Against normalization: The lesson of the “Munich Post”

Many thanks to Mark Colvin for bringing this measured – and chilling – commentary by Ron Rosenbaum to my attention. I have not asked the Los Angeles Review of Books for permission to republish at this point, so have only included the introductory paragraphs.

I suspect that, on reading this introduction, some may sigh, and mutter, “Not another article about Trump …”. However, the analysis is persuasively argued and is relevant not just to Trump’s America but to everybody on this planet. So, I do urge all interested Pubsters to click on the link and read the complete piece.

Historisches Lexikon Bayerns

The Trump-Hitler comparison. Is there any comparison? Between the way the campaigns of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler should have been treated by the media and the culture? The way the media should act now? The problem of normalization?

Because I’d written a book called Explaining Hitler several editors had asked me, during the campaign, to see what could be said on the subject.

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simplemindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had mainstreamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with “normal” politics and everyday thuggish behavior, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide.

But after the election, things changed. Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German. Now is the time for a much closer inspection of the tactics and strategy that brought off this spectacular distortion of American values.

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

Read on.


469 thoughts on “Against normalization: The lesson of the “Munich Post”

  1. BK

    Did you receive the cake with the file in it that Razz and I sent?

    Great to see you back, the big test will be tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.

  2. I watched the Ding Dong clip and the 10 questions.
    Shorten is a natural. If it’s an act he’s a damn good actor.
    These sorts of shows might be part of a campaign to lift Bill’s public recognition. But so what?
    If he can get some exposure from this then it’s only good.

    • MSM isn’t giving him a go, so I reckon all these stupid daytime shows is the way to go, get people to see him as an everyday person. He was good.

  3. joe6pack
    February 24, 2017 at 4:47 PM Edit
    BK has been released. 10 minutes early for good behavior..

    February 24, 2017 at 4:56 PM Edit
    Such grandiose clemency. Must have been the supportive words from Bushfire Bill!


    I can only advise.

    Our Supreme Leader makes all the Big Decisions.

  4. I thought Stan “Colour me blue” Grant was supposed to start at the Friday 1930 spot at some future date.

    Seems Ms Guthrie, of the chambers, decided to bring forth that particular oracle.

    Marvin, you there?

  5. That bastard Alex Hawke deliberately kept his decision until the very last moment, although this issue has been dragging on for months and has had a lot of publicity.

    Calculated cruelty – so typical of Immigration and Border Farce. Hawke would have made his decision months ago, and now we are all supposed to think he’s wonderful because of his last-minute ‘reprieve’.

  6. What IS it with Liberal voters?

    I’m just back from the grog shop and there was this flannel-trousered, tight-blue-striped-shirted, Baldy Bill typical Lib voter: nattily dressed, white haired and grossly overweight in that “too many helpings of ice cream” sort of way. He was arguing the toss with the console operator over whether he was due a discount on whatever bottle of wine he was procuring (typical… arguing about money).

    Anyway… I had the Brown Dog with me in the grog shop, and somehow or other the conversation about the dog transmogrified itself into a conversation about politics.

    Now, here’s the rub. All this fat, pink Lib could talk about was Bill Shorten’s Mistake: something about which I know only a little, but it has something to do with a Coles worker NOT losing penalty rates when Bill reckoned he would be (I haven’t been paying too much attention to politics lately because my life revolves around the drying cycles of several painting projects I am running about the house of late, and there is precious little time for the daily political grind).

    The Libs seem to have grabbed onto Bill’s Big Blunder like drowning men all clutching at the same floating door.

    They seem to think this oopsie is the harkening of a New Dawn for Turnbull, wherein he will reverse the polls, stamp out Tony Abbott and become the True Renaissance Man We All Knew He Was.

    The guy in the grog shop said that Bill – big unionist, ha, ha – doesn’t even understand industrial awards which, when you think of it, is an absurd proposition.

    He made a mistake, that’s all, probably on bad advice from a staffer. No biggy, to my mind. But the loon in the shop just couldn’t stop gloating.

    Things must be pretty crook in Liberal Land if this is the kind of thing that gets them all dancing in the streets.

