I posted this almost exactly one year ago. Looks like, going forward, I may have to be pulling a lot of stuff out of cold storage. History is replete with important and difficult lessons, which is why so many people shun it like they would an incontinent possum.
Down in the comment section of the original post, Alert Reader Neo Tuxedo thought I should have begun with this earlier citation from Milton Mayer.
Sure. Why not.
"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it -- please try to believe me-- unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might."
Here's the rest from me, a year ago:
They Thought They Were Free
Chuck Todd, host of America's preeminent public policy and politics program, "Meet the Press":
Donald Trump — the post-truth 2016 candidateWe've been around the political block long enough to know that almost all presidential candidates exaggerate, dissemble, take statements out of context and, yes, lie. But from the start of Donald Trump's presidential campaign (remember Mexican rapists?), he has taken this to a level we haven't seen before in American politics...
Helene Cooper: actual, grown-up professional American journalist:
There's no consequence for them to say anything that they want to. They can make things up, they can go out and say flat out untruths and nobody's challenging them...
Tom Brokaw: famous teevee person, dean of NBC network news and, ironically, the revered, rose-colored-glasses chronicler of America's battle against fascism during World War II:
...And Donald Trump says that he saw in Jersey City thousands of people cheering when the Twin Trade Towers came down, it's completely wrong. It did not happen. He did not see it. But who's there to challenge him on that?
Keep in mind the systemic, paralyzing cowardice of our professional media as as you read an excerpt from "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45" by Milton Mayer:
..It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait."But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D."And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way."You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined."Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair...
Solving the problem of American Conservatism's bold and metastasizing fascism could begin tomorrow by simply laying down some fairly drastic and material consequences for anyone in the media who 1) refuses to report the blindingly obvious facts of American Conservatism's bold and metastasizing fascism, or 2) obsessively seeks to deflect any such analysis with an army of bullshit Both Siderist straw men.
From the NYT:
...But the problem is not Trump. The problem is the GOP base -- those millions of American bigots and imbeciles which the Right has spent many years and billions of dollars to flatter and pander and shape into an electoral battering ram which is now so reliably paranoid, angry, Dunning-Kruger ignorant and programmable that they can be told what to think, what to buy and who to vote for by Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes or Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump relies on social media to spread his views. This is convenient because there’s no need to respond to questions about his fabrications. That makes it imperative that other forms of media challenge him.
Instead, as Mr. Trump stays at the top of the Republican field, it’s become a full-time job just running down falsehoods like the phony crime statistics he tweeted, which came from a white supremacist group.
Yet Mr. Trump is regularly rewarded with free TV time, where he talks right over anyone challenging him, and doubles down when called out on his lies.
This isn’t about shutting off Mr. Trump’s bullhorn. His right to spew nonsense is protected by the Constitution, but the public doesn’t need to swallow it. History teaches that failing to hold a demagogue to account is a dangerous act. It’s no easy task for journalists to interrupt Mr. Trump with the facts, but it’s an important one.
The problem is the GOP base -- America's very own, home-grown army of rage-drunk, half-mad chumps who are so fucked-in-the-head they can be profitably harvested by the same liars telling the same lies over and over again endlessly. Which is why the problem of American Conservatism's bold and metastasizing fascism -- which has been decades in the making -- will not begin to be solved tomorrow.
Or the next day.
Or the next.
Because in the grown-up world. when the question is "Why?", nine times out of ten the answer is "Money". And there is just way too much damn money to be made by Very Serious People from compromising and compromising and compromising with American fascists until, too late, they are compromised beyond repair.