Hitler was not the antichrist, but a human product and reflection of his time, environment, culture, contemporary and historical events and forces, as well as the aspirations and needs of the German people who elected and supported him. The vengeful, punitive Treaty of Versailles was a major factor in creating World War 2. The German people were not a collective antichrist but had similarities with many Fascist characteristics and ongoing faults found in other countries today. Dictatorships and “democratically” elected racist, nationalist and imperialist governments are hardly a thing of the past. Nor are right wing ideology and media brainwashing.
There are all sorts of indicators and facets of life we may be accepting on different points along a continuum of fascism, rather than clear dividing lines between good and evil, us and “the other”. I was thinking of this subject, with the punishment for the director Panahi in Iran, a country marked by Bush-Blair-Berlusconi as part of the “axis of evil” but the alliance with its “war of/on terror” is hardly angelic. With Saddam, charges of appeasement were largely one-sided. The film Boys from Brazil plays on the dangers of a new genetic Hitler with a similar upbringing being created but that is to miss the point. The most chillingly effective scenes in Cabaret show the insidious rise of Nazism from a containable minority to a powerful popular nationalist force. Next stop the mass adulation of Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Night and Fog should be that film’s double bill partner i think.
Our Hitler, a Film from Germany has been championed by Susan Sontag among others; it looks at various meanings of Hitler. Hitler is a kitsch commodity, a fascinating scary monster, a shortcut vehicle for satire, simplistic ideas on Good and Evil and escape from thinking. He was an object of ridicule in wartime films such as The Great Dictator, To Be or Not to Be (a brilliant comedy) and some propaganda animations co-opting popular characters. Such laughter came before the holocaust was known; Chaplin said he would not have made his film otherwise, but before the USA’s entry into World War 2, it was a surprisingly rare critique of Nazi Germany. Now we are desensitised even to harrowing images resulting from Hitler’s regime and the media prefers to ignore the effects of warfare on foreign/enemy individuals- they are an alien mass ripe for punishment
Little Iranian girl Aida Mohammadkhani desperately wanted a beautiful goldfish, in Jafar Panahi’s The White Balloon .I’ve long thought the film would serve well as corrective and antidote to warmongering imperialists and “shock and awe”.
What factors should we take as warnings or indicators of dangerous systems and ideologies, extending beyond fascism to different political systems? I’ll have a go.
-Willingness for war and invasion of other countries
-Glamourisation and championing of the military, of soldiers as heroes even in controversial wars
-Strong, charismatic leadership, an individual/Presidential rather than collective approach to power sharing
-Fear/suspicion of foreigners, groups who are different, ethnic minorities.
-Lack of true democracy, not only refusal of free and fair elections but exclusion of certain, often marginalised or disadvantaged, groups from the electoral process. These can often be forgotten or thought unworthy of votes in “democratic” countries
-(race-based, genetic and other) Notions of superiority
-Survival of the fittest
-Failure to reward and invest in caring professions
-Media brainwashing and progaganda. This can be insidously effective when setting itself against other forms of obvious brainwashing, as if impartial, and by force of repetitions. not just the big lies.
-Repression of dissent
-Repression of Trade Unions, workers’ rights
-Promotion of a leader cult.
-Unquestioning respect for authority
-Nationalism (all apparently less dangerous and hateful patriotic and tribal impulses could be included)
-Trampling on human rights
-Reliance on, glamourisation of force, physical power
-Use of torture
-Acceptance of royalty as superior by birth
-Discipline and control
-Uniformity, pressure to conform
-Appeasement of more powerful states and individuals
- A hierarchical approach to the value of life in different countries and cultures
-Dehumanising perceived enemies or people who are different
-“Size matters” architecture, muscularity in art
-Selective, self-serving response to genocides and dictatorships
These are among the most important films/TV series so let’s be having them here. While i was impressed with Mikhail Romm’s film Ordinary Fascism, he does paint a rosy picture of Soviet life v the West, without hints of the Soviets’ own authoritarianism. But he does convey very well the need to think, to question and not follow the crowd or fall prey to propaganda. Of course, after a given power balance tipping point (the sort seen in Cabaret) it’s much harder to make a stand but the film paid homage to some who had the courage to do. The monumental series The World at War is among the BBC’s major achievements. Now the BBC, like the rest of the British media, has aided the rise of the far right, given for years far more prominence and mainstream respectability to UKIP than they ever gave the Greens.
~In giving prominence to Hitler as an individual for this list i am party to the ideology of celebrity and powerful individuals. I think an extension beyond films representing Hitler to some films about the Third Reich and certain aspects of WW2 may be suitable. These can be found in the lower part of the list. To some extent my lists Resisting Imperialism, Resisting Racism, Romanies (Roma people are still terribly demonised) and Leftist Films cover wider issues relevant to dictatorships and the risks of further fascism, warfare and ethnic cleansing. Maximilian Bercovicz has done a list Neo-Nazism in Cinema, see also Kolar’s list The Third Reich
Since I wrote all this several years ago we have had the further rise of the Far Right and the largely anti-immigrant Brexit result in UK, the rise of the National Front in France, and Trump, of all people, as US president. As in the 30s such events inevitably occur when social liberals in governments don’t care enough for the working class but continue to follow right wing capitalist economics which have caused crashes like the Wall Street Crash and the Credit Crunch, and let the bankers and the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. Milliband’s Labour (which predictably lost in UK’s election of 2015), Obama and Hillary Clinton did not offer alternatives to needless and harmful Austerity, while the Democrat establishment, in their arrogance, fixed their nomination to keep out Sanders, who does offer an alternative, on behalf of the poor and which challenges the crooked establishment. The lily-livers and establishment cronies who betrayed the people for whom they should have been most committed, have paid the price, as once again vicious opportunists have filled the vacuum. Millions of alienated struggling people become more easily drawn to the politics of hate and scapegoating; they shouldn’t but, as human character has not evolved in line with technological advance, they do. We must now beware situations in different countries quickly getting out of hand and essential rights and freedoms being lost. We must learn the lessons of the past before it is too late.
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