Simon Lancaster: Why Donald Trump resembles a Hitler tribute act
From his very earliest speeches, Hitler spoke about the Jews as snakes. Now Trump is increasingly doing the same.
Every ageing rock ‘n’ roll star has a guaranteed roof-raiser, their biggest hit, a song they simply must play to keep their audience happy. Paul McCartney has ‘Hey Jude’; The Stones have ‘Satisfaction’, the Who have ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.
For Donald Trump, his show-stopping number is ‘The Snake’, where he reads the lyrics to an old 60s Northern Soul song by Oscar Brown Jr.
Trump recited the lyrics again on Friday in a rambling speech to the Conservative Political Action Group in National Harbour, Maryland. It wasn’t clear he’d intended to perform The Snake but he said that people had come up to him outside, specially requesting it. This was, after all, one of the greatest hits from his campaign and he’d performed it several times in the past.
For those who haven't heard it, the song, based upon Aesop’s fable, ‘The Farmer and the Viper’, tells the story of a woman who lets a snake into their home, only to have it turn around and bite her, filling her with a fatal poison that causes a slow painful death. The woman remonstrates with the snake, leading to the punch-line.
‘Oh shut up silly woman’, said the reptile with a grin.
‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in’.
When Trump delivered the punchline on Friday, the crowd was ecstatic, bursting into applause and a standing ovation that lasted twenty seconds.
On this occasion, as on previous occasions, Trump made it clear what the song meant: it was a metaphor for immigrants. He spelled it out explicitly… ‘You have to think of this in terms of immigration’.
It’s normally good form when you do a cover version at a big gig to credit the original artist. So I was surprised that Trump didn’t credit the person behind this great metaphor. I’m not talking about Oscar Brown Jr. I’m not talking about Aesop. The person who Trump really should have credited for coining this idea of immigrants as snakes was Mr Adolf Hitler.
From his very earliest speeches, Hitler spoke about the Jews as snakes. On 12 April 1922, he spoke of: ‘the brood of vipers and adders which threatens the catastrophic collapse of civilisation’, talking about how they had ‘wormed their way into the upper classes’, ‘spreading like a pestilence’.
As the Nazis grew, so this insidious imagery became more and more ubiquitous, featuring prominently in public information films, radio broadcasts and even children’s school books.
The infamous Der Stürmer publishing house put out a book of fables for children which included the very same tale from Aesop as Trump - ‘The Farmer and the Viper’ – and, like Trump, they added a post script to the story which made it abundantly clear what it meant:
‘There are poisonous snakes not only among the animals, but also among people. They are the Jews. Just as the danger of poisonous snakes is eliminated only when one has completely eradicated poisonous snakes, the Jewish question will only be solved when Jewry is destroyed.’[i]
Metaphor is like the nuclear weapon of communication, bypassing rational scrutiny, striking deep into people’s subconscious. New fMRI scanning techniques show how the brain frequently fails to delineate between metaphoric and literal imagery. Talk about the ‘foul stench of betrayal’, you make the part of the brain that deals with smell light up. Talk about ‘grasping opportunities’ and you make the part of the brain that deals with grasping light up.
So it is that metaphor can be used to enable good people to justify wicked acts. Colonialists depicted indigenous tribes as monsters; slave traders depicted blacks as apes, in Rwanda, the Hutu depicted the Tutsi as cockroaches.
Recent studies have shown that the Holocaust was not carried out in secret from the German people. Rather, they were completely aware what was going on but the Jews had been so effectively dehumanised they simply didn't care. Because they were perceived as vermin, it was agreed that they should be treated as vermin. Shops were smashed up. Homes were set on fire. And they were killed in the gas chambers of the concentration camps with Zyklon B – a cyanide-based pesticide.
We should be very afraid that such language is making a reappearance, particularly with anti-semitism back on the rise in Europe and in the States.
Here in Britain, we have conspiracy theorist David Icke who talks about a network of Rothschild Zionist lizards ruling the world. Why lizards, in particular? Is this just the sign of a guy who has spent too much time watching sci-fi or is it a more sinister attempt to rouse ancient anti semitic imagery?
Who knows – but the message is getting through. He can fill arenas here in the UK and he is a massive following in the US too. A 2012 poll showed that a staggering 12.5 million Americans believe that ‘shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies’. That’s 1 in 25 Americans…
The US is going crazy for this stuff. Last year, in Charlottesville, Virginia, we saw Neo Nazis marching carrying Nazi flags and badges, chanting ‘Jews will not replace us!
Horrifyingly, there is even a website called the Daily Stormer, a proud tribute to the Nazi publishing House, Der Sturmer. Founded by Andrew Anglin, and full of fulsome praise for President Trump, it also contains multiple references to ‘Jew Snakes’.
NBC’s Duane Pohlman, Businesswoman, Audrey Russo and Journalist Josh Gerstein have all called ‘Jew Snakes’. When BHS went bust, the Daily Stormer subjected Philip Green to some particularly lavish imagery:
‘The thin radical, Liberal, Marxist, specialist, loophole, lawyer, creative accountant type Jews would be the rattlesnakes while the fat businessman type Jew would be the fat python. Phillip Green would be a very fat python indeed, for he has just swallowed a very big employee pension pot.’
Trump was not talking about Jews specifically on Friday. And, when challenged for anti Semitism, he has described himself predictably as ‘the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen’. This is classic Trump hyperbole but surely the best way for Trump to assure us he has nothing in common with Hitler would be if he stopped invoking him.
Picture by: Sachs Ron/CNP/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images.