I’ll bet you a Trump tower President-Elect Donald Trump and former Hollywood producer, now top strategist Steve Bannon are making a movie: “The Triumph of Trump” – modeled after the film that mobilized 1930’s Germany behind a man who did not win a majority of the votes: Adolf Hitler.
Why else would Trump, who won the Electoral College vote yet lost the popular vote by almost 3-million, embark on an exhausting “USA, Thank You 2016” tour of several decisive states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, proclaiming “We will make America great again” again and again. At his thank you rallies, we see twinkling Christmas trees, gushing water cannons and twirling southern belles, all props sure to surface in Trump’s Hitler-inspired campaign documentary, most likely to be promoted on his twitter account: @realdonaldtrump .
This is not idle speculation.
President-elect Donald Trump's epic swing state commercial-- the one that may have swung the election in his favor -- bore a stunning resemblance to the two-hour “Triumph of the Will,” the 1935 propaganda film German director and actress Leni Riefenstahl made, at Hitler’s request, years before he ordered the Final Solution.
It was 1935. Hitler had been elected leader without a popular mandate, only 44% of the vote, and needed to mobilize the nation behind his vision of a master race, expounded in his manifesto, “Mein Kampf.”
To cultivate support for his ascendant Germany of pure Aryan blood, Hitler turned to the talented Riefenstahl to direct a film that would glorify him as Germany's savior from a fractured and forgotten nation that had been humiliated in its World War I defeat. Hitler wanted her to highlight his 1934 speech to the Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, where some 700,000 followers applauded his message of a unified and omnipotent Germany.
Riefenstahl, who denied knowledge of Hitler’s later smoke-billowing crematoriums, produced a gripping tribute to the Nuremberg spectacle of orderly Swastika-wearing Germans parading at packed rallies with militaristic marching bands.
Trump's "Argument for a New America" shares with Hitler's “Triumph of the Will” a documentary style, nationalistic message, working class jargon, godly or mythological symbolism, and strategic camera angles that elevate the savior—Hitler, Trump – to make us, the viewers – the frustrated masses – feel like participants in the cataclysmic heart-pounding making of history.
Could the Trump campaign, presumably under the direction of Steve Bannon – then campaign manager, now Chief Strategist – have copied camera shots, verbiage, and symbolism from Riefenstahl’s propaganda film? Or, at the very least, could Bannon or Trump have sought inspiration from “Triumph of the Will”?
Consider the eerie similarities in the descriptions and visuals below.
Both Trump's swing state ad and Hitler's propaganda film are more documentary than commercial, realistic and jingoistic in tone. Neither one includes commentary, except for the leaders whipping up the fervor of the crowd. Cheers erupt; signs wave. The camera captures a sea of supporters -- women, men, and children -- in close-ups and wide angles.
Both propaganda pieces offer panoramas and dolly or tracking shots, putting the viewer in the scene, at the rally, an agent of change, part of what Trump calls "our movement." Something big is happening, unfolding, as though in real time, and we are there, staring at the leader, be he the Fuhrer or the candidate, each the strong man who can fix what ails the country, then seeing the scene from his vantage point, from behind as Hitler or Trump face their adoring fans.
Notice that in the shot from “Triumph of the Will,” Hitler appears to be genuinely gesturing to his fans, whereas in Trump’s swing state ad, the President-Elect looks like he’s posing for the obligatory “Triumph of the Will” shot, not actually connecting with any Trump supporters.
Both propaganda pieces promote nationalism, one appealing to war-vanquished and economically depressed Germans uniting to save the fatherland; the other reaching out to forgotten Americans fearful of losing their jobs – lest they haven’t already lost them -- to take back their country from immigrants, elites and outsourcers to "make America great again." In promoting a nationalistic frenzy, in invoking the theme that a destroyed country can rise from the ashes to again become unified and mighty, both Hitler and Trump plunder and distort language and ideas of Karl Marx, the author of the Communist Manifesto, who exhorted the workers of the world to overthrow their capitalist oppressors and seize the factories for themselves. Hitler refers to "comrades in arms" to the "struggling" to "no more class divisions," while Trump accuses the “global power structure” of having “robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pocket of a handful of large corporations …” Later, Trump, a billionaire real estate magnate owning a string of phallic-contoured hotels and expansive golf courses stretching from Palm Beach to Dubai, says, “I’m doing this for the people and the movement …”
Both “Triumph of the Will” and “An Argument for a New America” employ mythological and evangelical symbolism, as though the leaders descend from heaven, perhaps as Christ returning to Earth in The Second Coming, or as Zeus about to descend from Mount Olympus to rescue us from our otherwise infernal fate.
Hitler salutes against a backdrop of clouds; Trump raises a combative fist also against a backdrop of clouds. The vertical camera angle forces the viewer to gaze up at these figures, these messiahs, placing the saviors at the top of the hierarchy, the people below on the lowest rung. Indeed, in other public commentary, Trump has spoken directly of his martyrdom through his willingness to absorb the “slings and arrows” arrayed against him by international conspirators in order to make America great again.
How could Breitbart Publisher Steve Bannon’s hard-right Israel defenders, among them Harvard alumni, have missed the connections and at best discomfiting parallels? The similarities in message and craft between Trump’s swing state campaign commercial and other late-campaign speeches and Hitler’s epic propaganda film are unmistakable, clearly enough to give Bannon’s Greater Israel defenders reason to pause and wonder if they have, indeed, been played – or worse, mocked – by evidently more astute and pragmatic students and practitioners of historical propaganda; ambitious cynical souls who dared to adopt the techniques of a film that laid the groundwork for the annihilation of 11-million people, and were bold enough to employ similar anti-Semitic memes and imagery that would advance the call to “make America great again” or, as critics contend, make America whiter and more Christian again.
Hitler’s Triumph of the Will was a chronological film, documenting processions and rallies culminating in his 1934 speech before the Nuremberg Congress. If Trump were to make a similar film, he would have plenty of footage, including his thank you tour and January 20th inaugural address on the National Mall – off-limits to protesters.
The National Park service, at the behest of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, will bar demonstrators from Pennsylvania Ave., the Washington Monument, the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial – all sites for various inauguration celebrations.
So the show will go on, the movie will get made, footage from the Jan. 21st “Women’s March on Washington” won’t even make it to the cutting room floor, and Trump, like Hitler, will take an Executive Producer credit – all for the purpose of covering up his popular vote loss by mobilizing flag-waving supporters behind his privatizing agenda: pollute the environment; destroy unions; dismantle public schools; slash taxes for the rich, loot the treasury; and gut Medicare and Social Security while building “the movement” for the “working class.”
Boycott the “Triumph of Trump” and tell your local movie theater not to show it.