It Can Happen Here

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein recently reviewed two books on Nazi Germany for the New York Review of Books.   (It was a timely review; even Godwin of “Godwin’s law” fame is on record saying that comparisons of contemporary events to the rise of Hitler may be appropriate.)

As Sunstein notes, the accounts of the Nazi period with which we are familiar seem barely imaginable. They portray a nation so depraved–so indifferent to evil–that we think it can’t happen here. The books he reviews–including Milton Mayer’s 1955 classic They Thought They Were Free, recently republished–suggest otherwise.

But some depictions of Hitler’s rise are more intimate and personal. They focus less on well-known leaders, significant events, state propaganda, murders, and war, and more on the details of individual lives. They help explain how people can not only participate in dreadful things but also stand by quietly and live fairly ordinary days in the midst of them. They offer lessons for people who now live with genuine horrors, and also for those to whom horrors may never come but who live in nations where democratic practices and norms are under severe pressure.

Mayer’s book focused on the lives and experiences of ordinary Germans–people who, like ordinary Americans today, found themselves living through events they had little individual power to affect. That focus was, Sunstein writes, a “jarring contrast” to Sebastian Haffner’s “devastating, unfinished 1939 memoir, Defying Hitler.” Haffner

objects that most works of history give “the impression that no more than a few dozen people are involved, who happen to be ‘at the helm of the ship of state’ and whose deeds and decisions form what is called history.” In his view, that’s wrong. What matters are “we anonymous others” who are not just “pawns in the chess game,” because the “most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”

Trump’s grudging (and incomplete) retreat in the face of the public outrage against separating children from their parents underscores the validity of Haffner’s point. In a different way, so does Mayer’s book.

Mayer interviewed ten people who had been members of the Nazi party; those interviews took place over a considerable time-period, and were friendly rather than confrontational. Mayer concluded that Nazism took over Germany not “by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler.” Many Germans “wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.”

Mayer’s most stunning conclusion is that with one partial exception (the teacher), none of his subjects “saw Nazism as we—you and I—saw it in any respect.” Where most of us understand Nazism as a form of tyranny, Mayer’s subjects “did not know before 1933 that Nazism was evil. They did not know between 1933 and 1945 that it was evil. And they do not know it now.” Seven years after the war, they looked back on the period from 1933 to 1939 as the best time of their lives.

Mayer’s interviewees spoke of Hitler much as the GOP “base” speaks of Trump; the rhetorical similarities are chilling.

And what of “the final solution”?

Mayer did not bring up the topic of anti-Semitism with any of his subjects, but after a few meetings, each of them did so on his own, and they returned to it constantly. When the local synagogue was burned in 1938, most of the community was under only one obligation: “not to interfere.” Eventually Mayer showed his subjects the local newspaper from November 11, 1938, which contained a report: “In the interest of their own security, a number of male Jews were taken into custody yesterday. This morning they were sent away from the city.” None of them remembered seeing it, or indeed anything like it.

The killing of six million Jews? Fake news. Four of Mayer’s subjects insisted that the only Jews taken to concentration camps were traitors to Germany, and that the rest were permitted to leave with their property or its fair market value. The bill collector agreed that the killing of the Jews “was wrong, unless they committed treason in wartime. And of course they did.” He added that “some say it happened and some say it didn’t,” and that you “can show me pictures of skulls…but that doesn’t prove it.” In any case, “Hitler had nothing to do with it.” The tailor spoke similarly: “If it happened, it was wrong. But I don’t believe it happened.”

Fake news. Alternative facts. “Those people.” The incremental nature of the Nazi takeover. The daily distractions that allowed ordinary people to become habituated to the unthinkable. It’s all terrifyingly familiar.

Read the whole essay.


  1. These comments could be Facebook posts of Trump voters. Absolutely terrifying – and there is NO ‘talking sense’ to them, there just is NOT.

  2. Why did the German people go along with Hitler?

    Cass interviews Germans who still don’t believe it happened. We have Americans today who believe the Holocaust was a hoax.

    To find answers though, all we need to do is go to the source himself, Adolph Hitler. His book, Mein Kampf, is a strategic plan. I quote:

    “The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way, the result is weakened and in the end entirely canceled out.”

    There is much more coming from Goebbels and his Ministry of Propaganda. It was his job to ensure the German people went along with the Nazis. He did a very good job.

