Donald Trump is not very popular right now because of his recent comments about Muslim immigration, but he made earlier comments about terrorism and terrorists that echo an important lesson from this week’s parshah, and from yesterday’s daf yomi page.
When Pharaoh was having trouble finding a satisfying interpretation to his recent dreams, the Sar Hamashkim finally steps forward and mentions Yosef. he tells Pharaoh,
“And there was with us
Rashi says, ” cursed are the wicked, for their goodness is not complete. Even when he mentions Yosef, he does so in demeaning terms.”
Calling him, a youth, a Hebrew, and a slave were all meant to degraed Yosef so that even if Yosef would interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, the Sar Hamashkim hoped that he could subliminally send a message to Pharaoh that Yosef was not worthy of elevation to office. He wanted to implant in Pharaoh’s mind a degrading image of Yosef.
That is what a wicked person does. They try to prevent at all costs the development of a flattering image of the righteous.
The Gemara in Sotah 42b says that this tactic should be employed by the righteous against the wicked. “It is forbidden to talk about the praise of the wicked.” The Gemara says the only reason they tell a little about the strength and might of Goliath was to give praise to David who defeated him. Even so, the Navi only relates half of his greatness.
Trump was critical of the media following the Paris attacks because they referred to one of the terrorists who were responsible as “the mastermind.” Trump repeatedly said in interviews, “They should not call him that. I call him the guy with the dirty filthy hat. He’s not a mastermind, he is a guy with a dirty hat.” he has also been outspoken against referring to the dictator of Iran as “the supreme leader.” Doing so has a way of elevating his image when in fact we should be degrading a wicked person who seeks the destruction of Israel.
Whatever people want to say about Trump, nobody can deny that he understands how media works. He understands that one should not build up their enemies.
One could argue that president Obama agrees with Trump’s strategy. The president is criticized for downplaying the terrorist threat, but there could be some wisdom in not elevating the terrorists. On the other hand, this must be balanced with taking an enemy seriously.
Hillary Clinton is one of the most outspoken voices about how this is a war of media. While she may be right (although it is certainly debatable) she does not give us any clues on how this media war should be fought.
Rhetoric is an important weapon that must be employed properly. And while there is a lot of criticism of Trump and Obama and others, it must be recognized that use of rhetoric is a complicated issue with different tensions pulling on each side. I have developed my own opinions, as I believe everyone should, but we should all recognize that it is not so simple.