Sunday, February 12, 2017

Richard J. Evans

Richard Evans is a distinguished historian of 20th-century Germany whose books include an acclaimed trilogy on the rise and fall of the Third Reich. From his Q&A with Isaac Chotiner in Slate:

There has been a debate in the press and among progressives about whether, crudely speaking, [Trump] is a buffoon and crazy and has no plan, or whether he is canny and smart and has a real plan for authoritarianism. Was this debate similar to ones about Hitler, once he came to power?

Absolutely, yes. Many people thought that Hitler was a buffoon. He was a joke. He wasn’t taken seriously. Alternatively, they thought that he could calm down when he assumed the responsibilities of office. That was a very common belief about Hitler. There is a major difference in the sense that Trump speaks off the cuff in a very unguarded, spontaneous way. I think that’s true with his tweets. Hitler very carefully prepared all his speeches. They might seem spontaneous, but they were carefully prepared.

All we heard for months about Trump growing into the role has been proven false. But even the counterargument could be read two ways, either “He’s not going to grow into the role because he deep down is a fascist,” or “He’s not going to grow into the role because he’s a little bit off his rocker, and he’s not going to change because crazy people, especially as they get older, do not change.”

Yeah. I think it’s dangerous to regard Hitler, for one, as crazy. He was an extremist. I think that that’s a kind of evasion, really, of the things that they’re saying and doing, just to write them off as being crazy.

It is really is hard for me to see Trump as not being crazy, even though I don’t think of Hitler as crazy. The tweeting at 3 a.m. about cable news shows, just the inability to understand his own self-interest.

Yes. I think it’s much more fruitful to use a concept like irrationality. What that means is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue