Monday , September 25 2017
Home / COLUMNISTS / Andrew Mwenda / Trump’s mirror to America

Trump’s mirror to America

How the U.S. president has exposed the hypocrisy of his nation’s media and academia

Andrew M. Mwenda | THE LAST WORD | Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump did what he does best: hold a mirror to his country. And the American elite hate the image they see of themselves. So they have been pummeling him using all their powerful institutions of mass propaganda, calling him a white supremacist, a neo-Nazi, and a bigoted SOB – all of which is true.

Yet Trump’s critics are self-righteous hypocrites. For decades, American media and academia have ignored, downplayed, and even pandered to racist politics of dog whistling. Trump has removed this veil and gone “native” by doing openly and crudely what they do with sophistication and subtlety.

America elites on both the right and left have been indulging in self-righteous rage, claiming they are horrified by Trump’s failure to categorically condemn the neo-Nazi thugs who assaulted peaceful protesters. But what is it about what the Nazis stood for and did that is different from what America has always stood for and done? Is it genocide against Jews? What of the genocide against Native Americans? Is it white supremacist ideology? What justified slavery, which became apartheid, and is now mass incarceration?

American elites employ selective memory. Although America went to war against Nazi German, the two nations’ racist policies were similar. Most of Adolf Hitler’s discriminatory laws against Jews were actually borrowed from America.

Hitler was an admirer of the American system, especially its treatment of its native population (whom it had exterminated) and its black population (whom it had enslaved and; during his time, was discriminating against in jobs, loans, residence, marriage, politics and transportation, not to mention lynching on a daily basis).

The Nazis had studied the American legal system against racial minorities. Nearly all their laws against Jews were borrowed from American laws towards blacks.

For example, laws denying Jews the right to vote, the right to join the public service and the professions were common in the American south against black people. And so were the laws prohibiting Jews from marrying Germans or even having sex with them, laws segregating Jews from living in the same neighborhoods as Germans or attending the same schools, sharing restrooms, sitting in the same part of public transportation, etc.

American elite society acts blind to their nation’s inherent characteristics because they have convinced themselves that they are morally righteous. They believe they are a true reflection of the principles of equality, freedom, and liberty enshrined in their constitution.

It is one of the greatest ironies of history that America has an image of what it stands for that is totally the opposite of what it actually is. What helps America navigate its white supremacist and Nazi character is largely the effectiveness of its weapons of mass propaganda.

Its media, publishing houses, film industry, universities, schools, think tanks, music industry, diplomatic service etc. spew an endless amount of hypocritical propaganda that Americans themselves now believe their own lies.

14 comments

  1. It is true that most liberal elites have been quick to distance themselves and their country from the neo Nazis and White supremacists who were out demonstrating. They seemed more worried about covering up the fact that their country, the “greatest Nation on Earth”, had been found out to be suffering the same ills as all these Nations the USA is supposed to save from themselves. Whether or not one agrees with your conclusions on American society, this article is the kind of article which needs to become mainstream within the African intelligentsia. Journalism which also offers its wisdom on the struggles/achievements of other Nations, continents. A lot is happening in Europe, the USA politically at this moment in time. A lot of it raises questions about the Western democratic model and its potential contradictions. Whilst this model has been seen as the only one capable of delivering freedom, the pursuit of happiness etc for the Whole World, its rejection by those experiencing it should focus minds as to whether pursuing this adversarial model of politics is right for all societies. Some Nations in Africa have already started drawing from their ancient history in order to solve their present struggles. Hopefully for America and the wider West, at some point liberals will take ownership for the advent of Trump and other tremors agitating their current socio economic settlement.

    • Àfghanistan. Vietnam. Iraq. Libya. These are the biggest scandals of human civilisation. And how do we rate Stanford..Princeton..Harvard.. Oxford..

