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Meet the New Boss, Not Same as the Old Boss

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Charles Lindbergh and Hermann Goering: Make Germany Great Again. - PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • Public Domain
  • Charles Lindbergh and Hermann Goering:
    Make Germany Great Again.
The Russians have a saying: “Your tongue can get you all the way to Kiev.” The gist of it is it's possible to talk your way into almost anything. President Donald John Trump, son of New York and first of his name, has successfully talked his way to Kiev.

We would all do well to brush up on Russian proverbs. This morning—the first full day Americans will be governed by a slum lord-turned-former reality TV star—I watched a few minutes of Russia Today. The Kremlin’s favorite propaganda organ broadcasts in English alongside CNN and Fox these days, and it will probably become one of the media outlets Americans should routinely check out to get a sense of the current marching orders, vis-a-vis the dismantling of Western liberal democracy.

The program this morning featured a doughy, sleepy-eyed “analyst” muttering a few vague words about the demagoguery of Trump’s campaign. I hope Putin paid him well. Before he could finish even one sentence on the historic divisiveness of DJT’s presidential run, the second (probably higher paid) guest—another “legal and political analyst”—broke in with a suit like Vladimir Lenin, a face like Heinrich Himmler and a voice like Gilbert Godfrey.

After recounting Trump’s astonishing rise to president, besting the best of the Republican Party and Hillary Clinton… “a force unto herself,” the pro-Trump analyst poo-pooed criticism of the new boss’ inaugural address as somehow unpolished.

Paraphrasing: “He grabbed the presidency by the pussy and now, in his moment of poorly attended vindication, you expect him to start talking like someone with intellectual integrity?”

Actually, Himmler-Lenin-Godfrey started speaking in a faux “Fancy British Man” voice and before he could say a bunch of super offensive shit, I turned off the TV in disgust and grabbed a beer from the mini-fridge in my hotel room. It was 8:30 a.m.

I’m in Portland, Ore., right now, attending an alt-weekly conference with a select team of BWers. We’re staying at the Hotel Monaco on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Street, the crossroads of the protests in Pioneer Square last night and which are happening right now as part of the now-global Women’s March. I'm sitting in the hotel bar surrounded by people in pink “pussy” hats drinking bloody Marys and greyhounds and talking earnestly about how truly screwed we are.

Last night was a bizarre night in Portland. The streets were empty by happy hour, with clumps of anti-Trumpists crossing against the lights to various demonstrations. At least one menacing chopper hovered over downtown, and the thwop-thwop of its rotor blades seemed to follow us as we made our way to a booze/weed party hosted by our fellow alt-weekly, The Portland Mercury, at a convivial sex club. When in Portland…

I saw a few convoys of riot cops speed past in the rain, bouncing in heavy in black armor on their way to corral the various marches and ensure the City of Roses didn’t experience the same kind of property damage it sustained following the Nov. 8 election.

After a few hours of doom-struck drinking/smoking with indie journos from across the country, I wandered back to the hotel on even quieter streets. I was told this morning I missed the real fireworks: Flashbangs and tear gas dispersed groups of demonstrators before midnight. No major altercations were reported.

So here we are: Day One of the Trump Era. As the kids say, "WTF?!"

Let’s see how we got here. In 2012, the Oxford English Dictionary listed Godwin’s Law as an entry. It’s an artifact from the dawning days of the internet, from an adage set down on the incipient web in 1990: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches.”

Well, hell, if we’re living a “post-truth” world—as we’ve been discussing with rising levels of hysteria at this conference these past few days—I’d suggest we’re also living in a “post-Godwin” world. Or, at least, we need a corollary to Godwin’s Law. I have a suggestion: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches [and should be made if the subject of the discussion is clearly comparable to Hitler, for Chrissake].”


I don’t know what you saw on Jan. 20, but I saw a straight-up National Socialist demagogue demagoguing his demagoguery to what looked like, from the air, a particularly large swarm of army ants.

First, we have to talk about this “one heart, one home and one glorious destiny” stuff. Compare to: “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer.” Translated from German, it means “one people, one empire, one leader.”

That's a few frequencies higher than a dog whistle.

Second, this is the first time we've heard someone with supreme executive power shout "America First" over a crowd of supporters on the National Mall. It isn't, however, the first time we've heard it.

Charles Lindbergh and Hermann Goering: Make Germany Great Again. - PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • Public Domain
  • Charles Lindbergh and Hermann Goering:
    Make Germany Great Again.
Founded in 1940, the America First Committee was an organization of prominent Americans who agitated against entering World War II. Some of their reasons for non-intervention were practical, like it’s really hard to fight a war when it requires you move your armies across the two largest oceans on Earth. Others were more insidious.

With history-making flyer Charles Lindbergh as spokesman, America First was influenced by Nazi sympathizers. Lindbergh visited the Third Reich and was awarded a ceremonial sword by no less than Hermann Goering, president of the Reich, chief of the German air force and a World War I flying ace. Seriously.

Historians can and do debate whether Lindbergh was an actual Nazi or a rich dupe, but we now have a rich dupe in the White House. If we’re to believe the most powerful intelligence gathering apparatus ever assembled, our rich dupe is in thrall to a rising neo-nationalist movement seeking a fundamental reordering of the post-World War II world into one quite similar to the world the the U.S. and its allies fought World War II to consign to history.

Don’t get me started on the Leni Riefenstahl-style aerial shot of Trump broadcast on CNN; the camera rising slowly above Dear Leader to reveal blocks of red-hatted supporters clotted in front of the Washington Monument.

The marches are starting and the greyhounds have run out, so it’s time to bring this gloomy rumination to an end with a couple more apt Russian proverbs.

“A beard doesn’t make a philosopher.” Adaptation: “A power tie doesn’t make a leader.”

“When money talks, truth shuts up.” Adaptation: “Start following Russia Today on Facebook.”

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