Hitler, Mussolini, Trump, and the dangers of an ethic-free press

Read this, and consider the fact that it was originally published before the inauguration – on 12 Dec 2016 – before all the actions that Trump has executed in his first 10 days of terrible abuse of power.

We have lived so many decades of relative peace, diplomacy, stability and prosperity, that I wonder if we really see that what is happening right now has the potential magnitude to stand side by side with the catastrophic events now seemingly safely neutered into the history books.

May we each wake up, look at ourselves in the mirror, decide which side of history we want to be on, when the dust has fallen.

And may we each do what we can – even something as simple as reconsidering our positions on what we are seeing unfolding around us – to make sure these violations of basic human decency, won by the blood of those who have died for it, do not get the nutrition they need to bear their strange, bitter fruit.

“The Saturday Evening Post even serialized [Mussolini’s] autobiography in 1928. Acknowledging that the new “Fascisti movement” was a bit “rough in its methods,” papers ranging from the New York Tribune to the Cleveland Plain Dealer to the Chicago Tribune credited it with saving Italy from the far left and revitalizing its economy. From their perspective, the post-WWI surge of anti-capitalism in Europe was a vastly worse threat than Fascism.

“Ironically, while the media acknowledged that Fascism was a new “experiment,” papers like The New York Times commonly credited it with returning turbulent Italy to what it called “normalcy.”

“…Mussolini’s success in Italy normalized Hitler’s success in the eyes of the American press who, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, routinely called him “the German Mussolini.”

“…But the main way that the press defanged Hitler was by portraying him as something of a joke. He was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance, according to Newsweek, “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” His “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” stated Cosmopolitan.

“…By the later 1930s, most U.S. journalists realized their mistake in underestimating Hitler or failing to imagine just how bad things could get…Dorothy Thompson, who judged Hitler a man of “startling insignificance” in 1928, realized her mistake by mid-decade when she, like Mowrer, began raising the alarm.

“”No people ever recognize their dictator in advance,” she reflected in 1935. “He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will.” Applying the lesson to the U.S., she wrote, “When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.””

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