Unwitting or Not, Donald Trump is Still Complicit in Russia's Attack on America | Opinion

U.S. President Donald Trump waves after answering questions while departing the White House April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report provides incontrovertible evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in a "sweeping and systematic fashion" to help elect Donald Trump. Based on this evidence, it is equally clear that US citizens who voted for Trump were acting as unwitting agents of a foreign power intent on thwarting a free and fair election.

That President Trump has failed to condemn Russia's interference is absolutely unconscionable, but not at all surprising given his consistent privileging of his own self-interest over that of the country. As the Mueller Report also makes clear, while there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia in its cyberterrorist attack on the U.S., there is no question that he actively encouraged it.

While now disgraced President Trump may not be guilty of a crime, he is wholly complicit in the Russian efforts to undermine our democratic system. For nearly two years, Trump ran around like Chicken Little yelling "witch hunt" about the Mueller investigation, an investigation which found that Trump was himself a Russian pawn. For those familiar with the story of Chicken Little, none of this should come as a surprise.

In Disney's 1943 version of this classic folk tale, which was solicited by the US government as a warning about the dangers of fascism, the central character is not Chicken Little (read: Trump) but Foxy Loxy (read: Vladimir Putin), a fox who secretly orchestrates the series of events leading to the chickens' (read: US public) downfall.

Foxy Loxy draws his inspiration for manipulating the chickens from a book titled, "Psychology," though the quotations in the book actually come from Mein Kampf. The first passage that Foxy Loxy reads advises: "To influence the masses, aim first at the least intelligent." Foxy Loxy settles on Chicken Little, whom the narrator describes as a "Playboy and yo-yo champ." While Trump is no yo-yo champ, he does fashion himself a playboy.

Foxy Loxy soon begins manipulating Chicken Little without Chicken Little's knowledge. He reads: "By use of flattery, insignificant people can be made to look upon themselves as born leaders." At this point I would remind readers what Trump told supporters at a campaign rally on March 12, 2016: "Putin said good things about me. He said, '[Trump's] a leader and there's no question about it, [Trump's] a genius.'" Trump has repeatedly indicated that he trusts Putin more than his own intelligence community and national security advisors. So, apparently, a little flattery does go a long way.

Having successfully recruited his stooge, Foxy Loxy turns to his book again, where he reads: "If you tell a lie, don't tell a little one. Tell them a big one." Chicken Little's big lie, fed to him by Foxy Loxy, is that the sky is falling. Trump's big lie is and always has been about immigration. From the announcement of his candidacy for president to the absurd declaration of a national emergency, Trump has ranted and raved about the nonexistent threat at our southern border: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. … They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with [sic] us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

At first, the chickens in the story are skeptical of Chicken Little's message. Their leaders point out how ridiculous it is. Turning to his book again, Foxy Loxy learns that to promote his lie, he will need to "undermine the faith of the masses in their leaders." This, of course, was the basis of Donald Trump's entire campaign. He repeatedly attacked the political elites in Washington, promising to drain the swamp. When the mainstream news media began to fact check Trump, he went after them as well, labeling them "fake news" and, then, "the enemy of the people." He has sought to discredit the judicial system, the FBI, and his own Department of Justice.

The story of Chicken Little ends with Chicken Little leading his fellow chickens to Foxy Loxy's den where he devours them. Foxy Loxy outsmarted the chickens with the aid of an unwitting accomplice—someone with no political experience, someone whose only real skill was his rhetorical ability to incite fear about an utterly fabricated threat. Like Chicken Little, Donald Trump has accomplished this same feat. The only question that remains is whether or not we will follow him, like mindless chickens, to our own demise.

Brian L. Ott is Professor of Communication Studies and Director of the TTU Press at Texas Tech University. He is an award-winning scholar, who has spent more than 20 years studying rhetoric, media, and their intersection. His latest book, co-authored with Greg Dickinson, is The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.