    In contrast to today, here is a quote from Karl Rove:

    “We control the News Media in this country., therefore we control the reality, and if the American people don’t like it, we can create a new one in 30 minutes. ~ Karl Rove, Leader of Conservative Movement”

    MSNBC, CNN, Fox News are all distractions while the Donor Class and their puppets steal us blind. The young people are wondering why the masses are asleep at the wheel. They’re fixated on the “boob tube”. 😉

  3. A year and a half into the Trump Administration we all can see the similarities between what is happening now (here and in Europe) and what took place in Germany during the 1930s. To not see this is nothing short of a deliberate blindness to reality.

    I have been interested in the history of Europe before and during WWII for most of my life. I am currently reading the book The Social History of the Third Reich, 1933 – 1945 by Pierre Aycoberry. This book gives us a “uniquely balanced account of all aspects of German life under Hitler.” I am learning much about the beginnings of the SA (Brown Shirts) and the motivations for so many men to join up and why they were so violent from the start. I am learning about the SS and the Gestapo. It is easy to see the same forces and drives in the now heartless ICE organization.

    World news tells us that these same ideas are at work in numerous European countries. We in the United States are in a very bad place. In the days ahead each and every one of us will be called to make terrible choices. What, if anything, will Americans be willing to die for?

  4. Copied and pasted here part of the posting by Larry Kaiser yesterday lest we forget what already started to happen in Europe and Asia a hundred years ago or earlier, never to be forgotten:

    Larry Kaiser
    June 21, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    “The opening paragraphs of the report confront the puzzle of Trump’s disinterest in what has typically been the first goal of political candidates and parties alike: expanding one’s base.” And two reasons are offered for why Trump plays it that way.

    I SEE A THIRD REASON, which is imminently more dangerous.
    Trump already has in place the key elements of a coup, and every day he reinforces their “willingness” to support whatever he does.

    1) Awaiting his move, Trump has a sizable street army (20 million to 40 million) that is dumb enough and brutal enough and armed enough to engage in all the Brownshirt tactics to cower the other 300 million of us.

    2) Awaiting his move, Trump has found military generals who will support his takeover and placed them in strategic offices to be instant leaders of his coup.

    3) Awaiting his move, Trump has an eager media/press corp eager to bury us in propaganda.

    4) Awaiting his move, Trump has a few hundred thousand military personnel, whom he has fawned and bribed with raises and new killer toys, cooked into a mindset which will erupt in support of Trump’s coup.

    That is all he needs…well, not quite: he needs a trigger, some event that he can use as an excuse to launch the coup. To be effective, the trigger needs to be something that will appear to his deplorable street army as a threat to their country. The trigger is obvious — impeachment.

    As to expanding his base: there is no need to please any of the rest of us, not when at coup-time his Brownshirts are all he needs to MAKE us behave.

    I recommend that we cease writing to our representatives in Congress and begin a flood of letters to every one of the highest ranking generals. They need to know that we are aware of the crucial part they will play when the coup is initiated. The generals are all that stand between the citizens of the United States and Dictator Idi a-Trump. Generals are more easily persuaded by reason than are Representatives and Senators. Generals have a healthy respect for truth and logic. Almost all generals are men and women of honor. Knowing that, Trump may have made some mistakes in whom he placed in top positions of the military and in generals elevated to positions in the White House. It is important that a number of them be reminded of the threat a coup would be to their honor and an abdication of their duty to the Constitution. And that we, and history, are watching.”

  5. Maybe Americans need to experience the results of a Trump Coup. You can experience it with minimum pain by viewing movies such as The Pianist, Cabaret, Judgment at Nuremburg, etc, on your TV screen.

  6. OMG

    Thanks for re-printing Larry Kaiser’s post. I wholeheartedly agree except for the last item. If Trump follows the same path that Hitler took, he will instigate or incite violence from his opponents to declare Marshall law. Once under Marshall law, the country will stay there as enemies of the state are rounded up, unwanted populations herded into ghettos, and anyone opposed charged with treason.

  7. Even when I was a child, watching World at War On Saturday afternoons, I knew better than to think “it could never happen here”. I think back to those shows some forty years ago, and I realize I learned a great deal from them.

    1) Human Beings capacity for evil
    2) That even people who who engage in despicable acts against others are loved by someone (during some of the W at W programs would show Nazi officers who were associated with the brutal murders of the Jewish people go home and be greeted by laughing smiling children and a loving wife).
    3. I realized then that unlike the characters in cartoons and superhero comic books, real people were seldom all good or all bad.
    4. And I learned people who appeared to be good, who took care of and helped others when needed, or committed to their religious beliefs, could suddenly shift and become part of an ugly, inhumane and hateful public
    5. And that all it takes is a certain public figure who understands the fundamentals of persuasion and the fears and concerns of the people as well as the relative lack of personal resistance to authoritarian personalities and group pressure (remember the American psychological studies after WWII that Was meant to prove that Americans could never be so susceptible to authoritarianism the way the Germans were, and instead, they found out that Americans were not so different after all. When a man a white lab coat told folks to increase an electric charge to the research (confederate) subject, even as the subject cried out in pain, they still cranked it up bigger. And even though the research subject knew that one out of three lines was shorter than the rest, when the other (condederate) subjects said that the lines were all the same length, group pressure won out close to 50% of the time. The fact is, that Americans were also just as likely to follow a leader who told them do things that just a week ago hey never would have considered doing as the Germans appeared to be. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that advertising (which works pretty much the same as propaganda) grew into the huge industry it is today.

    When I grew up, I married a Jewish man (I grew up going to a variety of Christian Churches, although at the time of my marriage I no longer attended church) and had a son. From that day forward, I have known in my heart that my country could easily become rabidly antisemtic. It wouldn’t take much, I don’t think; even the vocal support for Israel by many fundamentist Churches in the USA seems based on an assumption that the Christians are the true chosen people, and those Jews who don’t acknowledge Christ’s as the true Messiah must be killed (by the “real Christians”). In my mind, even the latter Americans have a barely concealed dislike and distrust of the Jewish People, and it wouldn’t take much to blow the dust off our cultures antisemitic prejudices. It’s simply a matter of those in power needing scapegoats.

    As residents in the South ( Florida), I am always urging my son to be sure to have exit plan to safer, less conservative regions or states. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I read Hand Maidens Tale a few years ago – but just the same, after the hostility against Obama and the bizzare rise of Donald Trump as president with his made-up facts about all those “other” people (people he sees as undesirable, which seems to be just everyone except “His People” and ruthless dictators), I no longer trust the American people. We have the rising up of the haters and gun-toting anti-government militia on the one hand, and on the other, the rest of Americans who seem to think that someone else is going to “fight” against Trumps ongoing attacks on our Constitutional Government and Nation as well as the rest of the “free world”.

    The fact is, Americans have yet to show any real inclination to take to the streets and resist President Trumps actions for as long as it takes. Sure, we’ve had some Marches and rallies. But compared to the 1960s-70s resistance to The Vietnam War, Racism, Sexism and the overall conservative agenda, Americans today have barely made a whimper

    We are more scared, more overwhelmed, less willing to take risks with our own lives even in the face of outrageous acts by our government, we are more easily drawn into the lies of the market fantasy (but something, and your dreams will come true) which insures you’ll keep working and not risk that job – can’t buy without a paycheck. Overall, Americans have become lazy, cowardly, and self protective (everyone assumes but that bad only happen to people who deserve them, so why should I risk my job, reputation, life stability by taking a stand – and by the time they find out this isn’t true, it’s too late). Quite possibly, it isn’t these latter Americans who are the most dangerous of all, because if they don’t act soon, it will happen again, and again and again.

  8. Our nation has set into motion its own demise as it destroyed its Republic 100 years ago with the 17th amendment. States used to have control over the federal government through the senate but now it’s a two party system where rhetoric plays a major part in the people’s views. For instance the federal government has say over a states immigration policies where control is considered a political game on a national level while local farmers, teachers, police officers are literally overwhelmed with people crossing the border at random.
    Trumps policies are being echoed through the news outlets and it’s not fake news, on the contrary he’s using us to send a message to families how they will be treated if they come across our border. It’s really horrible to see such a dramatic shift between two Presidents having different views on how to handle the problem while Congress through these 2 Presidents have gridlocked and not moved forward with legislation. We are being led by politicians while families crossing the border are walking into a nightmare.
    We need to take heed to warn people thru writers like Bonhoeffer who eventually stepped beyond the piety and fought against the greater evil that can quickly come about by an unstabilized government in a time of economic downturn and disgrace. The true individual freedoms must never be taken by our government regardless which party is in control. When one central government takes control of local and state governments to such a degree that teachers who as civil servants have $10000 deductibles now verses $500 a few years ago we begin to cause people like Trump to get voted in because they lost belief in a two party system that should be working for the working person and not against them. Union workers even jumped ranks as they lost their “Cadillac plans”.
    In theory the true republican believes state control through the senate is for the little guy. The true democrat believes the voice through Congress gives the individual a voice.
    Our own political beliefs and willingness to destroy the middle class through a centralized government is our problem. Look at how the bottom fell out of Wall Street as the working class paid for the bank bail outs in 2008. Poor banking policies allowed sharks to take advantage of the poorest of the poor.
    The last President we elected along with Congress cost us $8-10trillion dollars in new debt-Depending on who you ask. The one before $3.5 trillion.
    What happens when our Social Security goes bankrupt in 20 years?
    Shiela is correct in calling out Trump. But the true demise of our country may be sooner down the road if we don’t take care of the farmer, the teacher, the blue collar worker, for the next person they may put in power will make Trump look like a kindergarten teacher.
    Always look beyond your own political beliefs to value the middle class, for when you don’t they will look at their own children and base their votes on what they think is best for them. A resident of Texas said she sees the need of dreamers to have their dream, but when her daughter was killed by an illegal her daughter was separated from her forever. Her dreams were dashed.
    Our forefathers knew that we would do our best to destroy this nation through our own differences. We are but just a baby when it comes to governments. Stabilize the shifts in views and policies by the centralized government and repeal the 17th amendment to begin with.

