Bob Shepherd: Are Trump and His Allies Fascists?

I tread softly when it comes to making comparisons to Donald Trump & Hitler, to trumpism and fascism, for it can often sound like sour grapes, like hyperbole. But last Friday, Diane Ravitch dedicated the bulk of one post to Bob Shepherd, one of the wisest men I know of, and his post about the comparisons of Trump and his ideology, if he can be said to have one, vs that of fascist leaders in the past, primarily Hitler. I think he makes his point quite well. The post is a bit long, but fascinating and thought-provoking, so I really hope you’ll take the time to read it. Thank you, Diane and Bob!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bob Shepherd is a polymath and a daily reader of the blog. He has been involved in every aspect of educational publishing, and most recently, he was a teacher in Florida. He graciously offered to help me with two of my books—The Language Police and Slaying Goliath—by carefully editing them before they were turned in to the publisher. And we have never met!

He wrote on his own blog:

A few years back, a friend, someone whom I respect, challenged me on Facebook, saying that Trump might be a lot of things, but he wasn’t an actual Fascist. Well, I beg to differ. If it steps like a goose, . . .

Here are a few of the clear signs that, yes, Fascist is precisely the term to describe Trump, his supporters, and those who wish to assume the orange mantle:

Alliance with other Fascists/Authoritarians. D.T. allied himself…

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Teaching Our Kids … WHAT??????

I have written more than once about my disgust at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others whitewashing the teaching of history.  I think it is criminal to hide from our young people the past that had such a significant effect on who and what we are today.  Failure to teach the true history and the lessons learned from our past mistakes can only lead to making the same mistakes again at some point in the future.  But last night I read something that made my jaw drop even more, and I think you will agree that this is even more damning than the whitewashing of history – the teaching of false history!

At Mount Eden High School in the San Francisco bay area, English teacher Henry Bens has basically been teaching a class in anti-Semitism.  Worse yet, students have been complaining to school officials for two months and nothing has been done until this week!  Even now, Mr. Bens is on leave for two weeks while school officials ‘investigate’ the allegations against him.

Students in his class said that Mr. Bens frequently uses the Nazi salute while chanting “Heil Hitler” in class, but that is only the beginning.  Part of the curriculum for the tenth grade English class is Elie Wiesel’s holocaust memoir Night.  Mr. Bens apparently felt that somehow the Holocaust had two sides, and thus he also handed out a pamphlet, The Hidden Tyranny, which details wild conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination.  Teresa Drenick of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls it one of the “most virulently antisemitic texts in existence.”  The pamphlet falsely claims that Jewish people secretly control a “brainwashing” media monopoly as well as the economy and U.S. government.  Sound familiar?  Rather like a certain former guy saying, after a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 that “there are good people on both sides.”

Bens has told his students that “Hitler was not a bad person” and that they (the students) have been indoctrinated to believe only one side of the story of the Holocaust.  He told them that everything they knew was a lie and that he would “remove the blindfold.”  A senior student at Mount Eden said that “The administration was made aware on Dec. 13th, and they have not yet intervened by stepping into the classroom to help students.”

One student recorded Bens in the classroom, and Bens can be heard telling the class, “If I was alive during Hitler’s time, I would have an interview with him. I would let him share his views.”

Numerous students have complained on more than one occasion, but for whatever reason, the school administration has done nothing until this week.  But not all students are complaining, and notably some are buying into his hate-filled rhetoric.  Some even told school staff that they believe the information and agree with what Bens said.

Annie Mladinich, chair of the school’s history department, said she and her colleagues are very concerned about this and they plan to create a lesson plan on antisemitism, to present to all classes on a chosen day in the coming weeks.

“As a department, we’re very upset. There’s no two sides to the Holocaust or to Hitler.”

Another student, currently a senior, said he’d seen the same kind of behavior two years ago when he took the same class.

“I ignored what he said then. I’m not going to ignore it [when he’s] saying the same anti-Jewish hateful conspiracies I heard from him then.”

Mr. Bens is also, believe it or not, the pastor of a local church.  He frequently posts anti-semitic posts on Facebook, but when I sought them last night, they had either been removed or made ‘private’, but in one news story I read that he praised Kanye West’s support of Hitler and also taken potshots at the LGBTQ community.

I will be keeping an eye on the continuing developments of this story.  I find it unconscionable that school officials did nothing for two months but at the very least I expect him to lose his job and his teaching certificate!  I’ll keep you posted.  Oh, and you might be surprised to see Mr. Bens …

Plenty of Money, No Conscience

I have never been a fan of Elon Musk, but then I’m not a fan of wealthy people who waste their wealth on frivolous ‘toys’ rather than helping people in need.  I see them as people without conscience, without a sense of social responsibility.  Well, as Dan Rather shows us in an email I received yesterday, Mr. Musk has proven what sort of person he is …

This is Not Okay

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

This won’t take long. Because there’s not much to say.

It involves something that went out earlier today on Twitter, that social media platform that limits thoughts to 280 characters and can be both inspirational and a cesspool. One user who tends to wade into the latter is the tech billionaire Elon Musk, who posted and then deleted a Tweet that created quite a stir. That he eventually removed his Tweet is welcomed, but it is far from sufficient.

