A dear old friend of mine enjoys whipping up descriptions of what he likes to imagine went on in the Oval Office, renamed the “Oral Office,” between Clinton and Lewinsky. The narrative would spark the prurience of even the likes of pornophile Kenneth Starr. Bodily fluids are flying about, sacred spaces and furniture are being desecrated by having sexual acts performed in and on them, there are cigars, stained dresses, well, you get the idea: this is how Republicans get off. If I open his emails when he’s in a particularly heightened Clinton-hating frame of mind my computer seems to get all sticky.
I confess that I begin with this suggestive paragraph to get the reader’s attention (Republicans please cease touching yourselves inappropriately for a few minutes and read on).
In the 1930s Germany, still bristling under the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, suffering enormous inflation, fearful of the Bolsheviks to the east, and feeling their lebensraum pinched by the losses of Alsace-Lorraine and the Sudtenland, allowed itself all too willingly behind the maniacal ravings of Hitler and his National Socialists. Hitler galvanized those fears and feelings under the banner of Aryan racial superiority, gave them and internal vent in the persecution of the Jews and set his country on a journey of “preemptive” strikes against his lethargic neighbors.
No need to repeat more of that history here. Except to extract a couple points from that history that are the focus of the present theme. (And you thought it was going to be pornography; we it is, of a sort.) The paranoia of the Third Reich resulted in, as political paranoia almost always does, a doctrine that the end justifies the means . Throughout history that has been expressed in the notion that the very survival of a people or a nation is at stake, and when combined with political and military power, it has resulted in the military means of preemptive strikes against enemies, real and imagined.
The second element I would like to extract from the Third Reich is the prime focus of my theme: the management of the media by the repetition of lies. The master of this process was Hitler’s head of the Reich Ministry for People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda, Dr. Josef Goebbels. And it was Geobbels’s prime dictum that you must repeat a lie until it becomes “the truth.” And telling a lie to defend the end of survival is a justified means.
If you have come this far you are probably already wondering what comparisons I am going to draw between the Third Reich and the Second Bush Reich. There are, of course, great differences between the last years of the Weimar Republic and the America at the beginning of the 21 st Century. On the eve of the 21 st Century America was enjoying nearly ten years of peace and prosperity. The Cold War had ended and it did not feel threatened by any nation-state. It needed no physical room to grow, and even its old scapegoat, the African-Americans, were finding a slow way to integration. The new “threat” to the White blood of America from immigrants of other races was largely tolerated except by extreme Nativists and bigots. But there were some disturbing parallels.
Seething beneath the surface there had been growing for some years a strong and organized fundamentalist Christian-Right Wing putsch. Not in the beer halls, but in the pulpits and church halls and in the extreme reaches of the Republican Party. The movement formed its roots back in the cultural revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s, when the threat of a “godless society” reared its head in the Civil Rights movement and particularly in the Women’s movement and the so-called “sexual-revolution,” and was fertilized by the national fissure of the political divide over the Vietnam War.
Political conservatism, which had always been a prominent part of American politics began to be invaded by those who saw “conservatism” as a bastion for those who were rankled by the perceived threats of the new found freedoms and behavior and expression. The threat of a “godless society,” one in which women might be able to control what is done to their bodies, where children might not be able to pray in school and learn that creation took six days, where those who “chose” the homosexual lifestyle have rights like “families” with a fifty-percent divorce rate; where public officials don’t have to pass a “Christian” litmus test, where the cross and the ten commandments are not displayed in every public building, where taxes and liberals and UN kiss-up multilateralists are code for people who are un-American. Those are huge threats to God’s end plan for America to be born again as an Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian Conservative Society. And that end justifies any means to achieve it. A lie, a deception, whatever it takes, in service of that end is in play, is “justified.”
If that is the message, then to win the media must be controlled. The first thing to do is to apply Goebbles concept of the “big lie” to the media: keep calling it liberal (also read in Jewish) dominated, even as more and more radio stations [put in reference here] are right-wing talk shows and Christian evangelical programs. Use Hollywood as a whipping boy for immorality, depravity, violence and left-wing politics. Enlist large media outlets such as Fox and Sinclair Broadcasting to carry the right-wing agenda as “news” by supplying them packaged “news” items that resemble those of real reporters. Create right-wing media “stars” such as Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, who routinely lie and distort facts to audiences that are referred to as “dittoheads.” And, when called on lies and distortions, return to the mantra that such charges are example of how the liberals are trying to control the media by cutting off other points of view. With the installation of Colin Powell’s son in the FCC big right-wing media owners are now able to consolidate their domination of many markets without any competition.
Joe Goebbels would love it, because the Fundamentalist Christian Right-Wing is dammed good at using media lies and distortions. There are, of course, almost innumerable examples of their proficiency at this, but a few prominent examples can be cities here.
The Clinton impeachment was probably the most egregious example of the use of the big lie for character assassination. Unable to best Clinton politically, the right wing conspired to inflate an act of infidelity into a reason for impeachment, pillorying Clinton daily through its shills on radio, and delivering Starr’s salacious report to the Internet.
Before that, however, there was Bush I’s disgusting exploitation of the Willie Horton in his ad against Dukakis. Obviously the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Bush II smeared John McCain in much the same way during the primary campaign for 2000.
If you have to lie in person make sure it’s before and audience that is controlled or receptive. The former example is the Bush (very rare) press conferences in which White House reporters who are in disfavor are shunned (e.g. Helen Thomas), or intimidated to as virtually inane questions. Elsewhere, appear only before audiences of military (the staged “mission accomplished” carrier landing), or handpicked audiences, such as those on the campaign stump, where participants are screened for their party loyalty and will cheer lustily on cue. If Joe Geobbels were around he’d surely be made nostalgic for those great Nuremburg Nazi rallies.
Fundamentalist Christian Right-Wing also has its preferred list for using the media to do its dirty work. They got media Gestapo Robert Novak to expose the covert CIA work of Valerie Plame, avenging the report of her husband that there was no Iraq-Nigeria yellowcake uranium deal, an act of treason that will probably go unpunished. The end justifies the means.
Other media Gestapo were enlisted to try to smear the military record of John Kerry (and to distract from the dismal Bush military record). Through the Internet, slander books, newspaper ads, and talk show appearances, a small army of ex-military dissemblers did their worst to turn Kerry into an American Dreyfus.
It should be noted that the Fundamentalist Christian Right-Wing works the media for more than Mr.Bush. They used it effectively to impeach the Governor of California. So now we have the Goverfuhrer of Kaleefornia employing the nice Third Reich tactic of impugning the character and Aryan purity of political opponents. Surely “girlie men” are no fit creatures to hold office, much less gain admission to the SS. And lets us not forget that this former buddy of Nazi Kurt Waldheim was virtually given a pass by the major media for his invention of his biographical about seeing communists in his home town, gone into the spin machine with his sexual predations.
So there we are: “what goes around,” they say, “comes around.” But it should be noted that things don’t always turn out well for the big liars of the end justifies the means. Joe Goebbels might have had such a thought as he poisoned his half dozen children just before he shot himself and his wife in the Reich’s Bunker. But his spirit lives on in the mind of Karl Rove and the mouth of Scott McClellen.
©2004, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 10.11.2004)