Which Protest-busting Dictator is Trump most Like?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Donald Trump’s incitement chickens came home to roost in Chicago on Friday, when his acolytes attacked the protesters who turned up to a Trump rally. Trump chose the better part of valor and decamped.

It seems obvious that Trump’s constant threatening and bullying of anyone who contradicts him and his cult have led directly to this outcome. Trump specializes in what George Orwell called in “1984” the “five minutes’ hate.” He’ll glare at journalists covering his tent revivals and call them the worst people, as though daring his followers to attack them.

On seeing a protester, Trump says “I’d like to punch him in the face.” And he promised to pay the legal fees of any of his cult members who attacked another person.

So it was predictable that at some point his motley assortment of neo-Nazis, KKK, and biker gangs would get physical with protesters against Trump’s bigoted hatred of minorities.

Dictators have their thugs attack protesters all the time. So here are some dreary moments in the history of modern dictatorship, echoing Trump’s call to punch people in their faces.

There was that time in summer of 2009 when hard liners allied with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked protesters who believed he stole the presidential election.

Then there was that time John Lewis was beaten at the behest of the Southern white establishment for trying to march from Selma, Ala.

And there was that rally in Thailand against the military government,

Sometimes a mob even attacks members of parliament, i.e. legislators, on behalf of the opposite party as in Cambodia, even in the absence of a dictator.

You get the point . . .

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related video

AP: “Trump Cancels Rally, Scuffles Erupt”

36 Responses

  1. I’m going with Mussolini and Peron, the appeal to a masculine authoritarianism aligned with the national culture is just too obvious.

    I’m trying to think of others, there were a lot of slimy characters in Eastern Europe just before World War Two, and lot of slimy Asian and African characters after World War Two, but there was a lot of reformatted-traditional nationalism going on, as well as a lot of ideology going on too, a lot of Marxism-Leninism but also local inventions. Nothing quite seems to fit.

    I read a lot of Napoleon III back in the day, the self-admiration may have been comparable to Trump, but my fuzzy memory sees him as more slimy, with a few extremely lucky turning points going well for him, not as emotionally connected to his base as Trump, Mussolini and Peron.

    • phil – We can only hope Donald Trump is not an American version of Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco Bahamonde aka Francisco Franco who remained in office for 39 years as Caudillo of Spain.

      Franco got started using rhetoric not unlike Trump.

  2. And on second thought, although I haven’t studied their speeches, Mussolini and Peron were probably able to speak in coherent sentences in their languages. They were actively engaged in the party politics of their times, and so I assume were able to make actual arguments on matters of governmental policy, without falling into an ignorant braggadocio of grammatical incoherence.

    Maybe I’m wrong in this, maybe Benito and Juan were just as incompetent in their basic speech, and as uniformed about how their governments actually worked, as Donald is. But he really does seem to be “sui generis,” a new and novel formation of psychologies, philosophies, politics and economics in the story of people on this planet.

    • I don’t know as much about Peron, but Mussolini was a journalist before he entered politics, so one could assume that he could write coherent sentences and form them into logical paragraphs. One would also expect that his prose was not as rumbling and pointless as that of Trump. Other than that, I think the Mussolini parallel is best.

  3. Professor, when you start using language like Neo Nazis, KKK and biker gangs, you do an injustice to your otherwise fine journalism and informative work on this site. Trump has no doubt got may undesirable characteristics, but whilst the Republicans mask their own anti ethnic leanings, they most certainly have them. Abu ghraib prison in Iraq springs to mind to say nothing of the history associated with the native American Indians. Whatever you think of Trump, you cannot deny he obviously has a very large following with the votes to prove it, and I doubt they are all Neo Nazis, biker gangs and KKK. and its unfair of you to imply they are are.

    • I didn’t say all. I said those groups come to his rallies and are encouraged by his rhetoric, and he dances around denouncing them. Look at the video from Chicago and it is clear who is being violent.

