High Desert Sketches: How to destroy a democracy

Art by Valerie “CrowCrumbs” Howard

Who would’ve ever guessed that the Bible would have the words that perfectly describe the senators who voted to let President Tweet continue his rampage against the Constitution and common sense, “On every side the wicked struck about, the shameless are extolled by all.” (Psalm 11:9).

In the haunting words of Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) stated in his famous work of 1946, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a

trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Niemöller was speaking of the silence of the German people, but his words are as relevant today as they were at the end of the Holocaust. Two phrases that come down to us from that era are, “I didn’t know what was happening,” and “I was not a Nazi, I was just a good German.”

Today, we are seeing the same tactics applied to American politics. Instead of blaming all of economic and social ills on Jewish people, President Tweet and his band of jolly pygmy tweets are aiming their vitriol at immigrants, the poor, the elderly and the disabled.

One of Hitler’s first acts after coming to power was to destroy Germany’s mainstream media. Within a year of taking control of the government, all media that did not support his regime was out of business either from threats or actual violence. Even before day one of his administration, Trump denounced our mainstream media as his enemy. He quickly decried any news article that challenged his ramblings and called them “fake news.” He quickly discovered that, while he was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, if he destroyed the credibility of the other bulbs, he could look like the brightest bulb.

The Nazi Party began to pack the courts with their followers and enacted laws that discriminated against anyone of Jewish descent. Doesn’t packing the courts sound familiar?

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson said, “The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of people. The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”

Jefferson could have never imagined the digital age and the death of newspapers. In the past 15 years more than 20% of the newspapers in the U.S. have closed, and more than 50% of newspaper jobs have ended.

The journalistic style known as the Inverted Pyramid, which consisted of who, what, when, where, why and how has been changed to, “The Ukrainians are to be blamed for everything in the world,” and “The Russians are the sweetest people on earth.”

If Virginia asked, “Is there a Santa Claus?” her little smart phone would be ringing for a year with answers ranging from, “No, you stupid rich girl,” to “He is a metaphysical conception of a higher being who delivers goodness to those of kind heart and open countenance.” President Tweet would probably chime in with, “He once existed but he was shot down when he tried to fly over the Ukraine, and I think Joe Biden was behind it.”

The latest edition to President Tweet’s attempt to fake the news is fake, local newspaper websites. Certain people on the far right create non-existent newspaper websites for targeted communities. They contain small news articles wrapped around a totally misleading central article full of misdirection, misinformation and complete falsehoods. So, if you see a website that claims to be The Big Bend Sensational, you can bet it is one of the fakes. If you want to get the real facts, check out USAfacts.org.

USAfacts.org is a database built and paid for by the former head of Microsoft. For three years and millions of dollars of his own money, Steve Ballmer worked with professionals and academics in a variety of fields. If you don’t think you have the time to check the facts, remember ole Ben Franklin’s admonition, “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.’’