Does writer really know who Nazis were?

Published 12:03am Sunday, July 28, 2013

In his Letter to the Editor of July 21, Mr. Ed Field criticized government monitoring of private correspondence, and the distribution of disinformation by the news media. I share his contempt for the media, and his concerns about government (and corporate) violations of our right to privacy. However, I do not share his sense of perspective on these very real issues. That’s because he has none, and, lacking all perspective, he recommends solutions that are infinitely worse than the problems he properly identified.

For starters, he calls these problems “Gestapo tactics.” Rhetorical overreach, but an ignorable one. But he then lapses into a ramble about Nazi Concentration Camps evidently meant to imply that we are soon to be in such straits, and torture chambers, ourselves. Which is, of course, nonsense, and insulting to the genuine victims of Nazi terror. His is a gross perversion of the worthy attempt to apply the lessons of history.

But why bother to point this out? Reasoning with the unreasonable is unreasonable, right? And how foolish would I have to be to get into such a “debate”? Apparently, just foolish enough, particularly given that these sentiments are so common on the political Right nowadays.

And so, with cereal bowl as helmet, and pen as lance, off I go again to tilt at windbags….

How does Mr. Field propose to save us from this red, white, and blue Dachau? He advocates “literacy testing, voter ID, etc.” as ways to purge the electorate of those who would, apparently, vote an American Adolf into power. And who might those voters be? Obviously, the so-called takers who have been leeching off the so-called makers. The moochers, the deadbeats, the huddled masses yearning to mouth breathe in front of the TV set, …and not much else. “Why,” he asks, “should people who own nothing be allowed to overwhelm a system, and force those with hard-earned assets to pay for their neediness?” This Slacker Gestapo, clearly, is the author of all our problems, all our debt, and in time, will be the death of the American Way. Which is also, of course, nonsense.

But what can be learned about the real Germans who really did (by plurality) vote a real Nazi named Hitler into office? I refer you to Thomas Childers, a professor at Penn, author of “The Nazi Voter: the Social Foundations of Fascism in Germany, 1919-1933,” one of the most exhaustive studies of this topic ever done.

Notably, Childers makes clear that the Nazis “proved unable to establish a significant foothold within the working class,” and electorally did poorest of all among the poorest class of all, the unemployed. In the real world, far from Mr. Field’s fevered imagination, “the people who own nothing” in Germany in the early 1930s were the least Nazi-like of all.

So, who did vote for Hitler? Childers says that “the small farmers, shopkeepers, and independent artisans of the old middle class … constituted the most stable and consistent components of the National Socialist constituency.” Also, they had a “surprisingly large following” among “the established elites of German society.” And within that broad class, Childers elaborates, the Nazis were most successful “among older voters,” particularly those who came from smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Why were these rock solid citizens swayed by Nazi propaganda? He mentions “bitterness at the erosion of social prestige,” and a “fear of social displacement” that made them eager to find scapegoats for their ills, and so, quick to endorse the Nazi move toward disenfranchising these “enemies within.”

So, to summarize about the gullible masses who unquestioningly swallowed the Hitlerian bait … They were sturdily middle class. Small- town folks. Older rather than younger. Resentful about the impersonal forces transforming “their” country, and so, eager to blame domestic “others.” Yes, it does sound like Ed Field (and the Tea Party core, come to think of it).

But no, Ed Field is not a Nazi. It is striking, though, that in an article calling for the disenfranchisement of millions of poor American voters due to make-believe Nazism lurking within their ranks, he has unintentionally mirrored for us a nearly perfect profile of the very real Nazi voter of 1932.

Jim Wiggins, Natchez resident