There was a time, way back around the time Trump was elected, that there were people howling about how you can’t call Republicans “fascists” or “Nazis” because they weren’t literally German, or invading Czechoslovakia, or wearing toothbrush mustaches. It was annoyingly literal-minded, and the people most vociferously arguing for an extraordinarily narrow interpretation of the term all seemed to be sympathetic to fascism. People like Rich Lowry scribbled a lot of denials against Nazi comparisons.
Fortunately, we’re starting to see past the smokescreens and recognize that the historical correspondences are inescapable. Ken Burns has made a new documentary about the Holocaust, and while he tries to avoid contemporary comparisons, he finds them unavoidable. When asked if he intended to make a historical documentary that resonates so strongly with current events, Burns says he didn’t mean to.
I don’t think it was the intent. Every film we’ve worked on has sort of rhymed in the present. As we were working on this, we began to realize how much things were resonating with what’s going on now. The assault on the Capitol, the insurrection and other events in which we felt the institutions of our democracy were challenged enough that it was important for us to take this story and remind people what the consequences are of yielding to the various kind of nefarious aspects of the [authoritarian] playbook.
When Hitler came to power, he downplayed for a moment antisemitism and the platform of the Nazis and stepped up street warfare to give the German people a sense that civil war was imminent and that the causes of this were the communists and the socialists. He’s already in power because other conservatives think they can handle him. Those conservatives are worried that there is now what we would call a new progressive majority. And so they are doing everything to subvert the democratic process because they realize, in fact, in a democratic society, these things won’t hold. And so out of this comes the monstrous regime of Adolf Hitler, and one of the many horrific things — the most horrific — is the attempt to exterminate all of the 9 million Jews of Europe.
And he repeatedly denies it! He just couldn’t help it.
No, we don’t subscribe to any of that stuff. We’re just storytellers. Telling a complicated story. I don’t know what critical race theory is. It’s essentially a graduate school legal concept of how to frame certain arguments that has been appropriated by people to use as a cudgel to to beat them up over these various things.
I made a comment about the [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis play in Martha’s Vineyard as being a kind of an authoritarian response, just as it was when Disney says we don’t agree with you, he punishes them. When a state employee doesn’t do what he says, he fires them. That’s the authoritarian thing. It’s not the democratic way that you handle it. But the right-wing media has said that I’ve equated what DeSantis did with the Holocaust, which is obscene. I mean, literally obscene to do that. But it is also classic authoritarian playbook to sort of lie about what somebody just said in order to make it so outrageous that then you can deny the complexity of what’s being presented.
I agree that the magnitude of the horrors of Nazi Germany perpetrated is not at all comparable to what is going on right now. The appropriate comparison, though, is to the pre-war politics that laid the groundwork for the atrocities. There should be no doubt that while DeSantis hasn’t set up camps to murder immigrants, that’s what he wants to do, and would do if he could get away with it. Which he could, if we keep electing Republicans.
Ray Ceeya says
Is it fair to compare Jan. 6th to the burning of the Reichstag? Does the pope shit in the woods? The NAZIs blamed Jewish people and Trump and co. blamed AntiFa. Not a perfect comparison, but the similarities are undeniable.
Fascism is not an aesthetic, or a particular set of policies or actions or behaviors or historical events.
IT IS AN IDEOLOGY.
Do many, too many right wing politicians subscribe and act in accordance to a host of ideas that match those of fascism?
Then they are fascists.
#1, one can also compare January 6 to the Beer Hall Putsch, though since it was at the US Capitol, it would be better called the Statuary Hall Putsch.
Ronald Couch says
I’d suggest that the January 6 dust up was closer to the Beer Hall Putsch. Shit didn’t work and none of the important people got really seriously damaged.
I’ve been watching that; and I, too, was struck by the first film’s similarities to current events. Not so much in later episodes, but that’s just because we haven’t quite gotton to that point yet in the US. I agree with PZ that we could get there “if we keep electing Republicans.” Vote!
