News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The U.S. is repeating the history of 1930s Germany; it's the will of a lot of people

Begin with Donald Trump.  He is the quintessential asshole, albeit unusually productive with what assholes produce.  He is everything that is an offense to intelligent society.  He brags.  He belittles.  He insults.  He is sexist.  He is racist.  He lies. He doubles down on his lies when they are proven untrue.  He demands apologies when people point out his lies.  He is ignorant.  Stupendously ignorant.  Remarkably stupid.  He is demonstrably dishonest.  He flaunts his wealth.  He has no redeeming characteristics.  But he leads in the popularity polls for GOP presidential candidates.  

Why?

Because he appeals to a large segment of the people.  

As a soldier stationed in Germany, I, like many of my fellows in arms, was wary and skeptical about how much the people supported Hitler and the Nazi regime.  When my unit, which was bringing guided missiles to Germany, landed in Frankfort, there were protestors outside the airbase with signs saying "Sputnik go home."  Many of the German people showed resentment toward us.  We were trained to be friendly and helpful to the German people and not to bring up the Nazi past, but among ourselves we wondered if Hitler was not just what the people wanted. At the time, which was twelve years after Germany surrendered, we were aware that there were underground Nazi sympathizers around, but the U.S. was more concerned at the time about some Marxist groups forming what later became known as the Red Army Faction.  However, the official U.S. position was that the vast majority of Germans were good, peace-loving, hard-working people who had been duped and intimidated by the Third Reich and were happy to be liberated from that regime's rule.  

A women who I got to know graduated from a U.S. military high school in Germany while her father was stationed there in the Air Force, became fluent in German, and became friends with many German students through cooperative programs her school had with German schools.  Her friendships sparked curiosity in her about just what the attitude was among the older generations regarding the Nazi regime.  Her contemporaries were sensitive about the Nazi past and avoided much query about what the attitudes of the elders had been.  Years later, she graduated from a college which required a senior thesis for graduation.  She returned to Germany and wrote about how the Germans responded to the Nazi history.  She found evidence which suggested that the Germans had to have known that a holocaust was taking place and that many people supported and collaborated with the Nazis.
  
A 2001 book, The Good German by Joesph Kanon  took up the issue and sparked a film starring George Clooney and a number of similar works that examined the collaborations and support of the Nazis by the German people and the glossing over of those relationships during the Cold War.    

Hilter had a legitimate political appeal to the Germans.  They were  hit hard by the Great Depression and were struggling economically.  Hitler promised measures to lift Germany  out of the depression.  He also appealed to national pride.  Much like Trump promises to "make America great again," Hilter promised to "make Germany proud again."  

However, he also provided scapegoats for the problems faced by Germans by blaming all the ills faced by the people on the Jews and other minorities.  After the surrender of Germany in 1945,  a claim by the German people was that they didn't know about the Holocaust taking place and the extermination of the Jews.  That claim has been refuted.  The German press during the war was full of reports about the program against the Jews.  Tump and some of his cohorts in candidacy also lavishes the public with scapegoats to  blame and persecute.  

The Holocaust is the human act through which we define atrocities.  It is true that ignorant and petty people invoke Hitler and the Holocaust in stupid and specious ways in their discussions,  producing Godwin's law:  "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."  Some have contorted the law into claiming that anyone who invokes the Nazi past in an argument loses it.  But that is merely a ploy to avoid referencing the deliberate atrocity when it does parallel gross mental and moral failures of humankind in our time.   

Trump is one of those failures.  His claims about America becoming a nation of "losers" is not supported by any factual measures of the nation's economic status or its reputation among other nations.   As far as American exceptionalism is concerned,  many nations have surpassed it in terms of providing a high standard of living for all, for extending liberty, for making equality more than a slogan, and for making justice available to all.  If America has elements of decline,  they are in the inequality and in the malevolence against other humans   caused by the likes of Donal Trump.  

But what is significant about Trump is not his character and personality, but the number of people who seek refuge behind his inane bullying.  They do not represent what is good and admirable about America.

But in failures of moral character and intellectual competence,  Trump is only the leader of a pack.  His fellow GOP candidates are for the most part raging hate mongers.  One of the things they hate is Barack Obama.  The election of a black man to the presidency has excited old racial hatreds and made them a prominent part of American life again.  For a time after the civil rights movement, overt expressions of racial hatred were suppressed.  However, we  now live in a time when people feel no compunction about expressing racist attitudes.  They can say that they are expressing disagreement with the policies of a president who happens to be black.  But the belligerence and raging hatred with which those disagreements are expressed unveil the deep malignancy of racism and intolerance.  Trump,  the practiced playground bully,  knows how to tap into this malignancy and provide a voice for those who are possessed by it.  HIs fellow candidates follow suit.

