Archives for category: Fascism

Greg Brozeit is a valued reader of the blog who is deeply knowledgeable about German history. In a private communication, he expressed to me his disappointment about Ken Burns’ “The U.S. and the Holocaust.” We agreed that Burns’s singular focus on Hitler’s Jewish victims slighted the other categories of people that he targeted for annihilation. They included Communists, socialists, trade unionists, the disabled, homosexuals, and Roma, as well as priests and nuns who opposed his monstrous regime. I invited Greg to write about his objections, and he did. Greg reminded me of the famous lines spoken by the German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller, who was initially a supporter of Hitler but turned against the Nazi regime as he realized Hitler’s murderous ambitions:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

—Martin Niemöller

Greg Brozeit wrote:

The story of the Holocaust is about how the “other” could be created and marginalized through inhumane policies and practices supported by large swaths of people.

Or, if they were not supporters, they had been conditioned over years to live in fear and had little-to-no sense of civic duty or civil courage. That is a complex story in which Jews were specifically targeted, the most numerous of many contrived “groups” of victims. A large number of those classified as German Jews, who were eliminated or driven out of the country, viewed themselves as Germans first and Jews second. Both identities were equally important to many of them. The distinction was lost and later imposed on them.

I often cite the diaries of Victor Klemperer for one reason -they are the only personal, contemporary observations of what actually happened by someone who was “fortunate” to be last on the list of Jews who were to be eliminated in the
final solution. He was one of the latter; one thing few Americans know and his publishers do their best to hide from Americans is that Klemperer returned to Dresden and became a professor and loyal citizen of East Germany until his death. It would have been interesting to read his view of the Berlin Wall had he lived long enough to witness it. He knew he was persecuted by Nazis because they imposed the definition of Jew on him, one he never internalized. He was almost a victim of the Holocaust, but he would have classified himself as not being Jewish long before others would make him a Jew.

After watching the PBS/Burns program on the U.S. and the Holocaust, I was disappointed that he missed so many opportunities to tell a larger story. Burns rarely veered from the “Holocaust = six million Jews” argument and consequently undermined the message that I (and perhaps the producers) had hoped for. The term “Holocaust” is also used for political, not humanitarian or historical, purposes—the definition Burns’ narrative (naively or intentionally) underscored. And therein lies my problem. A casual viewer might easily get the impression that from the 1930s to the end of WW II, Jews were the only victims of the Holocaust. The actual history is more complex.

By focusing only on Jews we risk serious dishonor to the memory of the six million—a view confirmed in my mind after reflecting on the title of Malcolm Nance’s book, “They Want to Kill Americans.”

Nazis claimed they were eliminating Jews and other undesirables to strengthen Germany. They started out by killing Germans: communists, trade unionists, social democrats, writers, artists, ethical conservatives, Protestants, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, gays and lesbians, persons with developmental disabilities, political opponents, those who weren’t acquiescent to the new order, AND Jews, both those who identified themselves so and those who did not. Focusing almost exclusively on any one of these groups risks breeding resentment and isolation. It certainly diminishes the broad inhumanity of the Holocaust.

An accurate recounting would never gloss over the genocidal priority the Nazis tragically bestowed upon Jews, but neither would it underplay the fate so many others were consigned to in this tragedy. And in fairness, Burns occasionally hinted at this reality. In the film’s final hour a doctor who took pride in the T4 program to eliminate persons with developmental disabilities was highlighted.

But the narrative all too quickly returned to the storyline of “aggressions against only Jews.” While Burns gives an excellent introduction to US policy on Jews and the Holocaust, the series title, “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” is misleading and inevitably expands (and eventually disappoints) the expectations and hopes for viewers who are not novices. The real story of the wide compass of inhumanity subsumed under the Holocaust is a profound lesson relevant to our present circumstances. Sadly, the program missed this larger opportunity.

The Guardian reported today that an investigative team from the United Nations documented numerous war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. Putin announced that he is calling one million men to active duty, and thousands of men are attempting to flee Russia before they are forced into combat. (It is illegal in Russia to call the invasion of Ukraine a “war.”) Protests have erupted in Russian cities, and more than 1,000 protestors have been arrested. Russia is conducting sham referenda in conquered Ukrainian territories, which will enable them to treat their conquests as Russian soil. Putin has said that any attack on Russia will allow him to use nuclear weapons in defense. This is a dangerous moment, to say the least.