Akira MacKenzie says
The liberal obsession of “civility” strikes again. Even when calling their marching around in SS uniforms, waving WWII German battle flags, and chanting “The Jews will not replace us,” there is this tendency amongst the mainstream “left” to think that calling them Nazi’s just isn’t nice. They’re like George McFly at the beginning of the Back To The Future franchise: Nerdy and utterly whipped, concerned with avoiding “conflict.” This cowardice manifests itself in everything from the wrists slaps that have been handed out to 1/6 traitors, the refusal to not seat Trumpist senators and representatives per the 14th Amendment, Biden calling them “semi-fascists,” etc..
There can be no civility with the right. You can not reason with them. Your naïve devotion to non-violence and appealing to their better natures won’t save you. Stop trying to prevent a civil war that is already upon you; fight them and win.
Akira MacKenzie says
EDIT: Even when calling they’re…
When the Left calls someone a Nazi (like say, um, DICK CHENEY), Godwin’s Law gets invoked. ?!?
DeSantis is clearly a tool of darker elements within our society and miltary. He has served as legal counsel for SEAL teams in the Middle East and for brass running Gitmo. To call him a Nazi is to acknowledge that SEALS and Gitmo are run by Nazis. Which I would not disagree with but to suggest that Desantis is the only Nazi in this chain of military filth is naive.
And please tell us who the other Nazis are. NAME THEM! I still have my list from 2003 but for some reason the Democrats have erased many of the names responsible for Iraq which weirdly suggests you can launch foreign wars of aggression (Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudetenland) and not be a Nazi, but relocating people in custody to another jurisdiction is like burning down the Reichstag?
Meanwhile, keep waving those blue and yellow pom poms when you’re calling people Nazis. You’re doing a wonderful job of heightening the contradictions.
DeSantis has also suspended several elected non-state level officials in Florida.
These include a DA Prosecutor and two school board officials where the big school shooting was, Parkland.
It is fortunate that the supreme leader of the new fascism is such an utter idiot.
I refer you to Stephen Colbert’s brilliant takedown of the latest Trump shenagians. There are also hostile squiŕrels (?!).
Räven # 9
Long-term DeSantis is a more dangerous enemy of democracy, because he has some brains.
Not only have the Republicans had their Beer Hall Putsch, their insistence that Trump won in 2020 seems to be their version of the “November criminals” myth, which in Nazi Germany was the claim that Germany was not defeated militarily in World War I but was betrayed by people who lacked the will and character to fight. The Big Lie, in other words. “We didn’t lose, victory was stolen from us.” Yup.
And all this is sure to cue up another round of historically semi-literate right-wingers pointing out that “Nazi” was short for “National Socialists,” like it was actually a left-wing movement. It was socialism, don’t you know. What they will leave out is that anyone who took the socialism part of it seriously was dead by 1934 when the “Night of Long Knives” purged the party of people like Gregor Strasser.
And Nick Mulvaney looks a lot like Heinrich Himmler. Just sayin’.
The tl;dr version of DeSantis purge of elected officials.
The governing method of DeSantis in Florida is Stalinism.
We are at the purge stage right now.
.1. The DA Prosecutor Warren was fired not for doing anything but saying he might do something in the future. What he said he might not do is not even illegal in Florida anyway.
This violates his free speech rights at the least.
It is also not obvious that DeSantis has the legal authority to remove an elected official any time he wants.
Some claim that this has to be done by the state legislature.
.2. DeSantis also removed 4 Broward county elected school board members in the district where the Parkland school shooting occurred.
If the governor can arbitrarily remove elected officials at any level in the state, you don’t have a democracy any more. You have a dictatorship.
Rob Grigjanis says
Keep waving those white blue and red pom-poms, arsehole.
