I won’t say that I saw him coming, but in a media-industrial complex gripped by inane Bothsidesism, where merely questioning the fake statistics and stupid ideas vomited by conservative mouths is still considered a crime on most programs, Donald Trump was inevitable. Entire media organizations now exist for no other purpose than to provide reactionary right-wingers with a parallel reality fabricated from the fantasy conspiracies born in a fever-swamp of social media and lunatic email forwards; Donald Trump is simply taking a natural evolutionary direction within that psychological habitat. The runaway Republican frontrunner touts hate group disinformation to make sweeping authoritarian pronouncements because he knows that he will not be held accountable by anyone who matters. In fact, attempts to hold him accountable merely fuel his fire.
Trump clearly enjoys the ardent enthusiasm of what used to be considered a lunatic fringe, but is now the conservative Republican base. Over the last few weeks, plentiful commentary has examined whether Trump should be considered a fascist, or whether it’s more correct to define him as a proto-fascist, yet almost all of these writers have left the maddening crowd at his rallies, and the media channels which enable him, unexamined in any detail. It’s as if we tried studying Mussolini without ever looking at his arditi goon squads or his party newspapers. Fascist propaganda masquerades as news to inflame the passions and shape the selection bias of people who desperately want a simple answer to their complex problems; fascism makes a fetish of violence, and in both areas Trump presents as a classical fascist.
Just look at his close and enduring relationship to Breitbart News. Since at least May, Trump has reportedly invested in a payola scheme at the house St. Andrew built, and it is money well-spent. In August, Trump promulgated his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants from the United States through Breitbart News, where his approach is very much appreciated by border zone alarmists. The staff at Breitbart seems to be on 24 hour standby to dismiss and defend his latest remarks; ever since Trump proclaimed that he had personally witnessed thousands of Muslims cheering the destruction of 9/11 in New Jersey, Breitbart News editor John Nolte has repeatedly defended his comments by inventing facts and altering what Trump actually said. No other media organization does as much to support him.
Although the rest of us might dismiss such hokum for what it is, remember that the average Breitbart News junkie sincerely believes that Huma Abedin is a secret Muslim double-agent, that Hillary Clinton conspired to kill four Americans in Benghazi, and that President Obama wants the terrorists to win. They reject the ‘compassionate’ conservatism that failed with George W. Bush — especially his defense of Islam as a ‘religion of peace.’ Darth Cheney’s opinion means absolutely nothing to them except in the negative. The proto-Tea Party right were thrilled by Sarah Palin’s unfiltered id seven years ago, and now they demand a harsher, sharper, more militant conservatism to channel their demographic paranoia into unbending, unapologetic hatred of the political Other. No longer content to listen for dog-whistles, plainspoken rage is what they have come to demand and expect of their leadership.
When Trump dismisses criticism of his unconstitutional disregard of human rights as “political correctness” — when he declares “I. Don’t. Care” in answer to the concerns of other Republicans about his bigotry — he is talking to the Breitbart News demographic, and they eat it up. When the ‘politically correct’ GOP establishment rejects Trump’s divisive words, the average Breitbart News reader loves Trump even more for it.
“There is something going on with (Obama) that we don’t know about,” Trump intones ominously as he promises to end all Muslim immigration until elected politicians “can figure out what is going on.” Perfectly expressing the way President Bush has been flushed down the right wing memory hole, Trump thus pretends that it’s all a big mystery how this Islamic State thing came to exist. Much as Hindenburg famously declared that a ‘stab in the back‘ was responsible for Germany’s defeat in the First World War, shoving aside any discussion of accountability for the conflict and enabling a renewed militancy that set the stage for Nazi fascism, Trump is indulging an authoritarian populism that demands an even more destructive policy than before, and which is well-primed to accept fanciful explanations which appeal to their preexisting biases.
For Trump did not create the current wave of Islamophobia himself. Anti-Muslim bigotry was a concern after 9/11, but it became more problematic after 2004, when public opinion was shifting on gay marriage and other hot-button social issues even while the occupation of Iraq turned into an undeniable disaster. Whereas gay-bashing was increasingly problematic from a political perspective, Muslims made a very convenient target for demonizing language; by 2008, the conservative donor class had recognized the opportunity.
As seen in the various undying myths about president Obama’s birth certificate, as well as the so-called ‘Ground Zero mosque’ controversy of 2010, a cottage industry of cranks and haters had grown into a mass movement with a high profile, and now they were empowered by big money. Dozens of bills popped up in legislatures around the country proposing to stop the supposed threat of ‘creeping sharia,’ an imaginary assault on the Constitution attributed to Muslim-Americans. Billionaire national security entrepreneur and Muslim-basher Aubrey Chernick poured his fortune into Pajamas Media, where Robert Spencer of JihadWatch denies the existence of moderate Muslims to justify his counter-jihad. Just months prior to his death — and a few months after a drunken conservative blogger harassed Muslim women at the progressive Netroots Nation conference in Minnesota before reportedly calling him on the phone to ask for help — Andrew Breitbart himself was also reputed to have received more than $9 million in venture capital from Chernick.
If you were wondering why the editorial direction of the website has consistently been so anti-Muslim, now you know the answer: it’s in their interest. And Trump, who speaks to their interests like no one else on the debate stage, is their perfect candidate.