If Trump is Hitler, then Obama was Hitler too

Why is Trump’s treatment of migrants ‘fascism’ but Obama’s wasn’t?

Brendan O'Neill
Topics Politics USA

Under the Obama administration, hundreds of migrants died every year at the Mexican-US border. Thousands were detained in camps. Children were detained in those camps, too. The average daily population of these detention centres was between 30,000 and 40,000. Children were often the first to be cast out of the country – as one report put it, the border authorities moved unaccompanied children to ‘the head of the line’ for deportation. More undocumented migrants were deported by the Obama administration than by any previous administration. One critic called Obama ‘the most stringent enforcer of immigration laws in American history’.

So, was Barack Obama Hitler? Was that fascism?

To see the double standards, the hypocrisy, the staggering lack of principle in contemporary radical politics, look no further than the discussion of the immigration crisis in the US. As a result of his immigration policies, President Trump is being branded fascistic, the architect of ‘concentration camps’, someone who has, in the words of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, failed to heed the message of ‘Never Again’ – that is, he’s doing something eerily and dreadfully similar to what the Nazis did in the 1930s.

And yet Obama did all these things too. Where were those people back then? They were on their comfortable college campuses or in their swanky New York or London bars, and the 47,000 minors apprehended by the US authorities as they crossed the border in the US in the first eight months of 2014 alone – some of whom were as young as three – never crossed their minds.

Or if they did cross their minds, perhaps fleetingly stirring their dormant morality as they perused their New York Times over a Shake Shack lunch, they didn’t call it fascism. They didn’t compare Obama to Hitler. They didn’t say, ‘This is like the 1930s’. AOC didn’t trek to the processing centres in which children were being crammed into cells and were sleeping under rough blankets and allow a photographer to capture her weeping, as she did with Trump’s detention centres last year. Those painfully staged photos, these much-tweeted, much-cheered displays of hollow virtue, have been shared widely today. And yet they raise an embarrassing and pressing question, not only for AOC but for all of those horrified by Trump’s apparently Hitlerian treatment of migrants – where were your tears when Obama did this?

A horrible photo of a man and his daughter who drowned while crossing the Rio Grande between Mexico and the US has been widely published today. It’s on the front page of the London Evening Standard, which refers to the image as ‘The picture that shames America’. It is held up as proof of Trump’s wickedness. But again that question rises up – why are you more horrified by this death than you were by the thousands of migrant deaths under Obama?

Migrant deaths just over the border in the US have been rising since the mid-1990s and especially during the Obama administration. So in 1996, there were at least 87 deaths of migrants within the US border. In 2012, the year Obama was re-elected, to the whoops and cheers of liberals across the West, there were at least 463. In total, 7,216 people died crossing the US-Mexico border between 1998 and 2017. Where were the frontpage headlines? Why weren’t there massive marches when Obama visited London? Why was there no talk of ‘America’s shame’ or ‘America’s concentration camps’?

The answer to this question is as straightforward as it is disturbing. It’s because the current discussion isn’t really driven by a concern for migrants. Rather, it is driven by an exhausted left’s urge to find an issue on which it might successfully harm its political opponents and, even more importantly, demonstrate its own presumed virtue. The thoroughness with which contemporary radicals reduce every issue to an opportunity for political point-scoring and virtuous public preening is summed up in their sudden, cynical discovery that bad things happen on the Mexico-US border.

Numerous questions are thrown up by the Mexico-US border problem. A key one, which very few of Trump’s critics want to address, is the issue of national sovereignty. Surely it is the right of a nation to determine who may enter the country and how they may do so? The contemporary cult of erasing borders, promoted by everyone from Brussels suits to the supposedly liberal chattering classes, can be seen as an attempt to undermine the idea of the nation itself, and the thing that the nation embodies: the right of a people democratically to determine their country’s affairs and policies, including on immigration. Another question raised by this crisis – and this is one Trump’s supporters don’t want to address – is how civilised nations treat migrants who cross their borders without permission. Surely they should be treated in a dignified way, even if they are simultaneously being processed, tried, and prepared for deportation back to their country of origin? Reports of detained migrants in US detention centres lacking such basics as toothbrushes and blankets are extremely concerning.

And a broader question is raised by all this; a question about the state of Western politics in general. Principle and morality seem to have disappeared. Instead, everything is reduced to a shallow Culture War game of moralistic oneupmanship. This is where those AOC photos become important. The way in which, today, this has been turned into a story about her, and about how virtuous she is, is actually grotesque. The narcissism is staggering. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that for her and many other Trump-haters, those detained migrants are little more than props in their own moral drama about themselves and their virtue and decency.

