The favorite playbook of authoritarian governments, dictators, and despots, is remarkably consistent.
First, you disparage the media and use it to spread your own “truth.” In Nazi Germany, this campaign was spearheaded Joseph Goebbels, who directed the government to seize control of all forms of communication: newspapers, magazines, books, public meetings, rallies, art, music, movies, and radio. Viewpoints in any way threatening to Nazi beliefs or to the regime were censored or eliminated from all media.
We can see evidence of this in trump’s constant and continual assault on the press as “fake news,” on the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt,” on intelligence personnel who criticize him. We see it in his wall rhetoric. His enemy list is similar to what Nixon had in his final days.
In Nazi Germany, books were burned. During the spring of 1933, Nazi student organizations, professors, and librarians made up long lists of books they thought should not be read by Germans. On the night of May 10, 1933, Nazi raids on libraries and bookstores resulted in the burning of 25,000 books that included the works of Jewish writers Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, but also books by Hemingway, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis and even Helen Keller.
Trump hasn’t ordered book burnings yet, but he tried to stop the publication of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury and of Omarosa’s book Unhinged. His attempts backfired spectacularly. Wolff’s book, published in January 2018, sold million of copies, has nearly 10,000 reviews and still comes in at 4 stars, and remains highly ranked on Amazon. Omarosa’s book, released on August 14, 2018 has 710 reviews as of today, January 28, and the reviews are still 4 stars. He has tweeted his rage against celebrities who have criticized him, against NFL players, against anyone and everyone who calls him out. He hasn’t started interment camps, unless you include the camps for children of immigrants at the border who are ripped away from their parents.
In Chile, under the regime of Augusto Pinochet, more than 3200 people were murdered by the state, more than 1,000 were disappeared, tens of thousands were tortured and hundreds of thousand fled into political exile. These figures are from an article in Nation.
In Venezuela, the names Chavez and Maduro are synonymous with the ruin of a country once flush and rich with natural resources – namely, oil. The other day at the dog park, we were sitting with a Venezuelan who had just pulled his 80-year-old mother out of the country because things have gotten so bad “there’s not even enough in the garbage to feed people.” I told him I’d lived in the country during the regime of Perez Jimenez, another brutal dictator who ruled in the 1950s with the same despotic playbook.
On the night Jimenez fled in 1958, with $250 million from the country’s coffers, my parents, sister and I watched his flight from our front porch, a trail of limos racing down mountain roads, headlights blazing in the dark. He ended up in the Dominican Republic, then Spain, then in Miami Beach, where he lived like a king.
Naomi Klein, whose book The Shock Doctrine, revealed the most egregious agenda of the Bush administration, certainly applies to the trump administration. Here she is, discussing trump as symptomatic of a larger problem.