It’s no secret that Donald Trump doesn’t think much of those who dare to oppose him. During the campaign, he threatened to overhaul the libel laws and make it easier to sue media outlets. He stood and watched while his supporters trolled and harassed reporters.
He also stood and watched while his supporters’ hatred for Hillary Clinton grew to the point that they started chanting “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Indeed, he seemed to encourage it on a number of occasions, and even made noises about having her investigated by a special prosecutor.
It’s been no different since Trump took office. The standard response from this White House to even mildly critical coverage is “(noun)(verb) FAKE NEWS!” He has let it be known that a number of news outlets are enemies of the American people, and has released a campaign ad whining that the media aren’t letting him do his job because they dare to criticize him.
All of this has raised concerns about whether Trump really believes in democratic values. Well, a prominent pro-democracy activist in Russia is also concerned. She sees disturbing parallels between Trump and Vladimir Putin.
On Friday night, Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova stopped by MSNBC’s “The Last Word” to discuss the similarities she sees between Trump and Putin. Watch Part 1 here.
Watch Part 2 here.
Back in August, Nadya declared that “pro-authoritarian leaders like Putin and Donald Trump” pose a direct threat to democracy. She told host Lawrence O’Donnell that this assessment still stands, because Putin and Trump were “eroding our institutions” in both Russia and the United States. She believes that we have a duty to “protect those institutions.”
While the Kremlin may see Nadya and her Pussy Riot compatriots as “hooligans,” she believes she’s just doing her basic duty as a citizen.
“I think they make us forget that citizenship is not just using things that your government is giving to you, but giving back to your government and protecting those institutions like democracy.”
When Nadya hears Trump rail about “fake news,” it sends a chill down her spine. She told O’Donnell that Putin has used the same line during his 17-plus years as either president (1999-2008 and 2012-present) or prime minister (2008-2012). To hear Putin talk, most critical coverage is “fake news, that are paid for by foreign governments and whatever.” Rather ironic, considering that the Russian effort to hack our presidential election occurred on Putin’s direct order.
Nadya has an idea why Trump and Putin get along so well–Trump doesn’t have any real political philosophy, apart from what she sees as Trump’s contempt for democratic values. She has drawn the same conclusion that many of us here in this country drew long ago–that Trump is “concerned with himself, with his fame and his wealth.” She added that Putin has used his training as a KGB agent to take full advantage of this, since he knows how to handle “people who are easy to understand or easy to bribe.”
When O’Donnell played a clip of a typical Trump rant against the media, Nadya said that was how Putin began. What came next, she said, were “arrests and occupation of leading independent media outlets.” The next step was obvious–arrests of opposition figures. Now, according to The Guardian, nearly all Russian media outlets are either owned outright by the Kremlin or controlled by Putin cronies. For the most part, they churn out fawning, uncritical coverage of Putin. According to Nadya, what makes it even worse is that she and other Russian taxpayers are footing the bill.
“The worst thing about it is that it’s paid by Russian taxpayers’ money. So we are paying for them telling us bullshit.”
To be sure, Putin’s task was made easier by the fact that Russia didn’t really have much of a democratic tradition. But Nadya is right about one thing–those of us who oppose Trump cannot let up, and have to keep calling out the fail. In other words, as Elizabeth Warren would say, we must persist.
(featured image courtesy Mike Maguire, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)