Republican nominee Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC was terrifying. It was far more cynical than any RNC speech I’ve seen in my lifetime, reciting the scary “facts” about crime and terrorism, predicting total destruction of our country by the Democratic Party. His emphasis on the threats we face, foreign and domestic, which must be met with a strict enforcement of the law, were even more cynical than the speeches given by Mussolini, although the cheers from the mob of flag-waving white people were similar.
Lots of people have been laughing about these similarities for months. Some have even taken to the Internet to defend Mussolini, claiming he was by far a better speaker.
We have the benefit of hindsight in evaluating Mussolini’s motivations. During a real global war, he tried to summon courage and pride, and to establish Italy’s position in that war. While clearly fascist, at least his speeches were intended to be inspiring and informative.
Trump gave a speech with an unprecedented dismal, dark tone, portraying an America in which we are (and without his leadership, will continue to be) a country that is the laughing stock of the global economy, a country divided by politically correct liberal shrillness, a country under attack from aliens and foreigners and evil protesters who wish to destroy us. You might say that he has summoned fear of the Democrats as much as Mussolini summoned the collective fear of the Allies of WWII.
There is a war in American society, and Trump is going to put a stop to it.
While the context has significant differences, the themes and mobs in both Trump’s and Mussolini’s speeches reveal some similarities. While Mussolini wasn’t running for election, he painted a grim picture of the world at war, foreign invasion, barbaric enemies threatening traditions and security, exposing the lies and propaganda of the establishment, a bleak picture of an abused citizenry, and victory for the champions of truth and endurance – those who were honorable fascists, not the weak defectors who would be left behind.
Trump has described this country as one in which lawlessness and disorder prevails. What’s terrifying is that he tells us with conviction: “I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.”
What’s so frightening about safety? Well, there’s an old lesson that’s thrown around by professors of policy and political science. It’s a graph representation (or matrix) that places community security on the opposite side of the spectrum from individual liberty. Ideally, the needle would fall in the center, sometimes ticking a few bars to the left or right depending on recent national events that may affect either liberty or security. If a policy seeks to ensure security, it will inherently take away some personal freedom from someone. Sometimes this is referred to as the Security-Liberty Paradox. In the case of the PATRIOT Act, in an attempt to keep the country safe from terrorist attacks, the government was allowed to monitor the activities of all citizens without any accountability. Of course there were protests in the streets, but no one had the answer – how can we maintain our individual liberties and promote effective community security?
If you put the strongest plexiglass case around an animal, completely protecting it from any harm, it will suffocate and die. If you stay in your house and never exit to go shopping for groceries because you fear being hit by a truck or killed by a gangbanger, you become your own warden. The only way to completely enact law and order, and keep us truly safe, is to put us in a cage.
Some people fear the cage more than the unknown non-bordered areas beyond it.
Donald Trump cannot come through on his promise that all lawlessness will come to an end in 2017 without some very terrifying policies, possibly pushed through Congress by scared representatives who think their constituents may not reelect them if they don’t go with the populist tide that Trump is speaking for – after all, he has declared that he is our voice.
An easily spooked Republican Congress and Trump as executive would mean a greased path for conservative legislation – and that includes socially conservative legislation that already has some representatives chomping at the bit. All in the name of safety and security. Prevent anyone from a Muslim country to immigrate to America so they don’t kill us. Restructure the military (which is also a snub to the current military experts who have worked for so long in defense), do whatever it takes to defeat Isis (like the cries of the “war on terrorism” led us deeply into the clusterfuck that was the Iraq war, that Trump was so stolidly against) and protect the sanctity of life at conception, to protect potential humans while they are still fetuses. For our own good. For security.
Unfortunately, Trump is not very good at explaining how and what will happen to enact this new dawn of law and order.
In a dystopian sci-fi movie, we would see tanks driving through our cities with Trump’s name emblazoned on them, ready to defeat any potential Radical Islamic Terrorist – our cities would turn into the hyper vigilant war zones of Baghdad and Fallujah.
I know many people agree with this dark portrait of America. They feel that order needs to be established by a powerful leader. Like an abusive parent returning home, Trump has the same smug, condescending look upon his face that says, “I will beat the shit out of you if you don’t cut it out.” It causes a certain Stockholm Syndrome among Americans who might ordinarily resist a candidate who runs on the threat of punishment, and a mob-mentality that at least the right people will be punished.
But the facts Trump trotted out to paint this dismal picture were determined to be mostly false or cherry-picked by the media this morning. Of course, Trump assures us, the mainstream media will not inform us of how bad things really are. It’s all propaganda.
For the past four days, we laughed and made fun of the idiots in funny hats dancing awkwardly to Neil Diamond songs as the Republican Party burns to the ground. Then the reality that Donald Trump could be elected president struck us over the head like a hammer, and some are more somber now. Some people think that we ought to be crying. It’s serious. It’s not even funny anymore. Maybe, we thought, Trump will pop out and say, “Just kidding!”
After last night’s speech, I think Trump will start to be taken much more seriously.
Which is why I hesitated to draw out similar themes from Mussolini’s speeches compared to Trump’s speech last night. I don’t want to necessarily add to the chorus of liberals who think this is all a big joke and everything will turn out okay.
Leading up to Donald Trump’s speech, many at the RNC threw around the words “liberty” and “freedom” as one would expect from a political rally that’s a bit vague around the edges. But when Trump announced that this was a presidency of law and order, it was hard to determine whether the Ayn Rand libertarian style of conservatism is no longer relevant. The interests of the public, who have now united in fear for their safety, may overwhelm the right of the individual.
