American and global audiences have been bombarded with media images of wailing children in holding facilities, having been separated from adults (maybe their parents, maybe not) detained for illegal entry into the United States. The images have been accompanied by “gut-wrenching” audio of distraught toddlers screaming the Spanish equivalents of “Mommy!” and “Daddy!” – since, as any parent knows, small children never cry or call for their parents except in the most horrifying, life-threatening circumstances.
American and world media have provided helpful color commentary, condemning the caging of children as openly racist atrocities and state terrorism comparable to Nazi concentration camps and worse than FDR’s internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Indeed, just having voted for Trump is now reason enough for Americans to be labeled as Nazis.
Finally, the presumptive Hitler himself, also known as President Donald Trump, citing the pleas of First Lady Melania and First Daughter Ivanka, signed an Executive Order to provide for adults and (their?) children to be detained together. However, the order is unlikely to hold up in court, with sanctuary-minded states aiming to obstruct border enforcement the way Trump’s earlier order on vetting arrivals from terrorism-prone countries has been crippled by the federal judiciary. His media and bipartisan political opposition will be happy only when all border violation detentions cease and America has gone full Merkel, starting with ending Trump’s declared zero tolerance for illegal crossings and restoration of Barack Obama’s catch-and-release policy.
Even then, Trump will be vilified for taking so long to do it. Whether or how Trump may yield further is not clear, but rather than slaking the hate campaign against him, his attempted effort at appeasement has put the smell of political blood in the water with the November 2018 Congressional midterm elections looming.
Some images of small children have become veritable icons of Trumpian brutality. One photo, reportedly of a two-year-old Honduran girl (who in fact had not been separated from her mother), graced the cover of Time magazine, confronting the black-hearted tyrant himself. Another, of a little boy in a cage, went viral before it was revealed that this kid had nothing to do with the border but rather was briefly inside a staged pen as part of a protest in Dallas.
The reality behind the pictures doesn’t matter, though. More important are the images themselves and their power, along with dishonest media spin, to produce an emotional response that short-circuits critical thinking.
Never mind what the facts are! Children are suffering! Trump is guilty! We need to “do something”!
On point of comparison, let’s remember the saturation media distribution given in 2016 to a picture of a little boy, Omran Daqneesh, said to have been pulled from the rubble of Aleppo after what was dubiously reported as a Russian airstrike. Promptly dubbed “Aleppo Boy,” his pathetic dusty image immediately went viral in every prestige outlet in the United States and Europe. The underlying message: we – the “international community,” “the Free World,” the United States, you and I – must “do something” to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main backer and fellow Hitler clone Vladimir Putin.
(Not long before, another little boy, also in the area of Aleppo, was beheaded on video by the “moderate” US-supported jihad terror group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. The images of his grisly demise received far less media attention than those of official Aleppo Boy. This other youngster received no catchy moniker. No one called for anyone in power to “do something.” In fact, western support for the al-Zenki murderers – which the Obama administration refused to disavow even after the beheading and allegations of chlorine gas use by al-Zenki – can itself be seen as part of “doing something” about the evil, evil Assad. (Reportedly Trump’s viewing the beheading video led to a cutoff of CIA aid to some jihad groups.) Another small detail readily available in alternative media but almost invisible in the major outlets: Mahmoud Raslan, the photographer who took the picture of Aleppo Boy and disseminated it to world acclaim, also took a smiling selfie with the beaming al-Zenki beheaders of the other kid. But, hey, says Raslan, I barely know those guys. Now let’s move on . . . )
For those who have been paying attention for the past couple of decades, the Trump border crisis kids, like Aleppo Boy before them, are human props in what is known as ‘atrocity porn‘ designed to titillate the viewers through horror and incite them to hatred of the presumed perpetrators. Atrocity propaganda has long been a part of warfare – think World War I claims of Belgian babies impaled on German bayonets – but with modern digital technology and social media the impact is immediate and universal.
It’s irrelevant whether what is identified in images corresponds to reality. What matters is their ability to evoke mindless, maudlin emotionalism, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow choking up in tears over the border children or the similar weepy display in 2016 by CNN’s Kate Bolduan over Aleppo Boy.
Now being deployed in an American domestic context over whether or not the US should be allowed to control its borders, for decades atrocity porn has been essential for selling military action in wars of choice unconnected to the actual defense of the US: incubator babies (Kuwait/Iraq); the Racak massacre (Kosovo); the Markale marketplace bombings, Omarska “living skeletons,” and the Srebrenica massacre (Bosnia); rape as calculated instrument of war (Bosnia, Libya); and false flag poison gas attacks in Ghouta and Douma (Syria). Never mind that the facts, to the extent they eventually become known, may later turn out to be very different from the categorical black-and-white accusations on the lips of western officials and given banner exposure within hours if not minutes of the event in question.
Atrocity porn dovetails closely with another key meme, that of Hitler-of-the-month. In painting Trump as der Führer on the border, we see coming home to America a ploy that has been an essential element to justify foreign regime change operation, each of which has been spelled out in terms of black-and-white, good-versus-evil Manichaean imperatives, with the side targeted for destruction or replacement having absolutely no redeeming qualities. This entails first of all absolute demonization of the evil leader in what is called reductio ad Hitlerum, a concept attributed to philosopher Leo Strauss in 1951. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has been characterized by name as another Hitler by Hillary Clinton and others. Among the prominent “Hitlers” since 1991 have been Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia/Serbia), Radovan Karadzic (Republika Srpska), Moammar Qaddafi (Libya), and Bashar al-Assad (Syria), with less imposing Führer figures to be found in Mohamed Farrah Aidid (Somalia), Manuel Noriega (Panama), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), and Omar al-Bashir (Sudan).
Today the atrocity porn and Hitler memes that have been so useful in justifying regime change in other countries are being directed with increasing intensity against America’s own duly elected president. This is at a time when the original conspiracy to discredit and unseat him, the phony “Russian collusion” story, is in the process of unraveling and being turned back on its originators. Horror of horrors, Trump is now feeling free enough to move forward on a meeting with Putin.
Keep in mind that Putin is, according to Hillary Clinton, leader of the worldwide “authoritarian, white-supremacist, and xenophobic movement” who is “emboldening right-wing nationalists, separatists, racists, and even neo-Nazis.” So he and Hitler-Trump should get on famously! The prospect of any warming of ties between Washington and Moscow has elements of the US intelligence agencies, together with their British coconspirators in MI6 and GCHQ, in an absolute panic.
That’s why desperate measures are in order. As noted earlier, when confronted with a reincarnation of the most evil personage in history, even the most extreme actions cannot be ruled out. Demonizing the intended target neutralizes objections to his removal – by any means necessary.
After all, how can any decent person oppose getting rid of Hitler?