1. A hallmark of authoritarian countries is an utter loss of certainty regarding what is true & what is false. Autocrats systematically attack independent sources of truth. Donald Trump is not an autocrat, but he admires despots, praises them, and is mimicking their key tactics.
2. Undermining a sense of certainty around truth serves a regime's interests. Truth is a weapon not just against lies but against corruption & criminality. But if the waters are muddied and people can't be sure what to believe, they are less likely to act or oppose those in power
3. Since taking office, Trump has borrowed a page straight from the despot's playbook: attack the press, lie constantly, accuse your rivals of that which you are guilty, and entrench a partisan tribalism mentality amongst your supporters so that truth matters less than "winning."
After Trump's insults last night, I checked to see if there was a pattern in who he attacks for their intelligence. By my count, since he became president, 70% of his tweets calling people "dumb" or "low IQ" or "fools" are attacking women or black people.
Admittedly, it's a reasonably small sample size, but this is just yet another data point that highlights decades of Trump's egregiously racist and sexist behavior, so it's hard to argue that the underlying intent is there.
1. Trump continues to call the press "the enemy of the people," which is both disgusting and dangerous. To understand why, let's look at the history of that sinister phrase, who has used it in the past, why, and how it fosters a higher likelihood of violence against journalists.
2. The modern origins of the phrase are from the French Revolution's "reign of terror," when people were beheaded en masse. But it resurged during the Nazi era, when Hitler referred to the "lying press" and called Jews "the enemy of the people." But, it keeps getting worse...
3. It's a Soviet phrase too, something Lenin started and Stalin continued. For Stalin, labeling someone an "enemy of the people," meant internment at a forced labor camp and sometimes death. The term was *too extreme* for Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced it *in the 1950s.*
1. Trump’s attacks on NATO are rife with contradictions and are likely to backfire in serious ways. Countering Russia is a core mandate of NATO; how can Trump say that Russia is “fine” and downplay the threat while calling for NATO members to more than double defense spending?
2. Trump simultaneously boasts about how the US military budget he signed is the biggest ever (it’s not; that’s a lie) but how can he boast about US military spending rising while tweeting that the US should spend less on the military? Makes no sense. He’s contradicting himself.
3. Spending targets are abitrary. Why 2%? Why not 2.1% or 1.9%? Untargeted spending increases could be wasteful and ineffective, adding bloat without adding any strategic value. That rarely gets mentioned but is actually very important. How the money is spent is crucial.
1. This week, Donald Trump is acting like the Kremlin's perfect hand grenade, tossed into Europe to blow up the West from within. He is attacking the European order (EU), the Transatlantic security alliance (NATO) & the American-led, rules-based international order simultaneously
2. America helped build these orders because they serve 1) US interests and 2) foster international security, stability & trade. Putin's main foreign policy goals for the past two decades have revolved around weakening the West by weakening these three pillars of global politics.
3. Putin couldn't have done better if he had designed a Trumpian hand grenade himself: the US president is slapping tariffs on the EU, attacking NATO allies, praising the Kremlin, and flirting with legitimizing Russian aggression that violates the rules of the international order
Here’s the National Rifle Association’s main spokesperson @DLoesch calling for journalists to be “curb stomped” — a term for a brutal, violent assault that sometimes causes death — while referring to journalists as “rat bastards.” (Via @ShaunKing)
It seems she blocked me; I gather she argues that she was referring to “stories” being curb stomped, but that’s not what her sentence said. Either way, the inflammatory language toward journalists in this video (and several others she’s done) needs to end. Now. It’s unacceptable.
This is the full quote from the transcript. It’s clear that the subject in that sentence about “curb stomping” is the media, not stories. I don’t know why she’s denying this.
Trump’s Wannabe Despot Checklist
✓Call press “enemy of the people”
✓Call to jail political opponents
✓Pardon political allies
✓Lie constantly to erode public sense of objective truth
✓Appoint unqualified family members as top advisers
✓Use public office to secure lucrative business deals or trademarks for yourself and your family
✓Fire investigators *because* they are investigating you
✓Try to impose financial costs on the owners of newspapers that criticize you (Bezos)
✓Demand loyalty pledges
✓Appoint cronies (like the family wedding planner @LynnePatton) to top posts
✓Lie about ongoing investigations to confuse public opinion
✓Attack your Attorney General for properly recusing himself from an investigation
✓”Joke” about making yourself “president for life”
1. Many believe that Trump is doing little damage because “institutions are constraining him.” That’s wrong. In a democracy, information flows & perceived reality are the foundation of political power. Trump is degrading truth & spreading conspiracy theories & lies. That matters.
2. Because of Trump, tens of millions of Americans falsely believe that the press is “the enemy of the people,” and that journalists routinely fabricate sources. It’s not true. But those tens of millions will vote based on that belief.
