Trump language

Trump: the liberation of a "shitty" word or the stench of dark periods in History

George Orwell warned us in his dystopia... 1984 Authoritarianism begins with language. In his novel, the " newspeak "is a language specially forged to seduce, mislead and undermine people's ability to think critically and freely.
Donald Trump again made headlines by stating, in connection with his new immigration policy, that the United States should not accept people from "shitty countries" such as Haiti or certain African countries. Is this talk of a guardroom to be taken lightly or, on the contrary, very seriously? The president's support for white nationalism and his barely coded call to "make America great (white) again" is notorious, so the latest remarks are not unlike the fascist dictators of the 1930s. So says Henri Giroux, a professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. An analysis in the form of an alert.
Ahe remarks by Donald Trump that caused the scandal were made the day after his meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Speaking in the Oval Office of the White House with parliamentarians, he reportedly held his sentence now famous: " the United States should have more immigrants from countries like Norway and not from "shitty" countries like Haiti ». These remarks on the acceptance of the people of Norway are undoubtedly a reminder of the sordid discourse on racial purity. There is much more at work here than mere incivility. Behind Trump's use of vulgarity and his denigration of poor, non-white countries lies the terrifying discourse of white supremacy, ethnic cleansing, and the politics of segregation. It is a vocabulary that considers certain individuals and groups not only faceless and voiceless, but surplus, redundant and subject to expulsion. The aim of the language of segregation is a form of social death, if not worse.
One of the features of authoritarianism is that words that speak the truth and seek to reveal injustices and provide informed critical analysis are gradually disappearing. This makes it all the more difficult, if not dangerous, to judge, think critically and hold the dominant power accountable. Notions of virtue, honour, respect and compassion are monitored and those who defend them are punished.

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I think it is fair to argue that Orwell's nightmarish vision of the future is no longer fiction in the United States. Under Trump, the language is undergoing a change: contradiction, critical media coverage and scientific evidence are seen as fake news...false news.

Thought Crimes and False News

The Trump administration, in fact, considers critical media as " the enemy of the American people« . Trump repeated this view of the media so often that, according to a Poynter surveyIn the United States, nearly one-third of Americans now believe in it and support government restrictions on the media. Trump's repeated accusations of "false news" continually work to set limits on what is politically correct in his view. Reason, standards of proof, consistency and logic no longer serve the truth, according to Trump, because they are dishonest ideological ploys used by enemies of the state. The thought crimes Orwell's "are the" false reports "from Trump. The" Ministry of Truth "of Orwell is the" Ministry of Fake News "from Trump.
The notion of truth is seen by this president as a corrupt tool used by the critical media to challenge the removal of legal controls on his power, in particular his attacks on judges, courts and any other government institutions that do not promise him complete loyalty. For Trump, bullying takes the place of unconditional loyalty when he doesn't get what he wants, revealing a vision of the presidency that is more about arm-twisting than governance. One of the consequences is the myriad of practices by which Trump shamelessly humiliates and punishes his critics, deliberately commits shameful acts of self-promotion and unscrupulously enriches his bank accounts.
Under Trump, the language of democracy, critical reason, informed debate and the weight of scientific evidence is now reconfigured into political theatre and deep-rooted anti-intellectualism. But when language begins to become a tool of state repression, questions of moral and political responsibility disappear, and injustices begin to proliferate.

Fascism begins with the words

What is crucial to remember here, as the note Ruth Ben-Ghiat [1], an expert in authoritarianism, is that fascism begins with words. Trump's use of language and his manipulative use of the media as a political spectacle is disturbing and reminiscent of periods of propaganda, censorship and repression. Under fascist regimes, the language of brutality and cruelty was normalized by the proliferation of strident metaphors of war, battle, expulsion, racial purity and demonization. German historians such as Richard J. Evans and Victor Klemperer have made it clear : " Dictators like Adolf Hitler not only corrupted the language of a civilized society, they also banned the words ». Then the Nazis banned the books and the critical intellectuals who wrote them. They then imprisoned those who challenged their ideology and the state's systemic violations of civil rights. The end point was a global discourse on segregation, the emergence of concentration camps, genocide, all fuelled by a policy of racial purity and social purification.
Illustration: Marian Kamensky
Such steps are now reappearing. American-style neo-fascism seems to be engulfing the United States after years of simmering in the dark.
More than any other president, Trump standardized the idea that the meaning of words no longer mattered, nor did traditional sources of facts and evidence. In doing so, he undermined the relationship between engaged citizenship and truth, and relegated issues of debate and critical evaluation to a spectacle of bombardment, threats, intimidation, and outright sham. This language of fascism not only normalizes lies and ignorance. It also promotes a broader culture of short-term attention-grabbing, immediacy and sensationalism. At the same time, it makes fear and anxiety the common currency of exchange and communication.
In a return to the language of fascism, Trump repeatedly positioned himself as the only one who could save the masses - reproducing the model of the savior, consubstantial with authoritarianism. Much more than an oversized ego is at work here. Trump's authoritarianism is also fuelled by boasting and misdirected rage, which undermines bonds of solidarity, abolishes institutions designed to protect the vulnerable and launches a real attack on the environment.