Responisibility for the Reichstag Fire is still disputed. In any case, the comparison with Jan. 6th is a very poor one, because the Nazis attributed it to their enemies (the Comintern), and took advantage of it by getting President Hindenburg to sign a decree suspending most civil liberties. There would only be a good comparison if either the Democrats had taken advantage of Jan. 6th by suspending civil liberties, or the Republicans had consistently blamed it on “Antifa” and done the same.
“you can’t call Republicans “fascists” or “Nazis” because they weren’t literally German, or invading Czechoslovakia, or wearing toothbrush mustaches. It was annoyingly literal-minded”
Yeah. I don’t care if they would rather be characterized as the smallest cutest Labrador puppy that is fighting a losing battle against sleep. Now that nouns have no meaningful use any more, can we stop fighting that battle and move onto fighting the Labrador’s that are subverting lawful government and killing folks with impunity by any means necessary? We all cool with that?
Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudetenland, or of course, Ukraine, which you don’t mention because your own Führer is the person whoi launched the foreign war of aggression.
Ukranian Nazis, who do exist but are not running the state and have not, as it happens, launched any foreign wars of aggression, use the red and black (blood and soil) flag of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. But do keep displaying your “Z” tattoos, you’re doing a wonderful job of showing your Tankie dishonesty.
It really is amazing that, while Russian nationalist commentators acknowledge that their forces have suffered a considerable defeat, Tankies like markgisleson can still believe (or at least, say) that Russia “is still successfully prosecuting their special operation”.
That isn’t even a good thing.
The Russian Special Military Operation is the conquering of Ukraine and the genocide of the Ukrainian people.
Genocide for moral defectives like Gisleson is an atrocity and a crime against humanity.
The parallels with the Nazis are obvious.
The do have genocidal plans in common.
The Nazis are famous for trying to eliminate the Jews, and killing 6 million of them in camps.
The Russians have been trying to eliminate the Ukrainians as a separate people for centuries and this war is just the latest in a long series of attempts.
OK, no problem.
I stand with Ukraine.
Just about the whole world hates Russia these days.
Even the Chinese and Indians have gotten fed up with them.
Almost every day the Russians threaten to kill me, my cat, and millions of my friends using nuclear weapons.
The rest of the world is taking notes here.
A recent estimate (source Nature), is that in an all out US-Russian nuclear exchange, 5 billion people around the world will die.
The rest of the world doesn’t want to die because Putin’s plans for genocide aren’t working out.
This is the Authoritarian Playbook:
And while you’re at it a blurb on Nazi era jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt:
Nazis were very specific. This is looking more akin to fascism generally. Definitely authoritarianism like some countries in Europe.
You could make a pedantic argument that saying “Nazi” is incorrect the way it’s incorrect to say “Kleenex” when you mean “tissue.” Of course, if you show up waving a swastika, you undermine even that argument. I’ll usually go with “authoritarian”, since it conveys the most general concept. It does lose some impact compared to “fascist.”
Bret Stephens and others I’m sure did try to use the “civility” line against Biden when he criticized MAGA, but it’s getting sillier and sillier. (And needless to say, Biden didn’t call anybody a Nazi.)
Akira MacKenzie says
OT: Trust me, it’s not just right-wingers who pull this crap. I got into a row with some liberal Democrats on Twitter Monday after suggesting that America needs a viable leftist party, but in the meantime that liberals and socialists should work together on shared policy goals. In response, I got yelled at. One whined about how leftists were responsible in Trump’s election. Another declared America will always be a “centrist” country and will forever deny such radical politics. One called me “genocidal manic” because Mussolini got his start as a socialist. I pointed out to the last one that the whole “socialism equals fascism” line is a right wing talking point and that fascists have always oppressed and killed socialist and communists, but they they would hear none of it.
Seems the Overton Window in further right than we thought.
A tiny nit-picking.
The nazis murdered at least 12 million people, most of them in camps, the rest by roving murder bands (einzats-kommandos. Most -but not all- were SS).
