I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of waiting for the Hitlerian nightmare that the corporate media promised us was coming back in 2016. Frankly, I’m beginning to suspect that all their apocalyptic pronouncements were just parts of some elaborate cocktease. I mean, here we are, a year and half into the reign of the Trumpian Reich, and, well, where are all the concentration camps, the SS units with their death’s head insignia, the Riefenstahlian parades and rallies? Trump hasn’t even banned the Democratic Party, or annexed Canada, or invaded Mexico, or made anybody wear color-coded armbands. If he doesn’t start Hitlering relatively soon, the oracles of the corporate media are going to have some serious explaining to do.
I don’t think I’m overreacting. After all, back in 2016, The Guardian promised us an “Age of Darkness,” and the end of “civilized order” as we know it. “Globalization is dead, and white supremacy has triumphed,” one of its more hysterical pundits proclaimed. “Donald Trump is actually a fascist,” Michael Kinsley assured us in The Washington Post. Charles Blow of The New York Times warned that Trump’s election was “the beginning of the end,” the descent of the republic into “racial Orwellianism,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. Thomas Friedman called it “a moral 911.” Paul Krugman predicted nothing short of “a global recession with no end in sight.” Jonathan Chait, after heroically vowing not to flee the country with his terrified family, but to stay and fight to the bitter end, guaranteed us that the “monster,” Trump, would “shake the republic to its foundations.”
Perhaps my seismometer is on the fritz, but I haven’t detected much foundation shaking. Yes, Trump repulses me, personally. I do not like the man. I never have. I was based in New York for fifteen years, in the 1990s and early 2000s, before he became a game show host, when he was still just a shady real estate mogul with alleged ties to organized crime who occasionally appeared on Wrestlemania and just generally went about the city making a narcissistic ass of himself and plastering his gold-plated name onto everything. So I have no illusions about his character … the man is an inveterate snake oil salesman with the moral compass of a Tijuana pimp. All I’m saying is, we were promised Hitler, or Mussolini at the very least, and it seems like all we’re getting so far is just regular old narcissistic Donald Trump.
Of course, he could just be laying low and holding back on the Hitler stuff as part of the evil master plan personally developed by Vladimir Putin to systematically brainwash Americans (with state-of-the-art mind-control Facebook ads) into embracing all-out National Socialism and marching through the streets in full Nazi regalia singing Amerika Über Alles… at which point Trump will rip off his mask, reveal his true Hitlerian face, Steve Bannon will suddenly reappear in the turret of an M1 Abrams tank at the head of a division of rebel infantry flying giant Confederate flags as they hideously rumble down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Putin-Nazi Holocaust will begin.
Or maybe the extremely serious, Pulitzer Prize-winning political pundit David Leonhardt is onto something. In a prominent op-ed in The New York Times, he wonders if Putin’s “secret plan” is for Trump to destroy “the Atlantic alliance” by arriving late for the G7 meeting and “picking fights over artificial issues,” not to mention insulting the Canadian prime minister, which, it doesn’t get much more hair-raising than that. OK, I know you’re probably thinking that sounds like the hopelessly paranoid jabber of some conspiracy theorist nut on YouTube, but we’re talking The New York Times here, folks, and a bona fide “respectable pundit” who wrote a whole 15,000-word ebook and has been interviewed by Stephen Colbert, among his many other distinguished accomplishments.
Examined in the context of other blatantly loony theories the corporate media are currently attempting to ram down our throats, Leonhardt’s theory kind of makes sense. The Guardian, another very serious newspaper, in addition to covering the repercussions of its coverage of Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult, is hot on the trail of the soon-to-be-infamous Putin-Banks-Brexit Connection. According to “documents seen by The Observer,” a Guardian sister publication, Arron Banks, a “Brexit bankroller,” allegedly had brunch with the Russian ambassador three times, instead of just once, as he had claimed. He was also allegedly offered a piece of some shady gold deal in exchange for the number of someone on Trump transition team, which for some reason it was otherwise impossible to obtain. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what happened. The point is, Putin orchestrated the Brexit, presumably as part of his secret plan to destabilize the Atlantic alliance, and then blackmailed Trump into running for president with that “pee-tape” the Democrats paid a former British spook to allege exists.
