The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Because Adolf Hitler operated so far below civilized bounds, it may seem unfair to say anybody else is like him. But some people continue to use his strategies.
In Germany, when Hitler came to power after his Nazi Party won a minority election victory in 1933, some believed he would fade at the next elections. They did not imagine that he would acquire dictatorial power to ensure there would be no more elections, but he did.
Hitler is considered as the inventor of the “Big Lie.” It amounts to stating an untruth so enormous that people accept it because they think nobody would assert anything so completely unbelievable unless it were true. Strange as that seems, it works.
Former President Donald Trump uses the Big Lie. Most of his public speaking consists of a flow of outright falsehoods with a sprinkling of half-truths.
The American political system, with a right of free speech that is the standard of the world, willingly tolerates anybody saying just about anything. That’s both amazing and good. But it invites abuse and sometimes that abuse might threaten the very system that allows it.
While the situation is far less dire in this country than it was in Nazi Germany, the U.S. faces a political leader who willingly exploits the rights from which he benefits to undermine and potentially destroy them. Because many people believe that the system is stronger than he is and can protect itself from extreme threats, they accept his extravagant abuse of it.
The time has come to accept that such an act of faith is no longer justified. It is time to confront this threat, not by adopting the same tactics, but by fighting the abuse. It’s time to stop treating Trump as either a truth-teller who must be cheered or as a destroyer who must be bitterly tolerated. He deserves to be treated as a danger to the U.S.
Some Trump supporters agree with his distrust of government, his claims about widespread election fraud in 2020 and his warnings about the impending doom facing the country if the Democrats control the government.
His opponents deplore his increasing the federal debt by a tax cut for the wealthy, his attempt to bribe a foreign leader, his false election claims and provoking the Capitol insurrection, and his cruel policy of splitting immigrant families.
Policy conflicts are a normal part of democracy. Out of these differences may come sound policy. But using the system that brought you to power to undermine it, even to the point of persistently promoting dangerous falsehoods, is divisive and destructive. Yet that’s what he does, apparently believing that is what enough people want to give him an election win.
Recently, Trump appeared on a televised town hall meeting with New Hampshire voters, produced by CNN. The cable channel allowed an audience composed almost entirely of his supporters. He consistently denied or distorted the truth throughout it.
CNN has been sharply criticized for providing Trump a platform for continuing to make false claims about the 2020 election and other events. The channel defends itself by saying that as a responsible news organization it should provide a forum for a former president who is again seeking the office. It has no legal requirement to do so.
Media leaders argue that the press should report independently and as objectively as possible, leaving it to the people to reach their own conclusions. They are right in emphasizing the value of a news organization in a free society; it should provide access to all political views.
But there comes a time to recognize that by providing a platform to a person who seriously threatens that free society, a media outlet can be dangerously naive. The Big Lie is not entitled to big coverage.
The Washington Post hosts the best journalistic fact checker, and it refuted Trump’s “fire hose” of false claims on the CNN show. But it is impossible to keep up with his flow of falsehoods while he is speaking. When the moderator tried, he talked over her and assigned to her his favorite anti-woman label, calling her “nasty.”
The media should stop treating Trump as if he is entitled to a level playing field and must continually demonstrate its innocence of his charges that it broadcasts “fake news.” He has forfeited such consideration, and for the media, it is self-destructive.
In the same vein, the Democrats, while avoiding his destructive tactics, must be willing to confront him and to counter him as vigorously as he attacks them. Simply believing you are better at governing and that moderates will someday recognize your merit is not enough.
The media and the Democrats appear to worry about offending Trump’s supporters. If they don’t oppose the Big Lie, they aid its promoter.