One of the things that works with these mentalities is to affirm their hatreds by making up incidents that never occurred.  Trump insists that he saw on television Muslims in New Jersey cheering and celebrating the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.  Fact checkers and news media have shown that there is no record of such celebrations having taken place, but Trump insists he saw it and that is evidence enough for those who want to believe it.  Much of what Trump claims is made up and false, but that facts and honesty do not matter with his supporters.  The false claims feed their malice and their need to defame and persecute.  It creates the illusion in their limited minds that they are not the lowest creatures in the human dog pack.

In the devout belief in things that never happened department,  Carly Fiorina comes in at a close second.  She claims to have seen a video of Planned Parenthood personnel dissecting a baby, although she cannot provide evidence of any such video existing and journalists have established that it never did exist.  Still, Fiorina,  like Trump, insists she saw it, and that satisfies the malevolent craving of those who need something to hate and defame.  

Other in the GOP candidate cohort also show great talent in errors and falsehoods of fact and an underlying misanthropy at the root of their political philosophies.  Ted Cruz says he'll carpet bomb ISIS out of existence,  but Cruz has buried himself so deep in raving offense that even his Republican fellow senators detest him

Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and many of the lesser lights have also had their moments in trying to lead the nation in its rituals of hate and falsehood.  But the real significance is in the number of Americans who put up with it and even revel in it.  

In the mid-1930s,  Sinclair Lewis wrote a satiric novel, It Can't Happen Here, which showed that the same kind of mentality that was taking over Germany existed and was operating in America.  

It's happening again.   With a vengeance.  

17 comments:

Tracy Jensen said...

Thank you, good sir!

Steve Hickey said...

I agree it's the 1930s all over again but for different reasons than you articulate here. And no I'm not a Trumper. We are seeing an Islamic invasion of the West unfold before our eyes and our leaders want to take the guns away from the wrong people. Meanwhile Obama arms our enemies. It's craziness. Here's how this unfolded in the 1930s. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/365103/how-nazis-used-gun-control-stephen-p-halbrook?pkEILYiKe6duSbe2.01

David Newquist said...

Among actual scholars who examine the actual history of German gun laws, the NRA accounts of them are much like Trump's Muslims in New Jersey cheering the attack on the World Trade Towers: they are propagandic figments. Here is a thorough accounting of that history in the Fordham Law Review:
http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4029&context=flr

Steve Hickey said...

Actual scholar like this? http://articles.latimes.com/1999/nov/07/opinion/op-30850

BTW - again I'm no trumper but ten mainstream media sources confirm Trumps cheering Muslims in NJ. Here's one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8KdmyCh7z8

David Newquist said...

Well, yes although the L.A. Times piece is a professor writing in an opinion page whereas the Fordham Law Review is a refereed journal replete with required documentation. The opinion piece concludes with an observation that suggests the dialogue lacks a considered perspective: "Our serious thinkers have been absent from this debate for too long. The 2nd Amendment is too important to leave to the gun nuts."

I find it perturbing to have it state on my blog that ten mainstream media sources have confirmed Trump's claim, but the link provided is to a You Tube recording of call-ins to Howard Sterns's talk radio show. I rely on genuine efforts at fact checking such as those supplied by FactCheck.org:

"There is no evidence, as others have pointed out, that thousands of people in New Jersey cheered the attacks on 9/11. PolitiFact and the Washington Post gave Trump’s claim their worst ratings.
The fact is that New Jersey and New York news organizations tried to track down rumors and unverified reports of celebrations in New Jersey cities and turned up little or nothing.
"The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, wrote on Sept. 13, 2001, about “persistent rumors — repeated all day on talk radio and on the Internet” — that Muslims were celebrating in the streets of Paterson, New Jersey. That story did not contain any mention of Jersey City nor did it provide any evidence that the rumors in Paterson were true.
"The New York Daily News dispatched a reporter to Paterson shortly after the attacks to investigate the same rumors and came up empty. In a Sept. 14, 2001, story, the Daily News quoted an unidentified police officer saying there were no public celebrations in Paterson. “I patrol these streets every day and I haven’t seen one person with a smile on their face at the mention of this tragedy,” the officer told the Daily News. “The people here are suffering and mourning like everyone else.”
"On Sept. 18, 2001, the Associated Press wrote that federal investigators had returned to Jersey City — specifically to the neighborhood that had been “home to a mosque where blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman preached before he was convicted of plotting the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and other New York City landmarks.” But there was no mention of any 9/11 celebrations in Jersey City. Instead, the paper wrote of “Arab-Americans [who] decried the terrorist attacks, and told of harassment they had suffered in the past week.”
"The Star-Ledger revisited the rumors again in a Sept. 23, 2001, story about the rise of bias incidents against Muslims and Arabs. John Farmer Jr., who was the state’s attorney general at the time, told the Star-Ledger that reports of rooftop celebrations in Paterson were an “insidious rumor” that was helping to fuel the rise in bias incidents. The Star-Ledger said of the rumor of celebrations: “[I]n the end it was nothing more than a rapid-fire urban myth.”
That story did say, however, that the paper interviewed two people who said they knew of one incident in Paterson regarding “a small handful of teenagers who shouted ‘revenge’ the night of the bombing.” There was no mention of Jersey City.
"Update, Nov. 25: Farmer told the New York Times in a story published Nov. 25 that the New Jersey State Police received reports on the day of the attacks that “Muslims were dancing on the rooftops and in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson.” Those reports were investigated and found to be false, Farmer said. “We followed up on that report instantly because of its implications,” Farmer told the Times. “The word came back quickly from Jersey City, later from Paterson. False report. Never happened.”

Jake Kammerer said...

David, thank you so much for your well-written article and the above reply with facts. Today's world is seeing more debasement of facts (and ignorance of) that it seems to me that some people are building another "Tower of Babel" in their lust for power and influence.
Those bible believers are not aware of this section of the good book or haven't dealt with the real meaning..

Steve Hickey said...

We obviously have different sources we consider reliable (My view is these online anonymous fact checkers are a part of the machine of the left - http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2012/11/05/the-ten-worst-fact-checks-of-the-2012-election/ )).

It's not my interest to defend Trump comments here. So I'll leave it with a source th you won't respect but it lists other new media outlets that reported celebrating in NJ among Muslims. http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/12/02/trump-100-vindicated-cbs-reports-swarms-on-roofs-celebrating-911/

Carly Fiorina is my preferred candidate. It's peculiar to me she has fallen into the low single digits. The appeal for me probably explains the appeal of others to Trump. Its time for people who aren't politicians and who have built and led large organisations and handled large amounts of money - their money included. There is an additional thing I like about these two types of candidates is that they are doing a complete end run around the political money machines and media that typically determine who becomes President. That is good for America any way you look at it. If you want to talk about Germany again, in 2007-2008 America there was a bizarre messianic swirl around unproven, unaccomplished, and still unvetted freshman Senator Obama. That he could go from only voting present in the Illinois statehouse to the White House in 2 years is a marvel and a wonder. Freaky. Glad the messianic swirl has subsided. But the damage is done.

We are living in the late 1930s in many respects.

David Newquist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Newquist said...

As I noted in the post, Carly Fiorina has a history of misrepresenting herself and fabricating defamations of others in her appeal to that great human capacity for malice and its results that we have come to cherish so much in our culture.

At issue here is the basic premise of all scholarship and reportorial journalism; the definition, verification, and refinement of fact. Our legacy media and our higher learning institutions are denied as having any integrity in the processes of forming knowledge. To that segment of the population for which facts do not matter, those engaged in the professions establishing and testing facts are regarded as the enemy. When I note the parallels to the German people who collaborated with and endorsed the Nazis, I do so not from the perspective of those people who became refugees from Germany and had to find places where they could practice their professions. The popularity of Trump and Fiorina signal a betrayal of those institutions of information and education that propelled the U.S. The same factors that drove some of our ancestors out of the Old World into America are at work again, and people in the intellectual professions are confronted with an emerging culture for whom facts are irrelevant as long as one can make up beliefs that satisfy the need for defamatory malevolence.

And Breitbart? It is not a matter of who is considered reliable. It is a matter of citing as reliable an organization that demonstrably distorts videos to create libels and defamations and blatant falsification of facts. In addition to citing Breitbart as a reliable source you cite an opinion column in Forbes by Avik Roy, who in turn republishes a listicle by Ben Domenech, who in an abusive dismissal of fact checkers, includes Breitbart among his sources. Roy states he was an adviser to Mitt Romney and the facts brought into question all deal with statements made about Medicaid. One can hardly cite the quibbling over semantics as a wholesale dismissal of fact-checking

Furthermore, some of the claims made about the sources that support Trump's allegations have been refuted by those sources, while somebody bothered to ask:
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2015/1202/American-Muslims-counter-Donald-Trump-s-9-11-celebration-narrative

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-questions-emerge-over-trumps-911-celebrations-claim/

My concern in all this is what the future is for people in the intellectual professions. Is it time to shake the dust of this place off our feet and find new places to call home? The greatest generation under which America flourished is dying out. Their legacy is going with them. The people are choosing Joseph Goebbels over Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Steve Hickey said...