“Are we to understand,” asked the judge, “that you hold your own interests above the interests of the public?”
“I hold that such a question can never arise except in a society of cannibals.”
Maybe it will be okay, but it’s not that we don’t have anything to lose. We often don’t realize what liberties we have until they are taken away.
Below are some quotes taken (cherry-picked, for convenience) from both Trump’s acceptance speech and the speeches of Mussolini. Are they dissimilar? Similar? Context certainly separates the two men by a great distance in history, but maybe — just maybe — the rise of fascism bears some similarity to the new revolution of law and order.
TRUMP: “It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation. I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.”
MUSSOLINI: “It will consequently be a speech of data, of figures, of facts: In other words it will be the balance-sheet of the first thirty months of war.”
“We must rid ourselves once and for all of false sentimentality.”
TRUMP: “So if you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully-crafted lies, and the media myths the Democrats are holding their convention next week. But here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.”
MUSSOLINI: “This proves to you once again that we worship Truth. We leave to the Americans and the British the worship of lies.”
TRUMP: “One such border-crosser was released and made his way to Nebraska. There, he ended the life of an innocent young girl named Sarah Root. She was 21 years-old, and was killed the day after graduating from college with a 4.0 Grade Point Average. Her killer was then released a second time, and he is now a fugitive from the law. I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family. But to this Administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”
MUSSOLINI: “Today I received a letter from my father, who tells me that your son has been taken prisoner by the English. Your dear son was seriously wounded in the foot and could not walk. An English soldier fired a shot into his head and killed him. His comrades gave him an honorable burial. It is a very sad thing. I knew your son. He was a fine boy. There are 1,200 of us in a place that it’s useless to name. We are without shoes, without clothes and without medicine.”
“If we had remained neutral, aside from the dishonor, we would be now in the most frightful poverty. Because it is evident that neither one side nor the other would have bothered to help us.”
TRUMP: “We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”
MUSSOLINI: “If we wished we could have pushed our borders from Velebiti to the Albanian Alps but we would, in my opinion, have made a mistake. Without counting others, we would have brought within our borders several hundred thousand foreign elements naturally hostile.”
TRUMP: “Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.”
MUSSOLINI: “English officers have many times beaten Italian officers and incredible cruelties have been perpetrated on us and even on the sick, the wounded and the mutilated. The sick and weak are thrown like freight into holds or into cattle cars. Officers of every rank and age forced to carry baggage for English soldiers, and even for the colored ones. And now I must read it all: “The English are cursed, but more cursed are the Italians who treat them well.”
TRUMP: “To make life safe in America, we must also address the growing threats we face from outside America: we are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS. Once again, France is the victim of brutal Islamic terrorism.”
MUSSOLINI: “Gentlemen! War cannot be waged without hating the enemy. War cannot be waged without hating the enemy from morning to night, in all the hours of the day and night, without spreading hatred and without making it an intrinsic part of one’s self … We are confronted by beasts, by barbarians. “
TRUMP: “Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.”
MUSSOLINI: “Because such is democracy, it fails in its purpose in the gravest moments. At that time, the sovereign people are no longer consulted. At that time no longer does one speak of elections and of referendums. The people are regimented under arms and they have to obey.”
“I find that this desire of hers had nothing inhuman about it. It was later discovered that she had ring-laden fingers, which leads us to believe that she probably belongs to that caste which, in Ciompi’s time in Florence, was called the well-to-do circle.”
TRUMP: “The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”
MUSSOLINI: “A great people such as the Italians cannot remain in suspense and we are proud to participate in this gigantic struggle which is destined to transform the world geographically, politically and spiritually.”
“Rome which yet was merciful after victory, was pitiless when the existence of the Roman people was at stake. We must therefore fight with the greatest vigor against all those influences which are trying to weaken our spirit by giving the false picture of an Italian people capable only of producing lovely things.”
TRUMP: “It is time to deliver a victory for the American people. But to do that, we must break free from the petty politics of the past.”
MUSSOLINI: “Who was the first to introduce racial discriminations into legislation? It was the arch-democratic Star Spangled Republic.”
“The Italian people, the Fascist people deserve and will have victory. The hardships, suffering and sacrifices that are faced with exemplary courage and dignity by the Italian people will have their day of compensation … Victory, Italy, peace with justice among peoples!”
TRUMP: “America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics. Remember: all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.”
MUSSOLINI: “They absolutely must not be confused or contaminated by the minority or well-known poltroons, anti-social individuals and complainers, who grumble about rations and regret their suspended comforts, or by snakes, the remains of the Masonic lodges, whom we will crush without difficulties when and how we want.”
“We have actually been at war since 1922 … From that day world liberalism, democracy and plutocracy declared and waged war against us with press campaigns, spreading libelous reports, financial sabotage, attempts and plots even when we were intent upon the work of international reconstruction which is and will remain for centuries, as the undestroyable documentation of our creative will.”
TRUMP: Instead, we must choose to Believe In America. History is watching us now.
MUSSOLINI: “But developments in history, which sometimes are speeded up, cannot be halted any more than the fleeting moment of Faust could be halted. History takes one by the throat and forces a decision. “
TRUMP: “To all Americans tonight, in all our cities and towns, I make this promise: We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And We Will Make America Great Again.
MUSSOLINI: “I cannot tell you today when or how, but I affirm in the most categoric manner that we shall return to that land bathed by our blood and our dead shall not go unavenged.”