The United Nations has said its investigators have concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, including bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.

The UN has made the investigation of human rights violations in the war a priority and in May its top human rights body mandated a team of experts to begin work in the country.

Since then, UN investigators, have risked their lives to collect evidence of crimes perpetrated against civilians, including in areas still threatened by enemy forces or laid with mines.

The team of three independent experts on Friday presented their first oral update to the UN human rights council, after it launched initial investigations looking at the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, adding that it would broaden its inquiries.

Speaking a day before the seven-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbour, Erik Mose, the head of the investigation team, told thecouncil that, based on the evidence gathered by the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, “it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine”.

The team of investigators visited 27 towns and settlements, as well as graves and detention and torture centres; interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses; and met with advocacy groups and government officials.

Mose said the team had been especially “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited”, and the frequent “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats”.

He added it was investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements, and had received credible allegations regarding many more cases that it would seek to document. The investigators had also received “consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which were carried out during unlawful confinement”, the council was told.

In the settlements of Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka, occupied for about a month by Russian troops, Ukrainian investigators found dozens of mass graves where the bodies of civilians, tortured and murdered, had been buried.

Since the Russians withdrew from the area, a group of young volunteers worked tirelessly to exhume the bodies and send them to forensic doctors who have been collecting evidence of crimes perpetrated by Russian troops.

Some of the victims had told the investigators they were transferred to Russia and held for weeks in prisons. Others had “disappeared” after such transfers. “Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities,” Mose said.

Mose said the team had also “processed two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces”, adding that “while few in numbers, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention”.

He said investigators had also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, in some cases establishing that Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.

“There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes,” he said. “In the cases we have investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gendered-based violence ranged from four to 82 years.”

The commission had documented a wide range of crimes against children, Mose added, including children who were “raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined”.

Dana Milbank knows that the Republican Party is morphing into an authoritarian stance, but they prefer not to called fascists. No, he says, their brand of authoritarianism goes back about two thousand years.

He writes:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: They have come to resurrect Caesar.

MAGA Republican leaders take umbrage at being accused of “semi-fascism,” which is understandable: Twentieth-century dictators such as Mussolini and the German guy with the mustache gave fascism a bad name. But the MAGA crowd isn’t disavowing totalitarianism, per se. It’s just their taste in authoritarian figures skews toward the classics. They’re old-school — 1st century B.C. old. “Hail, Caesar” goes down so much easier than “Heil Hitler.”

J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate nominee in Ohio, is one resident of this newly platted Caesarian section, as a recent profile in the Cleveland Plain Dealer showed. It referred to a year-old interview Vance gave on a far-right podcast in which he spoke approvingly of Curtis Yarvin, a self-proclaimed monarchist who argues for an American Julius Caesar to take power.

“We are in a late republican period,” Vance said, referencing the era preceding Caesar’s dictatorship. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pretty wild, and pretty far out there, and go in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.”
The podcast’s host, Jack Murphy, endorsed this sentiment, discussing possible “extra-constitutional” remedies to be taken “if we want to re-found the country.” (He told Vance he thought voting an “ineffectual” way to “rip out this leadership class.”)

Vance, who said he had been “radicalized” by the actions of “malevolent and evil” political opponents, described what “wild” actions he had in mind at another point in the podcast. He wants to “seize the institutions of the left” and purge political opponents with “de-Nazification, de-Ba’athification.”

Vance suggested that former president Donald Trump, once elected in 2024, should fire all civil servants and replace them with “our people,” defy court orders blocking such an illegal action, and then “do what Viktor Orban has done,” referring to the Hungarian dictator’s bans on certain topics from school curricula. Vance justified such “outside-the-box” authoritarian actions by reasoning that the United States is “far gone” and not “a real constitutional republic” anymore.
Hail, Caesar!

Vance is far from the only emperor-curious MAGA leader. Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro called Mike Pence a “traitor to the American Caesar of Trump” because the former vice president refused to help overturn the 2020 election. Another former Trump adviser, Michael Anton, hosted a Claremont Institute podcast with Yarvin about the desirability of an “American Caesar.”

Meanwhile, various tactics that would qualify as “extra-constitutional” have been proliferating on the MAGA right.