  9. Two tidbits:

    Courtesy of the Third Reich; as Joseph Goebbels helpfully explained it,

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    And so we had Jeff Sessions saying the difference between Nazi Germany and our immigration policy was the Nazis “were trying to keep the Jews in”. Of course, the first Nazi policy was to deport as many as possible. When it largely failed they turned to the final solution.

  10. Three hundred million guns in America, all held in fewer than half the households in America. Some of us are armed to the teeth.

  11. OMG and others here; I am again asking you to please watch the German/Austrian movie, “Downfall”, written from books found in the bunker after Hitler’s death, interviews with surviving generals, documentaries and Hitler’s private secretary. This picture is worth more than a thousand words.

    One of my best friends was a survivor, with her parents, of life in a concentration camp which included being herded naked into the showers never knowing…. This Russian family had been Russian political prisoners who were taken by the Germans invading Russia. Another friend was pre-teen and teenager during the Nazi occupation in Holland; her mother was a Jew whose first husband also Jewish and they had two daughters. After his death her mother married a Gentile and she was born; the sister’s husbands worked in the Dutch underground, the sisteres were hidden in the family attic for approximately two years till the end of the war. My friend, being the youngest and the fastest runner, did the black market trading for food for the family. Chased by the brown shirts, she was shot through the calf of her leg and fell in front of and was hit by a moving trolley. The brown shirts thought she was dead and left her to onlookers; she remembered laying there clutching a fish in one hand her few remaining pennies in the other and to hold tight, it was all they had for dinner and the last of their money.

    I later met a German women in her 80s who came here in 1932 to marry her fiance who had established himself and had received German permission to retrieve her for the trip to America. The military came for her the day before she was to leave Germany to take her to vote for Hitler who was the only candidate for whichever office was being elected at the time. She was one of those who knew nothing; not even aware of the Jews living her own small village. I never believed her story.

    It can happen here; I have always believed it was the hubris of this government, both parties over many years, who believed no country had the nerve to attack America on our own soil which ALLOWED September 11, 2001 to happen so quickly and so easily.

    I also believe that Trump’s “final solution” for us is the violence in our streets that is coming closer; he is simply waiting for us to kill one another of FOR him. Imagine the self-applause and congratulations he can and will heap upon himself if he can bring that about. Not unlike 9/11 due to our belief it can’t happen here.

    Anyone know of any anti-Zero Tolerance rallies, marches or protests for here in Indianapolis? I am tired of sitting at home seatheing; will need a ride and hope I can stay on my feet but am willing to chance otherwise.

  12. There is a courthouse protest of Trump’s action here in Fort Wayne from 1-3 pm, led by a local Hispanic leader who has been on the news to express pain and outrage at what is taking place.

  13. Everyone should read share this, because if you and your friends only read 13 paragraphs today, it should be these.
    Thank you Dr. Kennedy for this essay.

  14. It can happen here?? It has happened here already – We have Fascism and have had it for some time.

    From an above comment: “Generals have a healthy respect for truth and logic. Almost all generals are men and women of honor.” Sorry as a combat infantryman (draftee type) in Vietnam I do not see the upper echelons of our Military as honorable to the truth. Explain “truth, logic and honor” of the American Generals to the 3 1/2 million dead Asians as a result of the Vietnam War. Not satisfied with, just dropping ordinary explosives, we sprayed S.E. Asia with the herbicide Agent Orange, it’s effects still manifest today with birth defects. Read the book – “Then the Americans Came” for a Vietnamese perspective.

    There were those brave people who protested the Vietnam War, but most Americans of that era could have cared less about the massive casualties we inflicted on the S.E. Asians. (Good Germans).
    Vice President (Cheney) Speaks at VFW 103rd National Convention August 26, 2002:
    But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors — including Saddam’s own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam’s direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.

    Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.

    Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace.
    I suppose back in 1964 when the Gulf of Tonkin Incident happened or didn’t most Americans might have naively believed our government would not lie to us about something so important.

