Media shouldn't normalize 'fascist' Trumpism, Yale professor says

Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley explains why he claims President Donald Trump's politics are akin to fascism, a political movement based around a leader.

Posted: Aug 31, 2020 5:20 PM
Updated: Aug 31, 2020 5:20 PM

The media has a habit -- a bad one, some argue -- of "both-sidesing" issues to appear unbiased and neutral. But that doesn't work in President Donald Trump's America, Yale professor Jason Stanley says.

On "Reliable Sources" Sunday, Stanley told CNN's Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter that Trump uses propaganda and messaging similar to fascist leaders in other countries and of the past.

"Trumpism is something akin to a fascist social and political movement," said Stanley, author of "How Fascism Works." "We've got militias roaming the street. We have one of our political parties turning into a cult of the leader."

The result is a skewing of facts and a preponderance of conspiracy theories and misinformation. That's not living up to the promise of America, and the press shouldn't fall for Trump's trap, Stanley argues.

"I want the press not to normalize," he said. "I want the press to call out when laws are being violated, to be clear about the statistics about violent crime -- we have very low violent crime in the United States historically. So I want the press not to normalize and not to consistently do both-siderism and to call the facts as they are."

Stanley emphasized his concern about Trump's propaganda and messaging, highlighting that the subtext of the rhetoric is that the economy has become "more important than lives of the vulnerable," particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

But covering that accurately is difficult for the media, Stanley conceded

"The press is enthralled -- we're all enthralled -- of [the idea that] America is a special country, we represent democracy, what happens in every other country surely can't happen here. But it can," he said.

Although he calls Trumpism "fascist," Stanley was quick to note that he was referring to the cult of President Trump and his singular ability to fix all that is wrong with America, and he did not call Trump himself or his policies fascist.

"We don't have a genocidal regime by any means," he said. "But these are tactics used across the board by authoritarians who don't intend genocide."

Stanley also touched on the prominence of QAnon and its role in contributing to a sense of fascism that exudes from the Trump administration. QAnon is "the kind of conspiracy thinking that destroys an information space," Stanley said.

"QAnon is a virtual cult that celebrates President Trump and casts Democratic politicians and other elites as evil child abusers," Brian Stelter explained in August, adding that "Aspects of the cult are downright delusional."

In May, Trump tweeted that Antifa, short for anti-fascists, would be labeled as a terrorist organization, but current and former government officials said that doing so would be unconstitutional.

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