Trump’s Message: Propaganda or Politics?

by Lauren Wynn

Last night, Donald Trump held a rally in West Virginia. That’s nothing new.  Neither are his cries that the Russia investigation is a lie, a hoax, a total fabrication – an excuse for Democrats losing.

These are all takes we’ve heard before. But last night, the President added a new twist. Last night he planted seeds of doubt and mistrust in the minds of his audience. Last night he whipped the crowd into a frenzy with these words:

“They can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”

He sold the crowd on the idea that anti-Trump voices in government and the media are trying to take away their future, to cheat them out of the fruits of their labor and are falsely accusing – even persecuting – their leader who ran as their last best hope.

“The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it.” – Joseph Goebbels

The speech alone gives one pause. After all, most rational Americans know that the Russia investigation is not a hoax. Most rational human beings know that Donald Trump likes to elaborate, obfuscate and outright lie on the regular. And yet, here was this crowd – cheering, hollering, pumping their fists into the air in anger and defiance at his every word.

But the President isn’t the only one selling that narrative. No, there is an entire army of Trump supporting media-types who are championing his cause. We see and hear them everywhere – even on the “fake news” channels like CNN and MSNBC. We have the Jeffrey Lords and Andre’ Bauers of the world spinning relentlessly – regardless of how ridiculous they may sound. Then there’s Fox News personality Sean Hannity and Info Wars’ Alex Jones who regularly squawk about the Deep State and seem to champion any and all conspiracy theories related to the opposition of Trump’s presidency (yes, yes I did just paint those two with the same brush stroke).

We also have talk radio’s Mark Levin, who in his August 3rd broadcast exclaimed, “This is a coup. This is a coup that should upset every American. Trump supporter or not this is a coup. ” This is a message he and his kind have repeated often since the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel and listeners swallow it, hook, line and sinker and then parrot it at every turn.

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” Joseph Goebbels

It’s plain to see that the President’s message is not only getting through, but it’s also getting amplified. One expects a certain level of bravado and hyperbole on the campaign trail, but at this point in the Trump administration, one would like to think that the time for such chest-thumping has ended and the time for leading the country — all of the country — has come. Sadly, that does not seem to be in the offing.

As if the propaganda level messaging from Trump and his supporters weren’t frightening enough, today the Justice Department announced that they will be reviewing rules that protect the media from subpoenas. In a press conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated:

“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited… We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law-abiding Americans.”

It seemed clear that the AG was speaking to an audience of one after repeated attacks on his effectiveness and strength by President Trump. While leaks can indeed be dangerous and a threat to national security, removing legal protections for the media could set us up for a situation not too different from one described by then-candidate Trump where he threatened to “open up libel laws” against the press and stated that “with me, they’re not protected.”

The Fourth Estate is tasked with holding our government accountable. From the President down to the county dog catcher, officials of every rank are scrutinized, criticized and questioned by the press on issues of concern to the populace. They are protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution and threats to a free press are threats to our constitutional republic.

Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost. ~Thomas Jefferson

Imagining a world in which the lies spewed by this President and his administration go unchecked and unanswered is truly frightening. Whether you call it politics or propaganda, rhetoric like this does nothing to strengthen our nation and, indeed, only serves to weaken and divide us. We can only hope that our elected representatives in Congress continue to hold the line against the Trump administration’s penchant for overreach and that rational, reasonable Americans of every political stripe will stand together against this insanity, speak truth to power, and hold fast our commitment to the principles that made this country great in the first place.

(Note: I have quoted Goebbels as an expert in propaganda and for no other reason. Full stop.)

Former grassroots state lead for Evan McMullin's 2016 Presidential campaign, Wynn, now a resident of Washington, DC, is an avid student of government and politics, and a freelance writer and blogger. Contributor to @eatprayvote

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