We must not allow Trump to normalise fascism
Did he say "shithole" or "shithouse" to describe Haiti, El Salvador and "African counties"?
It was during an Oval Office meeting on immigration that Trump is alleged to have said, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries coming here?", after which he proposed that the US attempt to lure Norwegians to the US instead.
After the comments were leaked to the press, the White House didn't deny it; in fact, they didn't say anything until the president characteristically took to Twitter.
Here, he issued what could only be described as a partial denial, claiming only that he "never said anything derogatory about Haitians", but that he had used "tough language".
Most normal political leaders, surrounded by an army of advisors, might have kept it at that, but not the Trump regime. Instead of maintaining partial distance from remarks that have predictably and rightfully sparked a diplomatic crisis, and further weakened the image of the US, the Trump regime then decided to pour a little more fuel on this fire by claiming the President said "shithouse" rather than "shithole" to describe the countries.
One might be genuinely bewildered as to how any rational person could think that this distinction makes the comments any better, but then this is not a normal president, and his regime is acting rationally, relative to the nature of their base and the problems they face.
|Every single controversy regarding racism or Islamophobia further normalises Trump's fascistic political message|
The last two weeks have been particularly damaging for Trump - but he may yet face worse in his year-long presidency. The release of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury - a fly on the wall look at the Trump White House, with information from over 200 insiders, most notably former senior counsellor to Trump and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, has been particularly deleterious to Trump.
Not only does the book bring into question Trump's psychological, intellectual and personal capabilities, but it also divulges key information regarding the ongoing investigation into Trump's potentially criminal links with Putin's Russia.
With his former ally turned semi-detractor Bannon appearing before the Congress hearing into Trump's potentially impeachable links with Russia, what better time for the focus to be on the details of the president's remarks?
As we often see during the Republican nomination and presidential campaigns, the moment someone truly throws a spanner in the works of the Trump machine, he immediately re-greases the wheels by saying something controversial; something racist, to shore up the base.
His entire presidency was built on the populist idea that the comment that generates the most outrage from the hated liberal "mainstream media" is the most righteous and truthful comment. Nothing is sacred - not gender, not sexuality, not religion (least of all Islam) and certainly not race.
|Trump protesters demonstrate alongside his supporters on the road leading to the Mar-a-Lago resort [Getty]|
Race is central to Trump's message - if he's not calling African countries "shitholes", he's planning to build a wall along the border with Mexico to keep out those (Mexicans) he infamously called "drug dealers, criminals and rapists". We've heard how he said that Haitian migrants "all have AIDS", or how Nigerian recipients of US visas would "never go back to their huts".
Then there are the policies that put his racism into practice - his suspension of Temporary Protection for Haitians who were displaced due to the 2010 earthquake, forcing thousands to leave before 2019, or be deported. The crowning glory of all this, is of course, the Muslim ban.
Donald Trump is no normal president, and these are not normal times. His base includes a broad coalition of the American right, ranging from paleoconservative "libertarians" to fascist white nationalists (such as Bannon). In this sense, calling African countries "shitholes" is music to the ears of the Trumpian base.
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It's often said about the US that if it sneezes, the world catches a cold, and if the US elects a fascist as its head of state, the world might get a jackboot across the face.
Though Trumpism was magnified in the hyperreal world of social media, particularly Twitter, obviously his fascistic presidency has very real effects in the US and across the world.
|Trump both reflects and shores up what is not just a fascistic strand unique to America, but rather a worldwide phenomenon|
It's not just his direct policies that are problematic, but also the informal way Trump both reflects and shores up what is not just a fascistic strand unique to America, but rather a worldwide phenomenon of intersecting movements against egalitarianism.
We saw this in action most recently, when Sadiq Khan, the elected mayor of London and practicing Muslim, was interrupted while giving a speech to the Fabian Society on gender equality, by a fascist group calling itself the "White Pendragons".
The group tried to place Khan under citizen's arrest and shouted pro-Brexit and pro-Trump slogans, holding aloft an American flag and later tweeting that Khan "has no right to be the mayor of London", given he's Muslim.
Khan has come under direct attack from Trump in the past, with the president suggesting Khan - as a Muslim - is somehow soft on Islamic terror.
Given the central antagonistic role that Islam and Muslims play in the ideology of the fascism of the 21st century, Khan is singled out for criticism by Trump for no other reason than he's a Muslim, which is precisely why his UK supporters - the "White Pendragons" - targeted him.
Trump's words - whether on Twitter or "leaked" from meetings - serve as informal fatwas for his global fascist base.
Every single controversy regarding racism or Islamophobia further normalises Trump's fascistic political message across the world.
And with a fascist in the White House, every single fascist force in the world has been emboldened.
Almost all of them look at Trump as a figurehead of sorts, whether it's Marine Le Pen, or, more worryingly, the ruling Polish Law and Justice Party. The party could lose its voting rights as an EU member state, due to its authoritarian moves against democracy in Poland. Its leader demonises Muslims and has accused refugees of spreading "infectious diseases".
In the UK, we once again see the confluence between Brexit and Trump. Several pro-Brexit Tory politicians met with Bannon while he was a member of the Trump regime.
The Tory government, with its mind on the fact that Brexit will leave any British government heavily reliant on US economic leniency, could only issue a whimpering riposte to Trump, favourably retweeting the leader of a British fascist group that targets British Muslims.
In Austria, we've seen an anti-immigration, Islamophobic populist gain power, and form a coalition with the Austrian Freedom Party, which is overtly neo-fascist and was started by a former member of the SS.
It's here then that we see the wider menace posed by Trump to the world.
It's in this context that his comments on "shithole" African countries must be seen. By lamenting migration from non-white countries and advocating higher immigration from Norway, Trump was appealing to the very old fascist and racist ideals of Aryan supremacy. This ought to highlight the nature of the beast.
It's for all these reasons, with fascism rising in the world at a rate not unlike its rise in the 20th century, that its most powerful figurehead Trump must be opposed at every step by progressives, including by so-called progressive or democratic leaders.
The complication is that he is the leader of the most powerful country in the world, which brings with it realpolitik relating mostly to economics.
But in the long-term, toleration of Trump could be to tolerate a new order that ends up dismantling liberal democracy across the world.
Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.