So, Donald Trump, currently in Brussels for a NATO summit, just claimed that Germany is “controlled” by Russia. At issue is a Russian pipeline that would deliver gas directly to Germany, giving Russia more leverage in Europe. While it’s legitimate, I think, to address the issue, Trump’s comments are insensitive to German history. A large part of Germany, after all, was controlled by the Soviet Union–with great suffering for the people living there.
It’s also a classic case of (I’m sure this is a real term in foreign policy) “the finker is the stinker.” As Time observed in commentary on world leaders’ weariness of Trump’s temper tantrums:
During the campaign, Trump often resorted to the tactic of falsely accusing his opponents of things he had been criticized for doing.
Or, as your therapist calls it, “projection.”
At the same time that he’s starting trade wars (Hey, Kansas Republicans–How are your soybeans doing?), threatening to invade Venezuela (Why? How does that fit into America First priorities?), and insulting our closest allies, he’s also praising Nazis and appointing white supremacists to positions of power, fawning over Putin, and saluting North Korean generals.
Above, General Two Scoops, Glorious Leader-for-Life.
I’ve been working on an academic paper that required me to analyze a number of Trump’s speeches to Religious Right organizations and their speeches about him. One of the patterns I was examining was emnification: How do we construct enemies? In Trump’s speeches, a clear pattern emerged:
- He brags about how well-supported he is by conservative Christians. (His first words at the 2017 Faith and Freedom Concert were: “We got 81 percent of the vote [referencing the % of white evangelical voters who said they voted for him]. I want to know who are the 19 percent? Who are they? Where do they come from?”)
- He lists the things they view as attacking them: Obamacare, liberal Supreme Court Justices, the Johnson Amendment (which prohibits preachers from endorsing a candidate from the pulpit unless they forfeit their tax-exempt status), Muslim immigrants, Islamic extremism and terrorism, and the worldwide persecution of Christians (which is a legitimate concern).
- Then–and here is his smooth move–he shifts to speak about his political opponents support the first of things. Which is kinda true: Clinton supported Obamacare and the Johnson Amendment and would have appointed liberal justices and not have pushed for a Muslim ban.
- He creates these parallel lists (“Things Conservative Christians Believe Threaten Them” and “Things that My Political Opponents Support”) and makes some of the comparisons explicit: Conservative Christians are hurt by Obamacare, but my political opponents like it. Conservative Christians are endangered by the Johnson Amendment, but my political opponents support it. Conservative Christians rights are threatened by liberal Justices, but my political opponents support appointing such justices. But then he lets the final comparisons hang: Conservative Christians oppose terrorism. but my political opponents… Conservative Christians don’t want Muslims terrorists entering the country under our refugee laws, but my political opponents… Conservative Christians care about violence against Christians worldwide, but my political opponents…
- Then he compares his own travails as President to the suffering (real and imagined) of Christians. Just like they have enemies, he has enemies. Just like people are out to destroy them, people are out to destroy him.
Trump is likely our most paranoid president since Nixon. His ridiculous loyalty oaths are just one signal of it. But he uses this idea of “enemies” to cater to the many conservative Christians who continue to support him. They’re in love with their own victimization, sure that they are martyrs for their causes. He can’t join them as a person of faith, but he can invite them into his realm of power by suggesting that they have common enemies. That’s part of his strategy, for, as he’s said in multiple speeches: “You can’t always choose your friends. But you can never fail to recognize your enemies.”
Above, a clip from SNL calling attention to Trump’s admiration for dictators.
We’re looking at an effort, I think, to reorganize global alliances. Trump’s actions aren’t simply breaches of etiquette toward our allies or flattery of by an unctuous and insecure toady toward the world’s dictators. They’re an effort to re-shape the global order toward fascism.
UPDATE: Thanks to my friend PR for noting that the title of this may not be something that everyone understands. It alludes to a horror movie trope in which someone home alone–often a teenage babysitter–answers the house phone only to hear a creepy voice ask a threatening question (“Do you know where the children are?”) When the babysitter calls the police to trace the call, they discover that the call is coming from inside the house–in other words, that the killer is already inside! (This trope only makes sense if you understand that landlines sometimes allow a person to call within their own home.) The terror comes from being trapped inside the space that is supposed to be safe with a killer–and not being able to trust that you can use the phone to call for help. The film When a Strangers Calls (1979) is the perfect example, though it’s not the first use of the trope in film. Earlier films were inspired by the 1950 murder of Janett Christman, 13 year old girl murdered while babysitting. Christman’s murder, which occurred in Columbia, Missouri, is still unsolved, but it appears that the murdered gained entry lawfully, then made the scene look as if he entered through a broken window.
The term has come to describe any situation in which the danger a person (or in this case) a democracy is from the inside.
Above, Jill Johnson, Carol Kane’s character, is told by the police that the call came from inside the house in When a Stranger Calls.