This is what Hannah Arendt said in her magnificent book published in 1951 called the Origins of Totalitarianism:
“Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more than adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experience deal to human beings and their expectations. The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda—before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world—lies in the its ability to shut the masses off from the real world.”
This is exactly what Hitler did, Putin did, and Trump is trying to do right now. It is interesting to me that National Review the American conservative journal ranked it #15 in the on its list of the greatest non-fiction books of the 20th century.
It is astonishingly to me how Arendt could have been writing about Trumpsters in the early 1950s. It is so incredibly prescient. These words can be applied precisely to them decades after the words were written, showing once again that Arendt was the pre-eminent political philosopher of the 20th century.
Hannah Arendt paid attention to the people who supported totalitarian movements. She did not dismiss them like Hillary Clinton did. This is what she said,
“Totalitarian movements are possible wherever there are masses who for one reason or another have acquired the appetite for political organization. Masses are not held together by a consciousness of a common interest and they lack that specific class articulateness which is expressed in determined, limited, and obtainable goals.”
For example, with Donald Trump many people, like me, were often surprised that the masses would support him because it wasn’t really in their best interests. He obviously didn’t really care about the masses. He carried about his rich buddies (to the extent that he cared about anyone). The masses are the people who don’t fit into any organization. His fans just wanted to join a group that would wreck things. It was the same in Nazi Germany where, we should never forget, Nazis were originally elected to power. Arendt noticed this about Nazi Germans and Communists. As she said,
“It was characteristic of the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and of the Communist movements in Europe after 1930 that they recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention.”
In other words the Nazis and Communists found supporters among the “basket of deplorables” of Europe. Just like Trump did in the US in 2016. No one paid attention to these people before in Germany, Russia or the US. That made things convenient. These people were never involved in or even cared about politics before. As a result, the demagogues could use entirely new methods of political propaganda. As Arendt, said they had “indifference to the arguments of their opponents.” Just like the Trumpsters.
As a result the mass movements of Europe put themselves out of the political system and against the political system. As a result
“they found a membership that had never been “spoiled” by the party system. Therefore, they did not need to refute opposing arguments and consistent preferred methods which ended in death rather than persuasion, which spelled terror rather than conviction. They presented disagreements as invariably originating in deep natural, social, or psychological sources beyond the control of the individual and therefore beyond the power of reason. This would have been a shortcoming only if they had sincerely entered into competition with other parties; it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.”
Again this could not have described Trump and Trumpsters better. Remember they were equally hostile to Republicans and Democrats. Trump only used the Republican party because it was convenient. He was never a Republican. He was never a conservative. His ideology, again to the extent he had one, was fascist racism (white supremacy) and nationalism. As Arendt said,
“Thus when totalitarian movements invaded Parliament with their contempt for parliamentary government, they merely appeared inconsistent: actually they succeeded in convincing the people at large that parliamentary majorities were spurious and did not necessarily correspond to the realities of the country”…
Once again Arendt prophesied Trump and his supporters in astonishingly specific terms.
This is a book worth reading!