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Revisiting the Thirties?

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I put in some time this afternoon, over lunch, watching Trump’s speech to supporters televised nationally (what else is new?), from West Palm Beach in Florida, addressing recent articles about his inappropriate behavior with women published in the NY Times. Amazing to watch this guy in action. He makes brazen lying seem convincing if you have turned off the thinking part of your brain. He simply denies allegations, however well substantiated they may be, outright insists he never gropes women unbidden (despite the now famous audio tape of his boasting of doing just that!) and, of course, he slanders the messengers.

He attacks the reporters who write the stories as liars and political hacks seeking to do him in despite his manifest innocence (even implying, at one point, that one female reporter claiming he had groped her during an interview back in the nineties was too unattractive to motivate him to such behavior — are we to assume that if she weren’t he would have though?).

He denounces the newspapers publishing the allegations, of course, with damning condescension. And he shouts and rants (shades of the politicians of central Europe in the thirties!) and roars his displeasure at the world, all the while his audience in the hall laps it up, visibly energizing him to lie some more.

When lying is this blatant, this brazen, even the most thoughtful of us are moved to turn off our internal lie detectors. I felt it myself as his non-stop denunciations and shouted imprecations overwhelmed my awareness of the words he was saying, of the context in which he hurled them. No time to think about what he was saying then, just hear it, feel it, respond.

This must have been what it was like for the Germans and Italians in the wildly cheering audiences as the respective national leaders of those two nations in the 1930s inveighed against their own perceived national enemies and promised the crowd a better world than they had, one with them on top.

If any of us ever wondered how the supposedly educated, cultured people of Germany could have succumbed to the spell wrought by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi narrative, surely this is a real life, real time example of how it’s done.

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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