Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue

Content note for antisemitism, Trump, eliminationist rhetoric.

I think that where Trump and Hitler really diverge from each other is in their sincerity. Trump has always been a con man and a reality show personality. There’s no doubt he’s a bigot and a racist, not to mention a complete misogynist, but those things weren’t tied to his political ambition from the beginning. In fact, he seems to have pursued politics only to revive his failing brand. And the outrageous shit he spews on an hourly basis is calculated to pander, to shock, to get people buzzing. He’s discovered it’s very easy to get his ego fed to bursting by being the most “politically incorrect” politician possible. He hasn’t spent his life dreaming of Muslim registries and letting the religious right overthrow our Constitutional rights. These just happen to be a few of the things that get people sleazy enough to follow him excited, so he pushes them.

Hitler, on the other hand, pursued political power early on. And from the start, he intended to slaughter as many Jews as he could manage.

“Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews.”

This is a goal Hitler never lost sight of even when circumstances forced him to dial down his overt antisemitism. But when whipping up his followers, he knew hate sells. He used it freely. He spent years blaming all of Germany’s woes on Jewish people. And Germany, defeated and humiliated in the first World War, had plenty of woes. They were far worse off than we are. Desperate people need scapegoats; Hitler offered them up.

Hitler shouldn’t have been around to provide them. After fomenting hatred of the Jews for several years, he made a premature attempt at revolution that ended with him facing high treason charges. He should have been tossed in prison for life or deported. But he figured out what he needed to say in order to gain the court’s sympathies. He learned that with people outside the Nazi party, it was best to dial back the rabid bigotry and appeal to ethnic pride.

Over the next six weeks, Hitler, the uncouth agitator, remade himself into an innocent patriot who had been betrayed by a democracy too weak to defend Germanic honor…. Hitler transformed his public self from a raging antisemite into a resolute tribune of the Volk who captivated audiences with his vision of “cleanliness everywhere, cleanliness of our government, cleanliness in public life, and also this cleanliness in our culture… that will restore our [national] soul to us.”

Of course, “cleanliness” meant purging the Jewish people, but he wasn’t so crude as to actually say that in front of non-Nazis whose esteem he had to win. Instead, he attacked more widely despised and impersonal things: the Versailles Treaty, Bolshevism, and liberals. He cast himself as the doughty patriot willing to sacrifice anything to protect his beloved volk. He sprinkled in appeals to Germany’s proud military past, and finished with an appeal to “the goddess of the eternal tribunal of history.”

He’d found all the right buttons to push. And so, instead of spending the rest of his life moldering in a Bavarian prison or thrown out of Germany with no hope of returning, he received a mere slap on the wrist: five years in prison without subsequent deportation.

So what are we seeing? That a clever fascist will tailor his appeals to his audience. All it takes to rally nascent fascists who won’t respond to overt bigotry and racism is an appeal to be the hero fighting those things they abhor: liberals, socialists, Marxists, and other assorted lefties. Sprinkle in a hefty dose of national, ethnic, and military pride, and you can get conservatives to bless even outright treason.

Sound familiar? It should. Trump is far cruder, but he plays the tune Hitler wrote. Not surprising, considering how much he reportedly admires the genocidal shit.

We’ll see next how Hitler reassured his followers that yes, he still hated Jews. It’s a reminder to never take Trump at his word when he dials back his hatred to pander to less hateful audiences.

Image is the cover of The Nazi Conscience. It shows a brown-uniformed man digging while a man in traditional German folk costume holds a pole that has a swastika banner on it.
We’re studying The Nazi Conscience as a way to prepare for what’s happening now. If you want to read along, you can pick up an inexpensive used copy at Amazon. Buying through that link also supports my blogging, so thank you!

Intro • Prologue1.1 1.21.32.1

Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue
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Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue

I call Trump Cheeto Hitler (Chitler for short), but the first paragraph of Chapter 2 shows what a cheap imitation of Hitler he really is. The original Hitler, at least, presented himself and his vision of the German volk as something of virtue: “the epitome of selfless devotion, humble origins, and abstemious tastes.” Trump is just a crass flim-flam man appealing to base greed, xenophobia, and bigotry.