  7. Well, at least there’s some good news for the left somewhere in Europe. Even if it’s doomed in the UK under Corbyn, at least things may be more positive in the upcoming elections in France and Germany.

    Emmanuel Macron is on track to be the next French President, although polling is close enough to be vulnerable to interference from Russians to hand victory to Le Pen, which is worrying.

    But in Germany, since Martin Schulz became leader, there’s a very real chance of the SDP returning to government. And there’s virtually no chance of the far right AfD coming to power.,_2017

  8. So far the draft Queensland redistribution is looking pretty good for Labor. Antony Green seems to have finished estimating the seat margins, and it looks like on the new boundaries, Labor would have 48 seats (+4), the LNP would have 43 (+1), KAP would only have 1 (-1), and that just leaves Nicklin, which would likely be an LNP gain since Peter Wellington is retiring next election.

    The pendulum isn’t up yet, but I’ve made one myself from the results here. Things are pretty delicate either way, and I think a pendulum would be useless in estimating how the next election would go because of the One Nation factor.

    Also the pendulum doesn’t take into account changes of party since 2015.

  9. God, the comments from UK Labour’s Cat Smith are just pathetic.

    She commented “to be 15-18 points behind in the polls & to push the Tories within 2000 votes is an incredible achievement”

    No, this is a seat that was won by Labour with a majority of 6.5% at an election where the Conservatives beat Labour by 6.5%. It is now held by the Conservatives with a majority of 6.9%, so, that’s a defeat well reflected in national polling.

    I hope if Australian Labour ever gets that bad, they won’t be reduced to making such pathetic comments.

    • *Australian Labor, I should say. But I’m confident that it won’t reach that point any time soon according to the polls. This new civil war in the Liberals probably won’t help them.

  10. You might not want to listen to four minutes of Pyne, but please try. This is comedy gold.
    “We have Labor on the ropes’. Really?
    On Abbott – “We aren’t going back to him under any circumstances”. Hmmmm.
    “We’re not like the Labor party” – oh yes you are. This is Rudd/Gillard all over again.

    The panel on The Project weren’t buying any of it.

    And what’s with the ultra-short haircuts all the front bench chaps are sporting? They all look like they’ve had a run-in with a very bad barber, or a lawnmower.


    “I WISH we had Tony Abbott back.” It’s one of the least heard sentences in Australian politics.

    The former prime minister is trying to keep the dream alive, but there is no mood among Liberal MPs to return him to the leadership. They are sick of him.

    If he hadn’t got the message before, it should be clear to him now after the massive whack he received yesterday from Mathias Cormann.

    “The biggest elbow I’ve seen in politics for a very long time,” was the way a fellow minister described it.

    The Finance Minister was an Abbott numbers man in the 2015 leadership challenge and stuck with him until the end. Cormann is also perhaps the most respected figure in the Liberal Party’s conservative wing.

    But, following Abbott’s latest undermining of Malcolm Turnbull and the government, the normally reserved Cormann branded him sad, self-indulgent and deliberately destructive, and said a speech and interview given by the former PM on Thursday were “designed” to be unhelpful.

    Asked for a response, Abbott asserted: “Look, I’m not in the business of taking potshots at my colleagues.”

    It was said without a blush. With not the slightest sign of discomfort. If nothing else, you have to admire his chutzpah.

    Cormann had been telling friends privately for a while that he was losing patience with Abbott’s antics. Now, very publicly, he has said, in effect: “Shut up or rack off!”

    Quite a few erstwhile Abbott supporters feel the same way.

    But there is a view Abbott was playing to another audience.

    “It was a pitch to the Right-wing commentariat,” says a prominent Liberal MP. “It’s about having a cheer squad. People who’ll make a noise.”

    That aligns with a theory that, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton emerging as the most likely future conservative candidate for the Liberal leadership, Abbott is worried about being eclipsed.

    Even with Abbott shooting himself in the foot, though, Turnbull is very nervous.

    That was shown just over a week ago when news stories emerged suggesting the upcoming Budget could include a reduction in the capital gains tax discount for property investors.

    Abbott saw an opportunity to make trouble and warned that a Coalition Government should not stand for tax increases.

