Has Donald Trump pushed us into a new age of political mendacity, like Orwell’s time between the two world wars?

Jun 20th, 2018 | By | Category: Crime Stories

The still seriously unreformed Senate of Canada wisely passed Bill C-45, the government's legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, Tuesday evening, June 19, 2018, without further toil and trouble. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press).

[UPDATED JUNE 21 (& happy summer solstice) & JUNE 22]. Something Donald Trump tweeted this past Monday morning illustrates one of the many things wrong with his view of the real world I live in.

In Mr. Trump’s own words : “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

As I have tried to write down what I object to in these three sentences I have fallen into what may be the ultimate depths of the issue. (A fate the stunning new information technology of our time  so easily promotes.)

Stepping back from the ultimate depths for a moment, I began my quest with : “what is wrong with these three particular Donald Trump sentences on Germany and Europe?”

In the first place, crime in Germany is way down, not way up.

(See, eg : “Actual German crime data from last month shows the national crime rate in Germany over the previous year was at its lowest level since 1992.” Or : “Crime actually fell in 2017 by 9.6 percent in Germany … Also, crimes by non-German suspects fell by 22 percent in 2017. By any measure, Germany has far less violent crime than the US.”)

This may not be a “real-life” photo of Donald Trump with a gun in his hand, of course, but it seems arguable that it at least speaks a language he admires. Thanks to North Amarillo Now – part of the rising tide that will eventually rule Texas!

So the second of Mr. Trump’s sentences above is simply factually incorrect. This is admittedly not an issue that seems to worry his own art-of-the-deal political philosophy unduly. But for those who want to be at least outwardly sensible it ought to raise concerns.

From a more complex angle, Donald Trump’s three sentences about Germany and Europe (above, in italics) were tweeted in defence of his (and Jeff Sessions’) own deeply mean-spirited recent immigration policy practice of separating children from parents (just now discontinued), in migrant families who break the law along the US-Mexico border. (See, eg: “President Trump blames Democrats, doubles down on immigration amid backlash.” And, most recently : “After outcry, Trump signs order that will stop separations and detain families together … ‘The border is just as tough, but we do want to keep families together,’ president says.”

First impressions …

My first thought here was just that there is not much real-world similarity between immigration pressures in Germany and Europe today, and those along the US-Mexico border. (Beyond the very general parallel of have-nots moving to lands of haves, to escape extreme political and economic instability or worse —— an old story in the USA.)

It seems true enough that Donald Trump has intermittent streaks of near-genius in some respects. And the first of his three sentences above – “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition” – seems a plausible enough summary of current German politics.

Yet, again, the second sentence is just factually incorrect. And the third is contentious at the very least. (To take the case I know best, I have traveled in Europe myself over the past several years – from what I can make out possibly even more than Donald Trump. I have not noticed that immigrants there “have so strongly and violently changed” the national cultures. Germany still strikes me as quite Germanic. France remains quite French.)

More exactly for my first thought here, Donald Trump’s ideas about immigration do not flow from any authentic grasp of what is really going on along the US-Mexico border —— which does not have much in common with immigration to Germany and other parts of Europe today (which Mr. Trump also does not seem to seriously understand in any case)  …

Ultimate depths …

Ann Coulter modeling her new Trump t-shirts. Available for men and women. October 2016.

I gave up on pursuing this thought further when I bumped into an article by CBC News’s Washington correspondent Keith Boag, called “Children’s distress may help Trump bargain for his border wall … It’s about showing his base just how tough he can be over immigration …”

The crux of Mr. Boag’s analysis is suggested by five quick quotations :

* “Not that long ago it was possible, and arguably wise, to ignore [Ann] Coulter. But then we learned that her book, Adios America, had profoundly shaped how Trump thinks about immigration as an election tool.  It was Coulter who came up with Donald Trump’s infamous line about Mexicans in 2015, ‘They’re rapists.’”

* “Until the last couple of days it was still possible to believe that the administration had allowed what’s happening on the border to develop because of their own ineptitude; that the left hand simply didn’t know what the right hand was doing … But now it looks as though Trump set it up to be a defining moment for his presidency.”

* “He got where he is largely by promising to be tougher on immigration than anyone else would be, and six months ahead of midterm elections he has manufactured a crisis to prove it … ‘The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility …’ he said yesterday. ‘A country without borders is not a country at all.’”

“Running for the Republican nomination for Kanas governor, Kris Kobach is appearing in parades riding a Jeep mounted with a replica .50-caliber machine gun and a Donald Trump figurine.” (Daniel Dale in Washington for the Toronto Star.)

* “This week Republicans will consider a pair of immigration reform bills either of which would probably need Democratic support to pass and both of which include funding for a border wall. The bills would also fix the practice of separating families at the border, so the outrage of the current moment makes it that much harder to vote against them.”

* “If either one passes, Trump will have kept his promise on the wall. If neither passes he will blame the Democrats for not caring about families. Either way he will campaign on the wall again” [in the now crucial 2018 mid-term elections].

Mr. Boag is down in Washington talking to all the other journalists who talk about these things. And what he is saying strikes me as an all-too-likely account of what may be the ultimate depths of the issue Donald Trump was trying to deal with when he tweeted :  “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up”… and so forth.

“PROOF – photo of Trump on the phone with head of Boy Scouts.” Thanks to Jesse McLaren@McJesse, August 2017.

As I write in the early evening of Wednesday, June 20 the mainstream media are reporting (as already noted above) : “After outcry, Trump signs order that will stop separations and detain families together … ‘The border is just as tough, but we do want to keep families together,’ president says.”