    By 2002, most Americans after Watergate, the Vietnam War, Iran-Contra and numerous other investigations should have been on guard against war mongering hype and outright lies.

    Millions more Asians killed, wounded, missing and refugees in the Middle East because of our Wars. (Good Germans, we know but do nothing).

    You can make all the comparisons you want to Trump the GOP and Hitler and Nazis. One of the hallmarks of Fascism is aggressive, militaristic nationalism. – We have had this for decades. When is the last time any elected representative (Republican or Democrat) has stood up against the Military-Industrial Complex and said out loud – Enough is Enough??? Our electoral process is firmly in control of the 1% with their campaign donations.

    Fascism is alive and well in America and it did not start with Trump, he is just the latest manifestation.

  15. Ive been comparing this since’2008.. a deliberate attempt to scuttle obamas admin,by direct playing by teabaggers,party,and the bigot agenda of the congress. if were head buried in the sand,then maybe some past history is due,as the subject of this day. I was raised in the midst of ww2 vets, italians,jews,germans,europeans,all, who, volunteered to go to stop hitler,japan. the local park, checkers,openly discusing the issues,people who read the newspapers,( and i would pick up those newspapers,and read them,and,understood why, thier forefathers made the journey to America.). we lost alot since then. mainly,how a fanatic right wing bigot,became chanselour of germany, and distroyed not only europe,but decency. if we look only at the war,we lost the reason why. news was shortchanged,mocked,the industralists,yea, the corp type, joined with money,(banks) and followed hitler into wealth,and power..our think tanks today,and fox news is akin to goebbels,as a glove to a hand. if we cant read,we cant reason,and understand how,a few words changed,in written law,contennt,can have a whole new value. when cheap rhetoric is what we get,,we have failed to, keep,our young involved,and ourselves to,speakout,when the facts dictate them. such as, when oil is booming,why does states like oklahoma have a 8 billion dollar hole in thier budget? reasoning,i made a fact to check my daughters reading at a a young age,not because she can read,because she needed to cypher what,she was reading,and,make plain sense of it,and render her own opinion. i read 5 major news sites everyday, i mix it up,with one being a consevative slant,and no, its never,social media or, any fox fact based crap. (news one,and others and such are just a shadow of such crap) today ryan has the balls to actully set a agenda to cut social security,medicare,and snap right into the gutter,because,hes not running again,and the so called party,didnt get it done,yet. sounds like a november fight,no, its a scheme to do something before the election,and gain ground at the working classes and the dreamers expense again and again. like bengazi,and now immigration,or when congress wants another distraction for the people,clintons e mails,its always a renewd matter,a year,before the next election cycle, read the lines,it costs 800 million to play the bengazi game,and its a election generating income in both votes,and campaign funding in proxy. again, reading somethings into what your really reading,and not allowing the gaming to be a fundamental reason to decide your vote. when we have this trump admin,faceout,lying to everyone,and congress refuses to act,we the people have failed,to boycott,speak out ,recall,or,demand,immediately,thease heads of congress to act,or be subject to a criminal contempt to the rule of law,the constitution,and ,we the people. if we expect to have America tommarow,we need to be citizens of today,to slap the fact killing media,(boycott the advertisers!)the journalists who refuse to comment,and set the facts directly to those who, are so called are in charge. trump is a ceo,and not of this world. he has expected,like congress now and since reagan,for this country to be run like a corprate rule,and screw the rights,liberties,and constitution,that gave them,the freedom to be free. the military today is just a mercinary army to keep corprate America flush,wall street has no morals,and the banks denys finacial help to small buisess and start ups,and any help to depositors,because of the immediate calamity they cause daily..the direction of our nation,is the most outstanding problem of my 63 years. may i ask, how many of you worked,on memorial day?and did we remember,why? get the picture?

  16. I didn’t become “awoke” until Trump said the following;

    “The deaths of 500,000 immigrant children were worth it.”

    And,speaking of the military,military parades, et al…

    “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it? ”

    Obviously,there’s a special place in Hell for Trump!

  17. “Obviously,there’s a special place in Hell for Trump!”

    William; also obvious – to me – this blessed event cannot come too soon!

  18. Theresa Bowers, I’ll credit spellcheck for the error of “Marshall law” when surely you mean martial law. General George Marshall served under General Dwight David Eisenhower in the defeat of Hitler Germany and the Axis. Then he was charged with the rebuilding of Europe, destroyed by the Allies. OMG rightly recommends we appeal to the generals (and admirals) to, if necessary, refuse to obey unconstitutional orders from our would be dictator and set us again on the path of a republican democracy. Surely the Joint Chiefs of Staff, well educated and dedicated to uphold the Constitution will, when necessary, oppose our uneducated President.