This week, Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee confirmed during the lame-duck Republican Congress after the 2020 election, turned the bedrock American principle of equal justice on its head. Cannon, granting Trump’s request for a “special master” to shield the government documents hoarded at his residence, said Trump’s need for protection from “stigma” was “in a league of its own” because of his “former position as president.” A judge granting extraordinary legal powers to the man who appointed her to spare him “reputational harm”? Hail, Caesar!

Last week, the House Jan. 6 committee wrote to Trump ally Newt Gingrich, outlining how the former House speaker encouraged Trump TV ads promoting false election-fraud claims, and how he suggested a “call-to-action” to intimidate election officials. “The goal is to arouse the country’s anger,” Gingrich wrote to Trump advisers, at a time when election officials desperately feared violence. Hail, Caesar!

Some MAGA Republicans have a novel solution to resolve pesky constitutional restraints: Rewrite the Constitution. As Carl Hulse reports in the New York Times, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) introduced legislation seeking to compel Congress to call a constitutional convention — the first since the framers wrote it — to overhaul the United States’ founding document. The effort likely isn’t going anywhere, but it shows the contempt MAGA Republicans have for the constitutional order. Hail, Caesar!

Others in the MAGA movement simply reinterpret the Constitution to their own liking. County law-enforcement officials self-styling as “constitutional sheriffs” have assigned themselves power to decide what the law is, according to their own politics. One such sheriff in Michigan sought warrants in July to seize vote-counting machines to try to validate Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, Reuters reported last week. Armed lawmen going rogue to undermine elections? Hail, Caesar!

A few weeks from now, the Supreme Court will open its new term, in which it will decide whether to use a North Carolina case to allow state legislatures to redraw election maps — and potentially to overturn the outcome of elections and to disregard state constitutions — without any review by state courts. The high court blessing a radical legal theory that mocks the will of the voters? For MAGA Republicans, all roads lead to Roman imperialism.

Hail, Caesar!

I watched the third episode of the latest Ken Burns’ documentary, and I understand why he said it is the most important documentary he ever made.

As history, it is powerful. And it is even more powerful because there are so many echoes of present events in our own country.

In three episodes, we see one of the most cultured countries in the world fall under the spell of a charismatic madman. We see the German people march to his tune, cheer him, fall in line, then become brutes as they carry out his mission to exterminate the Jews of Europe and to capture the Continent.

We see heroic Americans trying to rescue desperate refugees. And we meet the anti-Semites in the State Department who wanted to keep refugees out and leave them to their fate. and we are reminded again and again that the American public did not want the Jewish refugees.

We learn about the indifference and decided anti-Semitism in other countries, including our own. We learn about Hitler’s admiration for our brutal treatment of indigenous peoples, killing them and then isolating them on reservations. Hitler also admired our harsh treatment and segregation of Black people.

Inevitably, in the third episode, there are graphic videos of the death camps. There are piles of naked bodies. And there are emaciated men and women who survived, barely, their eyes empty.

In the closing minutes, the parallels to the present are presented. Scenes of racism, Young white men in Charlottesville chanting “The Jews will not replace us.” The mob storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, one of them wearing a T-shirt saying “Camp Auschwitz.” Having just witnessed scenes from the death camps, the T-shirt was not just tasteless but horrifying.

This series should be shown to high school students in every school in the U.S.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, posts his reaction to the first episode of the new series by Ken Burns, Sarah Botstein, and Lynn Novick: “The U.S. and the Holocaust.”

I just watched the second episode, and it is very powerful. Burns has said that this is the most important documentary he has ever made.

The U.S. made almost no effort to open its doors to Jews trying to escape Hitler’s killing machine. Why? For one thing, the American public was deeply anti-Semitic. For another, the leaders of the U.S. State Department were anti-Semites.

The Ku Klux Klan sprang back to life. The heroic aviator Charles Lindbergh, who admired Hitler, was a leader of the infamous “America First” movement, which opposed our entry into the war and was certain that Hitler would conquer all of Europe. Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite, whose publication printed the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

This series is MUST viewing. It clears away the cobwebs of lies propagated by rightwingers who want to cleanse the schools of the dark side of U.S. history. Hate, bigotry, racism, and anti-Semitism are woven into our history.

Thompson writes:

Ken Burns’ The U.S and the Holocaust is being shown on PBS. It begins with a jolt: telling how Anne Frank and her family were denied entry to the U.S. As our country denied entry to the vast majority of Jews threatened by Adolf Hitler, 1 million were murdered. Episode One helps us understand why President Franklin Roosevelt and other leaders were unable to persuade the American public to support assistance to Jews fleeing Nazism.