6 million were jews, the rest were rom, homosexuals, the intelligentsia of occupied countries, random people considered enemies, degenerates or just “asocial”.
Om top of this we have an unknown number of victims that starved to death when Germany confiscated all food.
Akira MacKenzie says
We’ve got a Tankie on the board.
Yes, and the A in AR-15 stands for “Armalite” not “assault” meaning that when the bullet penetrates your skull, it is no cause for alarm, but rather a celebration of 2nd amendment rights and the United States’ storied history of small arms manufacturers.
The older I get, the less patience I have for arguments about words.
‘Hitler moustache’ Capitol rioter sentenced to four years
Have you seen this on the BBC news website? Is it relevant?
Akira MacKenzie says
Oh, speaking of Russia, I just saw a item indicated that Putin’s new wave of
cannon fodderdraftees are being issued equipment from the early 20th century, particularly bolt action Mosin-Nagant rifles.
Yeah, this is going to end well.
@ ^ Akira MacKenzie : Heard today on TV news that apparnetly protesters against the war were getting not only arrested but then immediately drafted. I’m sure they’ll make great and happy solders.. The good new is Russia is clearly losing and getting desperate. The bad news is Putin is getting desperate because he knows he’s losing badly..
@23. Akira MacKenzie : “Another declared America will always be a “centrist” country ..”
The United States of America has NOT been “Centrist” since McCarthyism and possible before that.
(Does anyone actually not know about McCarthyism? I guess there are some who don’t? : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism )
Clearly, that “another” like so many others has no idea about how US politics compares to politics in most of Europe and many other OECD nations of the world – even in comparably-ish Murdoch blighted Oz and the UK.
I think this misunderstands the nature of fascism. Hitler was regarded as a joke until he was on the brink of power, and even once he was in office, the conventional right thought they could out-manouevre him because his beliefs and programme were so obviously loopy. Doctrinal incoherence, ambiguity about whether “he means it”, obvious ignorance, are not bugs for a fascist “strongman” – they are features. Note that it was Trump, and not De Santis or any other leader with “some brains”, who actually made it to the White House, and is still dominating both the Republican Party and the national conversation.
It can’t read that without immediately thinking of this scene from Manhattan:
Bricks and baseball bats have their own risks, but fighting Nazis with brilliant takedowns is clearly ineffective.
Akira MacKenzie says
Oh, that’s not a recipe for mutiny. /s
When you open with a straw man, it’s difficult to believe anything after will be honest discourse.
The thing about “fascism” is that we have corporate capture of both major political parties. About the only thing those parties can seem to agree on, the only legislation always passed without threat of fear, is funding for the military and intelligence agencies and the continual erosion of our civil liberties. R’s take the blame for concentration camps and for being the world’s prison, but those were D operations. Both D and R have made the US the world’s terrorist state.
Partisans fail to see their own party’s sins and purely blame the other party.
Here’s another hint at fascism: your party isn’t of you or like you or even for you. It just uses you . . . to help corporations rob you! Yes, so does the other party, and I’m sure they’re worse, even though they’re both fascist.
PaulBC @ 31
We are in agreement. But I am on the wrong side of the ocean, and if I tried to recruit some American to do to your fascists what should have been done to Mussolini pre-1922 I am pretty sure the NSA will come down on it like a load of bricks.
Also, DeSantis is dangerous because he is just that tiny bit more cunning than that guy who keeps admitting to crimes on TV.
The latter is OK if you are a billionaire, but if you are also into politics there is a risk that the laws will be applied to you. Eventually. After a six-year wait.
When you open with a claim that something unspecified put forward by an unidentified person is a “straw man”, everyone knows you’re a liar, and the rest of your dribble can be ignored.
“Peter Cook, who, in founding the Establishment Club in 1961, said it was to be a satirical venue modelled on “those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War”.”
