One of my pet subjects which I have studied for years is WWII history. Some of the things which have been creeping into the far right agenda recently have started ringing alarm bells because they are starting to use the same kind of propaganda which was used in Spain during the first reign of Franco, Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. I am not saying that these people are carbon copies of their predecessors but what I am saying is that these people manipulate the media (social media) with similar tactics to those used by the dictators of the past.
We must be aware of the lessons from our history and we need to take stock of where we are now, where things could be heading, and if left unchecked, how things could progress down that same dark road that led to the atrocities of 1945. I have looked through my history collections and found posters and ideas which I thought it worth sharing to illustrate the different methods of persuasion used in the past and how similar they are to what we are seeing on modern social media.
I will start with persecution. It is well documented that Hitler persecuted the Jews, and that this got to the point that people were sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. But it didn’t start with death and atrocity. It started quite subtly, slowly creeping into society, with the Jews gradually being vilified. The Jews were dehumanised, classified as “vermin” and presented as the scapegoat for all the ecobomic problems that were happening in society at that time. The Nazis made a famous poster entitled “He is to blame for the War!” Using this poster in 1943, the Nazis sought to provoke hatred of Germany’s Jews by transforming the popular perception of Jews from ordinary neighbours into internal enemies guilty of warmongering and betraying Germany from within.
Further posters made by the Nazis included the advertising for the antisemitic film called “The Eternal Jew,” which depicts a Jewish man (and by association all Jewish people) as menacing and singularly focused on money. This is where we see a clear link to the present day. There are still people out there who are ignorant enough to believe the Jews are bad/evil people. Antisemitism is still a major issue in modern society. This hatred is still being fuelled by negative and demeaning imagery.
The current scapegoat of the day, certainly in the US and UK is Muslims. Donald Trump has started making a scapegoat of both Muslims and Hispanic people with blatant lies like the suggestion that Mexicans crossing the US border are criminals and rapists (though he did magnanamously admit that some of them might be ‘good people’. One wonders if they are ‘fine people’ like the actual Nazis on the Charlottesville march who Trump famously refused to condemn.)
Trump has also banned people from entering the country from several majority Muslim countries (note, not the ones he has deals with or has his golf courses in). His followers have lapped this all up, blindly following their leader and failing to see that they have fallen for the Trump’s propaganda in exactly the same way that Hitler’s followers fell for his.
In the U.K. we have the same problematic issues with far right cult figures. We have Tommy Robinson, Britain First, Jim Dowson and, sadly, quite a few others. They all whinge and cry about Muslims and have built up quite a following of ignorant people who have fallen for their clickbait. They all use social media to indoctrinate the public. You only have to look at the Islamophobic videos which were shared on Twitter by Donald Trump when Jayda Fransen of Britain First posted them. All three videos were shown to be out of context (one was debunked by the Dutch police as totally false) but press secretary Sarah Sanders refused to condemn this blatant hate propaganda. She said that Trump was right to share the videos because while they were fake, it shows what is going on in the world. So basically he was fine to promote a lie because it might be true somewhere.
Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and others didn’t have social media available to them, but the ways they used the media that was available to them was very similar to how Britain First, Trump and Tommy Robinson use Facebook and Twitter today. One of the posters in my collection depicts a blonde haired girl under a Nazi flag with the wording “all ten year old girls for us”. This at the time was advertising that all 10 year old girls were to join the Hitler Youth. We don’t have a modern day version of a far right youth movement in the U.K (yet…) but it did bring to mind a known Britain First tactic of having teen girls holding their banners and flags in public. That same idea of appealling to the innocence and positivity of youth. Britain First have also started advertising their demonstrations as something to take children on, the intention being to bring the younger generation into their group and ideals.
Jim Dowson is the self styled leader of Knights Templar International, a money making scam much like hate group Britain First (which he also funded). The recruitment tactics of the Templars are worryingly similar to those used by the SS in the past. They play on the idea of recruiting naïve men with the promise of helping them to follow the historical path laid out by their ancestors.