Your last sentence I'd agree with but we disagree on who Goebbels is today. My side of the aisle used that verbiage on 08 to talk about how bad it would be with Obama. Here you are using it to smear Trump. We both think it's the 1930s all over again. I share your concern for people in intellectual professions. Presently if you don't follow the Climate Change script as a scientist you have trouble staying employed and getting grants. The Left has an orthodoxy in all the various areas. Hardly a good atmosphere for thinking academics. Is there any truth the my supposition that the university today is the propaganda machine of the Left not the Right? The media isn't leaning Right either. So much for the land of free thinking. Andrew Brietbart was murdered, along with Tom Clancy. Those are my views on the level of toleration for intellectual dialog and diversity today.

Fact Check isn't reliable. For all we know partisan hacks are doing the fact checking there. As I linked above they've been discredited many times over.

Apparently I missed where Fiorina lied. Please don't site a left leaning media source that says did. For one who demands facts and has no tolerance for lies, why does Hillary get a free pass?

Craig said...

Hickey: " Its time for people who aren't politicians and who have built and led large organisations and handled large amounts of money - their money included."

And yet you pronounce your affinity for Fiorina who mismanaged HP resulting in the price of HP stock dropping by over 60% during her tenure and the loss of over 30,000 jobs. Revenue of her company was down by over $1 Billion even after factoring in the purchase of Compaq. That is her one role as CEO and the only time anyone has placed their faith in her sole leadership, and by all accounts she failed miserably.

Fiorina of course claims she increased revenue and added jobs to HP... which is only true because they bought Compaq. Thus adding in the revenue from Compaq into HP's balance sheet makes it appear larger, and adding in the number of Compaq employees into the total of HP makes it appear larger - but there was more to the story and we all know it. She is playing fast and loose with the phrases in an attempt to make her appear successful. She was not. She was a failure, and that is not the type of person I wish to put as Commander in Chief. Frankly I wouldn't trust her with my personal savings account.

I do love the need for those on the right to continue to attempt to paint President Obama as "unproven" or "unaccomplished". True he was never responsible for nearly killing a fortune 500 company, but he did graduate from Harvard and was President of the Harvard Law Review. He became a lawyer working primarily to defend civil rights and he was also a Professor at The University of Chicago Law School for over a decade. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate three times, and as we all know he was elected to the US Senate before winning the Presidency.

If those accomplishments aren't sufficient, it makes me wonder why someone like Sarah Palin, Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina is considered qualified for the job. I suppose the only thing that matters to some is one's stance on Roe v. Wade.

In any case since becoming President, Obama has added something like 13M jobs (several million more than existed prior to the great recession) he has cut the deficit by 2/3rds, saved the auto industry, expanded health insurance cover to millions of Americans WHILE shrinking the deficit, doubled the stock market, halved the price of gasoline, managed to kill Osama Bin Laden, increased GDP, slashed the unemployment rate and on and on and on. By practically every economic metric available our nation is better off today than it was when he took office but some refuse to acknowledge the facts because they refuse to admit they were wrong.

Granted I'm wasting bits typing such responses when people are so quick to invent their own versions of reality and revisionist history. Perhaps after decades of studying fairytales facts become difficult to comprehend.

Steve Hickey said...

Craig - lots of skewed and revision history in your screed; on Fiorina and Obama. Leading a tech company through massive market and economic storms is not easy doing. Remind me again about Obama the law professor. I'm not sure he even did that - he didn't write anything and his peers there report today the whole thing was bizarre. I guess he did write two memoirs and get a peace prize for all his contributions there. America got buffaloed. Remarkable how we can look at the same thing and see such different things. Your last cheep shot sentence made me laugh. Fairytales - you have no idea my personal encounters with God but you think you do. I bet you are one who believes in evolution theory - talk about a fairytale.

David Newquist said...

"Is there any truth the my supposition that the university today is the propaganda machine of the Left not the Right?"

No.