But both of them know how to work their audience. Both enjoy preaching to crowds. Hitler thought highly of his own ability to influence an audience, bragging that he could bring his naysayers around within just a few hours. He sold them Nazi ideology by figuring out what they wanted to hear. Like Trump, he was a huckster.

Hitler seized upon technological advances to get his message out. “Without the loud speaker,” he said, “we never would have conquered Germany.” I’m reminded of Trump using his reality shows and Twitter to conquer America.

Of course, neither of them win over as many people as they claim. Most listeners aren’t swayed: they hear the vitriol, and know it’s dangerous. But both men give their followers something to convince themselves they’re good, sensible people, not bigoted assholes.

Opponents of Nazism heard only hatred as Hitler ranted against the Treaty of Versailles, Communists, rival politicians, and democracy. But they overlooked the pattern of Hitler’s speeches in which he counterpointed every outburst of fury with the exalted rhetoric of a higher purpose.

I think Koonz isn’t giving hatred enough credit. Spite is a powerful motivator, as we’ve so recently seen. Many Germans, like many Americans today, felt hard done by. I don’t doubt they were all too ready to lash out. And folks looking for scapegoats are quite happy to grab the most wilted fig leaf of “higher purpose” offered to incompletely cover up the fact that hatred is driving them: hatred of the religious minorities, the people of color, the women, and the queer folk who have the audacity to demand a place at the table. They’re only too happy to blame their disappointments on those uppity others. They’re only too willing to follow a leader who promises to put those others in their place.

Next, we’ll see how Hitler and Trump diverge. For all their similarities, I do believe they differ in important ways. And we’ll see that those differences won’t prevent Trump from doing things as bad as or worse than Hitler. Whether you end up trying to exterminate an entire ethnic group because you truly believe they’re evil, or start a nuclear war because your feelings got bruised, you’re still responsible for immense suffering.

The terrifying thing is, Hitler appears to have had more self-restraint.

Image is the cover of The Nazi Conscience. It shows a brown-uniformed man digging while a man in traditional German folk costume holds a pole that has a swastika banner on it.
We’re studying The Nazi Conscience as a way to prepare for what’s happening now. If you want to read along, you can pick up an inexpensive used copy at Amazon. Buying through that link also supports my blogging, so thank you!

Intro • Prologue1.1 1.21.3

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue

(Repost) “We Would Be Completely Vulnerable” – Escape Chapter 22: Merril’s Heart Attack

What’s worse than having an utter shitstain of a husband in the FLDS? Potentially not having him. When Merril has a massive heart attack, Carolyn has to face the fact that while she doesn’t love him, she needs him.

Content note for emetophobia, forced marriage, child abuse, medical stuff

On the way to the hospital, trying desperately not to vomit from morning sickness and fear, Carolyn confronts her unpleasant reality. Continue reading “(Repost) “We Would Be Completely Vulnerable” – Escape Chapter 22: Merril’s Heart Attack”

(Repost) “We Would Be Completely Vulnerable” – Escape Chapter 22: Merril’s Heart Attack

Protected: “A Matter of Life and Death” – Escape Chapter 30: Harrison’s New Port

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(Repost) “A New and Dangerous Threshold” – Escape Chapter 22: Merril’s Heart Attack

Warren Jeffs is gaining more control over the FLDS daily. In this chapter, we’ll see just how badly his teachings affect women and children, while giving men the freedom to be as terrible as they want to be. And we’ll see why Merril dying would be worse than Merril living. There’s a horrific thought…

Content note for spousal abuse, spiritual abuse, medical neglect, casual ableism

After leaving her teaching job due to Rulon and Warren fucking up the educational system, Carolyn starts a web design business and sells health food online. She’s soon pregnant with her sixth child, which means unremitting sickness. And Uncle Rulon and his horrid son are squeezing the life out of the community.Movies and television are forbidden. The internet is to be used only for business. Various clothing styles and fabric patterns are outlawed, reducing people to only a few types of solid pastels. Long underwear is required at all times for everyone, including toddlers.

