Four years ago, I looked at (now) President Donald J. Trump and his campaign and wrote, “This is how genocide starts.” Four years later, that piece seems to be coming true.
The path to autocracy starts in Portland, Oregon
Last week Trump sent federal agents into Portland, Oregon to quell what started out as #BlackLivesMatter protests. The people of Portland, of Oregon, the mayor and governor all opposed this action. Now protestors have a new goal; to get federal agents out of their city and state. There are multiple reports of people being taken off the street, pushed into unmarked vehicles, and then released later when they complain about their Constitutional rights. Protestors have been shot at (one man suffered a fractured skull), beaten and gassed. The more that happens the larger the protest grows.
Now Trump has pledged to send 75,000 more agents to New York City, Chicago, Seattle and other cities. He claims he wants to “help” but none of those cities have asked for it and all are run by Democrats. If Portland is prologue, after the feds arrive in these new cities, what were #BLM protests will turn into something different. People don’t want the federal government to step in and control them. Protesting government actions is one of the most patriotic things an American can do.
“When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson
Don’t look at the man behind the curtain
The Donald has always been good at misdirection. This has been a common theme in his career. Since he entered politics, he has used it to move from one scandal to another. When one scandal gets too hot to handle, he often starts a new one. If there is a bad news cycle, he tweets something crazy and we all look to the new shiny thing. When too much attention went to his bashing a Gold Star family, the Access Hollywood tape comes out.
Since the pandemic got out of Trump’s control, he was given a gift. When protests broke out all over America after George Floyd was killed by police, he was able to put into action something he had been working on for years; to divide and conquer the nation.
Reports come out that are unfavorable to Trump and his friends? That’s FAKE NEWS! When U.S. intelligence agencies find information that is not in keeping with his world view? They are part of the “deep state.” The facts don’t comport with how he wants things to be? It’s a Democratic hoax! If you don’t think his actions have real-world implications, it has been reported that 58% of Republicans are now wearing masks since they saw Trump wear one.
Attack of the Qanon clones
If you have not heard of the Qanon conspiracy theory, you are not alone. Most Americans do not know about it but their numbers are growing and a few may end up in Congress.
The Qanon people believe that a person, Q, (this has evolved to be a group of people) is a high-level person in the “deep state” who has been feeding information to Trump about a vast conspiracy of the world’s richest people who are engaged in a satanic pedophile scheme to abuse children and possibly eat babies. I have read they think the rich elite like to eat babies’ bone marrow to extend their lives. Bill Gates has injected millions of people with microchips. Now, they also believe Anthony Fauci created the coronavirus and a vaccine will be used to kill a lot of innocent people.
They claim a “storm” is coming where Trump will arrest all the people involved and save us. They have already convinced people that Hillary Clinton was detained (she wasn’t) and a pedophile ring has been operating out of Comet Ping Pong (pizzagate — 2016). Earlier this spring, a woman from Illinois was arrested in NYC with a hoard of knives on a mission to kill Joe Biden. She was a devotee of Qanon.
As this movement dubbed a new American “religion,” makes its way into the Trumpster ranks, more and more of them are becoming irrational. This is going to sound offensive and while I don’t mean it to be, it strikes me like turning people into vampires. You don’t come back from that. Once you move to the conspiracy side, you are immune to reason, logic and facts.
These are the people who will back Trump up if Secretary Esper balks at sending in the military or if they refuse to follow his orders.
Conspiracy theories are as American as baseball and apple pie
Since before the start of the American experiment was started, we have been a nation in love with conspiracy theories. The idea that King George III wanted to enslave all people in the 13 colonies fueled the march towards revolution. America was built by people with an inherent mistrust of a central government. Almost every big event from then on has had people who doubt it. Take the Moon Landing, the JFK assassination and the anti-vaxxer movement.
Conspiracy theories can be very seductive.
People who believe them think they have been clued in to a reality not that everyone can see. You are special and you are part of a movement bigger than yourself. When you are engaged in a life and death/good vs evil fight, all the little things in your life can be ignored. Think of the movie Fight Club. When the narrator embraces Tyler Durden’s nihilism and remarks, “No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”
Psychologists have looked into what makes people believe in these theories. Psychology Today explained some traits that can be found in all conspiracy theorists:
The researchers found that reasons for believing in conspiracy theories can be grouped into three categories:
- The desire for understanding and certainty
- The desire for control and security
- The desire to maintain a positive self-image
Scientific American looked at these people and written this:
- False conspiracy theories can drive people to violence, as they did for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, and affect political activity.
- Anxious people are especially drawn to conspiratorial thinking, experiments show, and the mindset is also triggered by a loss of control.