Of course, there is plenty that is great about our democracy, but our histories of the genocide of Native Americans and Slavery, as well as eugenics and its false claims that people of color were biologically inferior, contributed to our failure to respond appropriately. In fact, Hitler patterned his crimes against humanity after America’s eugenics movement, the genocide of Native Americans, the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow. During the Great Depression, more than 1 million people of Mexican ancestry were expelled even though more than 60 percent of them were born in the U.S. And, even before American Fascists like Father Coughlin and Henry Ford ramped up hatred of Jews and advocated for pro-Nazi policies, the U.S. had a long history of violent anti-Semitism.

Ken Burns and his team started to make this film in 2015, before Charlottesville, the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and at the supermarket in Buffalo, and before the January 6th insurrection. A similar “fragility of civilized behavior” was also on display in Berlin under Hitler. In the late 1920’s it was one of “the most open and cosmopolitan city in Europe” but four years later, the Nazis were in charge. What lessons can we learn from that past which could inform today’s “fragility of democratic civilization all over the world, not just here?”

The U.S. and the Holocaust also raises questions such as “what are the responsibilities of our leaders to shape public opinion rather than follow it?” and “what does this history tell us about the role of individuals to act when governments fail to intervene?” It also raises tough questions about the role of the media in spreading hate, as well as constructive information.

The film’s website also links to Oklahoma’s and other states’ Academic Standards. They call for high school students to “examine the causes, series of events and effects of the Holocaust through eyewitnesses such as inmates, survivors, liberators, and perpetrators,” and examine the “rise of totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, and Japan.” Such Standards also call for an examination of “how the media we consume shapes our beliefs, opinions, and actions both historically and in modern contexts in this media.”

These Standards are very consistent with the concepts that Burns explored. If I were still teaching high school, I’d be carefully building a unit that follows the Standards and instructional techniques that were carefully prepared by state and national experts. For instance, I would begin with the recommended, first question, “Why do you think many people did not question or push back against the harmful ideas presented by people who believed in eugenics?”

As also recommended, as students watched video clips, and read and analyzed the primary source materials in The U.S. and the Holocaust website, I’d ask them to share their “feelings or thoughts after each clip as some of the content covered is very heavy and may be emotional for students.” Students would take notes and engage in classroom discussions. I’d end with the recommended question, “Although the images and videos shown in the last clip are very challenging to watch, why do you think U.S. Army leaders said they needed to be shown to people in the United States and across the world?”

I would try to repeat the previously successful practice of inviting legislators, state officials, business and political leaders to the lessons so they could witness the dignity and wisdom of my students at John Marshall, Centennial, and other high-challenge schools. As recently as four years ago when I guest-taught and/or engaged with very conservative Republicans, I knew the discussions would be civil and enlightening. Now, I know such communications would be different, and that I might get fired for violating HB1775.

But the consequences for teachers are nothing like the suffering of victims of the Holocaust or the potential destruction due to the failure to stand up for democratic and educational principles. So, I would also ask what would happen if thousands of educators would stand for our students and teach Ken Burns’ film and website. They would need to thoughtfully plan the process, hopefully working with school system administrators. Many or most of whom would have a long history of opposing censorships of books such as Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” but who are intimidated by bills like HB 1775 and similar censorship laws in other states. Educators would almost certainly have to seek the backing of parents and community leaders.

Educators who are too frightened to use Burns’ work, could at least borrow from SummerBoismier, whose teacher certification is being threatened for linking to the Brooklyn Library, and post links to his and PBS’s websites. Or they could organize off-campus community films or read-aloud events (such as the “Banned Book Read Out” at OKC’s First Unitarian Church) for students and/or provide information on The U.S. and the Holocaust to students when they enter the building.

Such efforts would be terrifying if done alone. But would legislators who voted for censorship of school curriculums want to admit out loud that they want Anne Frank’s story banned? And would even the most extreme legislators follow through with mass firings at a time of teacher shortages? We must wrestle with Burn’s question about whether so many millions of people from all nations would have quickly abandoned democracy and humanity if there had been more resistance to Hitler in the U.S. and across the world before Nazism took control in so many places?

As Ms. Boismeir concluded, “you have a choice to make for the future of our state and the state of our public schools: a politics of inclusion or exclusion. So what’s your story? What side are you on?

