This week’s top news stories included Donald Trump Jr.’s mention of the gas chamber in a speech he made supporting his father. After searching the web and reviewing the context in which it was used, I wasn’t sure it should have been immediately targeted as “Nazi” anti-Semitism referring to the Holocaust, causing the Anti-Defamation League to demand a retraction.
When I was under 10 years old in the 1950s, I can remember playing cops and robbers with my neighborhood pals and the gas chamber was a common threat or promise to the “bad guys” in this activity. We were old enough to have heard the phrase used on television, in comic books, and in our elders’ discussions in reference to criminal activity. We were thankfully too young to have any knowledge of the atrocity of the Holocaust, or grasp the concept of Anti-Semitism. The gas chamber was just an American thing.
I was almost able to accept the younger Trump’s explanation that he used it in the “American” sense – as an acceptable means of capital punishment in our country (as early as 1921). Why didn’t he reference the hangman’s noose, firing squads, the electric chair, or the gurney?
I now think my early assessment was pretty naive. Given the rabid history of the Trump campaign, the odds strongly favor the use of “gas chamber” being intentional, to bring about the press response it received. It was another instance of the Trump campaign’s strategy of making outrageous and inflammatory statements daily, to bolster the likelihood that the Trump name would be at or near the top of the day’s “big stories”.
Another striking example of big media’s true charter, that ratings and the profits they bring are all that matter.