- You can spot hallmarks of fake theories, such as internal contradictions in the “evidence” and contentions based on shaky assumptions, psychologists say.
Cult leader + conspiracy theorists + the power of the federal government = tyranny
So, Trump has developed an “us vs. them” situation in the United States. You either love him and take every everything as gospel or you have “Trump Derangement Syndrome” (TDS). If you believe that anxiety leads more people to look to conspiracy theories to explain things, and you know that people are incredibly anxious right now, you can see why this American tradition is gaining popularity and power.
Worried about Covid-19? Fear not! It’s a hoax! People aren’t really dying! And even if they are Anthony Fauci started it to help Bill Gates kill us all! Remember, Bill Gates eats babies!
Worried about the economy? Stop thinking about that! Look the #BlackLivesMatter people are anarchists and want to destroy America! Our real problems are not the economy or the pandemic but the liberals who want to destroy the suburbs! Donald Trump will keep you safe!
Never mind that the violence has largely been perpetrated by people on the right side of the aisle and the federal government. That’s just more anti-Trump propaganda from the fake media and un-American lefties!
And here we are back at genocide
As I wrote in the piece, “This is how genocide starts,”
If you look at the phenomenon across centuries and continents, you will see genocide follows a predictable pattern. From Armenia and Germany to Rwanda and Sudan and then to Cambodia, there are ten steps all of these genocides follow.
Think about it. What better way to divert attention from real crises than to make up an enemy to destroy? Look at the former Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milosevic wanted to create a “Greater Serbia” and saw a power vacuum after the fall of Josip Broz Tito. How did he take a multi-cultural place and turn it into a hellscape? By convincing people the real enemy was the Muslims in that nation. Nevermind that Sarajevo was a totally integrated city and was praised for being one, once Milosevic got people riled up, all that ended and genocide ensued.
I had wanted to stay away from Germany and Adolph Hitler because I usually think that if you bring up Hitler, your argument sucks but it works too well here. After World War II, Germany was in dire straights. In the first place, the Treaty of Versailles was all about punishing Germany for the war. This left the country’s economy reeling. Hilter used anti-semitism, rampant around the world (including the United States) as a way to deflect anger at the government. Upset about the economy? Don’t blame us! The Jews did it!
(Ironically, President Woodrow Wilson wanted that treaty to be less punitive and more generous to Germany and supported something like the Marshall Plan after WWII but just before negotiations began he contracted the Spanish Flu and was not able to move that ball forward as a consequence.)
Where are we now?
In 2016, I believed we were somewhere between steps one and three of genocide. Those steps are
1. Classification creates the “us vs. them.” Check. It’s the “real” Americans vs. the “fake” Americans.
2. Symbolization gives the “them” a name. Check. “They” are liberal elites, fake news media, people with TDS.
3. Discrimination. Check. In the midst of the pandemic, Red states got coronavirus help right away while Blue states had to beg for it. Trump has said he thinks free speech rights are only for people who support him.
Now we are somewhere at six or seven.
4. Dehumanization. Check. Trump is calling the protestors and his opposition “anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes”. I have been told, by his supporters that the BLM movement is a “hate group” made up of “demons.” Remember: Qanon thinks the left is made up of satanic pedophiles.
5. Organization. Check. All genocides are organized either directly by the government or informally by the people. In 1994, most of the murders were not done by the Army but by the Interhamwe (those who fight together). Trump has his own Interhamwe in the Proud Boys and American Guard. He stepped things up when he moved federal agents into Portland and Seattle and will go further when they show up elsewhere.
6. Polarization. Double Check. No one can say the United States is not a divided country. When I went to a #BLM rally on Long Island (Port Jefferson), the anger was visceral — but on the side of the counter-protesters. At best they thought I was stupid, at worst they thought I was an enemy of the state.
And so we move to step seven; preparation
Genocide Watch (link above) says this:
“They often use euphemisms to cloak their intentions, such as referring to their goals as “ethnic cleansing,” “purification,” or “counter-terrorism.””
Does this sound familiar? Trump is sending federal agents to places where they are not wanted to “keep the peace” or “support law and order.” Step seven has started.
Where do we go from here?
Well, this is Genocide Watch’s description of the next step.
8. PERSECUTION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. In state sponsored genocide, members of victim groups may be forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is often expropriated. Sometimes they are even segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved. Genocidal massacres begin. They are acts of genocide because they intentionally destroy part of a group. At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. If the political will of the great powers, regional alliances, or the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense. Humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.
We cannot let Trump and his supporters to go further. We cannot allow him to create a crisis and then use martial law to fix it. We need our leaders to break with this man to save the republic. I just hope someone rises to the occasion.