  2. Read confessions of an economic Hitman by John Perkins
    Or just google discrimation at the World Bank

  3. Two people of high public consideration have written about Democracy recently. Andrew Mwenda, a renowned journalist and publisher and Yusuf Sserunkuma, a phd fellow at MISR (Makerere Univery). I am, therefore, in a limited position to critic such towering figures with such immense Worldly intellect. I, however, would like to comment about Democracy in an “observatory” capacity and not with the recherché of an academic or journalist. For some time now, I have wondered how could one system raise up two opposites- a Barrack Obama at the same time lift up a Donald Trump? It was confusing, considering that when a survey was carried out at the Harvard Law School, many described Barrack Obama generally as: patriotic, but not a jingoist; intellectual, but down to earth; and progressive, but practical. A similar review was done on Donald Trump by the Quinnipiac University. The question was: “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?” The results were not generally complimentary. 39 responses said he was “an idiot”, 31 responded that he was “incompetent”, 30 said he was a “liar”, 25 found him to be “unqualified”, 16 called him “ignorant”, 15 “egotistical”, another 15 referred to him either as “an asset-hole” or “stupid.” How does one reconcile the fact that these two different personalities were “produced” by one “democratically sensitive system?”
    Western democracy as we have become to know it, has got numerous flows, however, its critics do not provide us with working alternatives. The African leaders plus their attendant ‘scholars’ (midwives), have developed a catchword that reads: “African problems- African solutions.” But what is African to them? Africa has a population of over a billion people. It has ethnicities in their thousands- each with a distinct set of cultural values. If we cannot identify ourselves as nations, how can we be identified as a continent? But they make the prattle whenever they feel attacked and with no solutions in sight. Through personal observations, I am, slowly coming to a quiet conclusion that, “Democracy can only be bettered by a better Democracy.” This is why. I will give a personal testimony, the two U.S. sexual scandals and the O.J Simpson’s murder case.
    I have both lived and worked in Uganda and the UK. I studied hard in Uganda so that I could get better employment. After my bachelors, I found it difficult to find one. I enrolled for a post graduate- I tried again at the job market, I found out that I was “too qualified” for the available jobs, or, at least, I was being treated as a “job threat” to the existing ones. That’s when I turned to the UK and joined my sister who had lived in that country for close to ten years. In her ten year residence in the UK, she had never been into formal employment. However, she had been treated as a “single mother”, so she was being provided with a council house, a weekly upkeep for her and the kids. She had improvised, that she had rented out one of the rooms to a polish student. It is from such arrangement that she could also provide for her extended family back home. Clearly, my sister had “exploited” the governance system in this country to her advantage. Myself, turned to searching for jobs from jobcentres to the internet. It took me posting my resume on the internet, a 40 minutes telephone interview and a three months training to clinch a managerial post in a financial institution. Clearly, I had also “exploited” the governance system in this country to my advantage. So, here we are, two people with different life paths taking advantage of the same system. One would put it that my sister was “fleecing” the system and I was “contributing” to the system. But what cannot be denied is that the system helped us to achieve our intended goals.
    Bill Clinton faced perjury and consequently, a possibility of being forced out of the presidency. Simply, because he had a love affair with Lewinsky and he lied about it under oath. Donald Trump was intercepted in a telephone conversation prancing about groping a woman’s genitalia. His presidential ambitions were never to be interrupted. These are two white males being “scrutinised” under the same law and receiving two different treatments. O.J. Simpson is one of the powerhouses in the game of American football. He was a Blackman who it was alleged, that murdered his white woman. The case was so “ethicised” and the public mode was that Simpson was culpable. Irrespective of public opinion, the courts had to rely on forensics and to prove beyond reasonable doubt even when the victim was a white female that it was O.J. Simpson a black man – who had committed the crime. The point I am making is, ‘is western democracy racist?’ How is it that it enabled my black Muslim sister rent out a room to a white Polish student in a council house? How is it that that the racist system enabled me after being frustrated by “my own government” clinch a managerial job without first asking me who I were? How come that this racist system couldn’t rely on the principle of “white supremacy” to convict O.J. Simpson even with overwhelming public opinion?
    My take is that, democracy has we have come to know it, is that we tend to “apply” (if we ever) has a tool and not as a system. That we take democracy to be an end in itself and not as a means to govern. This is where the paradox lies. If we took democracy to be a tool and applied it, then, it will be an end in itself. Democracy will then be used to cure the illnesses we face- it will cure corruption, violence, poverty, diseases, etc. But if we took democracy to be a system, then, we shall put enabling structures for it to work- actualising that democracy cannot work in a vacuum. And if we are to build a system, we are true to the fact that we cannot come up with one that is 100% airtight.
    Finally, I would argue Yusuf and Mwenda to be present with the realities of Democracy and not hold a system to a vexed understanding of “Mercantilism” and “illegalism.” Mercantilists writings are generally created to rationalize particular practices rather than as investigations into the best policies. They also create a false unity to disparate events. For instance, in this particular instance Mwenda stated: “Had the media and academia employed the same adjectives with which they criticise even minor violations by other governments they call dictatorships, Trump would not have risen. Instead, American journalists and academics have not only kept silent but acquiesced and/or aided their state as it neglected the poor, incarcerated millions of blacks, demonised Muslims and kept Native Americans in reservations.” Had Mwenda made an effort and took the “investigative eye”, he would have found out that there is no academia or media in the entire wide world that is as critical of its government as the Americans. Had Mwenda made the effort to investigate the “reservation” of the Native American is by no means a segregation of a people but a people who are rigid to their forms of life and who like to be apart and free from the “domineering” Union. But he chose a path that was convenient to his narrative and decided to run away with it. I should admit that there are racists in America but such is exploitation this does not go as far as describing the entire system as “inherently” racists. We would do better if we tried to search for ways of improving on the existing “democratic experiment” rather than seeking to arouse our “ancestral sentiments.”
    (Sorry that I often come up with long comments but thats because I missed the “session” about making “a fair copy”)

