Non-Fiction: When at Times the Mob Is Swayed: A Citizen’s Guide to Defending Our Republic by Burt Neuborne

A 2017 cover of the popular German magazine Stern compared Trump to Hitler.

Is current U.S. president Donald Trump deliberately copying Adolf Hitler’s methods for growing a following and keeping them loyal? Leading US civil rights lawyer Burt Neuborne thinks so.

In When at Times the Mob Is Swayed (The New Press), leading US civil rights lawyer Burt Neuborne shows 20 ways current US president Donald Trump is copying Adolf Hitler’s early rhetoric and policies. And it isn’t an accident. A review of the book in Common Dreams tells the story:

A younger Trump, according to his first wife’s divorce filings, kept and studied a book translating and annotating Adolf Hitler’s pre-World War II speeches in a locked bedside cabinet, Neuborne noted. The English edition of My New Order, published in 1941, also had analyses of the speeches’ impact on his era’s press and politics. “Ugly and appalling as they are, thosWhen At Times the Mob is Swayede speeches are masterpieces of demagogic manipulation,” Neuborne says.

“Watching Trump work his crowds, though, I see a dangerously manipulative narcissist unleashing the demagogic spells that he learned from studying Hitler’s speeches—spells that he cannot control and that are capable of eroding the fabric of American democracy,” Neuborne says. “You see, we’ve seen what these rhetorical techniques can do. Much of Trump’s rhetoric—as a candidate and in office—mirrors the strategies, even the language, used by Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s to erode German democracy.”

Many Americans may seize or condemn Neuborne’s analysis, which has more than 20 major points of comparison. The author repeatedly says his goal is not “equating” the men—as “it trivializes Hitler’s obscene crimes to compare them to Trump’s often pathetic foibles.”

While many people doubt Trump’s ability to think all of this through so carefully, the points Neuborne makes are convincing. Below the 20 points of comparison between the early Hitler and Trump; sketched here. See the book for full explanations:

1. Neither was elected by a majority.
2. Both found direct communication channels to their base.
3. Both blame others and divide on racial lines.
4. Both relentlessly demonize opponents.
5. Both men unceasingly attack objective truth.
6. Both relentlessly attack mainstream media.
7. Their attacks on truth include science.
8. Their lies blur reality—and supporters spread them.
9. Both orchestrated mass rallies to show status.
10. They embrace extreme nationalism.
11. Both made closing borders a centerpiece.
12. They embraced mass detention and deportations.
13. Both used borders to protect selected industries.
14. They cemented their rule by enriching elites.
15. Both rejected international norms.
16. They attack domestic democratic processes.
17. Both attack the judiciary and rule of law.
18. Both glorify the military and demand loyalty oaths.
19. They proclaim unchecked power.
20. Both relegate women to subordinate roles.

The closing paragraphs of Steven Rosenfeld’s review in Common Dream are chilling and, considering how everything has turned out, prescient:

Ultimately, Neuborne doesn’t expect there will be a “constitutional mechanic in the sky ready to swoop down and save American democracy from Donald Trump at the head of a populist mob.” Whatever Trump thinks he is or isn’t doing, his rhetorical and strategic role model—the early Hitler—is what makes Trump and today’s GOP so dangerous.

“Even if all that Trump is doing is marching to that populist drum, he is unleashing forces that imperil the fragile fabric of a multicultural democracy,” Neuborne writes. “But I think there’s more. The parallels—especially the links between Lügenpresse and ‘fake news,’ and promises to restore German greatness and ‘Make America Great Again’—are just too close to be coincidental. I’m pretty sure that Trump’s bedside study of Hitler’s speeches—especially the use of personal invective, white racism, and xenophobia—has shaped the way Trump seeks to gain political power in our time. I don’t for a moment believe that Trump admires what Hitler eventually did with his power [genocide], but he damn well admires—and is successfully copying—the way that Hitler got it.”

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