Remember that the US Supreme Court upheld the internment orders in Korematsu v. US., convicting US citizen Fred Korematsu for refusing to comply with the order. The Korematsu decision has long been viewed as one of the “ante-canon” landmarks of constitutional law, along with Dred Scott and Plessy v Ferguson. But it has never been overruled by the Supreme Court, so in a sense it lies in wait…
Korematsu’s conviction was finally overturned in 1998 by a California federal court that found that the Supreme Court decision was based on a fraudulent military report, and Clinton gave him a presidential medal of honor. The dissent of Robert Jackson (former chief US prosecutor in Nuremberg) in Korematsu is worth revisiting today:
“But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition imbeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes. All who observe the work of courts are familiar with what Judge Cardozo described as “the tendency of a principle to expand itself to the limit of its logic.” [*] A military commander may overstep the bounds of constitutionality, and it is an incident. But if we review and approve, that passing incident becomes the doctrine of the Constitution. There it has a generative power of its own, and all that it creates will be in its own image. Nothing better illustrates this danger than does the Court’s opinion in this case.”
When Trump calls out the “lying media” he’s not offering a criticism of any kind concerning the many ways the bought, capitalist media distorts reality and spins a consistent narrative that is solidly pro-US empire, pro-war, and pro-Wall Street. Nothing of the kind. His message is the opposite, and it’s the cry of every autocrat and authoritarian who ever lived: I alone have access to the Truth! Listen to your Dear Leader and no one else! Kneel!
Donald Trump’s signature narcissism (as well as his excessive carnival barker personality) was on full display at his first solo press conference on February 16. It was an elaborate and colorful show—and yet, I refuse to be entertained. The Big Lies, the misdirection, the chaos, the doublethink were all present in every one of the 77 minutes His Highness held forth. But the response cannot simply be to point out the lies; we must remember that lying in public is a hallmark of authoritarian propaganda, and that the real message under every little lie is this: “I can lie in public, over and over again, and no one can stop me; you must bow before me because I’m the god who creates the world you live in—get used to it.” Here’s the autocrat pointing to a reporter who contradicted a relatively minor falsehood: “I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right.” Ah, yes. Clarity.
In late February, 1933, the German parliament building was struck by an arson attack that caused serious damage to the chamber, and a young unemployed immigrant (and a communist) from the Netherlands, was arrested, and eventually tried and executed.
Adolf Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany a month earlier, his minority party having won a plurality in national elections. The “Reichstag Fire” was the rationale for President von Hindenburg, at the Chancellor’s urging, to issue an emergency decree suspending civil liberties in order to counter the rising threat of communism, and the young Dutch worker had conveniently filled the role of terrifying danger in a narrative already well-rehearsed and widely repeated. Communists were rounded up, arrested, and attacked, including every Communist Party delegate sitting in the parliament, and with the Communist seats vacated, the Nazi Party transformed from a plurality party to the majority party—in the blink of an eye.
Hitler consolidated Nazi power, and you know the rest.
There are a thousand differences, of course, and yet history is being made right here and right now.
Donald Trump called the federal judge who put a stay on his ill-conceived and illegal “Muslim Ban” a “so-called judge” (this from the “so-called president”) and much more ominously tweeted, “If something happens blame him and the court system.”
The fear is being amped up from the heights of power; the sense of an embattled nation on the precipice of destruction is peddled in a steady stream; the scapegoats are lined up; and the torches and pitchforks are being distributed.
Any precipitating event (manufactured or coincidental, deliberate or random) could be single spark that sets the house on fire. Unless we are aware, mobilized, and ready.