The Tea Party, with its dangerously radical unyielding agenda, reminds me of an exchange between my Father-in-Law, Erich Leyens and Sigmund Freud. In 1923, Erich Leyens wrote to Freud complaining about the growth of German anti-semitism in Germany. Freud replied, "Mass psychoses are impervious to arguments. The Germans in particular would have had every reason to learn this during the (First) World War. But they do not seem capable of it. Let us leave them alone." (Library of Congress, Sigmund Freud Collection, General Correspondence, 1871-96:).
The parallels between the emergence of the Tea Party and the Nazi National Socialist Party in Germany are disturbing. In August 2009 screaming people attempted to assault others and people carried posters at rallies depicting the American President as Hitler, Stalin or an African Witch Doctor with a bone in his nose, and likened his proposed health care reform to the Holocaust, with placards blazoned with images of piles of bodies at Auschwitz. Paid agitators disrupted town hall meetings with Congress members and senators, some carrying loaded weapons, behaving indistinguishably from Hitler’s Brown Shirted SA paramilitary thugs with pseudo-military titles in Germany during the run up to Kristalnacht, the “night of broken glass.” In August and September 2009, windows were shot out of black elected officials’ offices and other African American politicians were spat upon. Though clearly less severe, the parallel with Krystalnacht was unmistakable.
Just as Nazism was not a monolithic movement, neither is the Tea Party, but instead a combination of various ideologies and groups with a loose collection of ideas and positions, distinguished largely by what they opposed, rather than what they favored. They favored ethnic nationalism, but opposed democratic government. They were racists, anti-semites, anti-communists, and opposed political and economic liberalism. They favored deportation and discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities and gay and lesbian people. They had no concept of human rights (See Marian Kaplan’s, Between Dignity and Despair and Bob Moore’s Victims and Survivors). Their invocation of small government and lower taxes is a ruse to deflect attention from their real agenda.
I’m not sure leaving them alone, as Freud suggested of Germany’s Nazis is such a good idea, as European Jews and the rest of the World discovered after 1939 when the Holocaust went into full force, and Hitler killed six million Jews and attempted to take over all of Europe. One of the main lessons of the Holocaust was that political malevolence is often insidious. It is often a creeping, metastasizing cancer expanding and growing into places of least resistance, which unless strenuously opposed in its early in its stages, eventually overwhelms later attempts to react to its destructiveness. By the time the severity of the Nazi threat was recognized in Germany and the rest of Europe, the disease had multiplied; metastases were spread throughout Europe, in every city, town and village; in every city hall and business, on every street and gravel road, and beneath every lamppost. No one was free any longer to raise objection, for it was too late. They were spied upon by neighbors and were crushed at the least sign of resistance.
Joseph Goebels, Hitler’s Director of Propaganda, issued a set of propaganda principles, which are difficult to distinguish from the Tea Party’s strategy. Among his main principles were (1) propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium (i.e. Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin), (2) its effectiveness alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false, including claiming the polar opposite of what is true, (3) A propaganda theme must be repeated, again and again. If repeated enough times it will be believed. (4) Propaganda must reinforce anxiety, (5) Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred. [see Goebbels' Principles of Propaganda by Leonard W. Doob, published in Public Opinion and Propaganda; A Book of Readings edited for The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. http://www.psywarrior.com/Goebbels.html]
No doubt most in the Tea Party will take offence at comparing their movement with the National Socialist Party in Nazi Germany. So be it. If the shoe fits, wear it. The above image from the 567 Blog speaks for itself. Hitler and Goebels complained bitterly and shed crocodile tears about the World’s rejection of the Nazi movement as the cattle cars continued to carry Jews to their death at Auschwitz and Treblinka. If the Tea Party wishes to be perceived differently, they have a choice. Stop inviting such comparisons.