  19. And then there was the final solution for “the gays” when Republicans ruled in the 80’s
    While the Medical folks were TRYING to ring the alarm bells,
    The Reagan Republicans chuckled and did NOTHING while an entire generation of Gay Men got sick and died ”
    YAY the gays are going away !! They don’t vote for us anyway” must have been said in the WH.
    Talk about a special place in hell
    I sure hope RR is roasting as we speak
    Even though there is no such place

  20. It’s not that it can happen here, the point is it is happening here right now and has been for the last 30 years.

    Reversing it will be both hard and very unpleasant for many. We have to be as patient as evil is, as strategic.

    I think we can see pretty clearly the slide into power drunk Agent Orange has gone through. At first he just had no idea what to do. Then he realized that it was no different than the business his father gave him: surround yourself with those who you have fooled and who are afraid of you. Believe that you can get away with anything that you can imagine. Never tell the truth so that your lies become the truth. Scapegoat, scapegoat, scapegoat. Create the illusion that others are just as bad or worse than you are. People shouldn’t be allowed heroes, just villains. Put people against each other. Be unpredicable. Be emotional not intellectual. Belittle everyone to create the belief that you personally are superior, evil is superior, ignorance is too. Believe in your entitlement.

    The cult of the personality.

    I believe that November is a fork in the road. If democracy is able to take back control of Congress, if Mueller is able to reveal the depth of the spreading corruption, If our former friends stay vocal in their condemnation of not us but him, we can contain the evil. If we lose that opportunity I think that it will be very difficult to stop.

    One other thing which is up to fate. We need a face. We had it in the Obama family. We lost it in 2016. I believe that the Presidential race next year and the following year another will emerge from the faceless crowd. We have to unite behind it.

  21. Two time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler.
    “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

  22. Wayne,

    Actually, Eisenhower reported to George Marshall who was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during WW II.

    Today’s essay and commentary is the most important one in months. If we DON’T take it seriously by passing it on to everyone in our networks, we are abetting the coming holocaust.

  23. Thanks for the correction, Vernon Turner. I find General Smedley Butler’s comment hard to believe.

  24. If you think about what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, remember that there were people who live around and often had direct contact with those military units operating the gas chambers and labor camps. They would have been the same people who ran shops, bars and restaurants where those people spent the off hours. They saw the trains loaded with people go in and never come out. They smelled the stench of waste and burning bodies coming from the ovens. They lived in places where the houses, businesses and personal assets of those taken away where absorbed into the community with barely a ripple. They were complicit because they could be. Many of them and their families are still in denial and refuse responsibility for the deaths of millions.

    We are now in the same place. ICE members are just the latest iteration of the SS, Gestapo and Brown Shirts. They do the dirty work and suffer no social or financial consequences for their choices. In fact, they are lauded, held up as fine examples of “loyal” Americans.

    They are not keeping people safe, but are a greater threat than any invading army ever would be.

  25. Wayne,

    Thanks for the spelling check. My only excuse is that during the past several days I have gone from deep concern about my country to the early stages of terror.

  26. What a coincidence! I just wrote a blog last night which I will be publishing momentarily which deals with the same topic entitled Coup Time?, which instead of my usual commentary I here submit.

