Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue

Content note for antisemitism, Trump, eliminationist rhetoric.

Hitler managed to persuade a German court to hand him a mild 5-year sentence for treason, rather than deporting him or imprisoning him for life. But he’d had to tone down his bigotry for the courts, and his followers were upset.

They needn’t have worried.

Hitler, once his future was secure, was more than happy to return to spouting his poisonous antisemitism. He assured them that his earlier ideas about the Jews were, if anything, “too mild.” He cast the conflict between Jews and Germans as “a question of life and death.” He turned his attention toward spewing venom to Rudolph Hess, who compiled his ravings into the book that would become Mein Kampf. He amped up his exterminationist rhetoric, describing Jews as parasites, freeloaders, “a dangerous bacillus,” maggots, and poisoners. He called for their extermination.

So, remember: if a Nazi or other bigot dials back their rhetoric in the face of legal trouble or social sanctions, don’t trust their change of heart until it’s backed up by subsequent, sustained actions. Watch for them to return to and possibly intensify their previous hateful speech and actions. Once the coast is relatively clear, they will revert to their true selves.

Hitler spent a mere ten months in prison, and once he was released, he set about unifying his followers before reaching out for new ones. He’d learned how to dog whistle. Because more educated people wouldn’t respond as favorably to overt bigotry, and because fomenting hate and violence could get him silenced or deported, he resorted to a more veiled antisemitism. He would speak about “one single enemy.” He used racist humor and metaphors. Continue reading “Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue”

Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue
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Twilight is a Symptom of Everything Wrong With America

You may think I’m exaggerating, but hear me out.

B and I chose to watch Twilight on Netflix because most of the good vampire movies aren’t on there. And we wanted something we could laugh to. Since we didn’t have any comedies in mind, we decided mocking laughter would do.

People, I have read endless reviews of both the book and the movie. I could tell you exactly what happens scene by scene, from opening to closing credits. Much of my joy came from finally seeing some notorious moments for myself. Have you ever watched a movie and gone, “Hey, I know that scene from memes!” or “They used that one in a Bad Lip Reading clip!”? It’s a very specific sort of pleasure.

Now, I’ve read many a review by outraged feminists who utterly despised Edward. I know all of his abusive proclivities. I even know he’s a completely genocidal shitmonger. But actually seeing Robert Pattinson act it out rather than reading about it made me scream roughly five thousand times something along this lines of the following: Continue reading “Twilight is a Symptom of Everything Wrong With America”

Twilight is a Symptom of Everything Wrong With America

Promised Land: A Must-See Documentary in This Era

Promised Land is screening at Seattle Central College on Thursday, February 9th, and at the University of Oregon on Friday, February 10th. For other screenings in various cities, please see listings here.

 

Imagine that you live in a place your ancestors have occupied for thousands of years. Every landmark, every waterway, every plant and tree and animal is part of your heritage. You can stand in places that your grandmother, and her grandmother, and women stretching in an unbroken line back to a mythical point, told stories about, stories that defined your people.

You have stories passed down since the Ice Ages, which your ancestors witnessed. You don’t remember the ice because scientists found its traces in the rocks and on the land: you remember it because your tribe descended from people who lived with it, and your generational memories are strong.

Imagine that your roots here go that deep, that they stretch over ten thousand years into the past.

Now imagine that new people came, and took possession of your lands without permission. They uprooted you and cast you aside. They tore down your houses and stole your art. They changed your rivers and landmarks almost beyond recognition. They built cities on your land, the land that holds your ancestors, that was your inheritance and your future, and then outlawed you from those cities – not for any crime, but because of the color of your skin. They made it literally illegal for you to step foot in the cities they built on your land after sundown, and they only allowed you in by day in order to exploit your labor for their profit.

They made it illegal for you to gather together, to tell your stories, to carry on your traditions, to pass your culture on to your children. They tried to strangle everything that made you you: your language, your clothing, your art, your music, your identity.

Imagine you somehow survived all of this. You held on. You sang your songs. You spoke your language. You protected what was left of your land as best as you could. You learned how to survive in this new world without losing quite all of your heritage. In a city named for one of your forebears, you have done your best to survive as a people among strangers who are happy to take your art and your symbols and your resources without giving much of anything back.

And imagine that after all of this, those strangers tell you that they won’t recognize your tribe as a legal entity. That, despite the fact that you come from an unbroken line of indigenous people stretching back ten thousand years, perhaps more, in this place, you can’t check the box that says you’re Native American. You have to call yourself White, or Other. You can’t protect the things that belonged to your ancestors when they’re unearthed. You can’t protect your lands. You can’t even get back a tiny fraction of the wealth that was stolen from you, because they say you’re not one of the tribes who can get a grant or a scholarship reserved for those whose inheritance was taken by force, fraud, or both.

That’s the story of the Duwamish, told in the heart-rending documentary Promised Land. Continue reading “Promised Land: A Must-See Documentary in This Era”

Promised Land: A Must-See Documentary in This Era

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

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

Republicans Are Trying to Ram Through Crooked Nominees. Here’s How to Fight Them

The Republican party is wasting no time fucking over the country. And they want to make sure they have assholes in place to facilitate their pillaging. They have no interest in governing this country. They have no patience for democratic norms. They don’t give a single shit about ethics.

The Office of Government Ethics is raising alarm over the pace of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees, saying Saturday that they have yet to receive required financial disclosures for some picks set to come before Congress next week.

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released Saturday, OGE Director Walter Shaub wrote that “the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me” and that the current schedule “has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.

“More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings,” Shaub continued. “I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.”

This is the time when we have to resist. They need us to be quiet and compliant. When we rise up en masse, they learn they don’t have the consent of the governed – and sometimes, it makes them change course.

Here’s a handy spreadsheet showing who’s up for confirmation, why they’re terrible, the date of their hearings, and who to pester about it. Get on the phone and make your voice heard. This is our job this week. We sort of have a democracy still, broken and dysfunctional as it is. Let’s remind our elected officials what their job is. Continue reading “Republicans Are Trying to Ram Through Crooked Nominees. Here’s How to Fight Them”

Republicans Are Trying to Ram Through Crooked Nominees. Here’s How to Fight Them

Rebellion Against Fascism is Not Optional. It’s Necessity

In just a couple of weeks, Cheeto Hitler takes over the Oval Office. He and his fellow Republicans are already busy undermining our democracy, trying to gut ethics committees, pissing off China, and starting nuclear fights on Twitter. We don’t need to wait to see how much damage they will do. The signs are already there.

This is a regime bolstered by white supremacists, fascists, and other assorted scum. This is a regime that will do serious and lasting harm to America and the world. There’s no question.

We don’t acquiesce. We don’t accept. We don’t reach across aisles and attempt to heal divides. The only thing to do in a situation like this is rebel.

Step one: get fired up and ready to fight. To that end, I’ll be sharing some of the best posts on the necessity of rebellion that I’ve found. Here’s our first installment.

Steven Olsen

Taking the high road right now means taking the path of most resistance. We do not capitulate to fascists. We are the goddamn immune system.

Rebellions Are Built on Hope: Why Rogue One Matters Now More Than Ever Continue reading “Rebellion Against Fascism is Not Optional. It’s Necessity”

Rebellion Against Fascism is Not Optional. It’s Necessity

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”

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”