They called him a joke.
They said the people who supported him were fringe elements, just a bunch of extremists without popular support. Rabble-rousers making up the audience of beer halls; a bunch of drunk fools getting into trouble. Just a bunch of children.
His book was a bestseller.
His explicit hate and racism was said to be just for show. Not genuine, but just a way to gain the masses trust and attention. Interesting how no one considered what the fact that such hate would gain the trust of the masses actually meant.
No one thought he would make it very far in politics. He was a joke. There was no way he would actually win.
When he did, the whole world looked at the electors in shock, confusion, and a sense of horror. No one thought he would win.
Even after he won, no one thought he was really a threat. No one believed that he would actually manage to achieve his horrifying promises. It was all just rhetoric they said. He was too incompetent. He was too weak.
When armed resistances started up, protesting and threatening violence against any who spoke against him, it was excused as the childish antics of angry young men. Not a representation of what they really thought, but just a manifestation of the anger they felt at being disenfranchised by bad economic times.
The rise in vandalism and violence was excused as childish antics and not an indication of how they really felt.
The world mocked him. Comedians at the time drew attention creating caricatures of him as a bumbling angry clown with a funny appearance.
Who am I talking about?
It’s not Trump. It’s Hitler. The Nazi Leader’s rise to power was one that was mocked and doubted. He announced his intentions to become a dictator even before he was given power and still people kept saying it wouldn’t happen. He didn’t mean it.
He wrote about his plan to exterminate people in his popular book, and yet people said that he was just exaggerating to get attention. He would make Germany Great Again. He would get back what they had lost in terms of respect, in terms of land and money. He blamed all the problems in Germany on Jews and the “other”.
His Storm Troops would harass his opposition, they would stage violent demonstrations, which only became more visible and more violent after he was elected. There was also a visible rise in intolerance, vandalism, hate speech, and hate crimes after he came into power. Still people didn’t take him seriously.
Why do I bring this up? Because at least some of you thought I was talking about Trump and with good reason.
It’s not just SJWs and radical leftists who are drawing the comparisons between pre/post war Germany and modern day US.
This past weekend, various groups of white supremacists marched armed with guns, one of their members drove a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring several more. People who were there at the counter protest, who I trust, report that they actively started violence with the protesters, not just provoking them, but actively engaging in violence against them in front of Police officers.
As they marched they saluted like the Nazis they identify as. They marched with swastikas. They chanted about blood and soil, and called for white sharia.
These are people who willingly, even enthusiastically associate with the perpetrators of the Holocaust. People who actively call for the deaths of black people, and all people of colour. Who call for the deaths of people who are queer, disabled, trans. Who call for another Holocaust against Jews. These are people who look at the atrocities committed by the Nazis in WW2 and choose to associate with it. They CHOOSE to associate with it. They look at those atrocities and dream of bringing them about again.
Whenever the comparisons are made between Hitler and Trump, someone always feels the need to bring up that Trump is too ignorant of the way politics works, usually they bring up ableist slurs to suggest that he doesn’t have what it takes to make his threats come true. He’s a fool they say. And my heart drops. Because history has seen those words before. The easiest way to get people to ignore what you are doing is to convince people that you are a fool. No one pays attention to the fool, except to laugh.
Earlier this summer, it was revealed that Trump’s son committed acts which could be seen as treason at the worst, and broke several laws in the least. Journalists spent months of hard investigation trying to find the truth, and right before the big break, they announce it themselves.
And with that confession, the world laughed. Because how ridiculous to announce that you possibly committed treason on twitter? How foolish. Article after article came out about how silly and funny it was to make such a faux pas. How arrogant. Article after article mocked the collective intelligence of the Trump funny. And yet here we are weeks later, and the fact that regardless of whether it was treason or not, it was a major breach of ethics. It calls into question whether or not there was more involved in the story and what a deeper probing search might reveal.
The announcement killed the story. An investigative journalist who might have been getting close to a potentially even more damaging story, now has less reason to keep following the trails he was following.
The appearance of being a fool makes people unlikely to look further for an answer as to why someone would make such a potentially damaging announcement, especially after months of denying the possibility. Even with the unlikeliness that anything would happen to the President’s son, it still exists as a risk. He could face jail time, even possibly the death penalty if things go far enough.
Given Trumps level of control over his family, we have to assume that his son consulted with him in some way. So what were they willing to give up Trump Jr for? What was worse than possibly having an incarcerated son?
Even if they aren’t hiding something worse, the fact is, that for all that it seemed ridiculous, given the investigation taking place, the Trump family is following the first rule of damage control. To quote Toby of West Wing: “Get the information out early. Get it out yourself. Do it on your own terms.” That’s exactly what happened. It was a calculated move and so far the results are exactly what they would be hoping for. Yes, investigations might be happening, but the majority of the public have moved on.
This week alone Trump used rhetoric suggesting that his sympathies lay with Nazis and other white supremacist groups which participated in a “protest” using terrorist tactics, violence, and included the death of one protester by act of terrorism. Earlier, he threatened and traded insults with what is widely considered one of the most unpredictable and easily enraged regimes in the world – North Korea. Yet media characterizes him as childish and ridiculous, seemingly ignoring the terrifying consequences of his behaviour and his position. It might be ridiculous to threaten war on twitter, but he still holds the power to order the launch of nukes. He still has the power to hurt so many people.
We live in an age where information is coming at us constantly. Between facebook, blogs, twitter, instagram, reddit, snapchat, a million and one social media and news sites, every moment spent connected means being faced with streams of information coming at you at virtual speeds. You don’t even need to read the article, headlines give you insights into what happened, as do people’s statuses, articles, videos. The sheer amount of information coming at us at any given moment can be overwhelming and we have to prioritize our attention at the newest bit of information. It’s understandable. It makes sense. But it can also leave us vulnerable because it means we don’t have time to process and we don’t have time to recognize patterns.
And so each separate story feels just like that, separate.
In an environment like this, the fool is a brilliant role to play. Our impulse to mock distracts us from the real story just long enough for the next one to pop up into our feel. Meanwhile those trying to draw attention to the terrifying patterns and scrambling to keep up with all the information coming at them and others in any given moment.
So what can we do? What do we do to counter the memory loss imposed by being constantly assaulted with new information?
For one, don’t be fooled by the fool. Don’t assume that just because something looks foolish or the result of incompetence doesn’t mean it is. Ask yourself, who does it benefit for me to laugh at this? What would I be feeling if it didn’t seem like the act of a fool? What if he means what he says.
Pay attention to patterns. If something feels similar or like it has happened before, it may well have. If something happens often enough times, it’s worth looking into and discovering why.
People never think they live in monumental times until after history happened. On September 11th, the people who went to work in the towers had no idea they were about to be a part of history. They had no way of knowing that what would happen to them would determine history.
In many cases, people have more in common with the joke of the French radical, who sees a crowd of people and says he has to find out where they’re going so he can lead them. So when we see media outlets, and known entities making light of what is going on, we have a tendency to follow along with that attitude. Journalism is no longer about educating the populace but about protecting liability, and in many cases about serving a specific political goal.
Most importantly though, remember that when in doubt, when people show you who they are, believe them.