  4. Mr Mwenda
    The US is a huge nation of 330 million. Generalisations about it should be made with care.

    You are not well informed on American affairs. You claim that “for generations American media and academia have ignored, downplayed and pandered to racist policies of dog whistiling”. Now, the Republican Party has definitely used these policies as an electioneering tool and a network of local AM radio stations is kept in business by talk shows that specialize in race baiting.

    BUT, the matter has never been ignored or downplayed by academia or the media, quite the opposite in fact. It has been widely identified and explicitly condemned, especially during election campaigns. Race baiting is a common topic studied by students of American affairs at all levels, even High School.

  5. There is nothing wrong with using one’s ancestral practices in order to draw one’s political system. This is what the USA did, and this certainly is what European Nations did for themselves. This is why there is not one size fits all system within Europe…for example, when the current British Prime Minister started her job, she did so as a result of an internal election within her party which enabled her to be automatically declared PM of the entire country. Had she not called the election in order to strengthen her negotiating hand in the Brexit process, she would have carried on being PM until 2020, when elections were scheduled. She can get away with this, because she is a Western leader. No African leader would call to question this system and those rules which are a result of Britain’s history. Had this happened in an African country, I bet we would have had many columns critiquing this process, and calling it the inherently African inability to adhere to due process. I made similar remarks this week when it was revealed that French President Macron had spent 26000 pounds in make-up in 3 months. This is happening in a country, which is yes a rich Nation, but has also a great number of poor people, and is being imposed austerity by the government. Imagine an African President’s headlines and the words used to describe this kind of frivolity. Liberals in America are uncomfortable that the whole World is realising that as the USA continuously burdens itself with the duty of bettering the World, by shaping it in its supposedly perfect image, it is found out to harbor neo nazis and White supremacists, people who believe in dangerous ideologies and who should have been deradicalised and rehabilitated by the State in the same manner that Islamist terrorist suspects would. In a way, it was the confrontation with this America which had pushed Trump to decide that his Nation needed to become more inward looking, so as to address her own dilemmas. The World would be and hopefully will become a better place, when Nations learn to cooperate by respecting their differences. This is true diversity. I come to your house, you do things differently from me. I either accept you as you are and leave it to your relatives (in this context, your citizens) to sort out their internal issues. If I am uncomfortable with your system, I politely request that you explain to me why you do what you do. I do not take it upon myself, when my own house is not in order, and only appears to be better than yours because of how good I am at hiding the cracks; to change your system. This is what France-USA-UK did in Lybia, Iraq, and to a certain extent Syria. Yet, even as I was reading at the weekend on a BBC Africa tweet British foreign secretary Boris Johnson was admitting that Lybia was not better off, I was put off by his piece in the Telegraph, for a domestic audience. In that piece,he was still arguing that post intervention Lybia would still be better than under Kaddafi and citing risible achievements and money being thrown at Lybia from Britain which would all participate in creating a wonderland. This is why Africa must not let her guard down

  6. I was very particular in choosing my words- there is definitely a difference between “practices” and “arousing sentiments” There is a whole difference between “practices” and “fantasies.” I am not an etymologist but I can mark the difference. Or, are you also in the habit of “formulating” stories to feed into your narrative?

