Thursday, September 3
Back to my reflections on the Nazis and Trump.
Victor Klemperer, the diarist/author of the Third Reich history I Will Bear Witness, pays particular attention to the Nazis’ characteristically hyperbolic language. He’s quite struck by the carnival-barker-like aspect of the rhetoric, often referring to it as P.T. Barnum-like. (At one point he calls Hitler the Barnum of Hell.)
The Nazi rhetoric, which Klemperer calls Lingua Tertii Inperii or LTI, is often very exaggerated, focusing on vast advances in prosperity or alleged military triumphs. Economic developments are “greater than ever.” The victories over the Soviet Union are said to be “without parallel in history.”
Does the hyperbole seem familiar?
One “bulletin from the East” reports that “nine million are facing one another in a battle whose scale surpasses all historical imagination.” Bialystok was recently “the greatest battle of attrition and annihilation in world history.” Armies of millions have been annihilated, reports allege, “our wildest expectations exceeded.”
Our own Führer, Donald Trump, has a similar linguistic urge. “Huge,” of course, has been one of his most commonly used words. (Then there’s “bigly,” which many commentators mocked.) This year, he has said the economy is “soaring to incredible new heights. Perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country.”
People he likes or wishes to flatter are “incredible,” “amazing,” or “tremendous.” He himself is the greatest President ever—greater than Lincoln or Washington.
“Not that many people know this,” he’ll say—emphasizing his unique understanding of something. “Believe me, believe me,” he may add—perhaps anticipating listeners’ skepticism.
Then come the insults. “Stupid.” “Loser.” Nancy Pelosi is a “moron.” The drug-dependent Joe Biden is “somebody who has lost a step.” Women are “fat pigs,” “slobs,” “dogs,” and “disgusting animals.” Perhaps worst of all, is to be “little,” like “little Marco Rubio.”
Increasingly, Trump seems to be courting the conspiracy-minded QAnon crowd. Joe Biden is controlled by “people that you haven’t heard of.” Well, that lets out George Soros, since plenty of people, including the far-right fringe, have certainly heard of that Open Society advocate and philanthropist.
“You have anarchists and you have the looters and you have the rioters and you have all types, you have agitators,” Trump recently announced in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He told a Fox News correspondent about a planeload of black clad Antifa militants headed for Washington, D.C.—a mob nobody else seems to know about.
Democrats are all far-left wing socialists. “Even a Kennedy isn’t safe in the new radical left Democrat party,” observed the MAGA man after Senator Ed Markey defeated his primary challenger Joe Kennedy.
I guess Trump got this Red Scare stuff from his former lawyer, Roy Cohn, a onetime crony of right-wing bamboozler Senator Joe McCarthy. But with the U.S.S.R. out of business and the A-bomb widely held, does Red-baiting still scare anybody? Does it command any votes?
Dinner: Capriccio salad and corn on the cob.
Entertainment: The Danish political drama Borgen on Netflix.