By David Loomis
INDIANA — Is it just me? Or is a focus on fascism pervasive in media at this moment?
Maybe it’s me. After absorbing the 2016 presidential election, especially the part about Russian interference and Trump’s collusion, I read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” journalist William L. Shirer’s exhaustive 1,100-page account of Nazi Germany based on his personal contemporaneous reporting and his exclusive deep dive into the German archives after World War II.
Does Shirer’s Reich history teach us anything? Yes: It had “few, if any, parallels in history,” he concluded, Germans largely supported Hitler’s rise, and defeated Germans displayed “little bitterness” toward Hitler six months after their destruction.
Or maybe it’s current media. News reports and film dramatizations have brought close-ups of fascism here and now.
The first anniversary of the deadly August 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, for example, revived images of neo-fascists, neo-Confederates, anti-Semites, alt-right advocates, white nationalists, swastikas, Iron Crosses, Confederate battle flags and other symbols of hate and division, all in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson’s temple of enlightenment.
“The Darkest Hour” re-told Winston Churchill’s fateful 1940 decision to fight fascism, against all odds. The film release followed by six months “Dunkirk,” set at the same pivotal tipping point in the allied fight against Hitler’s Nazism and Mussolini’s fascism.
Just out is “July 22,” a Netflix release about Norway’s deadliest terrorist attack by a right-wing extremist who in 2011 massacred 77 teen-agers at a youth camp.
THIS WEEK, The New York Times published a short video titled, “If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be,” by Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley. The video summarizes his recently published book, “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.”
Stanley draws links between Mussolini and Hitler then, and Duterte, Erdogan, Orban and others of their ilk in Germany, Hungary, India, Italy and Myanmar now. And in the United States.
Stanley, descended from Jewish refugees of Hitler’s Final Solution, lists three strategies that fascists share:
1) They glorify a mythic past, usually destroyed by hated liberals. For Hitler, it was the militaristic fatherland before its inglorious defeat in World War I. For Mussolini, it was the glories of ancient Rome, as recounted by a descendant of Italian refugees in a recent letter to the editor in The Indiana Gazette. Both leaders stoked hatred of communists.
2) They sow division. Mussolini promoted his Italian racial purity laws. Hitler’s white supremacy did the same, targeting Jews, gypsies and other undesirables. In the U.S., Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s recent portrait of Trump is titled “Fear.” The word is taken from a Trump interview with the author in which the future president said, “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, fear.”
3) They attack truth. “Enemies of the people” is a favored phrase, usually aimed at critics and journalists. Others include “truth isn’t truth” and “alternative facts.” Traffic in conspiracy theories is heavy, about George Soros, Qanon, the now vintage birtherism, the classic swiftboating, and so on.
TODAY, IUP hosts timely elaborations on these themes with a series of free public presentations about the roots and results of Nazism and the Holocaust. Presenters of these open-to-the-public testimonies are credentialed experts. (Or, as the people they study might say, “elites.”)
Among the presenters is Moshe Baran and fellow Holocaust survivor Harry Schneider. Baran will reprise his April 9 campus appearance when he outdrew by 4 to 1 Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, who brought his endless attack on liberals to the Kovalchick Center.
IF THE NOV. 6 MIDTERM elections are a national referendum on the incumbent president and his politics of a mythic past, of disunity and of lies, then today’s Holocaust program provides a timely voters’ study guide.
David Loomis, Ph.D., retired associate professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is editor of The HawkEye. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The HawkEye invites comments on this and other opinions on issues of community interest.