Monday, March 13, 2017

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Why Does Trump Call the Press 'Vrag Naroda'?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 3:13 PM

"Vrag naroda" is Russian for "Enemy of the People." I didn't pull the phrase from some online English-to-Russian translation engine. It is, or was, a much used term in the Soviet Union to describe people who the leadership believed were dangerous and were sent away to some distant prison camp, or executed. Until Stalin died, anyway. Nikita Khrushchev, when he came to power, decided to tone down the rhetoric a bit, because he thought Enemy of the People "eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight."

Trump apparently disagrees with Krushchev. He thinks Enemy of the People is an excellent term to use against people, like journalists, who state facts or espouse views he finds objectionable.

A few weeks ago when I wrote about the literary antecedent of Trump's use of the phrase—Ibsen's play, An Enemy of the People—I was being too clever by half. It's true that Ibsen uses the term ironically to refer to people who try to tell the truth—journalists, scientists, whistleblowers—and are condemned for their efforts by the powers that be, just like Trump is doing. But really, that was an English major/English teacher showing off. Far more important is the Soviet Russia reference, given the Trump campaign and administration's many ties to Russia. Trump, I'm certain, didn't pull the phrase out of thin air, any more than the use of the word "purge" to describe the ousting of people suspected of loyalty to Obama from positions of influence is a coincidence. It's a chilling reminder of the close philosophical, ideological and personal connections between the people surrounding Trump and Russia.

I'm generally not much of a conspiracy theorist. I prefer something like concrete proof over linkages and associations and "What if's" and Maybe's, even when it looks like, y'know, there might be something there. But with the number of dots and lines and ven diagrams linking Trump people to Russia directly and indirectly, it's harder to deny it than to believe we very probably have Russia connections circling the White House which pose a serious, imminent danger to the U.S.

And the number of people with connections to Russia is making me lean toward the "empty vessel" concept to explain what Donald Trump says and does. Trump's only real idea is winning. Everything else is flexible. So people around him can tell him, "This is what you need to do, or say, to win," and if it sounds good, he'll use it. He's got a great ear for the perfect put-down and an uncanny ability to say it in ways that make it stick. So whether it's his idea or someone else's, whether it's fact-based or far-right-wing drivel coming from or some raving radio lunatic, if Trump thinks it'll help turn Trump into a winner and turn someone else into a loser, that's good enough for him.

And that, I'm beginning to think, is why terms like Enemy of the People and "purge" keep cropping up, why Trump adopts Putin's statements about the moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia almost word for word: "We've got a lot of killers [in the U.S.]. What do you think? Our country's so innocent?" People around him who love the idea of autocratic leadership and look to Putin as a role model and potential ally fling around Putin-esque ideas and phrases when they're talking with Trump, and they sink in and become part of his vocabulary and thought process. Though Trump is not a stupid man by any means, it could be that to brainwash him verbally and ideologically takes less of a "wash" than a light rinse.

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