When Donald J. Trump called the press the “enemy of the American people” one can safely assume that he is too ignorant to know that the term is fraught with historical genocide, used throughout history by despots of communist governments. Not surprisingly, the term does go hand-in-hand with his Soviet-themed administration. “Enemy of the people” was used successfully in the former Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin to identify, imprison, and kill 20 million Soviet citizens,whom he labeled as enemies of the people. In fact, according to the New York Times, the term, “enemy of the people” was “too toxic even for Nikita Khrushchev because it eliminated the possibility of any kind of ideological fight.” He summarily banned the term in 1956 from the vernacular of the Russian people because he wanted to destroy “Stalin’s cult of personality.”
Stalin embraced the term so thoroughly, that it was written into the Soviet Constitution during his reign. When a citizen was labeled as an “enemy of the people,” they were stripped of their rights or citizenship, their property was seized, and they were sent to Gulag and/or executed. The designation was arbitrary and given for something as simple as a person’s social status or profession, but intellectuals and experts were always targeted; mirroring what Trump is doing by targeting a free press that tries to expose the facts. Tsar Nicholas II and the Imperial family were identified as enemies of the people and subsequently murdered, as were aristocrats, clerics, and business entrepreneurs.
As we know, Trump is nothing if not a thief. He steals ideas, money, property, and he even stole the presidency with a little help from Russia, WikiLeaks and the FBI. But by stealing old Soviet terms of genocide, Trump is no different from any other autocrat who pushes state nationalism according to Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter, Nina Khrushcheva. She is now a professor at the New York School of New York, who says that “…the formulas of insult, humiliation, domination, branding, enemy-forming and name calling are always the same” in every autocracy. She and others are shocked to hear language by a United States president that is more “forcefully negative than that even used by the Russians,” she said.
The purpose of Trump’s nationalistic language shadows that of Stalin to instill fear in the free flow of facts and information in order to destabilize our country. No one speaks of the power of language more eloquently than Toni Morrison; following are excerpts from her speech when she accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. “The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge…”
Words have consequences; millions of people have died throughout history that were labeled “enemies of the people.” Trump is promoting a grotesque, misguided form of patriotism that is wholly Un-American and destructive. As Morrison said, “it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind.”