The caravan is an invading menace surging north toward our borders, the president says, and the media echo the sense of frenzy. The Associated Press had to apologize for having been swept up in the carnage-poetry of it all:
We’ve removed an @AP tweet from Oct. 21 that said a migrant caravan in Mexico was “like a ragtag army of the poor.” That wording was poorly chosen and has been removed from our coverage of the caravan.
Everyone knows the president is just changing the subject. But there’s something specific he’s changing the subject to. This recycled script about the annual migrant protest march—now with “hardened criminals” and “unknown Middle Easterners,” in the president’s completely fabricated account—is drawn from an earlier source text.
What Donald Trump is doing is acting out The War of the Worlds with The Camp of the Saints. Just in time for Halloween and Election Day, he is reproducing Orson Welles’ fictitious radio news drama about an alien invasion, but with the aliens drawn from Stephen Bannon’s favorite book.
Remember The Camp of the Saints? Bannon would not stop talking about it. Any movement of nonwhite people was, for Bannon, an obvious echo of the racist French novel’s overwhelming horde of literally shit-eating foreigners, bent on destroying Western Civilization. This is the tale the Trump administration has wanted to tell, and has been telling, all along. New York magazine’s Ed Kilgore noticed the connection between the caravan coverage and the book with dismay, and he pointed out that the polite white chauvinist Rod Dreher noticed the connection with enthusiasm (“If this didn’t exist, seems like the GOP would have to invent it”).
If your news coverage of the caravan doesn't include a map like this, front and center, you're doing it wrong… pic.twitter.com/s026JJYoov— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 23, 2018
Does Trump himself know he’s inspired by a book? That would require him to have read a book, or at least to have paid attention to what someone else was saying for more than half a sentence at a time. But he understands he’s telling a story—his favorite kind of story, a story about a menace from another world, about the kind of terror that must be met with terror. He is his own producer and his own audience, and he counts on the media to do the job of writing up the script for him.