Here is an image of what Musk shared:

For context, Musk posted his tweet in response to this:

I do not want to get bogged down in the details of cryptocurrency, the Canadian government, or the truck blockade. Those are all important stories that deserve their own treatment. I want to get at something far more basic. There are no words to capture the depravity of what Musk did in using a meme of Adolf Hitler, but words are what we have so we must try. It was offensive, disgusting, and shameful. It trafficked in the basest currencies of hate and ignorance.

This kind of dangerous rhetoric cannot go unchallenged. I cannot imagine any respected national public figure in my lifetime doing something like this. It’s not some “tech dude” being provocative. This is appropriating the deaths of millions of people to make a snarky political comment. And Musk is not alone. More and more we are hearing Hitler and the Nazis invoked to demonize science, knowledge, public health, and social and racial justice. There can be no false equivalence in how widespread the Third Reich is used by right-wing actors in their political and social attacks. But we should denounce all instances where the specter of Nazism is bandied about with abandon.

On the individual level this raises serious concerns about Musk, whose public pronouncements have become increasingly strident and aligned with fringe political actors. Meanwhile, his company Tesla is being sued in California for racism.

The opprobrium Musk is getting is well warranted. His behavior raises many questions. Will it hurt the popularity of his Tesla cars? What will it mean for his SpaceX company’s contracts with NASA? Or, will anyone really care? Is this all just normal now, within the spectrum of what is considered “acceptable”?

The fact that he decided to delete his tweet is encouraging, and in ways that are much bigger than Musk, or this incident.

I am confident that the vast majority of Americans and people around the globe find this rhetoric reprehensible. Just because you are a feted centibillionaire (a new word for those in the $100 billion club) doesn’t mean you can get away with this outrageousness. When people rise up and say, “No,” “This is not okay,” “We will not let it stand unchallenged,” the world has no choice but to pay attention. There can be swelling choruses for good. Public pressure can lead to better outcomes.

More generally, we also need to teach more history. There is a great danger in forgetting, about the holocaust, and about other manifestations of hate. When the forces of intolerance push against our common humanity, they must feel a repelling force of dignity and hope. Bullies will not slink back into their holes if their dangerous words are ignored; they will only get louder. But even those with the biggest pulpit cannot ignore the majority when it speaks in powerful unison.

No Mr. Musk, this is not going to be allowed. Even those with unlimited funds can be bankrupt of decency. My hope is that this episode causes Musk to pause and reflect. I desperately desire that we can find ways to start to pull back from some of this caustic rhetoric. And that those who will not, will hear about it.

“But Your Friends are Fewer Now” Milton Meyer’s “They Thought They Were Free” and 2020 America

More than a few times I have wondered how the Germans in 1933 did not see what was coming. Surely the signs were all there, surely at least some were intellectuals who should have been able to foresee and act to stop the madness. Padre Steve’s post from a few days quotes a chapter from Milton Mayer’s book, “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945” that sheds a bit of light on how the Germans failed to see what was coming in the early days. It is a bit lengthy, but well worth the time to read. Thank you, Padre!

The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This article is basically a rerun because I thought it was pertinent and instead of doing much online I was catching up on correspondence with a number of people including friends in Germany and and trying my best to write in the best German that I could. Today was a remarkable day at our shipyard as our commander dealt directly with the dual disasters, COVID19 and the murder of George Floyd. It was inspiring. I had a part to play, but it was behind the scenes, and that is totally okay with me.

The article tonight is a chapter from Milton Mayer’s “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945.” Mayer was a visiting professor at the University of Frankfurt in the 1950s and lived in a small Hessian town near the city. The book is about the relationships that he built with…

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Dorothy Thompson, the Journalist Who Warned the World About Adolf Hitler

Have you ever heard of Dorothy Thompson? I hadn’t either until our blogging-buddy Mary posted a link to another blog that she thought relevant to my topic-of-the-moment, Trump’s racism. Turns out that Ms. Thompson was a quite notable journalist during WWII, and had the distinction of being the first U.S. journalist to be expelled from Germany by Hitler! This post is noteworthy for three reasons: 1) it is fascinating and I learned much that I didn’t already know; 2) it is very well-written; 3) parts of it are chilling, as you will see, when compared to the situation in the U.S. today. Please take a minute to read and think about this post. Thank you, Peter, for permission to share this with my readers!

Embrace Serendipity

I write for fun, but not everyone has that luxury. A great many people in the world write to earn their living and I have always thought that to be a tough way to go: deadlines are a pain, and I can attest to that after publishing a small journal for a few years. There is this challenge to stay relevant and also inspired enough to write every day are the fabric of nightmares and sleepless nights, but some people excel at it.temerity

I was struck over this past weekend by the brazen cowardice of the U.S. Congress. It astounded me that a sitting president would tell elected members of Congress that they should go back to some country they “came from” and that

seehearspeakThe U.S. Congress

Congress would sit by silent as brass monkeys. Yet… that is what happened.

One word that has largely disappeared from our vocabulary is…

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