Who knows just what this might mean? Has President Trump given in? Or is he now posing as the man who solved the child separation policy crisis that his administration created in the first place? Is Keith Boag still onto something when he suggests that “now it looks as though Trump” set up his ultimate art-of-the-deal plea that the “United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility” as “a defining moment for his presidency”? In some respect that still has something to do with the mid-term elections this coming November ????

“O Lord deliver us from the wrath of the Northmen”

Mr. Trump also seems to have been emboldened lately by, eg, the latest Gallup Poll finding that his approval rating has now risen to 45% – which is getting close to the share of the active US electorate that voted for him back in November 2016.

[UPDATE JUNE 21 : Other pollsters are reporting somewhat lower current approval ratings; eg, “Overall, 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 57 percent disapprove. That approval rating has held steady since March.” See also : “Trump’s immigration order sparks confusion, concern … House of Representatives to vote on immigration bills as children still detained.”]

Actress Cressida Bonas played George Orwell’s second wife, Sonia, in “Mrs. Orwell” at the Old Red Lion Theatre in North London last year.

His outright big-lying and crass attempts to manipulate the American people by alluring but almost entirely factually wrong and even duplicitous narratives about current US problems have reached heights heretofore unseen, even over the crazy year and a half since he assumed office.

But it is wrong, I think, to talk about Hitler and so forth in this context.

Donald Trump has almost certainly become some kind of danger to Democracy in America. But (so far at any rate?) he is neither as bad nor as demonically clever as Adolf Hitler, who came from a much humbler background (and actually served in his country’s armed forces during the First World War).

Yet I agree myself with a not infrequent suggestion on Twitter now. In all of North America and beyond, Donald Trump has pushed us into a new age of political mendacity, and even uneasy “appeasement” (and “normalization”) of increasingly obvious destructive human impulses.

It does seem not altogether unlike what haunted so much of the former Burmese Imperial Police officer George Orwell’s already rising global village between the two world wars (and finally led to the Second World War in the late summer of 1939).

From the Irish-Canadian TV co-production, “Vikings,” whose sixth 20-episode season is apparently still in production.

We can only hope that all the political forces which still oppose and resist Mr. Trump in his own country will prove up to preventing some altogether appalling catastrophe, during his time as one of the strangest American presidents, in a long line of only intermittently gifted occupants of what is still no doubt (for the moment at any rate) the highest office in the free world.

Meanwhile, from up here in the land of We the North, we advise those who would urge Donald Trump to grow bolder still to remember the perhaps apocryphal but frequent prayer of the monks in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, worried about marauding Viking migrants to what is now northern England and southern Scotland : “O Lord deliver us from the wrath of the Northmen.”

UPDATE JUNE 22 : If this US domestic struggle over immigration policy finally does become “a defining moment” for the Trump presidency – with much impact on the mid-term elections this coming November – an altogether  new report will be in order. Meanwhile, the author of this report, L. Frank Bunting, passes along his lightly annotated current reading list :

L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, after whom L. Frank Bunting was half-named (according to his mother, Mrs. Bunting).

* “Some families reunite in US as questions linger at border … Mixed signals continue for migrants as Trump chides Republicans.” (Associated Press, Jun 22).

* “Confusion, uncertainty at border after Trump’s about-face … Lawmakers reject hard-right immigration bill.”(Associated Press, Jun 21) … A hard-right bill was defeated when 41 Republicans crossed party lines to vote against it. The vote on a second bill, considered a compromise, was postponed as Republicans looked to rally support. Democrats oppose both measures as harsh. The second bill, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “may be a compromise with the devil, but it is not a compromise with the Democrats.”Â  Meanwhile Mr. Trump is advising Republican lawmakers to wait until November when : “We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!” in the mid-term elections.

* “Melania Trump wears ‘I really don’t care’ jacket before visiting migrant kids.”Â (Mr. Bunting notes : “I really have no idea what’s going on here. I thought it was a Photoshop joke at first.)

* “Italy to seize two migrant ships for ‘illegally flying Dutch flag’.”(Westmonster, Jun 22). Donald Trump would no doubt like the new Italian populist coalition government’s approach to immigration. And note that the “Westmonster” author of this article (a play on “Westminster”, home of the Mother of Parliaments?) is a UK website that believes in a “full, clean Brexit, defeating radical Islam, ending the scourge of violent crime.”

Steve Schmidt, one of various excellent anti-Trump conservatives now standing up for their country.

* “Americans finding ways to work against Trump immigration policy”Â (From Rachel Maddow) ; “Record-High 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good Thing” ; and (alas?) Susan B. Glasser’s “Letter from Trump’s Washington” in The New Yorker : “Trump’s Cynical Immigration Strategy Might Work for Him–Again … The lesson Trump learned was not that saying shocking, untrue, and arguably racist things about immigrants was politically dangerous but that doing so helped him become President.”

* Bunting’s last update item here is another Canadian reporter’s look at the ultimate depths of the issue. In this case it’s Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason’s June 22 piece on Steve Schmidt,  who just resigned from the US Republican party : “The warning we must hear, from a former GOP loyalist.” Anyone who watches MSNBC TV in 2018 will need no introduction to Steve Schmidt. He believes his old Republican Party has become “corrupt, indecent and immoral” and a “danger to our democracy and values.” The Democratic Party “is now called” to defend “liberty and freedom.” It is “essential that Trumpism be repudiated.” Mr. Schmidt argues the upcoming midterm elections have seldom been so crucial. If Republicans maintain control of Congress, it will only embolden the President … “There is a lot riding on these elections …. Really, the future of our country is at stake in many ways.”

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