    The story was quickly killed off but, wrongly thinking pollsters were in the field for a Newspoll to be published last Tuesday, Turnbull was furious.

    He believed the apparent tax confusion and Abbott’s intervention would prevent the poll reflecting how effective he had been in attacking Labor over energy policy.

    The result was considerable tension and recrimination inside the government, especially between Turnbull and the office of Treasurer Scott Morrison.

    Unfortunately for Turnbull, Newspoll is actually due to be published on Monday (to coincide with a parliamentary sitting) so will reflect the full impact of Abbott’s accusations of a government lacking direction and drifting to defeat.

    Not that Abbott will get much of an argument from me about that diagnosis.

    Turnbull’s reputation for indecisiveness has reached the point where a person working closely with him until recently says: “Put a French restaurant menu in front of Malcolm and he’d choose everything.”

    It is a particularly serious problem as work begins on the Budget that Morrison will bring down on May 9.

    That Budget is everything if the government’s fortunes are to recover. Tough decisions will have to be made. As Cabinet wrestles with a series of difficult choices, weak leadership will be fatal.

    But for Abbott to set himself up as the epitome of consistency and strength is laughable.

    THIS is Abbott the self-confessed climate change weather vane.

    The Abbott who promised “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions” on the eve of the 2013 election and then broke those promises and more in the 2014 Budget.

    And the Abbott who solemnly promised an audience of prominent conservatives — including Rupert Murdoch, Cardinal George Pell and Andrew Bolt — to repeal the controversial Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, only to declare the repeal proposal “off the table” when he came under pressure.

    The Abbott hypocrisy was on full display with his lecture to Turnbull about the need for a Coalition Government to be committed to lower taxes.

    Turnbull is battling to get big corporate tax cuts through the Senate, whereas Abbott, when he came to office, proposed a corporate tax increase to fund the ludicrous rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme he was later forced to abandon.

    Abbott also increased income taxes for some Australians via a Budget repair levy.

    The bloke has no shame.

  12. no paywall

  13. How bad would you have to be to fail to meet One Nation’s ‘standards?

    WA One Nation candidates disendorsed by party for failing to ‘reach standards’

    I thought being considered an ideal ON candidate meant you were lower than pond scum, ignorant, brain-dead and bigoted, an ultra-right winger and anan out-and-out fruitloop, preferably into as many bizarre conspiracy theories as possible. It would be hard to find anything lower or more repulsive than a ON candidate, so what exactly are these ‘standards’ that candidates must fit into?

    Hanson said she personally vetted all her WA candidates. I really can’t image what she thinks ‘vetting’ means.

  14. Having a somewhat warped mind, I don’t even want to venture upon what poorleen might consider to be ‘extreme’ vetting. Not at this hour of the night. Don’t want disturbed dreams.

    I suspect her ‘personal vetting’ is minimal: (1) are they trooly rooly gullible; (2) will they obey ph’s every command without question; (3) will they render unquestioning fealty – and homage – to ph, no matter the circumstances.

    • I think the ability to pay a non-refundable $2500 bond and getting James Ashby to print all your election material at your expense is Pawleen’s idea of extreme vetting

    • Billie,

      You are almost certainly on the money – the only thing that counts (and talks) in ph’s world.

  15. When Laurie Oakes and Chris Ooooohmann are both agin you, tones, you MUST be doing something right …

  16. This is important (yes, I know we are in Australia, and can’t ‘do anything’ about trump), but this is still important:

    Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight.

    United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months. They’ve incorporated as both a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), allowing them to operate as a nonprofit but participate in some forms of political advocacy as well.

    While other Trump opponents focus on taking the president to court over the travel ban and deportations, the new group plans to drill into issues that aren’t already hitting the headlines, like potential intervention in and intimidation of regulatory agencies by West Wing staff.

    “When people hear concerns about democracies declining into authoritarianism, they expect that moment to come in a singular thunderclap where everyone can see that this is the time,” said Ian Bassin, who’s leading the new group. “In reality, often times, democracies decline over a period of years that happen through a series of much smaller steps.”

    That’s the key: democracies decline over a period of years that happen through a series of much smaller steps.

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