    Anybody smell a coup, or have I fallen prey to a conspiracy theory on steroids when witnessing what is going on in America these days? A hypothesis becomes fact if the evidence warrants it, and I am beginning to think that the evidence of a possible coup is gathering steam with every new unrestrained atrocity committed by this administration these days. How did the possibility of an overthrow of the United States Government and treason in high places occur to me and what is the evidence to date for such a possible attempt? Are Bannon Trump’s Himmler, Fox his Goebbels and some forty percent of Americans his cult base? How far along on the spectrum of descent into one-man rule are we in America today, and why are “We the People” allowing it?
    Trump’s terminal narcissism demands that he be worshipped. Lying is not lying in his world; it is merely “an alternative view of reality.” He now has great power and I think he is unlikely to peacefully surrender such power due to the mere outcome of an election though as a candidate he really didn’t know how to lay the groundwork for seizing power if elected until becoming acquainted with the libertarian Mercers’ choice of Bannon as his prime adviser. Bannon has since been fired but his influence lingers on – and what was and is his influence yet today? Is this to be a replay of the 1930s in Germany with the Nazi power grab of Hitler? I see similarities.
    Bannon, an admitted Leninist, is in favor of “deconstruction of the administrative state,” which is shorthand for destruction of American democracy. Lenin had his Bolshevik Party anoint him dictator, murdered the tsar and tsarina and their children, thus ending the Romanov Dynasty, and then proceeded to murder millions of Russians along with his successor, Josef Stalin, killing so-called “White Russians” and others who did not agree with their communist ideology. In order to install communism, the then government of Russia had to be destroyed via “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Lenin and his Bolsheviks succeeded, thus drawing the admiration of Bannon.
    Evidence > Trump demands loyalty, not competence, one of the marks of a dictator. He has roiled international markets with his trade and tariff bluster and openly admires murdering dictators in Russia and North Korea; he has withdrawn from the Paris Accord; he has put down our NATO alliance designed to stop Russian aggression while approving Putin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine; he has insulted the leadership of our allies in re their domestic policies, he has roughed up immigrants seeking asylum and kidnapped their children and, among other such atrocities, has consistently lied about anything and everything without apology though, contrary to his view, there is no alternative to truth-telling outside his narcissistic otherworld. It seems to me that such conduct and misconduct has the odor of a coming coup, and for those who say it can’t happen here, that’s what the Romanovs said in Russia and the Good Germans said in the 1930s, and we know how that turned out.
    So how as a practical matter do wannabe dictators become dictators after successful propaganda has the “administrative state” teetering? You start trouble in the streets (see Hitler’s burning of the Reichstag) and then come in with “law and order” forces to restore order, and guess what? The storm troopers and gestapo stay around long after law and order are restored. Result? You are living in a dictatorship where all legislative and judicial powers reside in an executive with unchecked powers.
    While I sense the odor of a coup, I hope my olfactory cues have misled me since, as I often write, our democracy is one of the last few things left worth dying for, as millions have, but that without it “We the People” are not citizens but mere ATMs in the service of the few, which I define as dictatorship.
    Can’t happen here? That’s what the “Good Germans” and “White Russians” thought. It can happen anywhere when citizens allow threats to their always fragile democracy to go unchecked, so let’s end this current threat to our democracy because, contrary to propaganda of the few, the issue is whether we are to have a democracy, which is not a political issue but rather an existential issue. As thus framed, it’s a matter of choice, i.e., Trump or democracy. I have made my choice. What’s yours? GERALD E

  27. A great piece as usual Sheila-thank you!

    Of course, it could happen here and in many ways it is right now. Todd is spot on in regard to referring to Hitler’s evil masterpiece, “Mein Kampf”, where he spelled out everything he was going to do and most unfortunately it didn’t get as wide an audience as it really needed to have. It was the guidebook for everything that Germany ended up doing that resulted in the worst global catastrophe in the history of mankind. The most operative part of Hitler’s book is how he spelled out exactly how he was going to use propaganda and on hooey was going to use in on. He succeeded in turning the most literate nation in all of Europe into, quite frankly, the locus of most of the evil on the planet. Thank God the Internet did not exist back then because he could a very likely conquered Europe and possibly the rest of the world without using any military force at all.

    This is what Vladimir Putin and his security services are doing right now, undermining the political cohesion of virtually all the countries in Western Europe and doing the same in various countries to route the world including ours. When you contrast to what Hitler and Josef Goebbels spewed out onto the German people to tap into their most deep seated hatreds and biases and what has been done recently, including what Todd mentioned regarding Karl Rove, it’s not hard to see that the same thing is being done today a hugely massive scale because of the access to the Internet, television, and all sorts of other things that Hitler and his Propaganda Minister could’ve only draft about in terms of being useful tools the subvert and entire population to their will.

    A great example is what is going on right now regarding what is happening on along our southern borders and the influx of families trying to seek asylum from tyranny in their own countries while we debate what kind of country and what kind of people we are in the face of this self-induced crisis that Donald Trump orchestrated both for political reasons but also his own contemptuous use in regard to any one that comes to this country from south of the border. His minions are trying as hard as they can to keep his political base stirred up and keep all their own it cultural biases on the high bench to confront even the clergy in regard to the bestiality of what he and his Administration are currently doing.

    Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is probably laughing his rare and off and perhaps giving his own psychological and information warfare people vacations since we are clearly doing all of this to ourselves. We had better all wake up very soon to what’s being foisted on us and come to grips with it in a very meaningful way and do it soon.

  28. Wayne @ 10:16 am : >>I find General Smedley Butler’s comment hard to believe.<<

    In the military you are expected to follow orders, if you are told to bomb a village, it is a done deal deal. Penalties for disobeying or refusing orders, could range from dishonorable discharge to prison.

