"Selling Hitler" notes pp 28-40
Weimar was always the target. It was vulnerable because many did not accept its legitimacy, and because it was there: it stood in the way of Nazi power.
The original context for this is that after the loss of the first world war, Germany was saddled with reparations, lost a lot of territory, and was in economic freefall. The government that agreed to these terms was not seen as legitimate, and therefore, ripe for being undermined and discredited. The treaty of Versailles was a painful and lasting reminder of Germany's fall that continued to be a gift for Nazi propaganda in the 20s and 30s.
Modern context: reading this phrase in November 2020 was quite a shock. After presidential elections of November 3, 2020, that really struck a nerve. As Trump refuses (still, as of Dec 25 2020) to acknowledge Biden's win after a decisive election (306 electoral votes for Biden vs 232 for Trump, over 7 million popular votes more for Biden) and after lost or withdrawn over 50 court cases winning just one, his party and supporters continue to claim election fraud without any evidence whatsoever. Cases of fraud discovered were, in fact, done by Trump supporters.
Of course, there's the old birther movement of the Obama years which claimed (with Trump in the lead), baselessly, that Obama was not a US citizen - thus delegitimizing his presidency... but I digress.
The entire election fraud movement is critical - because it sets up a scene for millions of Republican supporters where the newly elected Democratic government is illegitimate, and therefore should be rightfully undermined. In that context, any action by Republicans that supports 'resistance' to the 'illegitimate' presidency would, therefore, be patriotic and correct. This sets up a foundation for subversion and guerilla warfare.
Just like the Nazis did in 1920s, Republicans of the 2020s are setting up a framework for treating the democratically elected government as illegitimate.
Jay Gonen discusses the nature of Hitler's appeal from a psychiatrist's perspective, specifically the issue of unassimilated trauma, that is to say, the losses of the Great War which the Germans would neither understand nor reconcile themselves to.73
In the original context, the 'unassimilated trauma' was due to the loss of the first world war. From the perspective of many Germans, the great army did not lose because it was inferior; it lost - and this is the view to which Hitler subscribed - because the British employed superior propaganda. Emotional appeal to those suffering from such trauma made it easier for Hitler to convert ordinary Germans to his cause.
The modern context is a bit different. The United States didn't lose any great wars in recent history. There are no reparations we have to pay. We were well regarded outside our borders (for the most part, and until Trump came along); our military exploits were all successful (at least until the nation-building was to commence). So what's our trauma?
Republicans have been manufacturing trauma for their base for decades. Declining relative populations of white people in an increasingly diverse country has been creating anxiety, as do issues that have outsized importance to certain republican constituents. Immigration, abortion, religious "freedom" controversies, gun control - any issue that could be used to create a sense of oppression of the "real" Americans by the "liberal elites" was exploited, sensationalized, and repeated by Republican politicians and media ad nauseum.
Decades of manufactured trauma allowed for an emotional appeal to the anxious, scared, and energized base which lacks access to - or trust in - actual, rather than 'alternative', facts. Emotional decisions aren't subject to reason, which makes it easier to create an illusory reality only tenuously connected to the one we actually live in.
He [ed. Jay Gonen] sees in the emotions exploited by the Nazis an expression of infantile regression, and an inability to interpret confusing signals. The reaction was fury: the primal scream of Fascism.
Observe similarities to this in the republican base - and, of course, in Trump. "Lock her up", "Make Liberals Cry Again", "No more bullshit", name-calling, atrocious spelling and grammar, lack of basic knowledge of the world, science denial, belligerence, aggression, guns, etc. All seems like infantile regression and rage. Anything that doesn't fit the simplistic, narrow interpretation of the world is elitist and deserving of being mocked and screamed at.
Hatred of Weimar was ultimately a hatred of the idea of democracy itself and its many compromises and weaknesses.
I don't think Republicans care very much for democracy anymore. I might have hesitated to say this before the election, but it's pretty clear they think democracy is for losers. Not only has Trump not acknowledged defeat, most of the Republican congress hasn't either, and a large portion of the population still thinks there was wide-spread election fraud as Trump continues to repeat. Republicans have gone as far as to request courts to through out mail-in votes and disenfranchise millions of voters. Invoking the Insurrection Act has been brought up; In Georgia, the governor had to reject calls by some state lawmakers to call a special session to overturn election results.
The great rise of the Nazis began with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and Hitler's alliance with the media baron Alfred Hugenberg to fight the Young Plan, and industrial funding now seeped in.80
The economy, which recovered under Obama after the Great Recession of 2008 and continued along that trajectory under Trump, completely tanked in 2020 thanks to Republican disastrous response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The trade war with China didn't help, either, costing Americans between 0.3% and 0.7% GDP without delivering any real benefit. We are currently in deep trouble. The conditions aren't good.
I don't need to tell you about Fox News, The Blaze, Breitbart, OAN, Rush Limbaugh, Ben Shapiro, Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, and the like. Their lies and distortions continue to radicalize regular Americans into subverting democracy.
The Nazis attributed complex problems to simple causes such as the 'system [i.e. Weimar] parties', the Marxists, the plutocrats, the Jews;
Doesn't that sound familiar? "Drain the Swamp", "Build the Wall"; keep the Muslims out, SOCIALISM, Liberal Elites, the Mexicans.
There were price controls, wage cuts, and pensions were slashed; there was a banking crisis.
