Is the president a dangerous ideologue drawing on America's racist past—or a man more tasteless than sinister? Talia Lavin and Andrew Stuttaford debateby Lavin, Stuttaford / August 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
Yes: Talia Lavin
In the American political conversation, there seems to be a divide between those who see Trump as a sui generis horror—his vulgarity and brazenness arising like Aphrodite from sea-foam, to dominate American political and popular culture—and those who frustratedly point out that our current leadership is drawing on innate American traditions of hatred and terror that date back to the country’s inception. Broadly, one can call these two schools: “We’re better than this,” and “Well—no, we’re not.”
I’m in the latter camp. You don’t have to look too far to find the roots of the current administration. Look how the civil rights of black people are today continually, brutally violated. Just look at the Bush-era torture programme’s architects, all of them unpunished. If you do look further back, the ghosts of the lynched and the mass graves of genocide lurk in the American psyche; the descendants of those who perpetrated these crimes walk among us. But something doesn’t have to be uniquely terrible, or unprecedented, to be ghastly. And the current administration has long ago earned its role as inheritor to the worst instincts and actions of American history.
It’s no accident that Trump has enthusiastically adopted slogans that echo authoritarian and crypto-fascist movements of the past. “America First,” a Trumpian refrain, was the slogan of US Nazi sympathisers in the 1930s. “Enemy of the People,” when referring to the press, was a favourite epithet of Stalin’s. It’s not as if these historical echoes are secret, or as if Google is blocked in the White House. Occam’s razor suggests, therefore, that they are intentional: of a piece with the dehumanising rhetoric of “infestation” that Trump uses with regard to immigrants; with government secrecy and barbarity; with rampant disregard for the truth and florid, bald-faced corruption. I would argue for Occam’s razor in our language and outlook as well. Call a fascist a fascist, and check his actions before they can sink to the worst depths of the history of that word.
No: Andrew Stuttaford
“Fascism” once had a reasonably precise meaning, shaped by reference to specific ideas, policies and…