    At least when I was in the Army 1969-71, we were told not to mistreat prisoners, which included torture. We had the torture the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    On October 22, 2010, nearly 400,000 secret United States Army field reports and war logs, detailing torture, summary executions and war crimes, were passed on to the British paper, The Guardian, and several other international media organisations through the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Among other things, the logs detail how U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, whose conduct appeared to be systematic and normally unpunished, and that U.S. troops abused prisoners for years even after the Abu Ghraib scandal.

  29. Thank you, Sheila. Thank you. Thank you for providing access to Susstein’s essay, which has corroborated my gut reaction to much of the histrionics of the past 17 months (although it feels like 17 years). I am adding Mayer’s and Haffner’s books to my reading list immediately. And now, I am on the lookout for small ways in which to counteract attempts to “turn back Time”. I intend keeping attention focused on my Present which will inform my future. I’m learning, at age 63, that no action is too small. Only no action is unacceptable.

  30. At the beginning of his rise to power, German newspapers did report on how dangerous his rhetoric and he were, and expressed concern for German’s future. Instead of responding on the merits, Hitler coined the word “lugepresse”, which means “fake news”. Sound familiar?

  31. Carrie Savage-Zimmerman,

    You might add my book to your list, “Why Angels Weep: America and Donald Trump”. It is more recent, shows the history that lead to today’s horrors and is available on

  32. yes we should be having major demonstrations across the country on a daily basis. Even if we did, I doubt they would get much coverage. As Karl Rove said, they own the media & have since the anti war movement. Back then leaders could emerge & protestors be heard in print & on tv. This is not true today. I really believe that we need to organize actions that will slow the flow of money since money is power that fuels the greed. Yes, it would mean sacrificing now to avoid the ultimate sacrifice in the not so distant future. We are well into the “bloodless coup” which is bloody but we do not get that real news. I am willing to serve to preserve democracy and restore sanity.

  33. “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

    That “confession” is unreal. Impossible. A lie. Or the rant of an old man in the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

    Even as a plebe in a military academy the faculty pose zillions of questions on which the student’s thinking ability is gauged. Every promotion through the ranks for every officer is determined in large part by the yearly efficiency score his boss gives him on analytical ability and initiative, both requiring independent thought.

    Another example, a negative example, of independent thinking: In the 40-man platoon I led in Vietnam, at least a dozen of my soldiers were problems waiting to explode. By that I mean they were “thinking” “independent thoughts” by which they were convinced that the U.S. Army was not BRUTAL enough to win the war. I had to be alert to head off mutiny whenever we had prisoners in our hands — several of my men wanted to torture the Vietnamese and tried to compel the rest of the platoon to make it happen. In one case, when we were bringing back a prisoner (guarded and restrained at the rear of the platoon formation and supervised by the platoon sergeant), my platoon sergeant cut off the prisoner’s hand and released him. The sergeant’s reasoning was the prisoner would return to his unit, and his missing hand would terrorize them into quitting: it would be a deterrent. I prosecuted the sergeant through court martial. You should be able to imagine the challenge to me and my honor (and America’s honor) each time my platoon had a small village (civilians) in its control.

    My biggest and most dangerous problem in Vietnam was the deplorables among the good men in my own platoon. Every former officer in Vietnam whom I have questioned express the same observation.

    One more example of honor among generals, which we should all recall: General Haig stood up to President Nixon when Nixon was evaluating whether or not to defy his impeachment. Haig made it clear to Nixon that the honor of military generals would compel them to stop the coup from happening, after which Nixon resigned.

    Compared to congresspersons willingness and ability to think, American generals are a combination of Confucius, Aristotle and Einstein.

  34. Excuse me… but only 26% of the VOTING electorate elected this man, and that was finished off by a bunch of people assigned to Electoral college duty = who rigged that?
    That is NOT 26% of the American populace. Let them try – all I can say is let them try. It will be over my dead body and many others!

  35. Larry @ 4:05 pm “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

    That “confession” is unreal. Impossible. A lie. Or the rant of an old man in the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Sorry to burst your bubble it is a real quote.

    Here is another one:
    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

    I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916.

    I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

    ― Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic

    In my case I guess I helped make Vietnam right for Nike. In the year 2014, Nike produced over 365 million pairs of athletic shoes, while at the same time refusing to make a single sneaker in the United States.

    Nike’s largest production center is Vietnam, where more than 330,000 workers, mostly young women, toil in 67 factories making goods for Nike. It is common that Vietnamese workers have no legal rights.

  36. Two years ago, I was in Berlin and toured the Jewish Quarter. Did you realize that only 30% of Germans supported Hitler? He took his “base” and leveraged that into complete power. Everyone was silent. Not only “CAN” it happen here. IT IS HAPPENING HERE.

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