Considering that McCarthyism was the second Red Scare in the U.S. (the first having started after he October Revolution and ran for only a few years before it fell out of the media spotlight because none of the specific pronouncements of imminent attacks happened) I’d have to come down on the ‘before that’ side of the statement above. The first Red Scare happened while McCarthy was a child (he was born in 1908, the Scare was 1917-1920 or so) and so he grew up steeped in anti-Commie rhetoric from pretty early on.
birgerjohansson@34 To be honest, I am not a violent person, and I like Woody Guthrie’s guitar inscription “This machine kills fascists” (guitars or baseball bats, the age-old Woody vs. Woody dichotomy, no I swear that part is just a coincidence).
I don’t dismiss out of hand that artistic expression can be powerful (the pen is mightier than the sword and all that) but not all forms of expression are equal. Expression that evokes feelings can stir people to action, and that’s what Guthrie was going for, whether it was anti-fascist or pro-union. Get people singing a song together, and you may be able to get other forms of collective action. At least you get them paying attention and caring about what’s going on.
Satire, however, often has the opposite effect of distancing and insulating people from the problem. If Trump is a big joke, then he’s not perceived as a real threat. Not until it stops being funny, and that’s too late. I have watched my party laugh themselves to one election defeat after another. Our opponents don’t always win, but I have never seen them act as it’s enough to show you’re intellectually superior. The people in charge are still the ones who will set policy.
Classical satirists may have been effective, and authoritarian leaders certainly do try to suppress them. But the kind of humor you get from The Daily Show and similar (not to knock them as entertainment) is more a form of self-soothing than a call to action.
Louis@37 OT. I really enjoyed Peter Cook’s performance as the devil in the original Bedazzled (1967). I don’t think I’ve seen much of his other work (there’s his small part in The Princess Bride).
I don’t know exactly when the US was “centrist” or how it ties to McCarthyism, but there was a short period when it looked like we had a pragmatic take on the role of government in establishing minimal standards of well-being. That would be roughly from the start of the The New Deal to the beginning of Reaganomics, and many of its benefits were non-existent unless you were white.
The whole time the rightwing was screaming that it was communism, and they’re still trying to take down social security and Medicare, despite the popularity of these programs. Public housing does not look successful in retrospect, but maybe if it had been undertaken as a way to provide affordable housing rather than a way to enforce segregation, the outcome could have been very different. (E.g., are high rise projects intrinsically problematic… because “incentives” “collectivism” “tragedy of the commons”… or was the whole system set up for failure by people whose sole definition of “success” was coming up with a way to keep blue collar white people from associating with blue collar Black people. But I digress.)
Obviously none of this was utopia. There was still some sense among the voting population (a strict subset of the actual population) that we were all living in the same country. That was even still true in the 80s. I would set 1994 and Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” as the point when things really went off the rails though I’m sure there was plenty warning signs going much further back. By this point, it’s done, stick a fork in it.
Peter Cook appeared in three BBC TV series with Dudley Moore, entitled “Not Only… But Also”, between 1964 and 1970. I remember them as being brilliant, but for the most part, can’t check this, as the idiot BBC wiped most of the tapes in the early 1970s, as they did those of many early TV programmes, for reasons no-one seems to know. Cook was also one of the founders of the British satirical magazine Private Eye, which is still published. And I’m amazed by how numerous his film and TV appearances were.
I think that the right wing does often have an advantage in US politics because the national mythos of “rugged individualism” and the idea that everyone should be responsible for themselves fits in better with capitalism than it does with socialism. Of course, racism has been a huge ulcer at the heart of US culture since before there even was a US. Add the fact that religion in the US has been more likely to support the right than the left (though not always), and the lingering legacy of the Cold War, and anything even moderately leftist has a lot of big obstacles to surmount in this country.
The US also has a tradition of anti-intellectualism, but I actually don’t think that has necessarily been as important a factor as some people think. Most European countries had a much stronger tradition of respect for intellectuals, but that didn’t prevent the rise of fascism and nazism and other right wing movements nearly a century ago, and it isn’t preventing a new wave of right-wing movements now. I don’t see any evidence that intellectualism protects a country or a society from right-wing extremism and bigotry.
