MAGA-Phobia: Politico Q&A with Totalitarianism Expert Focuses on Trump

News & Politics

“News” outlets are engaged in feverish speculation about just how dystopian Donald Trump’s second term might be. Their fervent imaginations overrule the reality of Trump’s first term, which never devolved into dictatorship. 

On Sunday, Politico’s Joanna Weiss conducted a Q&A with liberal Samantha Rose Hill, a scholar of totalitarianism and the author Hannah Arendt. The headline was “‘A Truer Reality Beyond Reality’: Hannah Arendt’s Warning About How Totalitarianism Takes Root.”

Although Stalinism and Nazism are touched upon (barely), the main focus was Orange Man Bad.

Weiss somehow manages to go two paragraphs of the interview before latching on to Trump: 

Samantha Rose Hill is a professor at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and a leading interpreter of Arendt’s thinking, particularly as it relates to loneliness. She notes that The Origins of Totalitarianism became a bestseller in 2016 because it helped explain an aspect of Donald Trump’s election: how economic and social conditions create feelings of loneliness and rootlessness and lead people to seek out belonging and meaning in political movements. Today, Hill says, Arendt might have connected loneliness not just to the rise of Trump, but also the actions of groups like Moms for Liberty on the right and the fervor of identity politics on the left.

Arendt died almost 50 years ago, but Hill can somehow conjure up her spirit to tell us how she would have thought about Trump? How very, very convenient. Oh, and would it be too much to expect the interviewer to ask the interpreter of Arendt’s thinking what Arendt might have thought about the state employing partisan lawfare to suppress and interfere with their opponents in an election year?

And here we have “evidence” for the authoritarian cult of Trump based on weather reports: 

Ideology teaches people that there is a truer reality beyond reality. Think of QAnon, Pizzagate and the many Americans who believe Donald Trump won the last presidential election. Another example that comes to mind is Trump’s inauguration. It was very clearly raining. You could see the rain. People were holding umbrellas. And yet, Trump said, “It isn’t raining.” Many people affirmed his statement, because the point of the statement wasn’t to reflect upon the experience as it was, but to assert his ideology of dominance.

Hey Politico! How’s this for an alternate reality? The CIA narrative fed to you that you enthusiastically recited in 2020, “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.” But wait! The rain! The rain!

Finally they speculate about Trump being merely being in the authoritarian stage before he finally achieves true totalitarianism. Weiss asks:

When people object to Trump or a politician like him, it seems what they’re often concerned about is authoritarianism, as opposed to totalitarianism. What’s the relationship between the two? Does totalitarianism lead to authoritarianism? Or is it the other way around?

To which self-styled Arendt thought interpreter Hill answers:

In Arendt’s account, it would be the other way around. She distinguishes between authoritarianism, fascism, tyranny and totalitarianism. Totalitarianism, she argued, depended upon the radical atomization of the whole, the absolute elimination of all spontaneity. One lived in absolute fear all the time, even those in the party, and the aim of totalitarianism was total world domination.

Within an authoritarian system, you still have limited political freedom. There isn’t a totalizing state of fear, but there is domination: domination that aims at political control within a state, without the means of persuasion. So if we were to think of Trump trying to overturn the election results of 2020, that I think we can read as a kind of authoritarian grab.

Sniff! You mean Donald Trump still has not quite reached totalitarian level yet? So how would Hannah Arendt as conjured up by her 2024 thought interpreter regard the massive governmental lawfare being used against Trump? Politico thinks you can never suggest Democrats might engage in authoritarian behavior as they claim they’re just “safeguarding democracy.”

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