September 19, 2017
Are We All Nazis? is a 1978 book written by psychologist Hans Askenasy. The title is a little misleading. The book isn’t about whether all humans secretly harbor a desire to stuff Jews into concentration camps. Rather, Askenasy explores the implications of the infamous “Milgram experiment” at Yale in 1963, which purportedly proved that, under the right conditions, the average person can be manipulated into blindly following orders, even if doing so causes pain or death to a fellow human being. Askenasy’s question can be paraphrased as “How easy is it to goad the average person into causing harm to strangers because he thinks that’s what the powers-that-be want him to do?” It’s a decent question. He was not asking, “Are we all secretly Hitler?” That’s an idiotic question.
So of course that’s the question being asked today by leftists and their media lackeys. “Americans Are Confronting an Alarming Question: Are Many of Our Fellow Citizens ‘Nazis’?” is the title of a recent article in The New York Times Magazine. “The rally in Charlottesville confronted America with an unlikely question: Was it possible the nation was seeing a burgeoning political faction of actual Nazis? People we should actually call Nazis?” Yes, concludes the piece’s author, Sasha Chapin. America is infested with Nazis. We’re lousy with ’em. According to Chapin, these Nazis are “your neighbors, colleagues and study buddies.” This delusion is by no means contained to a few East Coast nuts. The entire left has apparently decided that it’s raining Nazis—Nazis in the streets, Nazis in Washington, Nazis online—marking their territory with their infernal swastikas (except, no), defiling the homes of local Jews (except, no), and, as Chapin dramatically states, “attempting a takeover of national politics.”
Time for me to start building that hidden annex, I guess.
This hysteria and fearmongering is nothing new. Since the end of World War II, every few decades, self-proclaimed “watchdogs” decide that America has a Nazi problem. In the 1950s and early ’60s, the ADL’s Arnold Forster and Benjamin Epstein made a cottage industry out of writing books warning about creeping Nazism on the American right. 1952’s The Troublemakers (“Intolerance is one of the most serious menaces in our country today!”), 1956’s Cross-Currents (“Anti-Semitism did not die with Hitler!”), and 1964’s Danger on the Right (“It has been estimated that some 20% of the American electorate can be grouped as Extremists on the Right Wing!”) are among Forster & Epstein’s greatest hits. In 1963’s The Extremists, New York Post editor Mark Sherwin claimed there was no difference between William F. Buckley and George Lincoln Rockwell (something tells me Sherwin’s nickname was not Señor Subtlety). There were so many of these midcentury fearmongering tomes, they probably deserve their own classification in the Library of Congress (may I suggest “Oy! Nazis! Oy!”).
A new generation of Nazi-hysteria authors descended upon America in the 1980s. Leftist organizations like the Center for Democratic Renewal (think the SPLC but worse) once again declared that everyone on the right was a Nazi, that there was no difference between a Reagan conservative and The Order. According to the CDR’s 1986 manual When Hate Groups Come to Town, “The Klan, the Nazis, and free-lance racists take their cue from the generally more conservative political climate which now exists in the nation.” In 1987’s They Don’t All Wear Sheets, the CDR attempted to link anti-immigration activists to, guess who…David Duke!
David Duke used as a boogeyman to tar all Americans who object to illegal immigration. Feel like you’re in a time loop? In a way, you are. As I said, these things are cyclical. They’re also mutually beneficial. There’s always been a symbiotic relationship between groups like the ADL and the bugbears they trot out to frighten the public. Rhinoplastic turd Duke gets as much pleasure from the process as do the ADL and SPLC alarmists. Duke understands quite well that these days all he needs to do is show up at a pro-Trump event, or make some grand pro-Trump proclamation, and he’ll make the evening news. In a way, the ADL and SPLC are like Duke’s PR agents. But if the relationship between the fearmongers and their scarecrows has traditionally been mutually fulfilling, another, more important aspect of that relationship has been that the fearmongers have always retained the upper hand. They’ve been able to decide when to put the Nazis on stage, and when to close the curtain.
I honestly believe that the fear merchants have only now realized that those days are long gone. In exaggerating the importance of people like Duke, Andrew Anglin, and Richard Spencer in an attempt to scare weak-minded dweebs like Sasha Chapin into thinking that their “study buddies” want to gas them, groups like the ADL have been using 1964 tactics in 2017. Social media has changed the landscape. Nowadays, if you make a star out of a two-bit nobody like Anglin, you can’t just make him vanish once he’s outlived his usefulness. These days, you put someone on the map, they stay there because of that ugly, beautiful, unregulated Wild West known as the internet.
So of course now it’s time for regulation. Stifling speech on the internet is the only way that groups like the ADL and SPLC can return to obscurity the monsters they plucked from obscurity. But censorship alone isn’t enough. The guardians of tolerance must also see to it that ordinary people who tweet, post, or comment in a way that is too “right-wing” pay a price. It’s not just about forcing tech companies to shut down “hate sites.” It’s also about ensuring that the average Joe lives in fear of saying the wrong thing on the internet, lest he lose the ability to have a voice online (and, for better or worse, being banned from Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube these days can mean way more than not being able to shitpost with friends…it can mean the loss of income, and the inability to network within your profession and draw traffic to your business).
Essentially, what we’re seeing now is the domestic version of “denazification.” Denazification was a program initiated by the Allies after World War II. In the beginning, the idea was to remove unrepentant former Nazi Party members from positions of influence in the new German government. But soon it became something much bigger and uglier. It transmogrified into a massive exercise in thought policing, the goal being to “cure” the conquered Germans of any and all “Nazi” impulses by beating, imprisoning, censoring, threatening, and scaring them into submission.
Like most of the things that happened during the Morgenthau Plan years, denazification was rooted in vengeance. From a tactical point of view, it makes sense for an occupying force to ensure that the new government it creates in a nation it conquered is devoid of hardcore devotees of the old regime. But denazification became a witch hunt directed at ordinary Germans. It became an inquisition in which anyone charged with having “pro-Nazi” thoughts would be removed from public life, often imprisoned, sometimes physically harmed. And it became a massive exercise in book burning and censorship.