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Nazis and Propaganda

Essentialism abounds. Making absolute distinctions and doubling down on discrete identities and associations is part of what propaganda does: it makes everything about identity. It makes all issues about WHO said what, rather than what they said. It often concerns putting the person into question as a way of avoiding a dispassionate exploration of what they actually say.

I think we are at Nazi levels of propaganda, with consequences that are even more dire down the road if more people don’t see it. This is not just my opinion, or the opinion of right wingers, it is the opinion of important figures on the Left, or what is left of it after the propaganda had done its work. Mark Crispin Miller is a tenured professor at NYU who has taught a propaganda course for decades. He has spent his career showing how much BETTER the U.S. propaganda is then the Nazis, and with the current situation surrounding lockdowns and masks, he has said it is by far the most successful propaganda campaign in history, something that is in the process of getting him fired.

Granted the dangers of being on the wrong side of repression have changed, but that is also a function of its success. No one needs to come to you door with a gun.Blaming a scapegoat for a tragedy is the most famous Nazi propaganda tactic and also the most relevant. The racial scapegoating of “whites” rather than capitalists for our country’s racial problems, laid the groundwork for what is happening now in our most recent “event”, which may well turn out to be our own Reichstag Fire. Critical race theory may be well meaning by itself but its ubiquitous presence seems to have formed a helpful background of political fragmentation and cultural war that has prevented any democratic populism from taking hold. So instead populism gets pushed to right-wing populism, which the Western propaganda machine has spent decades building as the essence of evil.

The Nazis used most of the basic techniques which the U.S. has expanded and refined. Some on the right have made the comparison of whiteness and the way that it functions as similar to the Jew in Nazi propaganda. It does function in similar ways, but I think that it is the conspiracy theorist or the “denialist”, with its inverted reactions to Nazi propaganda against the Jews that are the most structurally relevant. There is a deep dialectical logic going on here that also relates to a discussion of rhetoric itself. The pattern of accusing others of what you are doing is inherent to the structure of blame and scapegoating itself and is so prevalent in humanity precisely because of our trauma and the way we tend to act out and react to others in ways that are working out why we were traumatized and how we can defend against it, and by so doing create dialectical (karmic) processes, with roles often being reversed until both sides escape the traumatic attractor of fear and blame.

This goes to the heart of a logic of negation, a logic that depends on a belief that there is some kind of discrete identity, some essential quality to what you are doing that I am not doing. I try to practice a logic of difference where there is an attempt at doing what someone else is doing in a different way but not a way that claims absolute negation or transcendence.