Pierce R. Butler says
Akira MacKenzie @ # 7: EDIT: Even when calling they’re…
You had it right the first time (though you needed another adverb like “out”).
A theme running through Burns’ THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST is the U.S.’s unrelenting hostility to immigration—from the earliest European settlers, to now. The U.S. stalwart immigration quota system led to the deaths of thousands or more people—refugees, in WWII. Quotas were supported by the usual characters—Southern senators, and “Conservatives.” Same as today. One of the reasons for keeping out Jews was that they could be embedded Nazi spies.
As the writer Daniel Mendelsohn, who shares his family’s story says about the citizenry in Nazi Germany “…they’re no different from us. You look at your neighbors, the people at the dry cleaner, the waiters in the restaurant. That’s who these people were. Don’t kid yourself.”
Akira MacKenzie says
Yeah, I see that now. I should never post after three hours of sleep and before my morning coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.
Akira MacKenzie says
Yeah, I see that now. I should never post after three hours of sleep and before my morning coffee hasn’t kicked in.
@38. jenorafeuer : Thanks. Didn’t know about that before.
Meanwhile in Italy & thinking unavoidable comparisons and history what #43 springa73 wrote above too :
KG@42 the common belief is that the video tapes of all sorts of things were wiped simply because of cheapness. Why archive something when you could reuse the tape and save a few bucks?
timgueguen@49 Funny you should mention that. I just had the Wikipedia page up for Peter Cook and read this
But I’m sure it was a common assumption that these shows had aired once and were of no further interest. There wasn’t much respect for TV at the time, deservedly in most cases (Sturgeon’s law, yadda yadda).
John Morales says
I suppose you could try to recreate the episodes with CGI.
@ 52 PaulBC
Not CGI but Whovians are way ahead of you.
Jan 6 was the big “I told you so” moment for those around me who didn’t believe that Trump was fascist.
The scary thing is that any trumpista I speak to in person admits that that shit was dictator shit but still support him anyways. Any non fascist republican probably voting democrat next general and I dont think there are that many of them as its still the party of trump.
Well it comes from someone deeply into researching QAnon:
“Beirich: People often say you shouldn’t point to the 1930s and the rise of the Nazis as similar to what the United States is facing. But there are actually similarities to that time period. You have the rise of a leader who is overtly authoritarian, who is challenging a democratic system, by saying our whole election system is bogus and corrupt. You also have things going on on the streets like Proud Boy rallies that are sort of reminiscent with the brown shirts.
You have the rise of the far right in multiple countries. It’s not just here in the United States. You would have seen that in Sweden, the Swedish Democrats are going to form the government there after the elections about a week ago, and that’s a party that is literally rooted in neo-Nazism. There’s about to probably be another far-right winner in Italy, who has connections to a lot of extremist groups and who idolizes Mussolini. It’s hard not to think about the 1930s as somewhat reminiscent of what we’re experiencing right now. For me, this is quite frightening because we all know where that led, and it was horrific.”
I had heard Trump was coopting Q related stuff lately, but wasn’t aware of the extent. Scary.
hemidactylus@55 quoting Joseph Gedeon at Politico,
The Swedish election result is alarming, and shameful, enough, but the Sweden [not “Swedish”] Democrats are not going to “form the government”. The leader of the self-styled “Moderates” has been tasked to form a government, and one of the other “respectable” parties of the right, the “Liberals”, whose support he will need, have explicitly ruled out being in government with the Nazis. The Nazis will undoubtedly have a considerable influence, but in any case, racist discourse has been thoroughly normalised in Sweden (as also in Denmark), with even the Social Democrats joining in.
It’s tough to wave the white-blue-and-red pom-poms too vigourously, as the red keeps dripping off the bottom.