“The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” – Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1926
It was on this day, 30 January in 1933 that Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany. Eighty-four years ago today was the start of what would become an empire of evil.
Control of newspapers was put into the hands of Joseph Goebbels, the head of the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda. Goebbels set up a department within the ministry that dealt solely with newspapers. The newspapers had to spread the same message as everything else – Gleischaltung – the coordination of the whole of Nazi German society so that it acted and thought the same. Therefore, people could only read the news as it was presented to them by the government. (Keep in mind that this was before the age of television and the internet, so radio and newspapers were the primary venues for information)
The official newspaper of the Third Reich was the ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’, which translated as ‘Racial Observer’. It was anti-Semite, anti-Communist, anti-liberal and completely fawning towards Hitler. In addition, Joseph Goebbels had his own newspaper, ‘Der Angriff’, translated as ‘The Assault’, which also supported Hitler and National Socialism and pushed Nazi ideas.
At its peak, Goebbels supervised more than 3,600 newspapers and hundreds of magazines. He met the editors of the Berlin newspapers each morning and told them what could be printed and what could not.
Fast forward 84 years and half a globe away:
Trump, the head of the governing administration in the U.S., has selected as his chief advisor Steve Bannon, a self-professed white supremacist who, until recently, headed the right-wing, white supremacist media outlet, Breitbart. It is to be believed he still has much control over the organization, an organization that is anti-LGBT, racist, sexist, pro-Nazi, anti-immigrant, and fawns entirely over Trump. Here is what Mr. Bannon had to say to the press last weekend:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Sources inside the White House say that Bannon wrote a portion of Trump’s inaugural speech and has written most, if not all of his disastrous ‘executive orders’ In addition to Breitbart being a mouthpiece for Trump, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, owns and publishes the New York Observer.
In an interview last August, Bannon was quoted as saying, “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” More recently he commented on two news outlets: “National Review and The Weekly Standard are both left-wing magazines, and I want to destroy them also. No one reads them or cares what they say.”
And this: “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s … “ As exciting as the 1930s .. the 1930s when Hitler came to power and the world would never be quite the same again.
Last October, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued this warning: “[Donald] Trump has insulted and vilified the press and has made his opposition to the media a centerpiece of his campaign. A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States.”
Throughout his campaign, Trump has vilified the press, calling them liars, disgusting, and scum. What is more frightening, however, is that some of his supporters took this as a declaration of “open season” on journalists. A few of the more horrific examples:
- Julia Ioffe wrote an article for GQ Magazine that was critical of Trump’s current wife, Melania. Within days Ms. Ioffe had received a barrage of anti-Semitic mail and a number of death threats.
- Kurt Eichenwald, noted author and writer for Newsweek who has frequently spoken of his epilepsy, received a tweet from a Trump supporter that triggered a seizure. Yes, folks that CAN happen … I had a cousin who had epilepsy and even the flashing lights on certain television programs would trigger a seizure.
- At his rallies, his supporters were so vociferous, screaming ‘boos’ and using obscene gestures, that in several instances, journalists had to be escorted by police in riot gear.
Yes indeed, some of Trump’s supporters are a really class act, aren’t they? His fan base is more of a problem than just hate-mail, vitriol and death threats, however. They lend him legitimacy in his fight against the press and others. They feed his ego. Trump could never do to our press what Hitler did to Germany’s, right? I mean, we have laws, we have the Constitution, the 1st amendment. But … if the majority in Congress support him almost without reservation, and if he nominates a like-thinking Supreme Court Justice to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia …. who stops him? The Constitution, you say. But who interprets the Constitution? The Supreme Court. Who enacts the laws of the land? Congress.
Already, Trump has shown that he is intent on bypassing the system for making laws, and simply imposing his will on the country via a series of ‘executive orders’. Already he considers that the press is his enemy, that there is a war on between himself and the press. Already he has threatened to sue any media organization that fails to play nice with him. Already he has used such smokescreen tactics as those I have mentioned before: red herrings, spin, and that can o’ worms – alternative facts. Already Bannon is considering relocating the White House press corps outside the White House, effectively limiting their informational flow. Already the press is being spoon-fed what the administration wants it to know, with other things almost certainly taking place behind the scenes.
Many, even those who are not Trump supporters, say I am seeing monsters in the closet or jumping at shadows when I make comparisons between Hitler and Trump, Goebbels and Bannon, and the situation in Germany in the 1930s with the situation in the U.S. in 2017. I don’t think I am, but even if I am stretching my imagination, I still see enough similarities to send a chill down my spine as I write this post. I hope I am wrong, but even if I am, I would rather be ever-vigilant and find it was an unnecessary precaution than fail to take the precaution and find out I was right. This is one time there would be no joy in having to say, “I told you so”.