Trump Keeps Proving Chomsky Right
Donald Trump’s election victory shocked most mainstream political pundits but MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky has warned about the rise of a Trump-like strongman since the 1990s. In Understanding Power, the political dissident was concerned that “the United States is such an extremely fundamentalist country — and also such an unusually frightened one.”
Chomsky explained that this was a “very dangerous phenomenon” because:
[T]hat kind of deep irrationality can readily be whipped up by demagogues, you know, Newt Gingriches. These guys can whip up fear, hatred, they can appeal to fundamentalist urges — and that’s been scaring the rest of the world for a while…. For example, if you recall the Republican National Convention in 1992, it opened with a ‘God and Country’ rally, which was televised and seen around the world. In Europe particularly it really sent chills up people’s spines — because they remember Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies, at least older people do, and it had something of that tone. Well, the Republicans were able to insulate the Convention from it that time around and keep most of that stuff confined to the first night, but in the future they might not be able to do that — in the future those people might take the Convention over, in which case we’d be very close to some American version of fascism; it may not be Hitler Germany, but it’ll be bad enough.
After this election year’s fear-mongering Republican National Convention and Trump’s victory, Chomsky’s words appear eerily prophetic — right down to the involvement of Newt Gingriches.
In 2010, Chomsky reiterated his concerns to Chris Hedges in an interview for Truthdig:
The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says “I have got an answer, we have an enemy”? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up….I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.
Although things have not played out exactly how Chomsky envisioned, the future he warned of is strikingly similar to 2016. The rise of a charismatic leader promising an answer who scapegoats and demonizes illegal immigrants, employs militaristic rhetoric, and encourages political violence — this sounds like the political year in review.
The only thing Chomsky seems to have got wrong was that it was necessary for the charismatic figure to be honest. Trump is an exceptionally dishonest politician. However, as Alternet’s Jake Johnson points out, many Trump supporters believe that their man “tells it like it is.” In their minds, Trump is Chomsky’s “honest, charismatic figure.”
Chomsky: The GOP is “the most dangerous organization in world history”
After the election, Chomsky told EcoWatch that November 8, 2016 is a day that “might turn out to be one of the most important in human history.”
Chomsky noted that on the same day the Republican Party won full control of the US government — the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court — the World Meteorological Organization reported that the last five years were the hottest on record and that sea levels are likely to rise even faster than previously projected.
According to Chomsky, the Republican Party “has become the most dangerous organization in world history.”
Chomsky admitted that this claim may seem “outlandish” and “outrageous.” But he pointed to the Republican Party’s approach to the greatest challenge facing humanity. Views on climate change in the Republican primaries ranged from the position that climate change is a hoax to the “moderate” position that climate change is real but we shouldn’t do anything about it.
Trump once famously claimed that global warming was a Chinese conspiracy intended to hurt the US economy.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
It seems unlikely that Trump actually believes such a far-fetched lie, and, in one of the presidential debates, Trump denied he ever said it (but he still hasn’t bothered to delete the tweet). Following his election, major media outlets were quick to suggest that Trump was shifting his position on climate change. However, this appears to be wishful thinking.
Whatever Trump’s real views on climate change, it is becoming increasingly clear that Trump will govern like climate change is just a hoax “created by and for the Chinese.” Chomsky cited Trump putting a climate change denying oil lobbyist in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition as evidence of Trump’s commitment to his environmentally destructive campaign promises.
Campaign promises Chomsky summarized like this:
The president-elect calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.
Since Chomsky’s interview with EcoWatch, Trump’s seriousness about perusing extreme climate change-accelerating policies has only become more apparent. Most of his top cabinet picks are climate deniers with fossil fuel industry connections. The man he picked to lead the EPA is best known for suing the EPA. And Trump’s pick for Secretary of State is ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
The future Chomsky sees is dark—but it can be resisted
In a recent interview with the Jacobin, Chomsky warned that under Trump a familiar pattern will likely emerge. When Trump’s voters become angry that he hasn’t delivered on his promises — draining the swamp, bringing back jobs, etc. — they will be told to turn their anger on “those worthless people, the Mexicans, the blacks, the Syrian immigrants, the welfare cheats.”
Although this — like the consequences of Trump’s climate policies — conjures a scary vision of the future, this invisioned future is not inevitable. As Chomsky says, what the Trump presidency and the next four years look like “depends on the kind of resistance that will be mounted by people just like you.”