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Trump is a master in the art of artificial illiteracy, while his obsessive tweetomania and public relations strategy aggressively engage him in the theatre of self-promotion and spectacle. Both are designed to whitewash any version of a story that might reveal the close concordance between his own language and the policies he wants to pursue on the one hand, and the dark elements of a fascist past on the other.

Tactical Amphigourea

Trump revels in an uncontrolled mode of self-congratulation, supported by a limited vocabulary and filled with amphigorous words like "historical", "best", "greatest", "formidable" and "beautiful".
These exaggerations are much more than the rhetorical use of hyperbole or poor use of language. When he claims that he " knows more about Daesh than the generals do. "...that he..." knows more about renewable energy than any human being on Earth. "or that"no one knows the American system of government better than he does."he uses the rhetoric of fascism.
The historian Richard J. Evans [2] wrote in 2006 in The Third Reich in Power : " The German language has become a language of superlatives, so that everything the regime has done has become the best and the greatest, its achievements unprecedented, unique, historical and incomparable... The language used about Hitler... was pierced with religious metaphors; people "believed in him," he was the redeemer, the savior, the instrument of Providence, his spirit lived in and through the German nation.... Nazi institutions became domesticated [through the use of language] which became an unthinking part of daily life. »
Doesn't that remind you of anything?
Under Trump's regime, uncomfortable memories of periods of authoritarianism are now buried under the domesticated language of superlatives, so that the future can be shaped to become indifferent to the crimes of the past. Trump's endless daily tweets, his recklessness, his teenage disdain for a measured response, his unwavering anti-intellectualism, and his total ignorance of history, all work in the United States. Why does it work in the United States? Because these behaviors not only respond to what historian Brian Klaas [3] callthe tens of millions of Americans with authoritarian or fascist tendencies... ». They also allow what the historian describes as Trump's attempt to " generalize fascism ".
The language of fascism flourishes in spectacular forms that mobilize fear, hatred and violence. The author Sasha Abramsky [4] is on the right track by stating that Trump's words are more than just empty slogans. No, she said, her language. is consequential, and legitimizes the fanaticism and hatred long endured by many but, for the most part, kept under the yoke of society as a whole ». The increase in the number of crimes The truth of Abramsky's argument is certainly evident in the first year of Trump's presidency.


The history of fascism teaches us that language acts in the service of violence, despair and hatred, and that it carries within it the power to bring out the darkest moments in history. It erodes our humanity and makes too many people numb and silent in the face of ideologies and practices that are nothing more than heinously racist acts.
Trump's language, like that of the former fascist regimes, mutilates contemporary politics, empathy and serious moral and political criticism, and makes it more difficult to criticize power relations. Fascist language also fuels the rhetoric of war, toxic machismo, white supremacy, anti-intellectualism and racism.
But Trump doesn't have the exclusivity of such language. For it is the language of a nascent fascism that has been spreading in the United States for some time. It's a language that readily sees the world as a combat zone, a world that exists only to be plundered, and sees those who are different as a threat to be feared, if not eliminated.
A new language must appear to combat Trump's connection with fascism. It must make power visible, reveal the truth, challenge the lies, and create an educational and critical culture that can nurture and sustain the collective resistance to oppression that is emerging not only in the United States, but also elsewhere, in more and more countries.
For language is not only an instrument of fear, violence and intimidation; it is also a vehicle for criticism, civic courage and resistance.
Henry Giroux, Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University
[1] Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history at New York University. She is a Guggenheim Scholar in the Humanities and Social Sciences for the United States and Canada.
2] Sir Richard J. Evans is a British historian, specializing in twentieth-century Germany (particularly the feminist, working class and Nazi movements), but also in Holocaust denial and the epistemology of history. He is currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge.
3] Brian Klaas teaches at the London school of econonomics. He is a specialist in authoritarianism and American politics. His latest book was published in November 2017: The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy
4] Sasha Abramsky is a freelance journalist and author born in England who now lives in the United States. His work has been published in The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, New York, The Village Voice and Rolling Stone. He is a Lecturer at the University of California.
Henry Giroux's full article is published in The Conversation-Ca
Header image: illustration Marian Kamensky

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