This is not hyperbole:
On Sunday’s CNN State of the Union show, now deposed Trump chief Paul Manafort told Jake Tapper that “You had — you had the NATO base in Turkey being under attack by terrorists. You had a number of things that were appropriate to this campaign, were part of what Mr. Trump has been talking about.”
Only this didn’t happen.
Now, spouting nonsense on a Sunday show is nothing new. But this was a certain kind of nonsense, as a sharp-eyed Hayes Brown from Buzzfeed noted. This ‘story’, albeit fake, got a huge amount of push from Russia Today and the Russian alt-propaganda network Sputnik News that I wrote about yesterday. Now if you wanted to be really ungenerous you might say Manafort was getting his talking points from someone at least east of Kiev or more plausibly that he reads a lot of Russian propaganda websites. But as Brown notes, it wasn’t just RT and Sputnik. Their stories were also “passed along on Twitter by accounts that are both pro-Trump and pro-Russian.”
Maybe it’s just that he’s awash in the Trumpite, white nationalist world where pro-Russian propaganda (specifically propaganda from Russia’s various state-backed English language propaganda networks) has become ubiquitous and he picked it up there. What’s notable is that this bit of misinformation germinated in a Russian propaganda mill and ended up on Manafort’s lips on CNN. The precise pathway it took from origination to final destination is fascinating but in some ways beside the point.
And then there’s this fascinating little development:
GOP nominee Donald Trump attacked his Democratic opponent’s stance on immigration and refugees by comparing her to the chancellor of Germany. “Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel,” he said.
He fired off two press releases that same day calling Clinton “America’s Merkel,” and took to Twitter to warn of the dangers of #AmericasMerkel. . .
The line of attack “baffled” political analysts, who wondered why Trump would possibly think referencing a largely-unknown European leader would help him win votes in the United States. A Pew survey last year found that “Germany is not on the radar of many Americans,” with more than a third reporting “no opinion” of Merkel at all.
But there is at least one group of Americans well familiar with Merkel, her immigration policies, and her connections to Hillary Clinton: white supremacists.
To white nationalist communities that fervently support Trump, Merkel has been a popular villain. Sites like the Daily Stormer, the White Genocide Project, American Renaissance, and The White Resister have posted constantly about her since the Syrian refugee crisis began escalating earlier this year. They have accused her of making a “deliberate attempt to turn Germany from a majority White country into a minority White country.” They have called her a “crazy childless bitch,” “Anti-White Traitor,” and “patron saint of terrorists.” They have asked in articles about her, “Why would you allow a woman to run a country, unless you were doing it as a joke?”
In fact, Trump’s new line about Clinton wanting to become “America’s Merkel” can be found almost verbatim in these white supremacist forums. “If Hillary takes power she will be to America what Merkel is to Germany,” a member of Stormfront wrote in March. “Hillary Clinton is America’s Angela Merkel,” wrote a commenter on American Renaissance in April.
Heidi Beirich, who investigates and tracks white nationalist groups for Southern Poverty Law Center, told ThinkProgress that Trump “seems to be parroting the hate sites” and speaking to their concerns.
“There is no question that the people who call him their ‘glorious leader’ know exactly what he’s talking about,” she said. “That is the audience that is concerned about this issue. Merkel is hated by Trump’s white supremacist supporters, and she and Clinton are seen in the same light.”
Read both pieces. Trump is going to lose, and lose badly, but he is merely a symptom of a much bigger problem, which is that there’s a good chance the GOP becomes an explicitly ethno-nationalist party before it either flies apart, or just sags like a heavy load into electoral oblivion.