Compared to today’s woke left, Hitler’s methods for seizing power look like something out of the technological Stone Age.
This statement is not to dismiss the horrors unleashed by Nazi rule. It is rather to focus attention on how much easier it is for today’s totalitarians to operate compared with their musty-looking predecessors. The fashion standards for totalitarianism have clearly been updated.
Evidence of this can be seen by examining Germany Tried Democracy, a work by S. William Halperin, routinely assigned in German history classes when I was in college. Originally published in 1946, Halperin’s work shows how Germany’s constitutional system allowed the Nazis to come to power through a “legal revolution.” We might compare this achievement with the takeover going on in America and throughout the West, promoted by an alliance of big business, public administration, and an obsequiously obliging or equally power-hungry media. In my view, Halperin’s account of the Nazi takeover of Germany looks downright primitive compared with how the woke left and their allies now break down their opposition.
The Nazis were political adventurers who took advantage of an economic depression—including 17 percent unemployment in a defeated Germany—to unleash fateful mischief. Yet back in Hitler’s time, there were no internationally interlocking media platforms providing the same slanted news. Advances in communications technology and the sameness of manufactured news interpretation are elements which complicate our current political and cultural situation.
Within a day of the American media’s decision to turn George Floyd into a saintly martyr of racist American brutality, the same view of reality came to dominate the entire Anglophone and Western European informational network. There prevails a tendentious pretense of “providing news,” as when we are told that the Hungarian soccer team recently “disgraced” itself at the European tournament by failing to kneel before matches began in worshipful memory of the drug addict and porn star George Floyd, or when Hungary is further shamed over the fact that its premier opposes giving LGBT instruction to preteens in elementary schools. What our power elites want, they almost instantly get, given their means of influencing hundreds of millions of subjects through media propaganda, while marginalizing those who stand in their way. Thus, it seems that the woke left and its allies can immediately impose whatever they wish entire populations to think. These same wielders of power call for nationally rigged elections, as detailed in the H.R. 1 voting bill, describing their actions of shunning voting identification and encouraging vote harvesting as empowerment. Since our media elites determine who can say what to others, it is natural that they should characterize their further aggrandizement and that of the rest of the political class as a form of empowerment.
North Korean refugee Yeonmi Park, who lives in New York and attended Columbia University, hit the mark when she described the increasingly totalitarian nature of the ruling class. Discussing the spread of political correctness in the U.S., Park compares the easily deconstructed picture of reality that Americans swallow to what people under Kim Jung-Un’s Communist regime are forced to listen to, and concludes that the American narrative is just as ridiculous. This Korean observer would be even more astonished to learn that citizens in other Western countries, say Canada or Germany, are even more capriciously jerked around.
As Halperin’s book makes clear, those looking at the Nazi takeover in Germany were not aware of later technological advancements which would make mass control light years easier than it was roughly 90 years ago. In interwar Germany, regional, cultural, and religious differences remained strong. In the U.S., however, most people are now subject to uniform indoctrination, much of it supplied by leftist schools and universities as well as the all-pervasive media. Homogenization, or what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung (“coordination”), has already taken place on a scale that the Nazis had to work years to achieve and could only attain by threatening the public with imprisonment and torture. Compliance need no longer be enforced through acts of terror, acts which Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism gave as distinguishing marks of Soviet and Nazi dictatorships.
Today the media, the “democratic” administration, and the educational establishment can robotize their subjects by continuously harping on the same themes from the same perspective. The many films, news reports, and even advertisements with which we’ve been flooded in recent months show this particularly as they stress the glories of the black racial identity over the white one. Some of these sources also broadly suggest that whites have been overrepresented in American life, except as oppressors. The simultaneity and effectiveness with which the power elites now operate in such matters make the Nazi ministry of propaganda, with their static-filled radio broadcasts, seem like inept novices in comparison. Like clothing and speech, totalitarian control has been updated.
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.
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