...and here we are, in 2020, with record low employment, businesses having to close down due to the pandemic, health insurance costs still sky-high, and the government continues to fail to support the most vulnerable. I'd say conditions are analogous to what Germany was experiencing.
The post-war labour movement also tended to eschew the rhetorical largely because they were now in power.
I thought this was an interesting reflection on how rhetorical complacency did Weimar no favors. We need to make sure Democrats do not repeat this particular mistake.
In the town of Northeim, three out of five were voting Nazi on the brink of the Third Reich era, and powering this vote was middle class terror of the Great Depression.
Traditionally, Republicans have done better when voters had to choose economic success. Somehow their propaganda machine convinced folks that they were better at managing money. Of course, this is complete bunk - from the thoroughly debunked "trickle-down economics" to "trade wars are easy and easy to win", Republicans invariably destroy middle class economic success while also gutting social safety spending. Democrats must drive this message home relentlessly!
But events have to be interpreted, and this is what propaganda does: it defines their meaning, and then it broadcasts this.
...and Hitler, portrayed as the one man who could save Germany and lead Germans to the promised land of the Third Reich.
" I am the only one who can make America truly great again!" ~Trump 2015.
Yet a casual reading of his speeches suggests a vacuity, an absence of content, and, often, saccharine sentiments which even a liberal would not object to.
Not sure about the last part, but has there been presence of content in any of Trump's speeches? Anyone have any statistics on Republican vs Democratic politicians and vacuous lip service?
Nazi propaganda was at its most effective when it resonated with commonly held beliefs.
That makes sense. Of course, in the age of 24 hour news networks and the disinformation networks previously mentioned, commonly held beliefs get created thanks to the propaganda. It's a vicious cycle.
Yet the Nazis were not naive ideologues and never lost the central point - it is power that matters, and any method, any hypocrisy, can be used to gain it.
Ho-ly shit. Mitch McConnell, anyone? Although the entire Republican party signed the hypocrisy pledge, I'm sure.
Their [Nazi] skill lay in seizing the moment, in turning a public crisis into a private opportunity via the mystification of propaganda.
Republicans are exceedingly good at this. They manage to blame Pelosi and the Democrats and further demonize the opposition while getting support - especially for things that they themselves do. One recent example is the stimulus bill. McConnell sat on this one for months, then put some poison pills into it and blamed Pelosi when she refused to accept it. Another good one is when Trump loses the election and continues to fleece his supporters by asking for donations.
The year prior to Hitler's appointment as chancellor, 1932, was one of perpetual campaigning
Remind you of Trump over the last several years? He keeps using his office for campaign rallies.
Hitler was the first political leader to see clearly the similarity between selling a commercial product and marketing a politician to the people... to understand the value of shock tactics in grabbing media attention; and to perceive that the endless repetition of simple slogans was more important for winning the masses than a consistent doctrine or an inflexible party programme.
Well this is just brilliant. This practically describes 2015-2020 in Republican Trumpistan.
Contradiction was never a problem
Here's just one example (Trump speech at the Republican National Convention). I’m sure you can find more as easily as I can.
...full blast of the Nazi propaganda machine was directed at the new chancellor Franz von Papen and his 'corrupt' camarilla, or clique, of patrician junkers.
"Drain the swamp", anyone? Democrats are all corrupt, etc etc etc.
There then followed an election in the miniature state of Lippe [...]. IN the words of one authority, John Weitz, 'the fate of 70 million Germans was to be decided by 100,000 voters!' The Nazis ultimately won 39.5 per cent of the vote and subsequently 'trumpeted their "fantastic reversal of fortune"149
Of course we remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million, so the fate of 300,000 million Americans was decided by a few electoral votes. Trump trumpeted his 'landslide' election win.
Reassurances were given to President Hindenburg that the cabinet conservatives would control Hitler
Huh. Where have I heard that before? Oh right. Republicans were going to be "the adults in the room."
There was a further election in March 1933. However, this campaign was menaced by armed storm troopers and a Nazi-nationalist near-monopoly over the media.
We're not there yet, but... "stand back and stand by" call out to the so-called "Proud Boys" is certainly not reassuring, and neither is the propensity of some Trump Republican supporters to show up to public events flaunting their weapons and dressed in fatigues, like some scary cosplay convention. Couple this with recent mentions of the Insurrection Act, and suddenly this isn't completely and totally far-fetched.
The new or renewed Germany immediately embarked on a policy of global confrontation and re-writing of the post-1918 political settlement and the Versailles Treaty, beginning with Hitler's announcement of Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations on 14 October 1933. This was a gesture freighted with symbolism. The international community was no longer relevant to Germany; in fact, it was contemptible, and from here on in Nazi Germany would forge its own destiny independent of treaties, pacts, and the like.
This sounds very much like "America First", don't you think?
Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, from the World Health Organization, from the International mail treaty, Open Skies treaty, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Universal Postal Union, Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights with Iran, Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, etc. (here's a longer list from CNN list, although it's not up-to-date)
and from the beginning media was an adjunct of government policy
One word: Twitter. I'd already brought up the rest of the Republican propaganda flunkies w/ Fox News and the like. The major difference is that Twitter gives Trump direct access to his audience in a way that makes it a 'direct adjunct of government policy.'
This decapitation of the German army consequently made it much easer to wage aggressive wars of conquest.
This quote references Hitler's expulsion of the Army's two top men. We have a recent parallel of this as well; hopefully our military has more safeguards built-in, but it doesn't mean Republicans won't try to get it involved in the ongoing coup attempts now - or later.