  7. Sasha, I am just hazarding at what seems to be your reply towards my comment. I do not know whether you were attempting to take a swipe at the governance system in Europe particularly, the UK and France or the general attitude that the so called western democracies hold towards the South?
    First, the UK maintains a parliamentary system. In a parliamentary system, the cabinet which is usually headed by the prime minister can only retain power as long as it commands “confidence” within the house- that is, as long as it commands a majority of the votes. At any one time a majority vote in the parliament may unseat a cabinet and cause a new set of people to be selected as cabinet. It was, therefore, imperative for the prime minister to cause a vote as the country was heading for the crucial BREXIT debate. In this case, she cut her term short- the question is, has there been a country in Africa, where a leader cut short his mandated term? I cannot think of one. Actually, in Africa its leaders who “outlive” their constitutions and not the other way round. By implication, it is as if these constitutions are made for those particular leaders.
    I am not lost on the principle of sovereignty. But there should also exist a balance between sovereignty and arrogance. If the so called African leaders want to maintain their sovereignty, let them defend their “arrogance” by the ability to providing for their people and running their own systems. In the absence of that, let them eat the humble pie and deal with what works.

    • Rajjab,
      I was not criticising the rules within British Parliamentary system which enabled Theresa May to become PM without having gone through an election. I was just remarking that had she been an African President, the commentariat would have immediately pointed that this system does not inspire trust and her legitimacy would have been questioned. When you allude to the African leaders and their supposed inability to provide for their people, what is the benchmark? Are you telling me that Africa is the same at she was when gaining independence? Are you telling me that African leaders are the only ones who come short of fulfiling their electorate expectations? Even if we were to accept that there is a leadership deficiency in Africa, something I disagree with, should we consider this to be an Africa only issue? This is my main beef Rajjab…I understand Africa, and her struggles, having lived half my life on the continent…having lived another half in Europe, I also see leadership deficiencies here. I believe that African Nations were given the wrong sort of advice about their development, at so!e point on their journey. I blame them for not challenging the motives of those dispensing them with this sort of advice, or for not wondering whether or not this kind of advice responded to their dilemmas. I think a corner is being turned gradually, and a new Africa is emerging. Some of us who refuse naysaying may appear to be in a minority, but I have every faith our school of thought will prevail…we do not refute the idea that Africa has many challenges to address, but we do not lay the blame entirely at the feet of her so called bad governance,… We rather ask ourselves: What can we do for Africa which will participate in moving her forward? We do so respecting the point of view of those who are engaged in the fight for regime change, for so called better leadership etc

      • My name is Rajab and it is spelled; R. A. J. A. B (I am personal to identity and I feel offended for any slight alternation.)

        Sasha, by definition if not description you’re an enemy of “Africa” says Mwenda. Mwenda does not like you “foreigners” becoming “experts” on African issues. So, who are you to start asking for “benchmarks?” Who are you to deny that Africa does not have leadership deficiencies? Or, someone should only be considered a “foreigner” if that someone is criticising Africa but not when they are in support of it?
        Away from my cynicism, let’s not make this an argument race. Adhola would have requested you to “google” and find out the most highly indebted countries” I am sure, you will find that at least 7 of the sub-Saharan African countries are in the top ten. There is a lot of hunger on the continent, a lot of wars that have led to massive deaths and human displacement. After the discovery of fire, tell me something of world significance Africa has discovered? I am waiting.

