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Searching for a "Reichstag Fire"

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

He writes on AlJazeera on what is known as the "Reichstag Fire"....

"Donald Trump and his top Islamophobe nomenklatura gathered at the White House, now led by the militant crusader Stephen Bannon, are on a desperate lookout for their "Reichstag Fire" and their favourite propaganda outlet, Fox News, is franticly searching for it - even in Canada.

"Reichstag Fire" was an arson attack on the Reichstag, the German parliament, in Berlin on February 27, 1933. The incident was soon abused by Adolf Hitler and his gang to demand a suspension of civil liberties in systematic preparation for his putsch for total fascist power.

Ever since, the term "Reichstag Fire" is used metaphorically to mark a dreadful event abused by any proto-fascist movement to blame an amorphous internal enemy, to be coupled with an external enemy, and rapidly from there rapidly move towards a total control of the state apparatus by criminalising and crushing public dissent.

Given the fact of Trump's serious unpopularity with a significant portion of American society, this "Reichstag Fire" incident is increasingly a dangerous possibility.

From the historic Women's March in Washington to widespread airport rallies against his Muslim ban, Trump and his handlers know only too well his loss of the presidential popular vote by about three million nationwide is now growing into widespread public discontent, state-level gubernatorial opposition, and systematic resistance by the judiciary branch.

Soon after the executive order late in January banning Muslims from seven countries for 90 days to enter the United States, the Trump administration was given what it thought was its "Reichstag Fire" moment to justify its draconian measures and push for even more.

The incident presented itself when reports emerged that a gunman had attacked a Muslim centre in Quebec, Canada. Fox News, Trump's most trusted source of fake news, instantly came forward and reported the perpetrator was a Moroccan Muslim.

This, however, like most other things on Fox News, was a case of bogus reporting. The suspect of the mass murder in Quebec was, in fact, a violent "white nationalist" named Alexandre Bissonnette, who is a notorious character known to the local authorities for his racist Islamophobic views. Not only was the perpetrator of this crime no Muslim, but, in fact, Muslims were his direct targets.

None of this, however, prevented Fox News from jumping to the conclusion that the act of terror was perpetrated by a Moroccan Muslim and, on the basis of this false news, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer instantly jumped the gun, declaring it a vindication of Trump's Muslim ban."


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