All the time these days, serious political issues – in this case, the issues of borders, democracy and how we treat migrants – are reduced to shallow, soapbox-style opportunities for observers to hysterically denounce politicians they hate and to narcissistically display their own presumed goodness.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Listen to the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show below:

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Michael Freeman

29th June 2019 at 12:08 pm

What a laugh ! That photo is quite obviously posed. How on earth are we supposed to believe that the child died, face down, with its arm around the shoulders of its father, who has also died, face down, and both remained in that pose, as they presumably floated into the shallows (quite apart from the point made above, by the expert fisher-outer, regarding the sinking and gas-forming and later surfacing mechanism)? I haven’t read all the comments yet, but why hasn’t that fact been widely publicised yet? There’s no need to defend the President: more fake news.

Jerry Owen

29th June 2019 at 4:43 pm

I commented elsewhere , this photo is eerily similar to the little boy Alayn ( the media called him Alan in most cases ) laid out straight and face down on a beach.
Despicable really.

michael gryzna

28th June 2019 at 5:03 pm

I’m not entirely convinced by the Rio Grande photo. In my experience, (10 years of pulling drowning victims from the Thames), that is not how a typical drowning presents. When you drown your body sinks to the bottom, only rising to the surface again when the gases of putrefaction buoy your body sufficiently. That process can take a few days, or a few weeks, depending on the water temperature. Rio Grande water temperature is presently c.18 degrees C. It is stretching credulity that these two bodies were found in less than 24 hours. And a drowned body floats much lower in the water than in the photo. Anti Trump stitch up?

David Redfern

28th June 2019 at 5:58 pm

Thank you for the informed observation.

John Holmes

27th June 2019 at 6:52 pm

Every time I hear the regressive left discuss Saint Obama, it’s like Vicky Pollard from Little Britain…”yeah, but no. Like Obama was way cooler. Like he was proper good for tv innit. Oh shut up…racist”.

Hana Jinks

28th June 2019 at 3:23 am

Without question the biggest liar I’ve ever seen in Public Life, and that includes Putin.

Jack Matthews

27th June 2019 at 12:59 pm

My paternal grandfather fled Brussels in June 1940. It took him over four months to reach New York City via ship from Lisbon. During those four months, he lived in constant fear for his life, was run ragged and badly treated, paying bribes to officials at border crossings, sleeping where he could, eating whatever gracious people would offer him. He had 50 dollars stitched in his clothing(50 dollars being one of the requirements to obtain a visa). By some miracle, he obtained his visa in Lisbon. 79 years later, my family and I still remember how lucky we are that he made it. We also remember how refugees were greeted in the USA at that time: hostility, accusations of being spies for the Nazis. He had never left Belgium before, did not speak a word of English and was now in a country he didn’t know. Every time I hear about somebody dieing at the US border or in the Mediterranean, I think of my grandfather. He too told me that he would have done anything to reach American shores. The tragedies unfolding at the southern border are partly due to US policy in Central and South America that are decades old. I would say that we need to fix that, but I fear that the car has crashed off the road long ago resulting in a steady stream of refugees that will not be stopping in the foreseeable future. As a result my family has fought and litigated against the immigration policies of GW Bush, Obama and today, Trump. We do so to honor my deceased grandfather and will continue to do so until we too pass away.

Jerry Owen

27th June 2019 at 8:55 pm

Lovely bit if history.. but that is all it is. Times have changed. Sentimentality is a flawed concept sometimes.

Hana Jinks

28th June 2019 at 3:20 am

Economic migration isn’t the same as persecution by fascists.

Gloria Britanniæ

28th June 2019 at 3:40 pm

Why did your grandfather not join the Free Belgian Forces and help to liberate his country? Or stay in Belgium to resist the occupation as part of the Résistance belge / Belgisch verze?

Belgians left their country and served honourably on land, sea and air. At least 28 Belgians flew in the Battle of Britain, and eventually 1,200 Belgians served in the RAF in WW2. Forming the Royal Navy Section Belge, they supplied enough sailors to crew two corvettes to contribute to the Battle of the Atlantic, as well as a number of smaller vessels. The army components included the Brigade Piron, which landed in France on 8 August 1944 and fought through France and Belgium, reaching Holland by November; other Belgians served as commandos and paratroopers. Meanwhile, an estimated 70,000 Belgians were active in the Resistance, an estimated 19,048 of them dying before the war’s end.

Not really sure how much moral authority your grandfather has here.