Paul Krugman of The New York Times concurs. In his latest extremely serious piece of totally respectable grown-up opinionating, he once again calls Trump “a quisling” (he’s developed a fondness for this term, which goes over well with New York Times readers) and reiterates that Trump is “a de facto foreign agent” and that “America as we know it is finished.” Tragically, according to Krugman, the FBI, CIA, and other Guardians of Western Democracy are utterly powerless to deal with this quisling, and his evil puppet master, Putin, because it turns out the entire Republican Party is “hopelessly, irredeemably corrupt.” Yes, it appears the only chance we have to save the world from Trumpzilla, and imminent Putin-Nazi Holocaust, is to elect a buttload of Democrats to office, and eventually an Obama-like Democratic President, so they can launch an all-out thermonuclear war against Russia and North Korea … that’ll teach these Putin-Nazis to screw around with our trade agreements!
Oh, and also, we need to cancel the Brexit, and do away with all these “populist” movements that Putin has fomented all over Europe. For example, according to billionaire George Soros, the refugee-hating League in Italy is likely another Putin-backed front, part of his scheme to “dominate the West.” One can only assume that the AfD, the FPÖ, Rassemblement National, and every other extreme-Right party exploiting people’s rage and fear in Europe are parts of Putin’s grand conspiracy (except, of course, for the Ukrainian Nazis the Western alliance put into power). Soros, like billionaire Bruce Wayne before him, tired of waiting for the West to strike back, is taking matters into his own hands. Not only has he been tirelessly laboring to prevent Donald Trump from “destroying the world,” now he’s financing “Best for Britain,” a campaign to de-brainwash the British people, who, obviously, only voted for Brexit because they’d been brainwashed by the Putin-Nazis.
I could go on and on with this. Have you heard the the one about the Putin-Nazis conspiring with the NRA? How about the one where Emmanuel Macron, in order to protect the French from “fake news,” and division-sowing Putin-Nazi memes, wants the authority to censor the Internet? Or have you read the column in which David Brooks, without a detectable trace of irony, laments the passing of international relationships “based on friendship, shared values, loyalty, and affection” … seriously, he used the word “affection” in reference to the Western alliance, one of the most ruthless, mass-murdering empires in the history of ruthless, mass-murdering empires? Oh,yeah, and I almost forgot … MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is reporting that the North Korea summit was also orchestrated by Putin!
I’m not sure how much more bizarre things can get. This level of bull goose loony paranoia, media-generated mass hysteria, and mindless conformity would be hysterically funny … if it weren’t so fucking horrifying in terms of what it says about millions of Westerners, who are apparently prepared to believe almost anything the authorities tell them, no matter how nuts. That famous Voltaire quote comes to mind … “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities,” he wrote. Another, more disturbing way of looking at it is, people willing to believe absurdities, to switch off their critical thinking faculties in order to conform to an official narrative as blatantly ridiculous as the Putin-Nazi narrative, are people who have already surrendered their autonomy, who have traded it for the comfort of the herd. Such people cannot be reasoned with, because there isn’t really anyone in there. There is only whatever mindless jabber got injected into their brain that day, the dutiful repetition of which guarantees they remain a “normal” person (who believes what other normal persons believe), and not some sort of “radical” or “extremist.”
These people are the people who worry me … these “normal” people who, completely calmly, as if what they are saying wasn’t batshit crazy, explain how Trump is just like Hitler, and how Putin is trying to take over the world. I sit there and listen and smile at these people, some of whom are friends and colleagues, people who I genuinely like, and who genuinely like me in return, but who, under the right set of circumstances, would stand by and watch me marched into prison, or worse, and not utter a word in protest.
C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.