Governor Ron DeSantis has terrorized school boards across Florida, who are afraid to endorse anything to do with racism or gender identity.

In the latest fiasco, the Miami-Dade school board censored a Pulitzer-prize winning play by a Miami author.

DeSantis is a bully and a wannabe fascist.

The story was written by Fabiola Santiago:

I told you, my fellow Cuban Americans, that the censors would get around to us, too.

And they have.

The same afternoon after the Miami-Dade School Board voted to suspend the district’s recognition of national LGBTQ History Month in October, school officials also quietly rejected — via email — the work of one of the most prominent Cuban Americans in U.S. cultural life.

Miami-Dade County Public School’s Division of Academics is refusing to allow high school students to attend — as they have in the past — Miami New Drama’s staging of Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “Anna in the Tropics.” This year’s is the 20th-anniversary presentation of the play.

Why the rejection?

The school district’s not saying.

Is it because Cruz is gay? The district would never say that outright. But after the spectacle of last week’s School Board meeting, at which members were cowed into voting down recognizing LGBTQ History Month by hostile parents and un-Christian-like religious leaders — even the Proud Boys showed up — it’s not too far a leap in logic these days.

MDCPS students have been bused to see this stellar play before. The district should tell them — and the rest of us — what’s changed.

“My work has been staged around the world — and the only place where it has been censored is in Iran,” Cruz, 62, told me in an interview from his Miami home.

Until now — when the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama, a distinction that, in 2003, also brought prestige to his hometown’s booming literary and theater scenes, appears to have become the latest victim of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture wars.

John Merrow’s title is sarcastic. Of course he wants you to read banned books, and he is deeply concerned about the large number of eligible voters—especially young people—who don’t bother to vote.

When someone on Twitter posted a list of 25 popular books that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had supposedly banned from the state’s public schools, people went crazy. The list included Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Below is a screenshot of the list. How many of these books have you read? Have your children read most of them? What on earth is going on in Florida?

People familiar with DeSantis’s efforts to restrict classroom discussion of controversial topics had no trouble believing that he would try to prevent young people from reading controversial or challenging books. If DeSantis did draw up a list, these books might well be on it.

But the list is a fake, a clever satire.

Many people were fooled, including teacher union President Randi Weingarten and “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill. Hamill’s screenshot of the list amassed more than 100,000 likes and 24,000 retweets.

(Add my name to the list of those who were taken in.)

Like all good satire, that fake list of banned books is rooted in truth, because book banning is real and growing. Florida school districts have banned around 200 books, according to a report published by PEN America, a nonprofit that tracks book banning in the U.S. Pen America ranks Florida third among US states for banning books, trailing only Texas and Pennsylvania.

We are in the midst of a pandemic of book banning, so it’s hard to imagine any title that would never be banned by some zealous or timid school board or ignorant legislator.

One way to stop this outbreak of censorship is to get active, vote, attend school board meetings, run for school board. Passivity and complaining is a losing strategy.

Time to turn back the rising tide of incipient fascism.

Dana Milbank is my favorite columnist in the Washington Post. He is outspoken and documents what he says. I am always informed by reading his work. This is a good one.

He writes:

President Biden on Thursday offered some harsh words about those of the “extreme MAGA philosophy” currently hacking away at our democracy.

“It’s not just Trump,” he said at a fundraiser. “It’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something: It’s like semi-fascism.”

He expanded on the theme later at a rally. “The MAGA Republicans,” he said, are “a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace — embrace — political violence.”

Good for him. Those who cherish democracy need to call out the proto-fascist tendencies now seizing the Trump-occupied GOP.

Republican candidates up and down the November ballot reject the legitimate outcome of the last election — and are making it easier to reject the will of the voters in the next. Violent anti-government rhetoric from party leaders targets the FBI, the Justice Department and the IRS. A systemic campaign of disinformation makes their supporters feel victimized by shadowy “elites.”

These are hallmarks of authoritarianism.

Americans are taking notice. A new NBC News poll finds that “threats to democracy” has become the top concern of voters, replacing the cost of living as the No. 1 concern. The 21 percent who cite it as the “most important issue facing the country” include 29 percent of Democrats, and even 17 percent of Republicans. (Many Republican voters have been deceived into believing there’s rampant voter fraud, but at least they care enough about democracy to be concerned.)

