Strange Brouhaha

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Yeah, but HOW?

This melancholy essay on the power of fanatical nationalism to sweep civilization aside is worth reading. But Scheer acts as if the Nazi phenomenon just plopped down in everyone's midst one day in Deutschland and that was that.

No. It was carefully and deliberately crafted by individuals, and one thing which I think has gotten too little attention has been the role of propaganda in the Nazi ascension. In other words, there's too much about Hitler, not enough about Goebbels.

In a way, Hitler was just a symbol. A strong case can be made that Goebbels was the real heart of National Socialism. He hated Jews even more fanatically than Hitler did, if you can imagine, and I think that the Final Solution was actually *his* idea. He also happened to be an early mass-media genius. He was the one who whipped people into irrational frenzies, played on their darkest fears and subconscious conflicts, promised them their dearest hopes, lied to them outright when necessary, unfurled those giant swastika banners to make them feel cowed before the vastness of Nazi power, made them feel like everyone else was on board so they should be too. When you see the theater of fascism, when you see those terrifying parades of Nazi soldiers on the History Channel, when you see Hitler spitting into the microphone as he screams out his nutbar speeches in front of the banners and the adoring crowds, when you see the crowds making the fascist salute, you are seeing the work of Josef Goebbels. You are seeing his vision. *That* is what people bought into. Naziism was largely a media-driven phenomenon. The forces that unleashed savagery in the German breast are actually a lot shallower and stupider than we usually suppose. I think Goebbels is laughing somewhere in hell. "You idiots, agonizing and beating your breasts over how we made people want to do such evil, delving into the dark corners of religion and the economy. Please! IT WAS THE BOOTS!!"



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