As Trump spins out of control, support for impeachment swells
FAKE NEWS: Trump didn't really hold up this sign, but his political manipulation of the English language is accurately pictured here and follows the pattern of "newspeak" set out in George Orwell's "1984." | Photo: AP / Illustration: PW

The latest Washington Post poll shows 58% of Americans supporting the impeachment inquiry against the president versus 38% opposed and, for the first time, even Republicans are joining those voices with 18% of them agreeing with the probe.

The poll follows a scathing ruling from a federal judge yesterday that brushed aside claims by Trump lawyers in New York that the president cannot prevent the release by accountants of his tax returns to the Manhattan District Attorney. The judge said claims by Trump that he is above the law and cannot be held accountable for any crimes while he is in office are “repugnant to the nation’s constitutional structure.”

Claims that he is above the law parallel the president’s continuing attempt, in Orwellian fashion, to turn even the accepted meaning of English language words on their head. Like all of the smartest autocrats, Trump knows that abuse of language is one of his most effective tools.

For years now, the president has done such a number on the phrase “fake news.”

Conspiracy theories and made-up news stories began appearing on the internet in earnest around 2015. They were designed to stoke confusion, racism, and division among voters and the American public and were directed at building support for Donald Trump. Typical was a fake news report, for example, of a white truck driver being dragged out of his cab and beaten by Black youths. Another example was a story about a march by miners supporting Trump, a march that never happened.

The fake news stories just mentioned and many others began to be called out and exposed for what they were by responsible journalists. Trump cleverly responded to the truth-tellers by accusing all mainstream journalism of being “fake news.” He repeated it so often and so regularly that in the eyes of his right-wing base, the entire free press in the U.S. became the “fake news.”

He succeeded, in Orwellian fashion, in turning the meaning of “fake news” into its opposite. The fake news becomes real and the real news becomes fake until, after a while, the word itself can no longer be used against him. In true “Newspeak” style, he reduces the availability of words that can be used to criticize him. Just as in George Orwell’s 1984, war becomes peace, slavery becomes freedom, and ignorance becomes strength.

Having succeeded with rendering useless to his opponents the term “fake news,” Trump is doing the same thing again with the word “corruption.”

The word is being used by his opponents to appropriately describe perhaps the most corrupt administration in U.S. history.

Trump says, “No it’s not me, it’s them” who are corrupt, and he then names his political opponents. It’s “Crooked Hillary” Clinton who is corrupt; it’s “Quid Pro Quo Joe” Biden who is corrupt; it’s Rep. Adam “Shifty Schiff” who is corrupt and should be impeached; it’s “MS-13 Lover Nancy” Pelosi who is corrupt and guilty of treason; and so on.

Meanwhile, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Energy Secretary Rick Perry go to Ukraine to corruptly get Trump allies on the board of the country’s natural gas company. But no, their corrupt maneuvering there is described by the president as rooting out corruption. Enlistment of a state-owned natural gas company exec to put your pals on the board of directors shows you are not doing something corrupt but rather you are rooting out the corruption of your political opponents, Trump has his base believing. Again, in true Trump style, black is white and lies are truth—it’s a world of “alternative facts.”

He repeats “corruption” over and over and over and soon it too means its opposite and then loses meaning altogether—useless to his opponents when they want to describe his behavior. To his base, “corruption” no longer describes something bad but rather something everyone engages in, so what’s important is to pick your side without worrying that your side is committing crimes.

Vice President Mike Pence and his entourage pouring tens of thousands of tax dollars into Trump’s resort in Ireland is not “corruption” filling the pockets of the president’s family. It’s practical common sense. Plenty of nice rooms are available there to accommodate a large group.

Scheduling a G-7 meeting at Mar-a-Lago is not corruption. It is offering world leaders a convenient, comfortable place to hold deliberations.

Fact-checking by a journalist is not truth-seeking but “fake news.”

There is not much of a leap that has to be taken by Trump and the tight circle around him to try to get to the next level of authoritarian control. A little further and Trump could, like dictators before him, say that the “fake news” and “corruption” of all his enemies are so bad that extraordinary measures are needed to protect national security.

He already tweeted yesterday that in his “great and unmatched wisdom” he could “totally destroy” the economy of another country if he didn’t like what that country does. Should it not scare people that the president declares he has infinite knowledge?

Why not throw out every single remaining democratic norm? Why not declare a state of emergency? Why not shut down the press? Why not suspend Congress? Who needs all of that when the president has “great and infinite wisdom?”

It’s all in the playbooks of the autocrats and dictators admired by the president. And what is particularly unnerving is that all of those authoritarian measures are permissible under potential scenarios outlined in the existing pile of executive orders that constitute law in the U.S.

Can a country in danger now because of who sits in the White House come back from the precipice? If impeachment succeeds, it will be a sign that we might be able to do so. If impeachment fails, however, it will mean that we are in deeper trouble than most of us would like to think.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.