3. Because of Trump, tens of millions of Americans falsely believe that the FBI is “the deep state,” and that heroic public servants in law enforcement—even Republicans—only go after political enemies. It’s not true. But those tens of millions will vote based on that belief.
As an American living abroad, I fear that Americans in the US—particularly those who don’t travel internationally much—may not fully realize how much damage has been done to global perceptions of the United States as a result of Trump. It has been devastating to watch firsthand.
Our allies no longer trust us. Developing nations no longer see us as a model. And authoritarian thugs see an ally rather than a foe in the White House. Confidence in US leadership from Obama to Trump is down
Here are 4 charts from Pew, one of the gold standard groups for international attitude surveys, showing the damage to America’s reputation from Trump. The Iraq war also devastated perceptions of America abroad; Trump has done the same during a time of relative peace & prosperity.
1. Yes, highlighting the “Melanie” tweet seems petty. But wars have been started over misinterpretation/miscalculation of POTUS’s words (Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, arguably). Literally nobody is vetting let alone proofreading presidential statements. That’s extremely dangerous.
2. Trump, an unhinged, impulsive man who lies routinely and dabbles in conspiracy theories, is aiming to enter a summit with Kim Jong-un with basically no preparation. He often doesn’t listen to advisers. Trump rarely if ever reads briefings. He will likely shoot from the hip.
3. The most informed, erudite presidents need qualified experts around them to guide them away from unforced errors in high-stakes meetings. Trump is neither informed nor erudite. His foreign policy decisions are rapidly becoming more and more consequential (Iran, trade,
1. As someone who studies authoritarian regimes & the breakdown of democracy, I’ve been warning for years about how Trump threatens American democracy. The defining tipping point moment now may be imminent. This isn’t a drill.
2. Trump is cornered & may fire Rosenstein, Sessions, or Mueller; or pardon a key figure. Republicans have failed literally every test of holding Trump accountable for violating democratic norms. It’s been a steady, relentless erosion, as Republicans watch it fade but do nothing.
3. Democracy is like a sand castle: takes a long time to build, longer to perfect, but can be washed away comparatively quickly. The Trump wave has washed some of it away, but this week could be the tide coming in. In such moments, the ruling party’s response decides what happens
1. I’m angry. I’ve interviewed countless journalists in dictatorships, from Belarus to Thailand, who risk their lives to bring a sliver of truth & accountability to their societies. They are heroes. Trump’s attacks on the press endanger them while endangering our democracy too.
2. At home, Trump is poisoning the electorate against the press—a pillar of democratic governance. Without the press, informed consent of the governed is impossible. Democracy is impossible. Truth becomes malleable. And the people become powerless.
3. “Enemy of the people”; “a stain on America”; a “son of a bitch,” and “fake news.” Endorsing a candidate who assaulted a reporter. Threatening to revoke licenses from critical media outlets & “opening up” libel laws. Trump is mimicking intimidation tactics from dictatorships.
Trump’s wannabe despot checklist:
✓Call press “enemy of the people”
✓Call to jail political opponents
✓Fire people investigating you
✓Politicize law enforcement
✓Lie to boost cult of personality
✓Host strongman military parade
Trump’s wannabe despot checklist (part 2):
✓Appoint generals and unqualified family members as top advisers
✓Appoint cronies like the family wedding planner to top posts
✓Encourage violence at rallies
✓Pardon political loyalists
✓Use public office to generate personal income
Trump’s wannabe despot checklist (part 3):
✓Violate ethics norms by refusing to divest from international business interests
✓Call political opponents treasonous for not clapping enough
✓Demand loyalty pledges from public servants
✓Praise other despots (Putin, Duterte, Xi)
Dear Gullible Pundits: You may be tempted to use the word 'presidential' tonight after Trump's State of the Union, as he badly reads prepared remarks from a teleprompter. I beg you, before you do, read this to understand why describing Trump that way makes you look like a moron:
Was it 'presidential' when Trump bragged about his comparatively large 'button' while threatening nuclear war on Twitter?
Was it 'presidential' when Trump called those who marched alongside white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Klan 'very fine people' at the same time that he called on black athletes peacefully protesting police brutality 'sons of bitches'?
Thread: Trump & complicit Republicans are clearly trying to politicize rule of law by attacking the FBI, DoJ, and Mueller. That strategy has three main possible aims. All of them are destructive to democracy. Could also be all of the above.
1. Try to fire Mueller. Cornyn, the #2 Republican Senator, has implied that Americans would tolerate Mueller getting fired. More all calling for it. Doing so would cross a red line between democracy and authoritarianism.
2. Pardon Flynn & Manafort/Gates as a signal to others not to cooperate with Mueller. This would be an egregious abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Trump floated the idea of pardons yesterday to test possible backlash.