Armando Iannucci, writer and director of “Veep” (2012-2017) and “In the Loop” (2009), compared President Donald Trump to murderous dictators ahead of the U.S. release of his new film “The Death of Stalin.” Iannucci compared the sitting president of the United States to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, whose “purges” directly killed an estimated three million people and whose policies sparked a famine killing 18-45 million.
“Stalin called anyone who disagreed with him an enemy of the people. Trump calls them unpatriotic and false,” Iannucci said in an interview with The Atlantic‘s Julia Ioffe. “With people like Berlusconi and indeed Putin, and Erdoğan in Turkey—these ‘strongmen,’ as it were—it feels a little bit like the 1930s again.”
When asked for an example, Iannucci said, “Trump’s instinct is to call for jailing of opponents. If Saturday Night Live does an impression of him, he starts calling for NBC’s license to be looked into. For someone who is head of a party that’s all about government backing off, he’s very much for telling people what to think, what to watch, who shouldn’t be speaking out—he’s very authoritarian. The rule of law is his law, which I find quite menacing.”
The director did not stop with Stalin, however. He also compared Trump to Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator who allied with Adolf Hitler, purged Italy’s Jews at Hitler’s request, and was responsible for the deaths of 300,000-900,000 people.
“The thing I found most chilling was Trump’s Cabinet meeting where he got the cameras in and went around making everyone say how good he was. That self-absorption was very much a Mussolini characteristic,” Iannucci added.
The Atlantic interview was not the first time the director used the Stalin comparison, the worse of the two. In an interview with NME’s Andrew Trendell, Iannucci emphasized the fact that Trump called liberal media outlets “enemies of the American people,” echoing the infamous term Soviet dictators used to brand someone worthy of imprisonment, exile, or death. When Vladimir Lenin or Stalin called someone an “enemy of the people,” it meant loss of property, freedom, or life itself.
“Stalin used that phrase for his opponents, and now Trump and various UK newspapers are doing it too,” Iannucci said. “That’s why I was looking at dictators and authority figures for the film. … We shot the film two summers ago before Trump and Brexit, but now it’s come out to a climate that’s much more like the one in the film, which is slightly worrying.”
If Trump’s rule were anything like Stalin’s, “slightly worrying” would be a vast understatement. When Stalin called someone an “enemy of the people,” he was marking them for divestment, exile, or death. Trump used a similar phrase — not even the same phrase! — as hyperbole to argue that the liberal media was undermining the best interests of the American people.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
Trump has “purged” no one, he has started zero famines, and he has sent zero political opponents to prison. Even his feeble attempts to suggest libel laws should be strengthened so he can sue his detractors (a worrying move, to be sure) has gone nowhere. Yes, the president is a narcissist, but that hardly makes him Joseph Stalin.
Trump has not partnered with Hitler, he has not targeted any Jews (his children are Jewish!), and he has not established any kind of Italian empire.
There does not exist language weak enough to describe the “comparison” between Donald Trump and either Joseph Stalin or Benito Mussolini.
Tragically, Iannucci was not the first to make the Stalin comparison, however. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) compared Trump to Stalin on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Note to Flake, Iannucci, and anyone else who wants to make this ridiculous statement: Come to me after Trump has shut down media outlets, restricted people’s freedom of movement, caused famines, set up gulags, or used the power of the state to jail or kill a single political enemy, and we’ll talk.