Background Briefing: July 11, 2018
The Dangers of Trump Labeling Humans as Vermin
We begin with the neuroscience behind the success of Trump’s divisive strategy to “Make America Hate Again.” Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and author of Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst who has an article at CNN “Be Alarmed When a Leader Tries To Make You Think of Humans as Vermin”, joins us to discuss the insula, the part of the brain that is responsible for responding to disgust. And since the research shows that Republicans have a lower threshold for disgust compared to Democrats, we will assess how, in comparing the recent wave of migrants and refugees to an infestation of vermin, Trump and the Republican party have seized upon the age-old strategy of weaponizing disgust as the Nazis did by calling Jews rats and the Hutu in the Rwandan genocide did in calling Tutsis cockroaches. Despite the human capacity to hate, recent polling indicates that 67% of the population sympathizes with the 3,000 plus children seized from their parents at the border, demonstrating that hate can be outweighed by empathy.
Why Does Trump Insult Merkel While Fawning Over Putin?
Then we discuss Trump’s counterintuitive and destructive approach to foreign relations on display at today’s NATO summit in Brussels where he chose to alienate our closest allies rather than form a common front against our most aggressive adversary. Daniela Schwarzer, Director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, joins us to discuss Trump’s consistently adversarial stance toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is leading a frail Christian Democratic Union under pressure from a growing right wing backlash against immigrants in Germany.
Trump Doubles Down on His Demand NATO Allies Pay More for Defense
Then finally we turn to Trump’s main demands at today’s summit: that NATO allies increase their alliance contributions from 2% to 4% of their GDP and that Germany recognize its “captive” dependence on Russian oil and gas. Thomas Berger, a professor of International Relations at Boston University who specializes in German politics and is the author of Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan, joins us to discuss the state of the German military and the scandals that have come to light in recent years regarding the lack of readiness of the underfunded German military.