What surprises me is just how many people think that joining Knight Templar International or putting some kind of Knight profile photo makes them seem like they are on a holy quest. Unlike knights of the past, it is doubtful that these duped morons would know what to do with a weapon if they ever were lucky enough to encounter someone in a suit of armour with sword and shield. It is even less likely that they actually go to church enough to be considered for a “holy quest”. The haters I encounter on the fake profiles I run on Facebook always seem to be either at the pub or on a right wing knuckle drag when it comes to church time on a Sunday.
Another similarity to the tactics of the Nazis is the insistence of Trump, Golding, Fransen, Robinson and leaders of other right wing groups that it is they and they alone who can solve the issues in society. Hitler had posters going up all over the place stating that he was the only one who could deal with what was happening in Germany. Mussolini did exactly the same thing in Italy, a tactic that got him elected and enabled him to create the Fascist Italian dictatorship. It could be argued that all political parties, regardless of political bias, use similar methods of persuasion but it is the fervency and manipulation which seem to be particular right wing characteristics. As is the vehement belief that their aims must be achieved “at all costs.”
Another trait that modern right wing groups share with the likes of Hitler is the argument about the population ratio of our people compared to others in our country. Back in the 1930’s/40’s, Hitler put great emphasis on wanting a large number of Ayrian babies to populate Germany and the occupied countries. You may notice that the Britain First group carry the same message. They complain that British people are not having enough babies. I would argue (and have done) that there are British born babies of all ethnicities, but this gets dismissed with the refutation that “they aren’t proper British babies”. So basically the racists think they have to be white to be British.
The Nazis often spoke of the “3 K’s” – Kinder, Küche, Kirche” or translated, into English: “A German woman’s world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home“. In 1933 Hitler passed a law called The Law for the Encouragement of Marriage. This law gave married couples a loan, and money was knocked off the loan for every child they had, until they had their fourth child and the loan didn’t need to be paid back.
I have had conversations (arguments) with bigots who say that Muslims/Hispanic people should “go home”. I’ve argued that they could well already be at home if they are living in the country they were born in. And I point out that if people are going to tell citizens to leave the country, aren’t they doing EXACTLY the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany? The Nazis started out by attacking Jewish owned businesses, which is the kind of thing that Britain First, convicted fraudster Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Trump and other right wing groups do and did. The Nazis, following Hitler, then demanded the people leave the country, and when that phase ended, the remaining Jews and anybody else considered ‘undesirable’ by the Nazi regime were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
Then we have the old “cult of personality” issue. Cult of personality is a term, usually pejorative in nature, which refers to a situation where a public figure is presented to the populace via propaganda as an amazing person who should be admired, loved, and respected. This term is often used to refer to national political leaders. In addition to Trump, Robinson and the Britain First leader we have seen this recently in the news with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But we have also seen this in far right hate groups like Britain First. Paul and Jayda are said to be “persecuted” and their followers believe they can do no wrong. Similarly, with Donald Trump, his supporters ignore his massive failings and see him almost akin to a Presidential Messiah.
Most recently this misplaced adoration has been seen with the misguided fans of convicted fraudster Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. We can point out that he has been convicted of fraud, beating up a policeman, (who was intervening in a domestic where he was attacking his partner) and illegally entering the US but his followers simply don’t care. We can point out the terms of the suspended sentence and how he broke the law to be put into prison (he even put in a guilty plea) and his followers still deny it all, stating that it is unfair and that he shouldn’t be in prison as he did nothing wrong! It is almost like brain washing – his followers are either too blinded by bigotry or hate, or in some cases, too stupid, to see convicted fraudster Stephen Yaxley-Lennon for the person he is.
At Resisting Hate/Mock the Right we have taken the time to learn our history. We recognise the early warning signs of fascism and dangerous fanatical personalities who corrupt the naïve with their hate rhetoric and pie crust promises.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana “
“He who saves the life of one man saves the world entire.” (paraphrased from both the Qu’ran & the Talmud)
Below are a series of propaganda posters from the time of Nazi Germany. We invite a comparison between the tactics employed then and the memes published by the far right today. The similarities need to be a warning to all of us.
Halal Kitty is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate, and a regular contributor to the group’s activities on Facebook and Twitter.