Making Evil Banal: The Failure to Highlight Trump’s Neo-Nazi Support

Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” in reference to Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann, who seemed to her less deliberately evil than an ammoral man superficially thinking in Nazi clichés and obedient to superiors. “Eichmann failed to exercise his capacity of thinking, of having an internal dialogue with himself, which would have permitted self-awareness of the evil nature of his deeds. This amounted to a failure to use self-reflection as a basis for judgement, the faculty that would have required Eichmann to exercise his imagination so as to contemplate the nature of his deeds from the experiential standpoint of his victims,” explains the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Many in the media–both reporters and conservative commentators–are repeating Eichmann’s banal behavior in response to another evil: Trump is empowering neo-Nazi and White Supremacists who constitute some of his most active and dedicated supporters. Many in the media seem incapable of grasping the evil, and instead make comments bereft of curiosity about the obvious threat standing right before them.  Fortunately other media sources, such as the New York Daily News, Mother JonesFortune, and CNN’s Ruth Ben-Ghiat, have shown determination to expose Trump’s evil support.

Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Supporting Trump

Repeatedly reporters have shown an incredible inability to notice possible neo-Nazi and White Supremacists before their very eyes:

  • An NBC reporter talked to a Trump supporter after Palin gave her endorsement on 20 January 2016. The reporter failed to take notice or raise questions about the supporter’s jacket: A reproduction of a tunic worn by the Nazi Waffen SS with the pattern known as the M44 Dot.

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  • A 15 March 2016 report by PBS on a “Tar Heel” family supporting Trump ignored Grace Tilly’s large tattoos often associated with neo-Nazis and White Supremacists. Once the rather obvious tattoos were pointed out, PBS meekly posted that “she insisted the tattoos are religious in nature and have nothing to do with a neo-Nazi theme or white supremacy.” As the Daily News reported, “One, a large ’88’ on her hand, is a widely known neo-Nazi code for “Heil Hitler.” The letter “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet.”Unknown.jpeg
  • The identity of one man who assaulted a protestor at during a March 2016 Trump rally was originally missed by many reporters. The Daily News, however, correctly identified him as “Reviled racist Matthew Heimbach.” The News continued: “Another demonstrator, Molly Shah, watched as Heimbach tried to recruit other attendees to his cause. ‘I watched him for hours recruit Trump supporters with five of his buddies,’ said Shah. ‘They later attacked the group I was with. The Neo-Nazis threw punches and kicked us. I am still awake now because my body is sore.’”  Salon reported that David Duke instructed his followers to “Go in there [to Trump campaign headquarters and rallies], you’re gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have,”  Neo-Nazi recruiting among Trump supporters and staff has mostly gone unreported.
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Matthew Heimbach, in the red Trump hat, accosts a protestor. Heimbach is a well-known organizer within neo-Nazi circles.

Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, observed, “Whereas the odd [racist Twitter account] White genocide [re-]tweet could be a random occurrence, it isn’t statistically possible that two of them back to back could be a random occurrence. It could only be deliberate…Today in America the air is cold and it tastes like victory.” Despite the campaign’s denials after every incident, continuous promotion of Nazi and neo-Nazi-material suggests Trump’s campaign staff has either been co-opted by neo-Nazis and White Supremacists, or the staff is deliberately seeking their support. 

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Gather Together to Greet the Storm

By failing to point out — or even to notice — the evil before them, media outlets are making evil seem banal. It isn’t: Trump’s evil spreads and is already infecting children. “I just got a call from my son’s teacher giving me a heads up that two of his classmates decided to point out the ‘immigrants’ in the class who would be sent ‘home’ when Trump becomes president,” Evelyn Momplaisir posted on Facebook. “High school students have begun using Trump’s mere name and visage at sporting events to mock rival Hispanic athletes and supporters,” reported Vice in March 2016. If Trump wins, his extremist supporter will believe their views have been vindicated, and horrific racist and anti-Semitic violence could be unleashed nationwide.  And they will have the levers of power.  Jared Taylor predicts:

If there actually is a Trump presidency, he will attract, at all sorts of levels in his administration, people who do think the way we do. Even though they’re not publicly associated with racial dissidents, or white advocacy. He will attract people who read our web pages, who listen to our podcasts, and they will work in all sorts of very, very useful ways in all levels of his administration to bring about sensible policies.

I think I can also imagine that some of them, they will be caught out, oh, saying rude things about blacks or rude things about Mexico, and there will be little scandals here and there. But there will be a great number who will infiltrate his administration, his campaign, his advisers in ways that cannot but be extremely useful both to Trump and to us.”

Many of our nation’s reporters and conservative commentators, it seems, are like Arendt’s Eichmann. They are not malevolent, but seem constitutionally incapable of moral judgement necessary to grasp the evil before their eyes.  Many in our media and conservative pundit class are uninquisitive, unthinking, and file banal paragraphs when screams of warning and moral outrage are clearly justified.  The media and its commentators must awaken to the evil before them, and begin to alert potential Trump supporters who they would empower should he prove victorious.

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