    • There are many more monsters in America than the Neo Nazis, biker gangs and KKK. Nixon named his fellow, supportive monsters the Silent Majority. We’re about to find out if they are a majority or not, but they are monsters and they have put many monsters in positions of power for reasons we have been trained to accept as justifiable.

  4. Can any prospect be worse than having to choose between Hillary and Trump in November? Neoliberals in Hillary’s camp need to get in touch with reality and switch to Bernie Sanders. He may not be perfect in the opinion of many lefties, but he might keep the United States from going over the precipice by vetoing any insanity that comes out of Congress. The chances of his programs – Medicare for All, minimum wage, etc. – coming to fruition are slim. The oligarchies in both wings of the corporate bird of prey will gang up on him and nothing will likely be done without a majority of supporters in Congress, but that will be much better than anything we can expect from Hillary and Trump. With the bully pulpit of the White House, Sanders might keep the dream of a civilized society alive – if by some divine intervention the mainstream media don’t gang up on him.

    • I support all of Bernie’s policies, but he has serious political liabilities. He embraces his socialist label and has called for a political revolution. People like most here, I assume, know what he means by this. However, most Americans conflate socialism with communism and when you combine that with revolution, he is very vulnerable to political attack by the billionaires and their super PAC’s. I worry that if he is nominated their hate machine will swing the vote to the Republicans. And while some here equate Clinton with the Republicans, that is a serious mistake. I remember when many said there was no difference between Gore and Bush in 2000.

      • I agree with Bill, although I see Trump as a lot worse than Hillary, at least Hillary is not inciting violence and promising to begin torturing alleged terrorist. Hillary will continue the democratic corporate agenda, corporations do what they want, wall street bends the rules, monsanto rep’s regulate the food industry, free trade. Only Bernie will defend the middle class. But Gary is also right, everyone hears socialist and pictures Stalin, and a nation where everyone gets the same salaries.

        • at least Hillary is not inciting violence

          But she has a long history of being a hawk and supporting illegal and immoral wars. There is also the problem of Hillary’s embrace of Netanyahu who has made repeated calls for war on Iran. Will Hillary finally give him his war?

      • And while some here equate Clinton with the Republicans, that is a serious mistake.

        How about the neocon wing of the Republican Party?

        Hillary Clinton Has Long History of Collaboration with GOP on Foreign Policy by
        Jon Schwarz – link to theintercept.com

        • She supports the Iran deal. That may be the most important thing that Obama has done in regards to the Middle East. None of the Republicans support it, although Trump’s opposition does seem muted. I don’t think Clinton would support torture, but Trump, Cruz, and Rubio pretty much do. I have stated before I don’t like her foreign policy, but it is nowhere near as bad as the Republicans. You seem so ideological that you can’t distinguish nuance or differences.

  5. There is a very interesting article over at the Mondoweiss blog – Understanding the fundamental roots of conflict and suffering: An interview with Rich Forer by Katie Miranda –http://mondoweiss.net/2016/03/understanding-the-fundamental-roots-of-conflict-and-suffering-an-interview-with-rich-forer/ – that helps to explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also can help us understand why so many people support Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton despite the strong antipathy felt by many others towards them in and beyond the United States. The article is a long, challenging read that will be worthwhile for many people. For those not up to that challenge they may consider a line from Aldous Huxley’s “Point Counterpoint”: “We become possessed by our possessions.” In choosing/possessing Trump and Clinton as their leaders it appears many have surrendered their own capacities to think for themselves and accept as gospel whatever comes out of the mouths of these candidates.
    The preceding applies to the masses of Trump and Clinton supporters, but what about people such as Meryl Streep and George Clooney who have endorsed Clinton? These and people like them have the capacity to think beyond the campaign rhetoric coming out of the Clinton camp. So what gives? Can it be they are part of and possessors of niches in the Clinton social milieu and are, thus, possessed by it?
    How else can we explain Meryl Streep, who gave superb humanistic performances as the lead character in “Sophie’s Choice” and in other roles, supporting Hillary Clinton? Streep claimed before an audience of women that she supported Clinton because she heard three women from Central America claim Clinton saved their lives. But, how, other than being possessed by Clinton’s friendship, do we explain Streep being blind to the countless women whose lives have been destroyed by death and displacement because of policies supported and promoted by Clinton?

