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Loewenstein, E.A. (2018). The Agitator and His Propaganda Machine: Donald Trump and the Road to American Fascism. Fort Da, 24(2):40-55.
(2018). Fort Da, 24(2):40-55
The Agitator and His Propaganda Machine: Donald Trump and the Road to American Fascism
Era A. Loewenstein, Ph.D.
I will explore in this brief communication1 three questions. The first question: What kind of a leader is President Trump? The second: What type of relationship does Mr. Trump have with his supporters? The third question that I would like to consider is: Does Mr. Trump use propaganda to enhance his influence and amass power?
While listening to and viewing Mr. Trump's campaign speeches2 and later his scripted and unscripted presidential addresses, I have been trying to answer the first question: What kind of a leader is Mr. Trump? Many political commentators and journalists considered Mr. Trump before the 2016 election as an inconsequential and rather buffoonish presidential candidate who was unlikely to be taken seriously by most American voters. Later, when Mr. Trump won the election, the astonished liberally inclined press and many political analysts began to view him as a populist leader. As the days and the months of his presidency unfolded, it became increasingly apparent that President Trump is also an authoritarian leader. Although I will not discuss this topic in great depth, I argue in this paper that Mr. Trump is an authoritarian leader who, under the right conditions, could evolve into a totalitarian leader3.
It is not easy to distinguish between authoritarian and totalitarian leaders as totalitarian leaders, in essence, are also authoritarian. I will, therefore, attempt to clarify briefly one of the differences between these two styles of leadership. Authoritarian leaders attempt to control people's action. They do so by using violence and even terror against their own population. Totalitarian leaders strive not only to control their subjects’ behavior and force them into obedience through threats and terror, but they also make every effort to control how people would act, what they would think, and how they would feel4. They methodically attempt to shape and influence people's minds, spirit, and even their appearance5.
It is clear that Trump is drawn to both authoritarian and totalitarian leaders. Hillary Clinton pointed out, back in September 2016, that Mr. Trump has a bizarre attraction to dictators. As Trump settled into office, his fascination with despots became increasingly apparent.
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