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The Orange Peril: Branding Nationalism in America – Part 1

12/24/2016

Call me a skeptic but, when it comes right down to it, I hate being sold anything. Regardless of whether it’s a car, a meal, prescription  medication, and especially political issues, I don’t want anyone one telling me how to think. I want to do my own research, evaluate the options, and make a decision. Unlike so many people that I know, this also leads me to an aversion to advertising of any kind.  When I discovered the DVR and its ability to allow me to skip commercials, it seemed as if a heavenly host was going to break into song. I could watch my shows and avoid everything about capitalism that I despise. Needless to say, this appreciation was magnified 200-fold during the election season when I could avoid the crazed political ads.

In the turbulent wake of the 2016 election, it seems clear that the tactics that won the presidency for Donald Trump were neither dumb luck nor a fluke. As the president elect and his transition team move forward, we can see that there will be a continuation of the strategy that brought them this far. I’m going to call this propaganda strategy Orange Peril. Why give it a name? Because labeling a concept gives us power over it and allows us to quickly refer to the problem which leaves no ambiguity as to what we are discussing.  It’s also fun to say.

I use the term propaganda which is defined in Merriam-Webster as “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause”, instead of messaging or spin because it is most closely related to the latest buzz-word “fake news”, which seems to have taken the spotlight in recent weeks. The problem is that “fake news” is nothing new. It has been around ever since groups first vied for power and needed to denigrate their opponents. In the US, it took place during the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates, continued on through disparaging articles over Hamilton’s heritage, and on to Jefferson’s relations with Sally Hemming. This was tolerated for 100 years until it was given a new name, Yellow Journalism, in the newspaper wars between Hearst and Pulitzer that ran for almost 50 years. The 20th century saw it rear its ugly head during the communist witch hunts of the 1950’s .

In 2016, what has developed is extremist nationalist propaganda (Orange Peril) that takes its precepts from Mein Kampf and directly lifts strategies used by Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. What it boils down to is the branding of American nationalism. Nazi propaganda consisted of eliminating a free press, exploiting cultural stereotypes, fulminating dissent, building nationalistic pride, identifying enemies of the state, deification of their leader, and cultivating an “us versus them” mentality. Combined, these tactics whipped the German people into a nationalistic frenzy that allowed them to be lead into not only World War II, but also one of the greatest human tragedies in human history. Our Orange Peril got Donald Trump elected president.

This piece is not intended to insinuate that Mr. Trump is the reincarnation of Hitler. What I’m going to lay out are the similarities in their tactics and underlying themes. This isn’t meant to be a partisan attack but rather to point out the dangers to our entire country. Personally, I find him and his merry band of white men are their own entirely new brand of dangerous.

The Nazis attempted to destroy the free press through expulsion of journalists who didn’t toe the party line and promotion of those who did comply with the edicts. During the campaign, Trump either expelled or revoked press credentials of journalists he deemed unfriendly. In the post election period, in the place of press conferences, we have victory rallies and it seems as if policy is being writ in 140-character bursts from Twitter. It isn’t a far stretch of the imagination to envision presidential policy issued via email to eliminate questions from the press corps.

One of the goals of Nazi propaganda was to hide the real agenda from the public. This was done through misdirection and scapegoating through the use of terms like lebensraum to justify aggression against neighboring countries and labeling of musicians and artists as degenerate. All the while disguising the real goal of rounding up and exterminating Jews and other undesirables  How different is this from the racist screed proclaiming that we need to build a wall on the border to keep out Mexican rapists and murderers? Or the promise to deport all immigrants or chants of “lock her up” at rallies? The unanswered question here is what is the real goal?

Manipulating public perception to create a false sense of urgency was an important aspect of the Nazi pogrom. Whether is was Operation Himmler that falsely accused Poles of ethnic cleansing to justify the invasion of Poland or Kristallnacht to increase animosity towards Jews, fabricated stories were used to agitate the German population. There were countless stories circulating on the Internet in 2016, but the most egregious has got to be the ridiculous pizzagate story that culminated in a man showing up at a D.C. pizzeria armed with an automatic rifle to “rescue” children being held by Hillary Clinton  as sex-slaves in a non-existent basement.

Is any of this a figment of my imagination? Could it be that somehow, I’m inadvertently spreading my own brand of fake news? Well, that’s for you to decide because I believe that everyone needs to be a smart consumer and research the facts on their own. Just because I say so here does not make it gospel. Your comments are welcome.

Check back soon for part 2.

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