  6. “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise,” – Donald Trump, Feb. 1, 2016

    How is this not incitement, tantamount to making terrorist threats?

  7. As much as I detest any confrontational violence, it makes for good TV. Oh how good to be a TV advertising exec….must be nice.

  8. Trump admires Putin’s Russia where hostile journalists disappear and praised the Chinese govt for the strength they used on protests at Tiananmen Square.

  9. Hitler’s party staged regular street gang fights against their political opponents. Probably Mussolini’s supporters as well. Suharto killed 1.5 million political opponents in Indonesia with US support. The US supported Pol Pot after he was forced into Thailand, just to oppose N Vietnam which had thrown him out, neither fact ever mentioned in US mass media. Those are US presidents’ choices to kill anyone who opposed Republican ideology, not opponents of democracy. Apparently the US-supported 1953 anti-democratic coup in Iran involved extensive repression of opponents of the dictator Shah.

    The many US secret wars since WWiI have primarily opposed socialism or communism intended to benefit the poor. Those are US presidential choices to kill roughly six million innocents due solely to political preference, as there were no security threats involved outside of W Europe.

    • The U.S. never supported Pol Pot – although he was the recipient of arms from Red China after his government was defeated by the Vietnamese and he Khmer Rouge became a guerrilla force opposing the pro-Vietnam regime in Phnom Penh.

      • Yes, I suggest taking a look at Brother Number One (political biography of Pol Pot) a study of the Cambodia wars commissioned by the govt of Australia. The US govt funded Pol Pot forces as the primary force of what it told its people was a “coalition” against the NV forces led by Prince Sihanouk, who was in fact isolated in Beijing and had no active role.

      • I should add that the Khmer Rouge rebellion was primarily against the aristocracy, and typically of peasant rebellions, was forced to communist organization by the political repression of oligarchy. The first nation to throw off the tyranny of colonial aristocracy in 1776 was also the last defender of colonial aristocracy in NV and Cambodia, because US democracy had fallen to oligarchy.

        NV initially supported the Khmer Rouge (of whom Pol Pot was one of a half dozen leaders) and later attacked it, not entirely because it had gone too far against its own people. The KR actually invaded Vietnam after attacking the supporting NV forces that remained in E Cambodia to protect an ethnic group spanning the border.

        It is noteworthy that the US media apparently exaggerated the KR casualties by a factor of ten or so in its propaganda. The KR opposed both presumed regime-supporters who had fled to Pnom Penh, and ethnic groups in E Cambodia presumed to be allied with NV. The fake US casualty figures of 1-2 million originated in a Reuters story by reporters who had been in Pnom Penh shortly before it fell to the KR (when its population was swollen with refugees from the conflict), and shortly afterward, who observed that approximate change of population there. The oligarchy-controlled US media picked up that figure as a casualty figure and never bothered to substantiate it. In fact most of the casualties were in the east, 100-300,000 at most. Burial pits have been found that substantiate the lower figure but are claimed to substantiate the higher figure.

        So the total casualties are probably 10-20% of the US murders in Vietnam designed to prop up dictators there to “contain” the communism of NV which was in fact a nationalist movement that used communist organization and development ideology as might have been expected in a peasant rebellion against Western oligarchic dictatorship over a desperately poor nation with a long history of colonial occupation.