        • Morning Rajab, and sorry for misspelling your name. I have actually just had the best belly laugh ever this morning, after looking at a tweet by the Old Man, showing how Republicans used to be as silly about Obama as Democrats are being about Trump these days…it made me laugh as much as I laughed yesterday when it was revealed that a former British MP who had turned herself into some kind of an expert on Trump’s impeachment, being given column inches in the New York Times etc…had actually been taken for a ride by a hoaxer feeding her false information…the farce that our politics is becoming in the West, or finally revealing itself to be. Back to our subject, I doubt the Old Man would consider me an enemy for being from Europe. I am looking at Africa and Europe/the West, and putting them in context. The field of Africa bashing, which believe me I sometimes give into, is already full. Africa according to this school of thought is uniquely corrupt, backwards, underdeveloped etc…yet, that some countries in Africa have now achieved almost 100% literacy rate, that the continent’s economic growth figures were that impressive for many years, does not seem to them to be attributable to its leadership. There is no country on earth which satisfies its citizenry entirely.. France and Britain have total GDPs bigger than the whole of Africa. They still produce poverty which boggles the mind..one farmer commits suicide in France every 3 days, there are 9 million poor people in that country, 7 million unemployed. The UK has great numbers in terms of employment, yet most of its youth is attracted to the populist message of the left wing Corbyn, because they are a generation saddled with debt from university for those who attend university, unable to get on the property ladder and wages have been stagnant of late. Moreover, as the West busies itself offering its wisdom on solving the World’s issues, it seems to be afraid of confronting its looming demography crisis. This has been called the demographic time bomb…maybe robots will be the answer, or as the British economist once foresaw in one of his analysis about the state of democracy in the West going forward, there will sadly be a lot of social unrest going forward. Africa is transforming, will become self sufficient food wise, will develop her manufacturing and provide jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities for her youth. Her confidence in my opinion will also be drawn from stopping this incessant comparison with the West. Moreover, whenever one looks at the continent as a whole, it is easy to he depressed by focusing on places where there are still wars, etc…If one looked at America the continent and focused only on South America, or Europe by looking at Greece, Italy, Spain etc or some Central European Nations, it would be sobering. It is right to complain and to demand more from one’ s country and authorities…maybe it is even better to do one’s part as millions of Africans are already doing in supporting government’s efforts. Government is only an administrator…as for innovations from Africa, I believe you are pulling my legs my dear…you must be reading about all these innovations produced by Africans…when it comes to debt, I would suggest looking at Japan, UK, France and their sobering debt to GDP ratios…at least, Africa has not yet achieved her agrarian and industrial revolution…she has reserves to cover up her tracks and as she stops importing what she is capable of producing,so will her external debt reduce, and her trade deficits where they exist ….I am an optimist…I believe Europe will make it, despite the current grim outlook, let alone Africa

  8. The sooner Africans stopped reacting to trivial matters the better for them can you imagine Afro Americans even have issues with statues and plaques placed on trees honoring whites?In USA the charlottesvile incidence was coz of a statute mbu statues of white men like Roger .B Taney,Robert.Lee,Judah.P.Benjamin brings bad memories to them yet the crimes the whites committed are over 200 years ago surely who still has beef of 200 years ago?Africans are looked down upon there is nothing we can do about it the sooner we moved on the better.

    In Uganda if someone takes long to understand they will ask you whether you are a Musoga so should this work up the Basoga?havent they learnt to deal will it?If some one is attacked by evil spirits in Uganda,they will say Amizzimu za Baganda Zi Nkuutee all i am saying is that there are stereotypes about every race,religion that can be annoying but we need to learn how to deal with it.

    @ Rajab if you cant be employed in Ug how do you expect to get a job in London?You really love telling lies the council houses given to the vulnerable in Britain are either 1,2 or 3 bed roomed house/flats depending on the number of kids you have; the social workers there really monitor these people alot they will even tell that person is renting out his flat which is illegal?

    Grace Mugabe ‘s melee with the S.African Model has become the business of activist yet it shouldn’t she could have been right to slap the model coz the rate of HIV in S.A is alarming and most models are so strategic they only hover around rich families don’t you see Trump’s wife with her stilettos everywhere there no African first lady who can walk in stilettos.

  9. Calling a Nation or its foundations racists is a move I do not feel comfortable making. Yet, after the video of this American policeman confirming that Black people areally targets for being shot, I am perplexed. In any case, American police did not cover herself in glory this week, with the story of that nurse. There is a lot of work for NGOs in this area. That will give them a break from some developing Nations. It always comes back to my point about the West or any other part of the World having no moral superiority and no right to take it upon itself to try to turn the World into its delusional image of itself. I am sure that many Americans do not subscribe to the theories of this policeman. I know that unless I missed out, most right wing leaning people I follow ignored the story of the policeman’s admission and focused on the nurse. I guess it did not fit their own biases. I am now following more left wing type people so as to get a more balanced view of all these issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *