Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Who Goes Nazi?" - A Question For Our Time

An excellent and timely read from 75 years ago relayed via Balloon Juice:

Dorothy Celene Thompson (9 July 1893 – 30 January 1961) was an American journalist and radio broadcaster, who in 1939 was recognized by Time magazine as the second most influential woman in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt.[1] She is notable as the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 and as one of the few women news commentators on radio during the 1930s.[2] She is regarded by some as the "First Lady of American Journalism."[3]

#ThrowBackThursday: “Who Goes Nazi?”

“The past is never dead; it’s not even past.” Via Tom Scocca’s twitter feed, a Dorothy Thompson Harper’s article from 1941:
It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis…
Mr. B has risen beyond his real abilities by virtue of health, good looks, and being a good mixer. He married for money and he has done lots of other things for money. His code is not his own; it is that of his class—no worse, no better, He fits easily into whatever pattern is successful. That is his sole measure of value—success. Nazism as a minority movement would not attract him. As a movement likely to attain power, it would.
The saturnine man over there talking with a lovely French emigree is already a Nazi. Mr. C is a brilliant and embittered intellectual. He was a poor white-trash Southern boy, a scholarship student at two universities where he took all the scholastic honors but was never invited to join a fraternity. His brilliant gifts won for him successively government positions, partnership in a prominent law firm, and eventually a highly paid job as a Wall Street adviser. He has always moved among important people and always been socially on the periphery. His colleagues have admired his brains and exploited them, but they have seldom invited him—or his wife—to dinner.
He is a snob, loathing his own snobbery. He despises the men about him—he despises, for instance, Mr. B—because he knows that what he has had to achieve by relentless work men like B have won by knowing the right people. But his contempt is inextricably mingled with envy. Even more than he hates the class into which he has insecurely risen, does he hate the people from whom he came. He hates his mother and his father for being his parents. He loathes everything that reminds him of his origins and his humiliations. He is bitterly anti-Semitic because the social insecurity of the Jews reminds him of his own psychological insecurity.
Pity he has utterly erased from his nature, and joy he has never known. He has an ambition, bitter and burning. It is to rise to such an eminence that no one can ever again humiliate him. Not to rule but to be the secret ruler, pulling the strings of puppets created by his brains. Already some of them are talking his language—though they have never met him…
I think young D over there is the only born Nazi in the room. Young D is the spoiled only son of a doting mother. He has never been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the game of seeing what he can get away with. He is constantly arrested for speeding and his mother pays the fines. He has been ruthless toward two wives and his mother pays the alimony. His life is spent in sensation-seeking and theatricality. He is utterly inconsiderate of everybody. He is very good-looking, in a vacuous, cavalier way, and inordinately vain. He would certainly fancy himself in a uniform that gave him a chance to swagger and lord it over others…
Mr. G is a very intellectual young man who was an infant prodigy. He has been concerned with general ideas since the age of ten and has one of those minds that can scintillatingly rationalize everything. I have known him for ten years and in that time have heard him enthusiastically explain Marx, social credit, technocracy, Keynesian economics, Chestertonian distributism, and everything else one can imagine. Mr. G will never be a Nazi, because he will never be anything. His brain operates quite apart from the rest of his apparatus. He will certainly be able, however, fully to explain and apologize for Nazism if it ever comes along. But Mr. G is always a “deviationist.” When he played with communism he was a Trotskyist; when he talked of Keynes it was to suggest improvement; Chesterton’s economic ideas were all right but he was too bound to Catholic philosophy. So we may be sure that Mr. G would be a Nazi with purse-lipped qualifications. He would certainly be purged…

Even more chilling is Thompson's earlier work in Germany, "Good-by to Germany", where she chronicles the entrenchment of the Nazism and a couple of the Nazi's early atrocities on her 1934 trip to Germany. For her efforts, Goering ordered her to leave the country within 48 hours (this older article is only available as a PDF).

It makes the Republican cries of "lügenpresse" at Trump's rallies even more starkly sinister. And of course, in the same way that the words "crap" and "shit" mean exactly the same thing, but for some reason, the spelling of "crap" makes it more socially acceptable, the words "fake news" and "lügenpresse" mean exactly same thing, but for some reason, the spelling of "fake news" makes it more socially acceptable as well. When will the press call Trump and the Republicans out on this?

Both full articles require a subscription to Harper's for access but this is well worth it as I have been a subscriber for years.

About Harper’s MagazineHarper’s Magazine, the oldest general-interest monthly in America, explores the issues that drive our national conversation, through long-form narrative journalism and essays, and such celebrated features as the iconic Harper’s Index. With its emphasis on fine writing and original thought Harper’s provides readers with a unique perspective on politics, society, the environment, and culture. The essays, fiction, and reporting in the magazine’s pages come from promising new voices, as well as some of the most distinguished names in American letters, among them Annie Dillard, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Gaitskill, David Foster Wallace, and Tom Wolfe.

Harper’s Magazine made its debut in June 1850, the brainchild of the prominent New York book-publishing firm Harper & Brothers. The initial press run of 7,500 copies sold out immediately, and within six months circulation had reached 50,000. 
Although the earliest issues consisted largely of material that had already been published in England, the magazine soon began to print the work of American artists and writers—among them Horatio Alger, Stephen A. Douglas, Theodore Dreiser, Horace Greeley, Winslow Homer, William Dean Howells, Henry James, Jack London, John Muir, Frederic Remington, Booth Tarkington, and Mark Twain. Several departments served to note regularly important events of the day, such as the publication of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick, the laying of the first trans-Atlantic cable, the latest discoveries from Thomas Edison’s workshop, and the progress of the crusade for women’s rights. 
In more recent years, the magazine published Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill long before either man became a political leader. Theodore Roosevelt wrote for Harper’s, as did Henry L. Stimson when he defended the bombing of Hiroshima. In the 1970s, Harper’s Magazinebroke Seymour Hersh’s account of the My Lai massacre and devoted a full issue to Norman Mailer’s “The Prisoner of Sex.” 
Over the years, the magazine’s format has been revamped, its general appearance has evolved considerably, and ownership has changed hands. In 1962, Harper & Brothers merged with Row, Peterson, & Company to become Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). Some years later the magazine became a separate corporation and a division of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company. In 1980, when the parent company announced that Harper’s Magazine would cease publication, John R. (Rick) MacArthur and his father, Roderick, urged the boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Atlantic Richfield Company to make a grant of assets and funds to form the Harper’s Magazine Foundation. The Foundation is today an entirely independent organization—unaffiliated with other philanthropies, and solely dedicated to promoting Harper’s Magazine as an independent voice in American culture. 
In 1984, Harper’s Magazine was completely redesigned by editor Lewis H. Lapham and MacArthur, who had become publisher of Harper’s and president of the Foundation. Recognizing the time constraints of the modern reader, the revived magazine introduced such original journalistic forms as the Harper’s Index, Readings, and the Annotation to complement its acclaimed fiction, essays, and reporting. Over the years Harper’s has received nineteen National Magazine Awards, among many other journalistic and literary honors. 
The year 2000 marked the sesquicentennial of Harper’s Magazine and, to celebrate, the magazine introduced several new editorial inventions and restorations: Archive, Map, and Review. It has also published An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper’s Magazine, a cloth-bound, 712-page illustrated anthology—with an introduction by Lewis H. Lapham and a foreword by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.—that offers a unique perspective on American life, distilled from the pages of the nation’s oldest continuously published monthly magazine.

And one last note on Dorothy Thompson:
Thompson's most significant work abroad took place in Germany in the early 1930s. While working in Munich, Thompson met and interviewed Adolf Hitler for the first time in 1931. This would be the basis for her subsequent book, I Saw Hitler. She wrote about the dangers of Hitler winning power in Germany.[2] Thompson described Hitler in the following terms: "He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequent and voluble, ill poised and insecure. He is the very prototype of the little man."[6] 
Later, when the full force of Nazism had crashed over Europe, Thompson was asked to defend her "Little Man" remarks; it seemed she had underestimated Hitler.[5] The National Socialists considered both the book and her articles offensive and in August 1934, Thompson was expelled from Germany. She was the first journalist to be kicked out.[7]

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