  10. I start by saying that I don’t support any of the above, but want to say that some candidate has a chance to win it all, if they take on one of the most despised and least effective organizations in America: Congress. The weapon: Term limits for all congress members. Two terms for the senate and out, three terms for house of representatives.
    This is based upon the Gallup poll which shows Americans give a 14% approval rating of congress as of Feb 3 2016. The last time it was in the 20% range was 2011 (24%) and over 40% was 2005. If you had a doctor or lawyer that proved this type of service, we would scream malpractice. Here we just take it as the norm.
    I believe that if any presidential candidate took this on, the White House would be their new resident. Trump could do it, but the others are too vested to the establishment which must come down if there is to be effective change. Just a thought, not a sermon.

    • term limits and than public financing of elections, no more donations means no more favors.

    • Have you ever once heard Trump even acknowledge the existence of Congress or the Supreme Court or the balance of Constitutional powers?
      He’s not going to impose term limitations on them, he’s going to ignore them and rule by decree. That’s what his supporters want.

  11. Which Protest-busting Dictator is Trump most Like?

    Who among the anchors on the main television channels has the courage and integrity to address the presidential candidates and emulate Edward R. Murrow who said, “The right of dissent, or, if you prefer, the right to be wrong, is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. That’s the right that went first in every nation that stumbled down the trail toward totalitarianism.” Where is a national figure to match Joseph Welch who said to Senator Joe McCarthy, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”?

  12. Just try to wrap your head around this for a moment:

    The likely nominee of 1 of the 2 major parties in this country is inciting people to violence on an almost daily basis. When has this ever happened in the post-Civil War history of this nation? (Remember, George Wallace ran as an independent.)

    As if this isn’t serious enough, there’s something else even more chilling that has yet to happen:

    Where is the image of a large, bipartisan group of at least 400 US Representatives and Senators – Democrats AND Republicans – standing on the steps of the US capital building, calling out Donald Trump as a dangerous, race-baiting, xenophobic, and unhinged individual who has disqualified himself from the office, and demanding that he immediately withdraw from the Presidential race?

    Where is that video?

    The fact that this has yet to happen tells us more about how quickly fascism can grow and sweep across this nation than anything Donald Trump is saying or doing.

    God help us if this man is elected…

  13. … inciting people to violence on an almost daily basis. When has this ever happened in the post-Civil War history of this nation?

    During the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans and the run-up to the Spanish-American War.

    bipartisan group … race-baiting, xenophobic, and unhinged individual

    Newt Gingrich and his gang, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and their gangs and the Tea Party have declared bipartisanship null and void. Race-baiters, xenophobes and other unhinged individuals have been part of the American scene ever since the first European colonists landed on what is now America’s East Coast.

    • We’re talking about inciting people to violence against their neighbors, against citizens in the “wrong” part of their towns, against people lining up to vote in November. Presidential candidates don’t do that. That was done by henchmen running for state and local office like George Wallace. Which is why as bad as the Jim Crow South was, it wasn’t classically fascist because it was decentralized tyranny.

      • No, the Jim Crow South was highly centralized tyranny at the governor’s office level.

        Honestly, there are *lots* of terrifying examples of high-level government officials inciting violence against innocent people in the US. There are very few *after World War II*, thank you FDR, but the 19th century was pretty ugly.

  14. If we forget history, we are bound to repeat it. Have we forgotten or it fell down the memory hole, of an America in the 1920’s that allowed and condoned the marching of 50-60 thousand Klu Klux Klan members down Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC?
    link to historymatters.gmu.edu,

    link to dailymail.co.uk

    America was built on violence, manifested itself on slaughter and extermination going westward, and had a very uncivil, civil war that frankly ended because everyone was tired and went home. It is a young country and the trials and travails that it is going through are simply teething pains.

    We have to keep our eye on the true enemy of the people and they are the oligarchs and plutocrats that provide us all the WMD’s (weapons of mass distraction) we can consume. We have had worse as far as leadership (Abraham Lincoln comes to mind as a tyrant) and we shall survive.

    What saddens me the most is with over 300 million people in this country, we are forced to pick the “Evil of Two Lessers” as presidents, (Gore V. Bush, Obama v McCain, Obama v Romney, etc) again and again. Pretty sad.

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