The Republican response to Biden’s warning? “Despicable,” Republican National Committee spokesman Nathan Brand said in a statement. “Biden forced Americans out of their jobs …” (For the record, the economy has added nearly 10 million jobs during Biden’s presidency, after losing 2.9 million during Trump’s.)
That’s emblematic of the GOP response generally when called out on its assaults on democracy: victimhood and fabrication.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) offered a classic of the genre this week. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, writing in The Post, had condemned Rubio’s contributions to “a culture of fakery,” saying the senator’s “fake populism and anti-intellectualism … are necessary ingredients of an authoritarian takeover.” Rubio, writing in the Federalist, a Trumpist publication, responded with more fakery, and by portraying himself as the victim. “This cisgender white male reeks of privilege,” Rubio wrote of Wilentz, borrowing the language of the woke left.
Rubio, misrepresenting a Post account of a Biden meeting with historians (including Wilentz), said that those warning about authoritarianism are “peddling … imaginary threats.” Rubio added: “If you’re looking for authoritarianism, look no further than what happened under the watch of Anthony Fauci and his allies in the elite establishment.”
The day after Rubio alleged that the true authoritarian threat is the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (a job Fauci has held since the Reagan administration), the senator joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a campaign event. There, DeSantis said this about Fauci: “I’m just sick of seeing him. … Someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.”

Dehumanizing a foe’s appearance and fantasizing about violence against him: Where have we seen this before?

Earlier this month, a man was sentenced to prison for threats against Fauci — including, as the Daily Beast reported, a wish to break every bone in his “disgusting elf skull.” It was one of countless violent threats against the scientist as Republican officials targeted him for, among other things, the “sweeping shutdown” during the pandemic, as Fox News’s Neil Cavuto put it to Fauci this week.
“I didn’t shut down anything,” Fauci replied.

That’s true. All Fauci could do was give advice. Some governors followed it. DeSantis didn’t. Instead, he fueled conspiracy theories, dubious treatments, and hostility to masks and vaccines. And Florida, after vaccines became available, had by far the highest covid-19 death rate among big states.

Since then, DeSantis has devoted himself to book banning, voter intimidation and restrictions on what schools can teach about race, history and sexuality — all while DeSantis, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, bashes “elites.”

Such relentless attacks on facts, expertise, learning and voting, like fantasies of violence against a nefarious elite, are tools of the authoritarian. But don’t take Biden’s word for it.

At DeSantis’s alma mater this week, Yale President Peter Salovey opened the academic year with a speech on the current “assault on truth,” in which he quoted Hannah Arendt, revered philosopher of the pre-Trump right: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

This is where the MAGA Republicans are taking us. It’s past time to call it what it is.

Florida professors are feeling the chilling effect of Ron DeSantis’ gag orders and bans on teaching about race and gender. DeSantis will not stop his crusade for censorship in K-12. Higher education knows they are his targets as well. DeSantis has an authoritarian mindset and will not be satisfied until he has squelched all teaching, study, and research into racism and gender. When does the book-burning begin?

The Miami Herald reported:

Florida university professors are facing unprecedented challenges as a spate of new laws could soon crack down on research, discourse on race and gender identity and create an environment in which employees feel their political beliefs are being scrutinized at the risk of losing tenure.

The measures are backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature and are seen as just the start by some educators. Those concerns have been fueled by reports that DeSantis had drafted even more attempts to rewrite laws governing public higher education, including stripping university presidents of the ability to hire professors.

The underlying message from eight professors from four public universities across the state interviewed by the Miami Herald is this: It is not easy to be an educator in Florida. Two professors who spoke to the Herald declined to be identified out of their concern for retribution.

It isn’t just history or politics professors who are worried about the chilling effects of restrictions on academia as they head back to class later this month, it appears to ripple through many academic disciplines. Some professors even suggested that they were considering leaving Florida to teach in other states and said they knew colleagues who had similar thoughts.

“In Florida, we know that these policies have really led to increased efforts to silence and surveil academic speech,” said Emily Anderson, an assistant professor of International Relations and Intercultural Education at Florida International University. “Academic speech matters, because it’s a fundamental freedom that is really how our university system is grounded. When we have policies that threaten speech, in my view, it shadows threats to all other protected rights.”

Read more at:

PBS ran a special about the love affair between America’s far-right extremists and Hungary’s authoritarian leader Viktor Orban. Here is the transcript. It’s worth reading to understand the extremism and not-so-latent fascism embedded in America’s right wing.