Marvin J. Folkertsma / May 23, 2017

President Trump and the Invasion of Poland

If conscientious observers were to take seriously news headlines about President Trump, many would have to conclude that Americans had elected a Charlie Chan mustachioed despot sporting a Kookie hairdo (from *77 Sunset Strip*), and a temperament hissing with Darth Vader-like venom or Larry-Moe-Curly buffoonery, depending on the situation. Clarion calls for impeachment from furrow-browed swamp creatures likely are motivated by President Vader's pledge to drain their native habitat.

If conscientious observers were to take seriously news headlines about President Trump, many would have to conclude that Americans had elected a Charlie Chan mustachioed despot sporting a Kookie hairdo (from 77 Sunset Strip), and a temperament hissing with Darth Vader-like venom or Larry-Moe-Curly buffoonery, depending on the situation. Clarion calls for impeachment from furrow-browed swamp creatures likely are motivated by President Vader’s pledge to drain their native habitat.

One response on their part, of course, is to launch another round of reductio ad Hitlerum diatribes about America’s politically incorrect chief executive. Analysts with cabooses of academic degrees and accomplishments trailing their names have shoveled heaps of verbiage into the public domain comparing Trump to Hitler. However, there is one sense in which linking the Trump era to the Third Reich doesn’t fail the smell test, though not in a way that puts President Trump’s detractors in a positive light. That is, while Trump brings Hitler to mind for a lot of journalists, for me many current news reports spark memories of Nazi newspaper accounts covering events during the war.

An explanation of this point is in order. Although I missed collecting memories from the Second World War (though not by much), my parents and grandparents lived through it, some fought in it, and my mother, bless her heart, saved many newspapers from those years. Reading English translations of German newspaper stories when I was a youngster left me in a state of bewilderment. How could they say such things? How could people hold such beliefs? How could Germans view the world in ways so unimaginably at odds with reality? In short, what was wrong with those people?

The newspapers I pored over are now too yellowed and fragile to use as a source, so I consulted online accounts that triggered the most intense recollections, especially reports of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. One headline blared Hitler’s threat to “Meet Bomb with Bomb,” with the story beneath describing in vivid detail Polish aggressions against the Third Reich. In Hitler’s proclamation: “Germans in Poland are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier. In order to put an end to this frantic activity no other means is left to me now than to meet force with force.” In short, according to Nazi accounts, Poland was ready to invade Germany.

Years later, William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich appeared, and although academicians decried his journalistic approach, Shirer’s tome was invaluable in depicting the political atmosphere in Germany at that time. “How completely isolated a world the German people live in, I noted in my diary on August 10, 1939,” Shirer reported. He purchased some newspapers that thrust him into “"the cockeyed world of Nazism,” where one headline after another screeched with rage: “WARSAW THREATENS BOMBARDMENT OF DANZIG—UNBELIEVABLE AGITATION OF THE POLISH ARCHMADNESS!”; “COMPLETE CHAOS IN POLAND—GERMAN FAMILIES FLEE—POLISH SOLDIERS PUSH TO EDGE OF GERMAN BORDER!”; “THIS PLAYING WITH FIRE GOING TOO FAR—THREE GERMAN PASSENGER PLANES SHOT AT BY POLES—IN CORRIDOR MANY GERMAN FARMHOUSES IN FLAMES!” And so it went, at a fevered pitch throughout the Reich.

Does this comparison mean that American reporters today are as corrupted as their counterparts in Nazi Germany? The answer to this question is no, but many are headed in that direction. Indeed, in his review of a Harvard University study, Howard Kurtz stated, “You may have gotten the impression that the coverage of President Trump is kinda sorta pretty negative. That’s not quite right: It’s overwhelmingly negative. Stunningly negative. Head-shakingly negative.” More than that, many stories are based on sources so hateful, so partisan, so questionable, that their writers might as well have made them up. Which would put them in the same league as those who labored in Nazi media during World War Two: journalism was their name, fabrication, their game. Welcome to the “cockeyed world” of contemporary American political reporting.

Still, journalists who are offended by this unsavory allusion could proclaim that Germany was a totalitarian state, while America today is a democratic republic and at least has Fox News, talk radio, and a smattering of conservative think tanks here and there. But while this is true, one only need be reminded by the fact that everything Propaganda Minister Goebbels did during the 1930s was foreshadowed by the Nazi publication Völkischer Beobachter, and it was simply a matter of time for the regime to destroy freedom of the press when Hitler came to power. Similarly, anyone familiar with the academy’s totalitarian impulses to banish free speech — by force, if necessary — can project its eventual elimination once college snowflakes achieve critical mass and rule the entire country, and not just their protected enclaves within it. Should that horrible scenario unfold, Americans will then be faced with a regime of controlled speech like those enforced at any one of our worst universities. Or, a regime of oppression found in the country once dominated by Hitler.

Certainly, Trump’s detractors have made good points about his policies and temperament, but too many journalists destroyed their credibility during the “long, slobbering love affair” they had with President Obama. Conservative critics rightly point out that President Trump has little or no serious intellectual foundation to feed his mind, nourish his thoughts, or control his adolescent rhetorical impulses. Many on both sides of the ideological divide wish he wouldn’t talk (or tweet) so much, which recalls the comment a British observer made about Kaiser Wilhelm: “The other sovereigns are so much quieter.

This is good advice for the president today, as well as for many of his critics. At least until all parties learn that you must not fabricate stories just to make political points. After all, we’re not invading Poland.

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