Mind you: this is in a desert.

But people accept it, because they’ve been told “that God believed his people were now ready to live by a higher law.” You can get people to subject themselves to nearly any outrage if you can convince them that’s what God wants. Continue reading “(Repost) “A New and Dangerous Threshold” – Escape Chapter 22: Merril’s Heart Attack”

(Repost) “A New and Dangerous Threshold” – Escape Chapter 22: Merril’s Heart Attack

Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

We’ve seen that the Nazi’s antisemitism was not a deal-breaker for the German people, although the voters themselves were largely not antisemitic. They were interested in “the Nazi’s promise of a radically new order under Hitler’s control.”

If we take Trump voters at their word, they’re not anti-Muslim bigots. They’re not misogynists or racists. They just want change. Okay: if that’s so, they need to be aware of how easily they can be persuaded to cross the line. If bigotry is not something that bothers you enough to reject the people spouting it, you are perilously close to being caught up in their hate.

The Nazis, after coming to power, expended quite a bit of effort to bring people around to their views on “unwanted” people. Anti-Jewish bigotry was the big one, but they also included Romani, gays, disabled people, and prisoners of war in their campaign to eradicate impurities from their volk. And they convinced alarming numbers of their fellow citizens, whether those citizens had voted for the Nazis or not, to go along.

And the folks who went along weren’t just the blatant bigots. Continue reading “Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience””

Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

So. America. Beacon of freedom and example to the world. Nazis must’ve hated us, amirite?

When responding to critics, Nazi racial experts muted the distinctiveness of their aims by noting analogues elsewhere…. While rabid antisemites praised the lynch mobs that kept African American’s “in their place,” more sober but equally determined racial policy makers expressed the hope that one day Nazi racial codes would be as widely accepted as U.S. immigration quotas, anti-miscegenation laws, involuntary sterilization programs in twenty-eight states, and segregation in the Jim Crow South.

We inspired the very monster we later fought. And we as a nation have a terrible time admitting our faults, much less fixing them. We see the outcome of that denial. Nazis do as we do, not what we say. A toxic stew of racism and bigotry simmers as we play the great white knights. And now we find tens of millions of our fellow citizens looking fascism in the face and deciding to hand the keys to the country over to it. We were never as good as we claimed. We never lived up to our aspirations. We never really tried. And now we’re perilously close to repeating a part of Western history that never should have been allowed to repeat.

We knew better. We refused to do better. We refuse to be better. Continue reading “Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience””

Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

(Repost) “Punitive and Spiteful” – Escape Chapter 21: Charter School

One of the best ways to control people is to control how and what they think. Warren Jeffs, like many cult leaders before him, knows this well. Seems he may have learned it from his father, who forbade higher education after he became prophet. This allowed him to keep dangerous things like reading and critical thinking in check.

Now, as Angie Jackson often points out, you can be highly educated and still fall for cult nonsense. But it’s far easier to maintain a hold on people if they’re not exposed to outside information.

Warren’s about to take that much further.

Content Note: Educational neglect, child abuse, spiritual abuse

Forbidding any higher education within the community means there’s soon a shortage of teachers for the elementary and high schools. They’ll need to start recruiting from outside the FLDS community, but the salaries are too low to attract anyone. Even with some families homeschooling, the existing teachers are flooded with far too many students. Something has to give – and Carolyn thinks she has the solution when Arizona starts funding charter schools. After some research, Carolyn figures that with the state funding they would get per student, they could easily afford to hire good teachers. So she and some of her fellow teachers begin working on a proposal. Surprisingly, she gets support from Merril, who tells her she’s got a good idea and that he’ll talk to the prophet about it.

Meanwhile, to relieve the pressure on the existing teachers, Carolyn suggests using computers for students to do reading and math drills. She could even do the necessary software development. The school superintendent thinks this is awesome and jumps aboard the charter school train.

