Be afraid. Be very afraid.
This woman has shown up on my FaceBook page a couple of times now. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence. The Republican propaganda machine is gearing up for 2014. They missed last time, but they will get another crack at that black guy who doesn’t deserve to be in the White House. And their tactics are all too familiar and haven’t changed a bit. Spread fear and misinformation. Get everybody worried.
This is Kitty Werthmann She speaks with great authority and impeccable logic. “I am a witness to history.” she tells her audiences. And this no doubt is true. It’s the interpretation, as always, that causes the problem.
This happened in Austria. It’s now happening in America. Therefore isn’t it obvious that America is heading for Fascism. Superficially it makes sense, until you stop to examine her logic. Then things fall apart. Unfortunately, far too few people seem to be examining her logic. I think it’s time to deconstruct her account.
Kitty starts by telling us that the Germans didn’t come into Austria with tanks and machine guns. The Austrians voted them in with a huge majority.
Austrians voted in Hitler. Americans just voted in Obama. Therefore Obama will give you Fascism. It’s an inescapable conclusion.
Uh, no. There is no causal relationship between winning a popular vote and leading the country into fascism. That’s the implication that Kitty plants, right at the top of her spiel, and it’s only the first of many misleading implications. I find the timing suspicious. It’s like Kitty has been waiting in the wings, just waiting and ready to spin our relief if and when Obama got popular support. Sorry. My relief is not reduced. I don’t think Obama is perfect, but compared to the alternatives the Republicans offered up, America made a damn good choice. But let’s go on. What did those nasty Nazis do when they got into power?
“After the election, German officials were appointed, and like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.”
Again, yikes. Isn’t Obama all for getting people back to work with public works projects and the like? You know, like all those projects that built highways under Ike or facilities in national parks under the New Deal. Those somehow didn’t lead to fascism, but what is happening now sure as hell will. Because… Because Obama.
What next? You might be able to guess by simply thinking about something the Republicans are dead against. That’s it. Equality for women.
“Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home. An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his family. Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been required to give up for marriage.”
Ah hah. Wouldn’t you know it? Get those women out of the kitchen and into the work force and you are only one short step from the jack boot and the concentration camp. I’d like to point out that having a baby for Hitler is not exactly a part of humanist philosophy. Hitler didn’t offer women equality. He exploited women for their labour. But something is still missing here. What on earth could it be?
“Then we lost religious education for kids. Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good public school.. The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion anymore. Instead, we sang ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles,’ and had physical education.”
Oh my Gawd. That was it? Get rid of prayers in school and state sponsored religious education and you are on the slippery slope to fascism. I should have been able to guess. I mean, we all know that the Catholic church was a major force against Hitler. Why they even infiltrated the Hitler Youth so that they could undermine his godless teachings. And the Pope of the day did everything in his power to mitigate the horrors of the Holocaust. Uh… wait. That’s not exactly how it happened, no matter what our “witness to history” might tell you. Remember Gott Mit Ens on the belt buckles? Remember the Catholic church explicitly endorsing Hitler. I’m sorry but you can’t rewrite history to claim that atheists caused the Holocaust and the Catholic church was a fearless opponent of Hitler and staunch defender of freedom. That’s just not true. The problem wasn’t in taking down the crucifix, it was in putting up the portrait of Hitler and the Nazi flags.
She goes on to talk about the horrors that the Nazis perpetrated. The militarizing of the youth. Euthanasia. But one other statement she makes jumps out at me: ““When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat.” Ah yes, you see. Men are much tougher than woman. Men can handle seeing their buddy’s head blown off in front of their eyes. Men can deal with the horrors of war without any emotional crippling effects, because… well, men. But women are much more delicate. Women do not belong in the armed services, much less in actually combat. Oh the horrors.
Another thing that those nasty Nazis did: They set up twenty-four hour child care. That’s right. Can you imagine being able to work the night shift even if you are a woman? “You could take your children ages four weeks old to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, seven days a week, under the total care of the government.” That’s just not right.
By now you should be ready for this one. The Nazis set up universal health care. Free. For anybody who needed it. But that was not a good thing. Far from it. “The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything. When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full. If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.” Wow. That sounds just like Canada,eh. Who’da thought that universal health care, which is currently available in just about every developed country except America, would be a harbinger of fascism?
And then there was government interference in everyday life. “Free enterprise was essentially abolished. We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers. The agents would go to the farms, count the live-stock, and then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.” I don’t know much about government farm programs, but it seems to me they have been set up to help farmers, or what passes for farmers these days, mega-farm conglomerates. Let’s ask the senators from the corn belt whether they want to eliminate farm subsidies, shall we?
And finally, once the state was in control of everything from the shape of your restaurant tables to the products you wanted to buy, once free enterprise was completely dead, the final blow to freedom came down. You guessed it. “Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long afterwards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily. No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.”
Whew. Well, we’ve all been warned. What is it that we have to watch for if we are to guard against fascism and preserve our freedoms? What are the warning signs? Let’s review the list.
- giving a huge majority to a popular government. (Too late for this one, America)
- Kicking God out of our schools. (Check. Uh… no. There are still religious schools. We just don’t like the state giving preferential treatment to any one religion.)
- Public works programs that put people to work.
- Letting women into the military, especially in combat roles.
- Women in the work force.
- Government subsidized day care
- Universal health care
- Giving people the right to die with dignity. Talk of euthanasia. (It’s a slippery slope for grandma, you know.)
- Government interference in farming and other production.
- Gun control.
Quite the list. My problem is that there are many countries in this world that do all these things already, have a healthier population than America, a better educated population than America, a population where people don’t live in fear for their lives, yet they don’t seem to be in any other way reminiscent of Hitler’s Austria.
There is no causal relationship between the things on Kitty’s list of warning signs and fascism.
It’s taken me a while to say it, but Kitty’s warning is total bullshit. Once you think about it.
Okay, maybe there are things to worry about. Corporations being declared people. Corporations having undue control of the government. Drones killing civilians in countries where there is no war. An out of control military and the military-industrial-congressional complex. Concentration of media in corporate hands. Wire tapping and invasion of privacy with the Internet. The whole war on drugs and homeland security. Privatization of prisons so that corporations have a vested interest in the amount of crime. But Public works programs? Universal health care? Affordable day care? Women in industry or the military? Gun control for fuck sake? Give your head a shake, Kitty.