A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 141

Posters urging the wearing of face masks are all over New York City.

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.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 79

Bird thou never wert.

Wednesday, May 27

Twitter’s new policy announced on a page called “Updating our Approach to Misleading Information” threatens to undo its claim that it is merely a platform, not a publisher.

Up to now, the social-media giant has been able to say that it had no responsibility for a variety of stuff on its site, ranging from hate crimes to copyright infringement. Now, its executives seem to feel that they have no choice but to behave more like a publisher. And just like, say, The Washington Post or Simon & Schuster, a more active involvement in the content of what’s posted on Twitter necessarily opens them up to legal action by law enforcement and/or aggrieved parties. The social media giant has already been sued by a number of parties, ranging from Congressman Devin Nunez to actor James Woods.

Just how Twitter will finesse these thorny matters will be of considerable interest to society.

The precipitating event for the Twitter policy change came from none other than Mr. MAGA himself, when he tweeted, without providing evidence: “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.” Twitter placed a warning label in Trump’s post and linked to a tag that described the claim as “unsubstantiated.” 

Trump has also been involved in a running feud with MS-NBC anchor Joe Scarborough. He has implied in tweets that “Nut Job” Scarborough was somehow involved in the 2001 death of a staffer, Lori Klausutis, who died from complications of an undiagnosed heart condition while working for Scarborough when he was a Florida congressman. As usual, Trump’s claims regarding Klausutis are bonkers, probably intended as distraction from the COVID-19 fiasco.

What can the orange man do? “Strongly regulate” or “close down” Twitter as he has threatened? Baloney—then what would he do at 3 a.m.? Watch Larry King infomercials? Or maybe old tapes of TV show Playboy After Dark?

Currently, he averages 29 tweets a day and up to 108.

Twitter has Trump’s number—in the same way that he has others’ number. He is a Twitter addict, no more able to shut down Twitter that a junkie could shut down his pusher.

Twitter is also his enabler. Just where did our leader learn this trick of insulting/bullying people to get them to respond and maybe draw attention to himself? From Joe McCarthy or sidekick Roy Cohn? From his own obnoxious, ostentatious father? 

According to Trump Revealed, a biography by Washington Post journalists, Trump was a “loudmouthed bully” in childhood. In school, he was an arrogant overbearing show-off who attacked girls.

Why would such a person appeal to any U.S. voters?

Would you vote for the guy who bullied you in 7th grade? Would you go to a rally for the guy who repeatedly bullied and insulted others? Is it a lynch-mob mentality–if I support him maybe he won’t turn and attack me? I seriously don’t understand the whole Trump phenomenon.

If Obama made you feel a little bit better about America—despite certain policies such as mass deportations—Trump has certainly made lots of people feel much, much worse about our citizenry. 

But now, I’m ranting—right up there with Paula Poundstone.

Tonight’s dinner: All-American hamburgers, baked potatoes with, you guessed it, sour cream. Plus coleslaw.

Entertainment: The Polish cold-war-era policier The Mire.