(Primary source: Veranneman, Jean-Michel. (2014) ‘Belgium in the Second World War.’)

Jack Matthews

28th June 2019 at 4:40 pm

My grandfather was barely 13 at the time. After two years of schooling, he obtained a scholarship at a military academy. As soon as he finished high school, a few weeks before his eighteenth birthday, he enlisted in the armed forces. He served for one year in occupied Germany. So spare me your little history lesson.

Jerry Owen

1st July 2019 at 11:49 am

Good post.

Gloria Britanniæ

28th June 2019 at 7:40 pm

Jack, I’m not a mindreader, so spare me your pomposity. You failed to provide relevant information, that’s on you. And don’t dismiss the sacrifice of brave Belgians because it conflicts with the narrative you’re trying to push.

And also, don’t shield your opinions with the actions and experiences of others: their lives belonged to them, not you. There is nothing impressive about your argument of: ‘Someone else—someone not me—did something, so you all must listen to me as I counsel destroying the West.’ Ain’t falling for that.

Jerry Owen

1st July 2019 at 11:50 am

You have shown him up for what he thinks he is. Self important

Amelia Cantor

27th June 2019 at 12:58 pm

Utter nonsense from O’Neill yet again. Obama was embedding a politics of compassion, appointing many judges and officials who are now at the front line of resistance to the Orange Narcissist and Rapist-in-Chief. Obama also set a giant example to communities of colour of what could be achieved in the United States, despite its long and tragic history of white supremacism and racism.

So, no, the only Hitler is Trump.

“All the time these days, serious political issues – in this case, the issues of borders, democracy and how we treat migrants – are reduced to shallow, soapbox-style opportunities for observers to hysterically denounce politicians they hate and to narcissistically display their own presumed goodness.”

We can only treat migrants as they deserve when we end hate speech and jail those who use it against the vulture. Or justify its use, as Spiked have been doing, year in, year out, for a very long time.

Neil McCaughan

27th June 2019 at 5:19 pm

If you keep clutching your pearls like that, you’ll break the string.

Amelia Cantor

1st July 2019 at 11:47 am

A typically inventive response from a highly original right-wing mind. I don’t think.

There’s no “pearl-clutching” in what I said. And consider the sexism of the term “pearl-clutching”. Not that you will, of course. If you had the ability to consider things, or think in any way at all, you wouldn’t be on the right.

John Holmes

27th June 2019 at 6:48 pm

Please provide us with these examples of “hate speech”.

Amelia Cantor

1st July 2019 at 11:39 am

There’s this thing called a web-search. It will provide you with countless examples of Trump’s racism, sexism and Islamophobia.

Neil Gibbs

27th June 2019 at 8:03 pm

Obama deported 3 million people over an 8 year period ,broke the record for the number of bombs dropped and drone strikes.What a compassionate human being he is.
Your post reads like SJWs for dummies.
You drop in all the usual leftist cliches and probably hyperventilated when you hit the post button.The description Titania MCGrath made of Munroe Bergdorf ( no doubt a hero , oops , heroine of yours)in her book “Woke” probably sums you up!

Jerry Owen

1st July 2019 at 10:20 pm

Amelia Cantor
You cannot provide us evidence of Trump’s racism . So you try the old one of ‘ look it up yourself’ you lost your argument.

Jerry Owen

27th June 2019 at 8:59 pm

More blacks (and other minorities) employed under Trump than Obama.
Oh dear , blown your histrionics out of the water in one !
Why do you think Trump got such a large ethnic vote?

Amin Readh

27th June 2019 at 9:49 pm

Ah… oh you are so easily led aren’t you. Shall I not even bother to ask for proof?

Hana Jinks

28th June 2019 at 3:28 am

Amelia Cantnor

Do you see the whites as supreme because they..you know, like built the nation?

Is your post a high form of satire?

David Redfern

28th June 2019 at 6:12 pm

“the Orange Narcissist and Rapist-in-Chief.”

You people just can’t stop yourselves. No such thing as a civilised discussion from the left. It all comes down to who can dream up the most hurtful personal insult imaginable.

Discussing politics with most casual lefty WOKE observers is like dealing with enraged toddlers.

Utterly pathetic.

Gerard Barry

1st July 2019 at 4:38 pm

America is obsessed with race. You need to focus on what you have in common, not what separates you. As for Trump being “racist, sexist and misogynist” (surely among the most overused words in the English language at the moment): you must really have led a sheltered life if you think that Trump is any more racist, sexist or misogynist than the average person. I’ve certainly met plenty of people with more objectionable views than Trump over the years, many of them American Democrat voters.

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