Image is a painting showing a school room. There is a map on the wall. Young children are sitting in long wooden desks. The girls have on long dresses, most of them red or light blue. The boys have on black suits. The teacher is leaning over helping one of the boys. She is dressed in a black blouse and long black skirt with her dark hair up in a bun.
“Elementary School” by Magnus Enckell. Public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Their proposal makes it past the first hurdles, and so Carolyn and her fellow teachers end up in Phoenix to present it. They’re up against a hundred other potential charter schools, most developed by high-ranking educational professionals. Competition is fierce, and almost all of the presenters before them get turned down. But they sail through to approval: the board is extremely impressed by their assessment plan and innovative ideas. All they have to do is build the school building in time, and the FLDS folks are old hands at putting buildings up fast. Carolyn and her team are elated. Even Merril’s impressed. He goes to tell Uncle Rulon about their victory.

But then Warren gets wind of it. And he doesn’t like it.

  1. It will be a school run by professionals, with professional teachers, unlike his school, where only two teachers have actual degrees and some don’t even have a high school diploma.
  2. Kids won’t have “learning” beaten into them with yardsticks, the way he does it.
  3. The charter school will make liberal use of computers. Warren has banned computers.
  4. The children will be well-educated, which means they can read things he doesn’t want them to read, and think things he doesn’t want them to think.

Needless to say, he’s not a fan. And because by now he’s pretty much in control of his father, Uncle Rulon is also not a fan. As far as Carolyn knows, Merril doesn’t even attempt to change Rulon’s mind. He just accepts the verdict and forbids Carolyn from having anything more to do with it.

I was furious. My anger touched a core in me that burst into flame. For the first time, I began to see how religion could suppress something positive and life-giving. Failure to educate our children was unconscionable.

Carolyn is so distraught that she can’t continue her teaching career – she quits at the end of the school year. She can’t be a teacher while Warren is prophet in all but name. Still.

I didn’t think about what might happen after his father died. No one really expected Warren to become the next prophet. I certainly didn’t. He was too much of a nobody.

When you’re dealing with a “nobody” who’s as cunning and power-hungry as Warren Jeffs, though, you can’t take their failure for granted. That’s a lesson we should all endeavor to remember.

Image is the cover of Escape, which is photo of Carolyn Jessop on a black background. She cradles a framed picture of herself as an FLDS teenager in her hands. She is a woman in her thirties with chestnut hair and blue eyes.
I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along. The full list of reviews to date can be found here. Need a chaser? Pick up a copy of Really Terrible Bible Stories Volume 1: Genesis, Volume 2: Exodus, and Volume 3: Leviticus today

 

(Repost) “Punitive and Spiteful” – Escape Chapter 21: Charter School

Protected: “Pray for the Destruction of the Wicked” – Escape Chapter 29: Last Baby

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Protected: “Pray for the Destruction of the Wicked” – Escape Chapter 29: Last Baby

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

This chapter begins with a brief history of conscience. Perhaps the most important line is this:

But, although every major culture honors the injunction to treat others as you hope they will treat you, the ideal often collapses in practice because the meaning of “others” is not always clear.

Who are the others we should treat as we wish to be treated? Koonz quotes Freud on the difficulty of loving strangers. And then she points out that “who deserves moral consideration” is defined either by religion or experts. In Nazi Germany, experts did the shaping.

The story of a Hitler Youth member is a klaxon, warning us what happens when those experts place a specific subset of others as enemies of the rest. He’d had the belief that the Jews were an immediate threat to Germany drummed into him. When his Jewish best friend was taken by the Gestapo, he didn’t protest. Despite knowing his friend was a good person and no threat to anyone, he “accepted deportation as just.”

And before we say it could never happen here, we must remember that it already has. We identified an enemy “other” (the Japanese citizens of our nation) and placed them into camps. Had we begun losing the war, had our experts stressed their supposed threat to us just a fraction more, we may have thought killing them would also be just. Continue reading “Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience””

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”