Shortly after Corey Stewart was fired from the Trump campaign, the Muckraker wrote about the Trump campaign being infiltrated at the highest levels by the anti-Semitic, white nationalists of the Alt-Right movement, led by campaign CEO Stephen Bannon. Since that time we’ve noted several anti-Semitic dog-whistles that are symptoms in the Trump campaign of that group’s dominance. Now there’s more disturbing evidence.
Some supporters of Trump have started to shout the German term “lügenpresse” at rallies. The term in German means “lying press,” but it actually means far more than its direct translation would imply. Originating in early 20th-century Germany as a propaganda term, it was co-opted and employed by the Nazis as part of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels campaign to stir hatred against the Jews. Europeans view it today as retaining the anti-Semitic connotations and promptly recognized it as such when they heard of it at Trump rallies. It has for some time been a code word of the Alt-Right movement and reflects their claim that Jews control the media.
As we’ve noted in previous posts, we believe Trump’s widespread ignorance on significant issues also means that he has likely been completely clueless about the pedigrees of the dog-whistles being fed to him (though this is getting harder to accept with time). The anti-Semitic references, in particular, seem beyond Trump’s understanding, and he has been reading them directly off a teleprompter from speeches prepared for him. But therein lays the seriousness of this issue.
Trump’s disparaging comments regarding Women, Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans and others were always distasteful, and the manner in which they seemed to appeal to and be commended simply as disdain for political correctness by some of his supporters has always been troubling. Yet at least the argument could be made that this was Trump often speaking extemporaneously and reflecting the prejudicial stereotypes common to the ignorant, the sheltered, or the aggrieved. It was inaccurate and harmful commentary, but it was the language of an unscripted juvenile.
The anti-Semitic tropes that have emerged in Trump’s speeches and in the shouts at his rallies over the weeks since Stewart’s departure, however, are much more troubling. These are not the expressions of juvenile, uninformed prejudice. These represent a resurrection of sophisticated anti-Semitic slurs with a long and egregious history of calculated use to demonize groups and spur aggressive action against them.
It is inconceivable that these are phrases that have arisen organically from the average Trump supporter. Just as Trump is ignorantly reading the anti-Semitic references off a teleprompter showing a speech that someone else prepared for him, so too is it likely that the shouting of such terms at rallies is initiated by those in the crowd who have been schooled in the counter-factual media of the Alt-Right.
We have instances of such behind the scenes manipulation of ignorant officeholders in Prince William County. But the seriousness of a major party candidate for President being manipulated by the anti-Semitic, white nationalists of the Alt-Right movement cannot be overstated. This is the manner in which such groups gain power. They manipulate the ignorant, the ambitious, the fearful, and the aggrieved. They attach themselves to populist causes that they then corrupt. If we ignore the danger we ignore the lessons of a history we are doomed to repeat.