The common pool of ideas

Sasha Abramsky at The Nation thinks Trump is not quite but almost plagiarizing Hitler.

 On September 30, 1942, shortly after the death camps began gassing Jews, Hitler declared, “In Germany too the Jews once laughed at my prophecies. I don’t know whether they are still laughing, or whether they have already lost the inclination to laugh, but I can assure you that everywhere they will stop laughing. With these prophecies I shall prove to be right.”

Five weeks later, he declared, “Today countless numbers of those who laughed at that time, laugh no longer. Those who are still laughing now, also will perhaps laugh no longer after a while.”

On June 1, 2017, Donald Trump announced that he was pulling America out of the Paris climate accord. “At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be. They won’t be.”

It’s not a direct quote from Hitler, but it’s perilously close.

Is it though? Really? I don’t think so. It’s a very common trope, “they’re laughing at us.” “Who’s laughing now?” is almost as common. I don’t think it’s convincing to say Trump is almost quoting Hitler just because he says we don’t want other countries laughing at us anymore. That thought is nowhere near arcane or obscure enough to be copyright Hitler. And “they won’t be, they won’t be” sounds to me more like one of Trump’s stupid ad libs than a steal from Hitler.

That Trump essentially used the Rose Garden podium yesterday to give a giant “Fuck you” to the rest of the world is bad enough. But that he paraphrased Hitler in so doing raises a stench that even the cretins who head the Republican Party ought to blanch at. Trump will, I am sure, deny any intended overlap with Hitlerian language. But, as a longtime journalist I know that my editors would red-flag an unattributed quote like this…

I don’t believe that. I don’t believe editors red-flag commonplace thoughts like “other countries laugh at us” as theft. If they did how would they get anything else done, and how would stories ever get published?

Especially since “other countries” is hardly the same kind of designated enemy as “the Jews.”

and as a lecturer in journalism, I know that were a student of mine to try to pass such words off as original, they would be flying perilously close to a plagiarism citation.

I hope that’s not true, because it seems grotesque.

We already know that Trump is very like Hitler in many ways, including much of his “thinking.” There will naturally be some echoes, but that doesn’t mean they’re deliberate liftings. Abramsky mentions a rumor that Trump keeps a book of Hitler’s speeches on his bedside table, but come on. One, Trump doesn’t read books. Two, he doesn’t remember what he reads. Three, why would he read Hitler when he can read Bannon or, better yet, just watch Fox?

Nope, I think that’s one Hitler too many.

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