Like all the other most cynical marketers, demagogues, evangelists and con men, feeding us with the very lies we wish to tell ourselves.
Why are ye fearful, O yeof too much faith?