Anyone who is acquainted with any reputable universities understands that by its nature a university cannot be a propaganda machine. Faculty by their training and function are contentious and challenging. If you can instill an orthodoxy in a bunch of professors, you can herd cats. The idea that a couple hundred of the world's leading atmospheric scientists can be intimidated into reciting a script is nonsensical. And when you start citing the deaths of Andrew Breitbart and Tom Clancy as murders--which leads to those accusations that Obama ordered them--we are getting overwhelmed by the presence of malice that is the stuff of defamation. The contention that all institutions of information and knowledge are leftist conspiracies may justify the falsehoods of defamation, but the also make impossible any rational discourse. The accusations that Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama have ordered murders are staples of night time talk radio that feed grotesque psycho-pathologies

Florina's claim that she saw a video of the dissection of a baby has been challenged by every major news organization, which have asked her to specify when and where she saw it. She has not been able or been willing to supply that information.

Steve Hickey said...

Ben Stein did something a few years back called Expelled on the mainstream science establishment suppressing academics who don't abide by the script. Those suppressions are well-documented. Conservative parents for years have lamented to me there is zero tolerance for deviation from the script in universities today. Maybe you are sheltered from it in your area of specialty or don't notice because you speak from the left. Is it even debatable academia today and the media are dominated by left-leaning thinkers? http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeleef/2014/05/01/higher-education-has-a-strong-leftist-bias-but-not-enough-for-one-prof/ We also know that ideas have consequences and strategies to divide kids/students from their parents ideologies are used and work. Many universities are as unbiased as the churches.

When things don't add up, people curiously dying, are we really to believe that malfesance doesn't happen today? Thinking people have every right to toss up a BS flag or question the narrative we are fed. Isn't it true the White House has been caught feeding media outlets their narrative? Yep, it is. So we are back to Germany; controlled press, academia reigned in and dissenters marginalised and silenced. It's the 1930's all over again!

David Newquist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Newquist said...

Comments closed.

I have let this discussion descend into a citation of scurrility. The basic function of journalism of record and scholarship is to examine facts. That examination is a process of challenging how facts are established. Challenging a fact requires an analysis of the basis on which it is asserted, marshaling the evidence supporting it, and subjecting it to logical and evidentiary tests. The premise of the post which spawned the comments is that we are repeating something that occurred in Germany of the 1930s. Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda ministry fabricated stories about the Jews. He played into an anti-semitic strain in the European populace that exacerbated a hatred that possessed many of the people. And that, in turn, inspired hatred in others. In the 21st century, we have found that the Holocaust had much more support of the German people (as well as others in Europe) than we believed. We are witnessing the propaganda of hate again. Unlike the Third Reich dictatorship, we have people in the business of dealing with facts who are testing the facts. Donald Trump generates hatred for Muslims by claiming they swarmed in New Jersey during the 9/11 attacks to celebrate the bringing down of the World Trade Towers. Attempts by news media to check those facts find that at best a few people (8) in one apartment building could be said to celebrating. Those fact checkers, although numerous from many news organizations, are dismissed as leftist hacks. Carly Fiorina claims she saw a video of Planned Parenthood personnel dissecting a live baby for its parts. But fact-checkers can find evidence of no such video and Fiorina cannot cite when and where she saw such a video, just as Trump cannot produce videos of Muslims swarming in New Jersey to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade towers. But the reporters and fact-checkers are dismissed as part of a leftist conspiracy that controls our universities and news media. This is a massive ad hominem trashing of the entire informational and educational enterprise.

Then as the discussion progressed, the alleged murders of Andrew Breitbart and Tom Clancy are raised. The idea of murder is raised by some extreme right-wing conspiracists. Although Breitbart's death at 43 was eventually determined to be heart failure, the cause of Clancy's death was never made public, although family and friends said he, too, had a history of heart problems. But the conspiracists claim Clancy was murdered at the command of Barack Obama because he was about to publish a novel that exposed that the president was taking his orders from a Muslim cabal in the White House. Aside from the fact that these allegations are preposterous, easily disproven by witnesses, and totally based upon a vicious malice designed to inspire violence, they are circulated as fact, as demonstrated in preceding comments.

Of course, any challenging of the allegations on the basis of their factuality are met with patronizing and demeaning dismissals as the product of leftist dogma. Patronization is the most serious form of denigration.

I regret being the vehicle of such malicious scurrility. And I regret that this blog could not maintain the integrity of factual definition and verification that is necessary for any productive discussion.

Rather, this thread is an illustration of why we live in a time when there can be no respectful and productive political discourse. Ultimately, it is not a matter of left-wing or right-wing bigotry. It is a matter of the integrity of information. And when people refuse to cite factual evidence and identify sources, there is no integrity, and no point in engaging in discourse.

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